Even with the recent high profile news about management consultants ending up on the wrong side of ethics practices, it seems like the consulting profession is pretty ethical. What do clients think?
This is an interesting supposition that can't be verified or disputed conclusively. A client, when presented with a consultant of theirs that violates ethics laws or practices, is reluctant to go public with it because it taints their selection and management of that consultant. When they engage an exceptionally ethical consultant, this behavior also tends to be closely held.
The lack of fully revealed evidence makes it hard to conclude a general characteristic of the profession other than by anecdotal evidence. However, in my role as IMC USA Ethics Chair, I do get a lot of complaints about unethical consultant behavior. Unfortunately, only those consultants committed to the profession by their membership in IMC USA or being a Certified Management Consultant are subject to independent ethics adjudication. Other consultants must rely on investigation by their own firms (ironically a conflict of interest) in response to ethics complaints.
Oscar Wilde said that "Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life." As it relates to management consulting, he was a century ahead of his time. On January 8, 2012, the Showtime television network debuts its new series "House of Lies," based on a less than flattering book about the seamy side of the management consulting profession. It will be interesting to see the reaction of the public (and of business) to this series.
© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA