Consultancy or Interim Management – Which?
Delivering change is the staple diet of the "Big Four" consultancies, but large corporate clients, the traditional back yard market for the big firms, are being disappointed time and time again by an increasing disconnect between the big ticket prices they pay and the relative lack of experience of their "consultants".
We've all seen it at some stage, haven't we? An excellent presentation from the Partner. You're paying big money, and for that you're getting the reassurance that no-one ever got fired for buying whichever global consulting brand you've selected. Good for you. Then the team turn up a few days later ...
- Outstanding people? Yes.
- Understand the methodology? Of course.
- Great analytical and presentation skills? Unquestionably.
- Substantial "hands on"/"been there done that" experience? Well ... Not exactly ...
Have you asked yourself the question: "What will my organisation miss out on, because instead of using specialists who know all there is to know about the subject, I'm using young "twenty something" generalists who may have only downloaded the methodology from the consulting firm's knowledge management servers for the first time over the weekend?"
Surely that's exaggerating just a bit isn't it? Well, buy your consultants a few beers one evening, and see what they say.
Don't be surprised to hear how they hadn't met each other until half an hour before they met you, or how on a previous assignment Tarquin was charged out as a Managing Consultant at least six months before his promotion to that grade was finally approved; or how Celine, was sold as an "expert" on a subject that she hadn't got any experience in, just because no-one else was available.
But not only that; how many big consultancy firms still won't take full responsibility for implementing their recommendations?
How do they put it: "Of course we'll support you throughout the implementation process, but ultimately it's vital that your people own the solution"?
Fair point you might say, but after rounds and rounds of corporate downsizing, there are some of us who, after all the analysis has been done, just need a few extra pair of hands to bring the benefits home, without the fuss. Why can't they "Just do it" as the saying goes?
Well, if those scenarios don't sound entirely unfamiliar, have you considered interim management as an alternative?
It's a change management approach that relies on bringing in senior executive interim managers who are "sensibly over-qualified" for doing exactly what you want done. They don't need to rely on the reputation of a big consulting brand, only the credibility of their own track-record; quite simply because they've actually "been there" and "done that" before. And that's the trick: finding a good service provider (they don't like to be called agencies) who knows the specialist interim manager you want. When you've found them, they love nothing more than to implement the solution and hand you the savings. And with those few extra grey hairs comes just a little bit more tact and diplomacy than you might expect from a "twenty something" consultant from one of the big firms.
Not surprisingly, because of the successes that interim managers are consistently delivering, more and more corporates are looking long and hard at the consulting budgets that they would have spent with the big firms. Teams of interim managers are even beating the big firms to large scale change programmes. Rightly so. Interim management is not only a high expertise/low risk way to deliver results, it's typically only half as expensive as consultancy.
David Jones is Head of Executive Interims – Supply Chain Interim Management and Consultancy Practice; providing supply chain interim management services. Useful advice for new interim managers can be found at the site.
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