14 Features, 4 Advantage and 1 Benefit from Turnkey Management Consultants

The popular image of a consultant is one who borrows the client’s watch to tell the time and send a bill. Give unsolicited advice and walk away leaving the client poorer. This may be true but not the profound truth.

 

Any industry that has low entry barriers offers a level playing field to everyone.

Anyone who may have nothing else to do can claim to be a consultant. 

Clients place their trust in whomever they are comfortable with and get in with life. 

That puts the onus on the professional management consultant to distinguish their presence. 

 

Here are a few management consultants I had a chance to observe from close quarters.

They chose to be different. Distinguished themselves as a profession of a management consultant. 

Unmindful of being challenged the entrenched prejudices and showed the difference. 

Developed the features, advantages, and benefits that signified an irrevocable value proposition.

Lent respect, stature, and credibility to the industry. 

Took on a role that benefited the client the most. 

  • Confidant: Heads of institutions may feel challenged when they wish to bounce off an idea. The mere hint of an idea from a patriarch or the head of state may set off a rumour and get people anxious. Mistaking it to be a command, obey it. I found consultants like Peter Block to be a great listener. Acting as a sousing board or a mirror to the CEO, encourage them to build on that. Weigh the pros and cons and help the CEO package the idea better. Position the idea with a view to energise the enterprise.
  • Futurologist: Organisations need to lockstep with the times. The credit for putting companies on the path of profound growth goes to Kenichi Ohmae. Japanese companies replaced their successful products when they sold the highest. By replacing them with an upgraded version, they consolidated their leadership further. Helped their clients stay forward-focused and future-ready.
  • Soul Stirrer: Eli Goldratt shot down erroneous accounting practices. Stirred up the conscience of the Board rooms. Questioning the erroneous rationale that culminated in poor performance. Weaned them away from attempting piecemeal remedies. Encouraged counterintuitive thinking to redress problems at a systemic level. Capitalise on the time value of money.
  • Devil’s Advocate: A few clients hire high profile consultants to trumpet their own pet ideas. David Ogilvy recalls meeting a client who wanted David to convert his idea into a campaign. Finding his pet dog standing beside him, David posed him a question. “When someone is your door, who does the barking? The dog or you?" Some consultants can be in the face but refuse to compromise on their principles.
  • Minesweeper: Dr. Masaaki Imai, insisted on cutting out the waste before investing in improvements. He emptied the waste bins of a client and quantified the amount of money they were wasting away. Moved the laundry at the Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai in a sea-facing room to the basement. Converted that space into a conference hall. Turned a passive real estate into a prestigious money-spinner for life!
  • Missionary: Edward Deming waged war against poor quality at bell labs. Finding no takers, propagated the power of quality to Japan. The top fifty industrialises bought into his ideology and built up a whole nation. The US failed to capitalise on quality as a core competence. Lost its competitiveness to the whole World.
  • Consensus Builder: Japanese CEO’s found a tough taskmaster in Dr. Asaka. He was one of the advisers to the Japan Union of Scientists and Engineers. Dr. Asaka mandated every industry to raised its standards every five years. Else lose its competitive edge. Held the captains of industry accountable and appraised them on that dimension. Built-up a National consensus in the ’80s that put Japan ahead of every other industry across the Globe.
  • Stake Binder: Family-owned businesses mobilise the capital and take on the business risk. Hire professional mangers with domain knowledge to run them. Feel anxious about the professionals taking undue risks, since they hold no stakes. This creates an element of distrust between the two. in the welfare of the company. The owner appoints a Board member or a consultant to qualify and mitigate the risks. Restores the trust deficit by binding their stakes together in explicit terms.
  • Game Changer: Sumantra Ghoshal recalls a time when Lufthansa was near bankruptcy. Two of the leading German banks that were board members, refused to lend any money. He invited the professionals at Lufthansa to come up with one idea that could be a game-changer. Turned the airline around by encouraging them to realise their idea.
  • Corporate Guru: Ram Charan propounded the concept of 'Leadership pipeline.' Helped Citibank fortify their second and third tier of leadership. Noel Tichy formulated the ‘Teachable Point of View’ (TPOV). Illustrated how teaching could be a great way to learn. Helped the likes of GE to become a learning organisation.
  • Orchestrator: David Nadler of Delta consulting helped rearchitect Xerox corporation. Orchestrated a Global initiative to close the gaps in productivity and performance. Accelerated the pace of change to catch up with industry leaders.
  • Conscience Keeper: In his address to CII, New Delhi, CK Prahlad held out a vision of Sampoorna Swarajya or total self-reliance. Highlighted that India earned more from commodity exports than engineering exports then. Would a Nation of eminent engineers aspire to be a technological giant? Offered three new paradigms for growth: Economic prosperity, technological vibrancy, and morality. Created an attitudinal shift in the minds of industrialists thereafter.
  • Agent Provocateur: Several Gurus from JUSE, Japan helped India upgrade the standards of industrial practices. Yamaguchisan, a proponent total predictive maintenance was a missionary. His mission was to cut our the nuisance of all kinds at the workplace. In one of his visits to an Indian factory, he observed flickering tube lights and noisy fans. Stale food and cool air leaking away from doors left ajar. Upon return to the classroom, he asked the head of maintenance to step forward. Pulled him up literally by the collar. Baffled, everyone looks at him, aghast. Reason: His indifference to wastage was sacrilege. Explained the sanctity of “Mottainai.” that translates into respect for nature. Emphasised the importance of being attentive to noises and vibrations.
  • Evangelist: Sheppard Moscow believed in developing a team of internal consultants within the company. Employees with a consulting mindset were sensitive to change. Helped their employees stay productive and competitive. Since they cost much less than external consultants, helped to elevate employee productivity.

How do we measure the advantages accruing from any consulting engagement?

Four unmistakable outcomes for the client company could be:

  • Strength: Client companies become much more alert. Take a head start in changing over.
  • Weakness: Reduce their margins of error.
  • Opportunity: Improve their competitiveness and secure a competitive advantage.
  • Threat: Keep enough factors of safety to tide over surprises and speed up recovery.

Earn recurring returns from a one-time investment.

If you are looking for a consultant, think twice. Decide what you want the consultant to do for you and go with them. Take a long term bet. Go with a consultant who is intellectually honest. Has the executive bandwidth to translate your intent into shareholder value. Be imaginative and demanding.

After all, every company is known by the consultants they keep!