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Amorality or Ethics -- the Choice is Yours

Posted By David T. Norman CMC, Sunday, May 22, 2011
Is the Industry at the Intersection of Amorality and Ethics?

First, the dilemma. An associate and a friend chided me about posting too often to the Message From the Chair out of concern for over-populating your inbox with announcements of the most current post. I took the concern to heart and vowed to not post as often.

Well, until there was a confluence to two events: (1) hearing our guest speaker, Jenny Sutton, at the recent Leadership Summit, and (2) Consulting Magazine's current review in Book It! of Extract Value from Consultants, the new book by Sutton and her husband, Gordon Perchthold.  [Note: I referred to the book in my previous blog.]. The review of the book took a Q&A format and several of the authors' responses struck me. Excerpting just one for this Message From the Chair:

"Consulting: Do you think the consulting profession has lost its way over the past few decades, either from an ethical standpoint or a performance standpoint? It's certainly taken its share of black eyes."

"Perchthold: First of all, you called it a profession and it's not a profession, actually. It had aspirations of being a profession at one point, but it never got there. It doesn't support an industry certification of basic competence. So, it's moved from an industry with aspirations of being a profession to being a glorified packaged marketing machine."

[DTN Note: The authors are primarily addressing the larger firms who left IMC USA a couple decades ago to promote their own 'brands.' Further, the authors' contention is that the larger firms are more concerned with their big-name brand, their 'leveraging' staff (e.g., pyramid scheme) and pushing their own services than 'solving client problems.']

Further, there's the http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/gupta-defied-mckinsey-before-sec-action/2011/05/17/AFUGck8G_story.html in The Washington Post, May 17, 2011, about Rajat Gupta and the SEC administrative order against him -- which alleges that Gupta, while Managing Director of McKinsey & Co., provided inside information to hedge fund billionaire Raj Rajaratnam, "the central figure in the biggest crackdown on insider trading in U.S. history." Yikes; the Managing Director of one of the most venerable consulting firms facing what appears to be a major breach of ethics.

So, go with me:
  • Imagine a 'Wild-West' world, if you will, where nothing matters but the current revenue and near-term bookings; a world where the firms, in the words of Perchthold and Sutton, ".. are coming to clients and almost inventing problems to solve and sell."
  • Imagine the impact of potentially failed projects (and some real) and the resulting litigation and the tarnished reputations.
  • Imagine the money being paid to defend the accusations and to publicly repair reputations.

Imagine? You don't have to do so; it's real and it's happening now.

But, it doesn't have to be.

At the intersection of amorality, "Wild-West" practices, and Ethics one is faced with a choice -- do I do what is good and right, or do I make the decision that is counter? The choice, at least to our members, is not only real but also easy.

We are the sole certifying body for management consultants and, pertinently, the certification is based on consulting competencies and ethics. Check out our competency framework if you wish to learn more about consulting competencies. And, check out our tagline -- Setting the Standard in Excellence and Ethics in Consulting. And, to add a great measure of credibility, your organization is now an ISO/IEC 17024 accrediting body. (Subject of a future Message From The Chair.)

Our members are part of a self-regulated body, who each subscribe to our Code of Ethics, and voluntarily submit to ethics adjudication. Accordingly, I am proud of each of you -- the professional management consultants who do believe in excellence, consulting competence and ethics.

Then imagine, if you will, a business world, where all professional management consultants, whether in large firms, mid-sized boutique firms, or solo practitioners, subscribe to a voluntary Code of Ethics -- the same Code of Ethics, that if adhered to, would have helped a number of the firms self-absorbed by their brand avoid some of the current legal problems and tarnished reputations.

And, if you are a buyer of consulting services, why not ask if your consultant subscribes and adheres to an industry-wide Code of Ethics? What's the harm in asking; the answer may surprise you.

Alignment with and support of a self-regulating Code of Ethics will actually enhance your professional reputation and brand. Try it; you'll like it.

Stay tuned,

My best,

David

Tags:  CMC  Ethics  IMC USA  Management Consulting  McKinsey & Co.  The Washington Post 

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Comments on this post...

