Nov 5, 2003

Defending Consultants on Ryze

Actually Witch Doctors goes beyond just consultants and calls 'management science' itself an 'immature discipline' lacking both academic rigor or research !

That is true if viewed from the lens of traditional academic disciplines...the lines between practitioners, academics and consultants in the world of management is very blurred...what, for example, would one call Gary Hamel or Micheal Porter ? They have their own consulting shops and they also teach...

Having said that, I'd like to do the difficult...try to analyse the bad press that consultants get.

Most of it is due to what OB gurus call the "theory of attribution" that human beings justify the good they do by attributing it to themselves and the bad by attributing it to external factors (environment, other people etc)

The same I think is true for organizations...if they succeed its because of themselves and if they do badly then they blame suppliers, markets, the appreciating rupee and consultants :-)! A steel company in Eastern India and an Auto Company in Western India and a two wheeler company in North India have been consistently beating market averages in terms of growth and new products ...and all of them have had upwards of more than 3 consulting firms in their factories at any given time ! We don't hear these firms (or the media) heaping praise on their consultants for the superlative performance...

"Dangerous Company" that you quote also has case studies when firms have used consulting firms well, the case of Dave Ulrich being one in point. The book also points out some points to manage consultants (they are any other resource!)

- Most firms come in awe of big global consultants and give them a carte blanche to create magic...that is a recipe for disaster and designed to burn a hole in the balance sheet

- A firm must project plan a consulting assignment and put its best people to manage the consultants.

- These days consultants are no longer taken for just advice but to buttress a temporary skill that a business lacks and therefore are not just advice-givers but also implementors.

Consultants can be of two types:
An Expert Consultant will have specific expertise in a certain field of business. Their knowledge will be specific to the task in concern and they will usually do the job without your input. They will be employed until the task has been completed and are usually consulted to solve short term problems. For example, it may be the set up of a computerized stock control, or completing parts of your marketing plan that you have little knowledge about.

A Process Consultant will have a general business knowledge and so they can be used in most cases. They will offer and share their advice to all those in the business and will also get involved in solving the issue. Process Consultants can be employed as an ongoing long term solution to a task and so they are particularly useful for developing and changing your business.

Hope this helps and adds some perspective...