The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Experiences Executives Have with Management Consultants
By Dr. Sarah Layton CMC, FIMC
In preparation for the
keynote at IMC USA’s 2010 Confab meeting, I asked about a thousand global
business leaders to respond to an online survey about their use of and
experience with management consultants. When over a hundred executives
responded within a few hours, I knew I had hit a nerve.
Eighty three respondents out
of 107 replied that they hire management consultants. They represent a broad range of industries
from healthcare/pharma and financial services to manufacturing, retail and
agriculture. They range in size from start-ups to about USD $120 billion.
Ninety three percent said
they were "very satisfied” to "moderately satisfied” with their experience with
a management consultant. Here are a few of their comments:
The good ....there
were tales of how management consultants have saved the company with their
Worked with (major consulting firm)
consultants on an SG&A rationalization project that was well thought out
and very valuable to the organization.
Great experience with a former industry
leader that helped the company develop key evaluation hurdles for new projects
and prepare a commercialization plan.
The bad ...there
were tales of how the consultant just rephrased into consultant-speak what the
client told them, adding no value:
Our CEO hired a consultant to evaluate
the sales team. He found him via the internet. The evaluation tests he used
were not relevant to our distribution model or industry. He didn't understand
our business and he failed miserably. Waste of money.
All talk and theory - no action and
... there were also a few tales of consultants acting unprofessionally:
Consultant discovered a major weakness
in our CEO's leadership skills and tried to force him out by exposing it to key
leaders… very unprofessional approach...should have worked through it at an
So what would
executives like management consultants to know? When given a chance to tell management
consultants a thing or two, here is just a sampling what they said:
- Work with the client. He or she probably knows what they want but may not
have sufficient resources, such as time or people, to carry it out as
quickly or to the standards required. Building trust that the consultant
has a deep understanding of the client’s needs, both spoken and unspoken,
and then consistently acting to achieve agreed-upon goals will always have
- Take a lesson from small business. They have to produce results or
they don't eat. The days of charging outrageous sums for less than stellar
results are over. Success comes from deep commitment and respect on both
- Spend the extra time up front understanding the problem. Don't make the client spend too
much time and effort educating you.
- Go the extra mile and study the potential client before you meet with him or her. Don’t make assumptions about
them either. For example, they may be more analytical literacy than you
think. They also may not tell you want they want to hear.
- Fancy slides do not compensate for mediocre work. Your presentation must show how
you are adding value for the client.
Dr. Sarah Layton speaks, consults and writes on value
innovation and strategy and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is a qualified Blue Ocean
Strategy practitioner and managing partner of Corporate Strategy Institute
based in Orlando, Fl. She presented the Keynote address at the 2010 Confab in
Reno and has travelled Asia, North, Central and South America, and India
working with clients to find new markets that have no competition. (www.corporatestrategy.com) (www.blueoceanstrategicplanning.blogspot.com