George Moskoff CMC says...
Posted Sunday, May 22, 2011
David, I'm glad you're enthusiastic about this organization. Part of your job, yes?
I lack that particular sentiment. I'm 56 years old and got my CMC in 1989: I was young. Back then, my mentor told me that IMC was a best-kept secret. Know what I think has changed in 22 years? Not much.
We still haven't been able to "unlock the code" that would make my CMC something that a potential client -- whether Fortune 1,000 or little Non-Profit -- perceive my services to be superior to someone who doesn't have a CMC behind his/her name.
Do I have a solution to this problem that I perceive? I don't know. I do know that blog postings like this one don't seem to be part of the solution set. I may be nuts but I might still have something, too.
Thanks for your efforts.
Permalink to this Comment }

Michael E. Cohen CMC MBA says...
Posted Sunday, May 22, 2011
You say above: "(DTN Note: The authors are primarily addressing the larger firms who left IMC USA a couple decades ago to promote their own 'brands.' Further, the authors' contention is that the larger firms are more concerned with their big-name brand, their 'leveraging' staff (e.g., pyramid scheme) and pushing their own services than 'solving client problems.']"

I am not aware that the reason- main or otherwise- that the so called larger firms left IMC two decades ago was to promote their own brands. What is your basis for saying this? The larger firms may have left IMC because it was not providing a good value proposition for thmeselves or their employees. And what is meant by "leaving IMC"? Do you mean that they did not reimburse their employees for their IMC dues? If the value proposition is there, employees of any size firm should not have to have their dues reimbursed to want to join IMC.
Permalink to this Comment }

Eugene A. Razzetti CMC says...
Posted Sunday, May 22, 2011
David, Mr. Moskoff's response suggests (correctly) that the foundation of the CMC "house" may need some shoring before we add another floor and more rooms. I suggest a good scrub of the CMC Process and its credibility before we promise anything more to the Membership. The ICMCI Country Assessment was a much more exacting standard than ISO 17024. That said, (and like I told Drumm) please let me know if you want an actual Certification Audit of ISO 17024 by an International Registrar. Best, Gene
Permalink to this Comment }

Michael E. Cohen CMC MBA says...
Posted Sunday, May 22, 2011
Let's look at the second part of your statement: ("Further, the authors' contention is that the larger firms are more concerned with their big-name brand, their 'leveraging' staff (e.g., pyramid scheme) and pushing their own services than 'solving client problems.']"

I realize that is not your point, David, but the authors of some book. As a former partner of Booz Allen Hamilton, I disagree with that characterization. I'd be interested in the factual basis of their conclusions and just which firms they are referring to.

Permalink to this Comment }

David T. Norman CMC says...
Posted Sunday, May 22, 2011
Thanks, George, Michael and Gene, for your comments.

Michael, I'm doing what I think is a fair job of expressing the views of Sutton and Perchthold. Read their book. It seems that in the mid-80's (I got my CMC in 1988, about the same time as you George), all/most of the big firms were represented in IMC USA. Over the next decade or so, the larger firms, as the world and marketing shifted, pursued branding, not certification. It probably was not an overt decision; rather one made over a course of time and in a changing business environment.

My contention and belief is simple -- as the business world has moved in the past decade or so and, indeed, the shifting landscape for ethics has created problems for a number of firms, IMC USA is in the right place -- as the sole certifying body for management consultants in the U.S. for consulting competencies and ethics.

Yes, I believe that .. fiercely. For many, the value proposition of IMC is clear, especially in light of the ethics breaches elsewhere.

Permalink to this Comment }

Chris N. Lambrecht CMC says...
Posted Monday, May 23, 2011
That IMC and the CMC remain "best kept secrets" is really not the point. Isn't it a shame that the vast majority of consultants do not see value in abiding by a code of ethics or are interested in certification at any level. The believe the answer to why consulting is not considered a profession by some lies in the answer of this circumstance.
Permalink to this Comment }

Michael E. Cohen CMC MBA says...
Posted Monday, May 23, 2011
David, I also got my certification in 1988. It may be that we view the succeeding events differently. I am very busy, as I'm sure you are, but I'll call you sometime to discuss this. I wrote a 14-page paer on this very subject about 6 years ago in response to a request from Baldwin Tom, then the IMC Chair. If I can dig it up, I'll send it to you in advance of our dicussion.
Permalink to this Comment }

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Don Matheson CMCChair and CEO, IMC USA
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