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The intrigues of Management Consulting

Management consulting is no different than any other advisory role. Though simplistic at first glance, it is not much different than a legal or medical advisor. The most common similarity is that all advisory roles illustrate certain business and ethical issues. The most pressing issue, however, is the client’s ability and willingness to adhere to guidance.

It is no secret that one of the greatest challenges in maintaining positive relationships with existing and potential clients is convincing them of the benefits of the advice given to them, or as we refer it, protecting the client from itself. This does not mean that clients should blindly follow their management consultants’ suggestions; however, it does imply that based on consistent records and relationship longevity, clients should be able to distinguish appropriate and useful recommendations from negative or self-serving opinions.

Often, small business owners lacking expertise in innovation and organizational effectiveness and efficiency resist the dire and necessary organizational changes that would lead to greater profitability, effectiveness, efficiency, and ultimately greater ROI and improve the bottom line. Internal factors such as less than competent managers and executives, lack of continuous education by upper management, industry-specific habits, and lack of third-party audits to improve upon existing procedures further create organizational redundancy, which may, in turn, decrease the likelihood of organizational improvements.

Similarly, the organizational culture that has led to some preliminary success may halt further positive development in organizational evolution. The previous success that may be correctly attributed to old and outdated business practices often creates a sense of satisfaction, creating a false sense of comfort for the executive, which may lead to neglect of innovation and evolution.

Ultimately, the abstract concept of organizational culture will depend on many factors that may or may not positively impact the overall outcome. Yet the alternative solutions to improve upon past successes can have similar negative impacts, which brings us back to the ethics issue.

Generally speaking, it is certainly more profitable to prolong problems; however, is it ethical? Of course, it is not ethical, nor does it make sense. From a business point of view, management consultants are better off creating and maintaining a relationship based on honest and upfront assessments and projections. From an ethical point, it is equally important to illustrate integrity by consistently pointing to weaknesses that may influence the outcome.

Yet the ultimate question is when does one give up on an organization that is unwilling to follow advice, is plugged with incompetent employees and executives, lacks a clear strategy, and, even more importantly, creates frustrations within the management consulting firm? There is no good answer to this. One may suggest that it depends on loyalty issues; others may suggest that separation from such clients may lead to negative rumors that can be harmful, yet others may argue that the success of projects that are hindered by clients’ errors should be identified and criticized before the lack of success is blamed on the management consulting firm.

The final word on this is rather ambiguous. Each management consulting firm should decide on clear lines of tolerance. Deciding when a client becomes more of a liability than a business partner or client should be allowed. Many factors may contribute to severing relationships with such clients, including business profitability, industry-specific reputation, personal relationships, and contractual agreements.

Nevertheless, separation from a client should not be taken lightly. Any efforts to convince the client to change course should implement to preserve the relationship before any decision to separate is even considered.

Brought to you by World Consulting Group, your premier management consulting firm.

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