Does Management Consulting Actually Work?

— April 29, 2017
Being a manager requires an extremely broad skill set that few people have when they first enter into management. Often employees are promoted to the manager level because they show a strong talent in one or more areas of business. Unfortunately, their weaknesses usually become glaringly obvious after missed deadlines, goals or failed projects. This is when many businesses will call in a management consultant. To better understand the value of this type of consulting, lets cover the basics.

What is management consulting?

Management consulting is the business equivalent of life coaching. Rather than helping someone maximize their own personal potential, management consultants help clients develop better skills in their areas of management weakness. Life coaches are hired by their individual clients, management consultants are hired by the company the manager works for. A career in management consulting can be profitable but there are lot of consultants out there to compete with.

What does a management consultant do?

Management consultants evaluate a wide range of managerial criteria to determine where a manager is falling short and then help them develop in their areas of weakness. For example, an individual might have come to the attention of a C-Suite executive because of their can-do attitude and stellar performance. Once they are promoted into management, however, they may find themselves overwhelmed by trying to do everything themselves and not delegating. In other cases, a person with great relational and people skills that has a reputation for building solid, high functioning teams can have a difficult time understanding departmental budgets, scheduling software or other data driven tasks.

Why do businesses hire management consultants?

Every person has a range of strengths and weaknesses. Not only are there no perfect managers, there are few, if any, individuals that excel at all areas of management the second they are given the position. Most individuals will shine brilliantly in one area and bomb in another. Most savvy C-Suite executives promote people with certain important skill sets, and then get them help to develop in their less-than-stellar areas.

Does it work or how does one measure that it works?

Whether management consulting works or not depends on several factors, such as:

  • How open the manager is to being coached: Sometimes, managers think they have it all together and the real problem is the employees. If the manager doesn’t feel they have a problem or that they have any areas of weakness, they will most likely fight against any attempts to help them grow or develop. In that case, consulting will generally fail.
  • Whether the firm hiring the consultant is identifying the right problem: Sometimes a firm will hire a consultant to come in and figure out what the problem is with a certain department or manager and sometimes they will feel they already know. Sometimes they may be right and sometimes they may be wrong. If they try and hire a consultant to fix a problem that doesn’t actually exist, while ignoring the one that does, consulting will generally fail.
  • Whether the area of expertise of the consultant lines up with the weaknesses of the manager: If a consultant’s area of expertise is in marketing and the manager’s problem is that they lack people skills, even the best marketing consultant will probably not be able to help the manager develop better relationships with their team. Keep in mind, marketing experts will almost always see a lack of marketing as the problem, while relationship experts will almost always see poor relationships causing a lack of performance. Getting the right consultant to fix the right problem is crucial to the success of the consulting.
  • Whether the consultant is genuinely qualified: Sometimes, the best sales people are the least qualified. Just as managers can sometimes be fooled by a stellar resume and a good sales pitch, C-Suite executives can also be fooled by a great sales pitch from an inept consultant.

Measuring the success of a consultant depends on the problem that needed to be addressed. Most often when departments are underperforming, their failure is measurable while the reason is not. Employees that are revolting against a micro-manager or overly bossy manager don’t have a statistical model for measuring the bossiness level of their supervisor. On the other hand, if a consultant is brought in and productivity in that department increases measurably, then it would be safe to say the consultant was successful.

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Author: Graham Onak

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