My stay in consulting so far has been a brief one but nevertheless it has been an eventful one as well. Interacting with consultants at different levels and from different geographies has been an enlightening experience. As is the case, I used this opportunity to ignite the discussion and this time my topic was “myths about strategy consulting”. Based on my interactions, experiences and a bit of reading on “strategy consulting”, these are the five myths that I have come across.
Myth No. 1: Speak well and look good and half the job is done
Globe or gas is a widely used term and commonly associated with consulting. So you can globe your way to the top if you have an accented voice and a suave look. Isn’t it? What makes it a myth is that it works but only for the initial few years. In fact one of the best insight about strategy consulting that I got was that “what works for the first few years may not work over the longer period of time or vice versa”. So it’s not about pronunciation rather it’s about communication. It’s not about the WordArt rather it’s about the art of persuasion.
Myth No. 2: Strategy Consulting is about business class travels and five-star accommodation
With North America, the inventors of strategic consultant and Europe almost stagnant, the firms are increasingly targeting the emerging markets as they seem to be on the path of growth. But the price sensitivity of these markets and with most companies being packed with "former consultants" bosses, this has resulted in clients being more demanding i.e. seeking more value for money. In fact they are increasingly asking for fewer and better consultants rather than allowing the consulting firms to get away with an army of junior consultants and allowing themselves to be billed by the hour. No longer is the consultant’s time his own and the client accommodates his schedule accordingly, rather if the client has got a schedule, the consultants are working along with it.
Myth No. 3: Strategy Consulting is all about CXOs and high level gyaan
You must have heard about how strategy consultants even at junior levels, right from the word go, get to interact with the CEOs (chief executive officers) and the CSOs (chief strategy officers) of the firm. But that’s not the complete picture. The CXOs are either the starting point or the full stop for the assignment. What joins these dots are primary research be it market survey, field visits, interviews and secondary research in the form of in-depth study of various reports. After all if it was that high level then it would have started with the CXOs and ended with the partners of the consulting firms. With the widespread use of BSC (Balance Scorecard) at the firm level, internalization of strategy is emphasized upon. So the middle management is no longer that ignorant to be ignored completely.
Myth No. 4: You are “too young” or “old enough” for Strategy consulting
One of the first lessons that I learnt from my interactions with the partners at the firm was in the form of a question, "How much do you value experience in consulting?" The answer was that experience counts for a lot in an operations' project but in strategy, it’s the insight that matters. After all it’s our tendency to be biased by our past experiences. If you consider some of the well-known cases in the industry that saw almost re-invention of their businesses be it IBM or the Indian example of Bajaj, you would find that the revolutionary changes were preceded by generational shift or change in guard i.e. fresh insights. The first major change in IBM was brought about by Thomas Watson junior in 1956 and Rajiv Bajaj is at the helm of rebranding of Bajaj after playing an active role in the firm’s foray into bikes.
Myth No. 5: Strategy consulting is making way for operations-management
The landscape has become more competitive undoubtedly and the clients are driving harder bargains. But strategy consulting is far from dead as firms know that there is need for external expertise. May be we are getting this impression because even the big strategy firms are looking to make money by grabbing a larger share of operational projects (assignments on how to do the same things better) which is likely to grow by 5.1% a year, against strategy consulting that is likely to grow by 1.1% annually till 2014. But when you consider the increasing mobility of resources and ever changing business dynamics, assignments related to market entry strategies, growth strategies etc. are likely to keep the strategy consultants busy.
Hope you found this article interesting and it helped you gain some insights into the world of consulting. Looking to hear from you all.