Management Consultants: Strengths and Weaknesses

Have you ever wondered how management consultants approach the challenges that organizations give them? For all the highfalutin language they use, you'd expect the methods to accomplish fantastic results. Sadly, this is seldom the case. For a decade at least, they've been the cousins of lawyers, charging huge fees which make them wealthy while impoverishing their customers. How could this occur?

To answer that, you need to recognize that there are two broad categories of management consultants, neither of which appreciates the whole picture. The first bunch goes in at the executive level, rearranges the company, and ignores the people.

You already know what this means. Any mention of the words reorganization, restructuring, or right-sizing invariably means a reduction in the number of people who work there. How are economic downturns defined? A recession is said to be in progress when your friend loses his or her job; but a depression is understood to be occurring when you lose yours.

The second group call themselves trainers. They usually work through the Human Resources office. They usually have little if any knowledge of the organization's short, medium or long term goals, they've never read a business plan, never mind written one, and they swear up and down that none of what they do can be measured.

Each group lacks a key component that the other takes for granted, and each is dead certain that they know it all.

There certainly are good reasons to begin improving companies by starting at the top of the tree. Management consultants have been taught to do this because they can command higher fees and the purse strings are usually held by those who work in the stratosphere. But, that doesn't excuse them from ignoring the people who have made the organization as successful as it is.

By the same token, the Human Resources office can be an equally effective place to start any sort of intervention because it does include the very people who often are the most effected by the policies that are created at the top. But, all such training needs to have its outcomes rooted in the objectives of the company. Otherwise, it just becomes a pricey junket for privileged non-executives.

A key part that is missing from what most trainers do is measurement. Here's a little secret: Just because trainers say that what they do can't be measured, doesn't make it true. The fact is that most of them don't know how to do it. That's all. Now you know.

Have you ever used management consultants where you've worked? Have you always been satisfied with their methods or their results?

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