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Lots of people criticise consultants, and so do I. I even created and led ‘The Campaign Against Consultancy’.
There can be a premium on slickness over authenticity, telling you what you want and giving you what you ask for — answers, a very clever report based on detailed analytics and benchmarking — rather than working with you to find out what you really need and make the change happen.
There can be manipulation, hard sales tactics, all the things which the rank and file of the organisation resent.
Consultancies can create a powerful internal dynamic and focus where bright, competitive young people focus on competition and what gets them promotion, and that can draw attention and focus from actually making an impact for clients.
And they can end up charging you a lot of money for a beautiful report (perhaps fronted by one of your previous colleagues who was hired by the consultancy) which doesn’t actually change anything.
These criticisms — and many more which I lay out in the attached presentation — are all valid, at times.
But we probably all also know some consultants who’ve really made a difference.
Who have put heart and soul into getting to know the organisation, sharing their expertise generously. Who feel like a true partner to move you forward.
Much of the problem with consultancy is really that it fits in with client expectations — gives you what you want, helps you to avoid the stress, tension, and vulnerability of real change — rather than helping you confront what you need to change.
I’m always thinking about this, because it’s my job — and it’s important to me that we try to steer a genuine line through this.
But I’m interested in perspectives — what’s your experience of consultancy?
What makes it bad, when it’s bad?
And what makes it good, when it’s good?