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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Thursday, February 17, 2011   (0 Comments)
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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 recommendations:

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 practical application.

The ugly ... 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 executive/owner level.

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:

  1. 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 satisfactory results.

  1. 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 sides.

  1. Spend the extra time up front understanding the problem. Don't make the client spend too much time and effort educating you.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 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. ( (