Management Consulting 101 (or: Think Before you Tinker About)

Management consulting often gets a bad rep because practitioners typically come into an organisation knowing that there’s a problem that needs fixing, but spend too much time playing with their toolkit, or taking things apart, rather than focussing on practical solutions to the issue at hand.

HowThingsWork Worse still, consultants often disappear without finishing the job, leaving someone else to clear up their mess and patch up the damage afterwards. Until the next round of management consultants come in.

As consultants, when we are invited into a client’s place of business, we are placed in a highly privileged and trusted position, one that we must not abuse or take for granted. Yes, we are there to identify problems and help develop solutions, and in some cases we are given the responsibility of implementing them. But in our eagerness to deconstruct an organisation, we can overlook the need for some foresight and advance planning.

When analysing a client’s operations, and before making any recommendations for strategic change or process improvement, I often recall the words of my father, who was a mechanical engineer. At a young age, I had dismantled a clockwork motor (to see how it worked) – but then found it was impossible to reassemble all the cogs. He simply said:

“Before you take something apart, know how to put it back together again.”


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