What do you think of management consultants?

10 replies
Self explanatory question.



Ever since I've heard of them, I've been very skeptical of management consulting. Mainly because the various management textbooks strike me as obvious advice.



I think most of us are also familiar with horror stories surrounding them. Mine was a buddy who was "yellow" 6 sigma certified: it cost 20 k for the organization to certify him alongside a few others, but the lessons themselves turned out to be rather basic A/B testing and high school statistics.



But I've been thinking:

-It is the basis of modern corporate culture.
I also notice that most book that target middle to upper management (even semi-technical books e.g. about data mining) seem to be written in the same corporate style.

-I dug a little bit deeper, there's more overlap with statistics and engineering then popular perception would suggest. Most early adopters seemed to have been engineers or statisticians.



-While it's true there success rate of a management consulting project is not very high IIRC and to be fair to them, project failure is about on par with failure of large IT projects.


So I wonder if there's more to it then meets the eye.

Thoughts?
#consultants #management
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  • Profile picture of the author JPs copy
    Anytime I've seen "Lean Sigma Six" posted anywhere, my eyes roll into the back of my head.

    It costs $20K to get certified?? Geez. Yeah, it doesn't appear like there's much to that certification.
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  • Profile picture of the author Frank Donovan
    In my pre-internet experience of the corporate world there were two main reasons why businesses would hire a consultant: 1) It was a means of distancing the "decision makers" from any potential negative outcome - a CYA approach, and 2) It was a way of being seen to do something when they had no idea what to do themselves.

    Given the structure and operating systems of most large corporations, that meant management consultants were in great demand. And with no skin in the game, all they had to do was make a few recommendations, flatter the existing hierarchy (the executives who hired them) and move on to the next client. This usually satisfied the needs of both parties.

    Going into management consultancy (or simply calling themselves a consultant) was also a popular course for executives who'd been fired or laid off and couldn't get back into corporate life.

    I'd be surprised if much has changed since then.
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  • Profile picture of the author Matthew Stanley
    Have had a fair bit of experience with this in corporate america as well. Frank's post above matches a lot of my experience too ... esp in the "no one ever got fired for hiring [du jour consultancy]" sense. On the positive side, I do think the "good" ones are able to clearly think through the many sub-components of a given topic/analysis, and then level-up research insights and statistical analyses (that otherwise would seem academic / wonky) to the C-suite level in a way that's digestible, and with different concrete financial scenarios they can ruminate on, which imo *can* be valuable
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    • Profile picture of the author socialentry
      Originally Posted by Matthew Stanley View Post

      On the positive side, I do think the "good" ones are able to clearly think through the many sub-components of a given topic/analysis, and then level-up research insights and statistical analyses (that otherwise would seem academic / wonky) to the C-suite level

      That's partly what led me to take a second look. I tend to enjoy the wonky stuff but I found very few techs and academics are able or willing to vulgarize their work.

      On some search queries, the only google results are from either academia or 6 sigma type consultants.
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      • Profile picture of the author Matthew Stanley
        Yeah - sense is that those / more stereotypical types dominate the mental images and headlines (and to be fair, *do* comprise a high proportion of the actual "suits" working in those professions. But your sense that there's more to it matches mine: there are a decent cohort of people who have backgrounds in hard sciences/math, and wind up being paid very handsomely for essentially "explaining things in English" to upper mgmt in a way that many of their colleagues just can't / won't do
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  • Profile picture of the author myob
    Essentially, anyone with a few core skills or applicable license in corporate or even small business can be a "consultant" by just focusing on areas of specialized management for example in accounting, operations, human resources, marketing, public relations, sales training, finance, insurance, product development, manufacturing, fundraising, etc. In many cases, the only certification I've seen is self-proclamation on a business card.
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  • Profile picture of the author ewenmack
    Boston Consulting, Bain & Co are a lesson on how to package, present and deliver a service to a hungry audience.

    On the delivery side, they recruit the best business school graduates and leverige their talents have them work long hours and profit handsomely from them.

    On the outside looking in to their world and make a judgement call on their value...

    however they have a hungry audience
    that buy's.

    And that's possibly the biggest lesson, find your own hungry crowd.

    Best,
    Ewen
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  • Profile picture of the author Matthew Stanley
    On the more cynical side of this business, thought this Tweet from Damian Burns was pretty apt

    "Every 3 years, McKinsey hit the headlines for being paid something in the region of $50m for being the brains behind a company's decision to make their logo more rounded and 8% larger"
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    • Profile picture of the author DABK
      He's earned it. I would not have come up with 8% larger. I probably would have only said, 7% larger.


      Once upon a time, in a far far away country, there was a skit on TV.


      Business office.


      Two men enter. One's the owner/manager, one a visitor.


      The first desk they come upon after the receptionist's is taken up by a man in fine business attire, sleeping.


      The visitor says to the owner: Who's that?


      A consultant I hired to increase my sales (he used more words, but that's the gist).


      The visitor: He's doing nothing. Why don't you fire him?


      Owner: He made me $250k last month by doing exactly what he's doing now.


      My take on a lot of consultants: having one around is just like the skit, or like carrying a lucky stone in your pocket shirt.


      (I have also known some good ones. The best one is, of course, me. And, I swear on my little heart that I'm not biased in any way. Not at all.)


      Originally Posted by Matthew Stanley View Post

      On the more cynical side of this business, thought this Tweet from Damian Burns was pretty apt

      "Every 3 years, McKinsey hit the headlines for being paid something in the region of $50m for being the brains behind a company's decision to make their logo more rounded and 8% larger"
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[11617359].message }}
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