Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Consultancy Fact - Father of Consultancy!

We are in consulting business. Out of curiosity (indeed very essential ), I have started the “Job Description” of a consultant. These are the thought shower in the process.

Consultants (Management , Marketing, System..) are involved in providing objective advice, expertise and specialist skills with the aim of creating value, maximising growth or improving the business performance of their clients. They are primarily concerned with the strategy, structure, management and operations of an organisation. Consultants can assist by identifying options with recommendations, providing additional resources and/or the implementation of solutions.
Consultants operate across a wide variety of services such as business strategy, marketing, financial and management controls, human resources, information technology, e-business and operations, and supply-chain management.

Typical work activities
The day-to-day activities of management consultants are often complex and varied. Consultancy is essentially entrepreneurial in nature and project-based. Projects can vary in length depending on the type of consultancy, firm and the demands of the client. They can involve an individual or a large team. They can be based at one site or across several international borders.

Typical tasks, involve:
Carrying out research and data collection;
Conducting analysis;
Interviewing client’s employees, management team and other stakeholders;
Running focus groups and facilitating workshops;
Preparing business proposals/presentations;
In addition to the above, tasks for more experienced and senior consultants involve:
Identifying issues and forming hypotheses;
Formulating and implementing recommendations/solutions;
Ensuring the client receives the assistance needed to implement the recommendations/solutions;
Managing projects and programmes;
Leading and managing those within the team, including analysts;
Larger leadership role in the management of client relationships

Our experience with this “Job of Consultant” is very exceptional. Everyone says this! Yet, from this part of the world (Salem in Tamilnadu in India), and serving the family owned, family based, family driven, family managed, family employed (nice usage), to families around with families to support. The business houses can be defined as “By the family, for the family, to the family”.

We have to sell (throw our full weight around) our service. Because, we envisage this is going to be the future (our future). These tiny, small, medium organisations going to create value to our economy (Indian). Having the knowledge about the culture and style, we found (our comfort zone) this opportunity and doing a “seriously different” job.

We aren’t a part of the organisation, yet we have to solve the problem of the organisation. It  is all about working in an unstructured environment, trying to solve a problem for an organisation of which we aren’t a part. The operative word is unstructured. The organisation doesn’t need to be unstructured.

“Unstructured” because often the organisation in question isn’t structured to support the consultant. As far as the consultant is concerned, the structure of the organisation is amorphous. Since he isn’t a part of the organisation, he’s working in an unstructured environment. He doesn’t exist in a defined hierarchy within the client org. He doesn’t have people reporting to him and he doesn't report to people.

His role is defined. Solve our problem, the organisation says. But what is the problem?

The problems aren’t clearly defined, and often a closer look reveals that they’re mostly the symptoms, not the underlying cause. (Our chairman says, “If the client knows what is his problem, he never call us or no job will come to us”).

When we interview the founders, managers (senior most), they say, we have everything in place, the plan, the system, the process, the people and the product. When we dig deeply, everything they say is right and wrong! They have a plan but they implement different one. They have the system and they follow different (example accounting – one for the owner, one for the banker, one for the IT department), they have process (example – recruitment process – they use that only to the new – unknown – non-family member, if the applicant is a family member (brother in law), with no qualification or attitude, employed) but not in use. They have product and they sell different one as the demand and spec is not met.

In such a situation, the greatest challenge a consultant faces, and the first thing he must do, is ensure that his ideas are respected by the organisation which hired his services. The organisation isn’t really a monolith. It’s a thousand different people, a thousand different opinions  The founder or director who hired you may have faith in your abilities, but the manager who is infinitely more important to your project’s success because he has all the info you need may think otherwise. And if he continues to feel that way, good luck getting any cooperation from him. (That translates nicely as, ‘You’re screwed, boy!’)

The only way you can successfully complete a project is by gaining their trust and their respect. And the only way you can do that is by chipping away at their reticence (silence) and suspicion, one recommendation at a time, until the rock face crumbles. You have to be ready to have your recommendations ignored, ridiculed and bitterly opposed. Only when that is done will you stand a chance of having them accepted.

First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.
~ M K Gandhi

It applies to consulting, regardless of whether you’re a freelance consultant like us, down at the bottom of the food chain, or happen to be McKinsey’s brightest star. we come across this phenomenon ourself during each and every consulting engagement and there’s no reason to believe nobody else has. Indeed, a McKinsey alum does mention that this is the reason why every recommendation they make has to be backed by tonnes of facts. It helps if you aren’t an asshole.

To overcome some of the pitfalls we, helikx, started our "Process" ....It demands one more post "Pitfalls in Consultancy and how to overcome it"

Comment to have one...

Thanks to Chairman who provoked me today during our discussion about our client War..W. The debate continuous..

1 comment:

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