Management Consultants

Read the whole post, he pretty much nails it…

Joel on Software:

The whole fraud is only possible because performance metrics in knowledge organizations are completely trivial to game. The best part is that most management consultants, the stunningly good-looking, bright, earnest chipmunks with 4.0s in Russian Lit from Harvard who work for these companies, have absolutely no way of knowing this, so they can go through this whole exercise without even knowing that they’re doing it! They get all the way through the 2-year associate program on their way to MBA school without even realizing that they haven’t done a goddamn thing about productivity, all they’ve done is caused a fairly pointless transfer of wealth from ExxonMobilConoco to BainMcKinseyGartner’s senior partners. And it’s a lot of fun! First class flights to Houston and Oslo! Helping the world be more productive! Rock on, young stunningly-good-looking Management Consultant.

6 thoughts on Management Consultants

  1. Joel nails this, but lets senior management off way too easy. At the end of the day, it’s the companies that hire these consultants. At 2000K per day for a consulting MBA, I don’t hold the consulting company accountable, I hold the company who hires them accountable for putting that resource to work.

    I’ve advocated that fortune 500 companies should have an internal group to manage consulting engagement to ensure that there is return and a strict SLA or some other way to measure impact. ( I spent about two years in strategy consulting and saw the model work and the model not work. Where it worked was where the companies were actively engaged, drove the consultants extremely hard and had a defined end goal set by the company, not the consultants.

    And yes, strategy consultants (and former strategy consultants) are stunningly good looking as Joel said.

  2. I’m waiting to hear from Crofton on this one…

    I think you are right about letting senior mgmt off the hook. The reason, IMO, is far too often that senior mgmt is looking for the magic pixie dust in the form of a powerpoint instead of the harder work required to build accountability into an organization and reduce the overall complexity. This I think is the single best strategy for increasing productivity is stripping out controls and structure, something senior mgmt is loath to do.

  3. I am a Management Consultant. I agree that the client needs to manage the engagement to ensure the desired result. And IMHO working with those clients who do make for much better projects since the result is almost always better.

    The point of Consulting is to offer expertise and manpower that would otherwise take too long to hire or is only needed temporarily. There is always a need like this for business so it does have value.

    P.S. I am not that good looking.

  4. Ben,
    It was a tongue-in-cheek post but I take your comments to heart. The single most valuable strength of the mgmt consultant industry is that they are mercenary in nature, able to be dropped into any situation and determine a strategy and execution plan for success. The key, as has been pointed out is to 1) clearly define objectives, 2) provide appropriate weaponry, and 3) minimize organizational intransigence

  5. Well Jeff, since you asked, a couple of thoughts:

    1) As you know, Rob’s really not that good looking
    2) Bashing consultants is a lot of fun, but generalities are always dangerous. I think Joel’s post, while perhaps making a valid point about consultants roles vis-a-vis app dev costs, may not necessarily “scale” to all technology strategy consulting projects.
    3) Senior mgt often already know what they should or want to do. A “McKinsey/BCG/Bain said we should do x” provides a nice CYA
    4) In my (brief) consulting career, I did see several companies with opportunities for cost cutting. Some of these were “low hanging” and the consulting firm may have provided a the necessary political cover to get them done. However, others may not have been obvious to management or senior managers may not think that such cuts are possible. Even if expensive, consultants often drive cost cuts that are multiple times their cost.
    5) Joel’s post really only speaks to improving efficiency which is essentially cost cutting (doing more for the same $ or less$). The real value (and danger) of top tier consultants to me is when management needs “thought partners” (like that one Jeff?) to determine new strategic directions or needs to adapt to a changing landscape. The impact of a bunch of smart, highly structured, hard working guys in your company for a couple of months trying to figure out what the threats and opportunities to your business are, shouldn’t be underestimated. Now you, Mr. Manager, have the responsibility of determing whether and how to implement the findings and, of course, it’s your company so you actually have to execute.
    6) 2/3 of your last team at SAP…… ex-consultants

  6. He’s not giving consulatants eough credit. They are generally really smart people. They know they aren’t changing anything. They just don’t care.

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