Dec 13, 2007

Manager and the Consultant

The lines are blurring says Clavert Markham in

"Management and consultancy used to be distinguishable by the fact that one dealt with continuity and the other with discontinuity. Now managers look back on the management of continuity with the sort of nostalgia reserved for bowler hats, typing pools and final salary pension schemes. 'A lot of continuity is now embodied in systems,' says Markham. 'Managers increasingly have to manage discontinuity through the medium of projects which they cannot execute through power alone -- they have to do it through consensus, by influence rather than mandate.' This change is creating a new set of issues for both consultants and clients -- with an overlap of skills, the make-or-decision is not so clear cut. 'Is consultancy leading edge or are consultants merely the transmitters of best practice?' asks Markham. 'The question of when one should use consultants becomes more one of knowledge capital and the appreciation of that asset, because part of that goes to the consultancy and not your own people.' This doesn't imply a diminution of the role of the consultant. On the contrary, the more people focus on what is 'core' the more they seem to outsource. And Markham asserts that there will always be a role for the 'outsider focus' that a consultant brings, even if they are an internal consultant from another part of the organisation. But adding value to that perspective -- to bring us neatly back to Markham's book -- will always requires practical consultancy skills, not just knowing what needs to be done but how to do it. "