As a general rule, management consultants help their client to improve operational efficiency, customer service, or profits to shareholders. Does our role extend to pointing out to a client when these are in conflict?
Great questions. I won't address the fallacy of maximizing shareholder value as a primary objective of business that still enamors many management theorists and modelers, but the conflicts between competing objectives is (or should be) a real concern for consultants. We are most often engaged to address just one issue, such as improve process efficiency, brand image, leadership, or talent retention. We are rarely brought in to "fix everything."
However, we are always obligated to consider the brand, values and mission of the organization as guides to our particular intervention or recommendations. Especially in competitive markets or difficult economic conditions, managers can lose sight of these values and implicitly or explicitly ask their consultants to do the same. They may ask us to abandon corporate values or history in favor of maximizing a particular objective, usually related to money.
Think of the client's big picture, their values and long term obligations to their stakeholders, including employees, when you are crafting a strategy to "improve" the organization in response to a short term challenge or opportunity. Remember that some of the most spectacular corporate (and consulting) failures over the past decade were grounded in consulting firms ignoring the same values their clients were and often leading to ethical missteps that drove the cllient to failure. Tip:
Jim Rodgers has written An Inversion of Values
, an insightful and powerful description of what can happen when values are inverted or replaced with a focus on money. This Chief Executive article looks back over what happened at Johnson & Johnson, once one of the most respected, value-orient brands around. Every consultant shoud read this article to center themselves on their responsibility to remind their clients of values.© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA