UK Guide to Management Consultants
Management consultants are generally considered to be elite professionals, enjoying a varied, challenging and well paid job, as well as offering a dynamic and effective service to their clients.
Usually well qualified, with several years of professional experience, management consultants are able to maximize the potential of their clients, by applying their specialist knowledge in a wider context than one firm can provide.
A further advantage of management consultants is that they are able to provide a more objective appraisal than is often available from within a company, since it is easier for them to see the broader picture and to suggest solution that might be outside the ordinary scope of the company.
It is also possible for management consultants to temporarily assume some of the management duties of an organization, particularly if it is going through a period of change or growth resulting in an increase in managerial workload.
However, there is also a great deal of scepticism regarding the worth of management consultants, and they are frequently criticized for the astronomical fees they command. In 1980, UK management consultancy fees totalled £61 million. This had ridden to £8 billion by 2006.
Many critics have argued that these figures are preposterous, given the relatively small impact of consultants on the economy as a whole, and some point out that the only real benefit of hiring a consultant is that a project's failure can then be blamed on the consultancy firm rather than the business itself.
Figures within the industry reject this interpretation however, arguing that management consultants solve complex problems for which there are no easy answer, and add substantially to the value of the client's business.
A partner of McKinsey and Company recalls that, because of the commitment of his team to nurturing every aspect of a business, “the client was surprised at our level of ownership.” In many cases the relationship between client and consultant is more of a partnership than a transaction.
Firms such as McKinsey see themselves as nodes of a worldwide business network, which is continually refined and improved by the intervention and cooperation of management consultants, and pride themselves on the work they do to tackle some of the planet's most difficult societal problems, such as hunger and illiteracy.
However, there is a shadowy side to every industry, and consultancy is often beset by claims of unfair work assignment and sexual harassment, as well as all the usual scandals of overpayment.
It is undeniable that management consultants can make a hugely positive difference to a client's productivity and margins.