I am proud of my consulting career and invest a lot of time into professional development, research, and pro bono work using my expertise. However, I commonly run into people who disparage the management consulting profession. Why do consultants have this reputation?
All professions have their supporters and detractors, but consulting may be a special case. Given the range of disciplines, skills and behaviors needed to be an effective consultant, no state or national licensure is required for consulting as it is for fields like engineering, medicine, or architecture. The only credential offered is certification of experience, skills, knowledge, ethics and client satisfaction.
This lack of licensing, combined with easy entry into the profession, where anyone can call themselves a consultant, fosters an environment where many clients are disappointed. Consultants can assert capabilities and experience without verification. Clients shortchanged by the consultant they selected are often reluctant to reveal the full extent of their disappointment. However, several authors have written high profile books over the past few years highlighting some of the spectacular consulting failures.
This is not to imply that all, or even most, consultants are not capable, honest and committed to their clients. The source of client dissatisfaction comes from large and small firms, in all regions and industry specializations. However, it is important for every consultant to be aware of the often unspoken climate in which they provide services. We should all know what is on our clients' minds as possible risks of using our services. For example, the reuse of one well-known large consulting firm's client report for another client (neglecting to change all the client names from the original report) was a widely discussed embarrassment that affects us all, as were recent allegations of insider trading of high-end consultants, and involvement in the design of Wall Street financial scams. Tip:
We would all be wise to read one or more of the following "consulting kiss and tell" books written over the past few years:
- Dangerous Company: Management Consultants and the Businesses They Save and Ruin
- The Witch Doctors: Making Sense of the Management Gurus
- House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time
It is even useful to consider how you would have avoided or responded to situations in which some high profile consulting firms found themselves as described in these books. Be prepared to discuss with prospective clients.© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA