Management consulting serves as the tightening of the screws, replacement of worn out parts and upgrading where repairs are not effective.
By CLAUDINE MUTHAMA
Picture this, a brand-new machine; working in top condition until one day it becomes a far cry from what you have known it to be; loose parts here, missing screws there, a jam occasionally and as it gets worse, breaks down completely and has to be replaced.
The same applies to organisations. From the formative stages, leading to the first day of operations, the organisation’s viability is weaved into its very foundation. You see, the culture and systems laid down during the formative stages determine the viability of the enterprise in the long run. Normally at the start-up level, an organisation may have simpler systems, value chains, risk management frameworks and decision-making processes. However, as the organisation grows, systems become more complex, risks increase, market forces shift by the day and customers’ needs and dynamics evolve. It therefore becomes imperative that an organisation takes stock of its performance and longevity every so often. This is where management consulting comes in. As exercise is to the body and service is to a machine, so are consultant’s services which act as the vital health check that enables organisation to operate seamlessly or at least improves productivity. Jeffrey Graham aptly puts it thus; ‘At one time or another, most businesses need someone to administer “first aid” to get things rolling again.’ Consulting serves as the tightening of the screws, replacement of worn out parts and upgrading where repairs are not effective.
What consultants bring to the table
Consultants bring a different perspective to an existing management challenge. This is based on the wealth of experience to reference when addressing various organisational challenges, as well as an external eye that is not affected by the internal culture or biases operating within organisations. Consultants usually carry out research and due diligence on an organisation and stakeholder engagement before carrying out an intervention. This ensures that decisions and action point are backed by data or solid insights. This is a critical success factor in the value that consultants add.
A case in point is a strategy consulting survey carried out by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) in 2016 in top 15 retail bank. The desired outcome was improvement of customer experience through a consistent and efficient processes. The service gaps identified in these banks were; too many hand offs, duplication of roles and fragmentation among teams and limited accountability for ‘finishing the process/delivering results.’ The consulting approach entailed conducting an in-depth assessment to identify the root causes for the service gaps and inconsistencies. The solutions, later implemented, entailed innovation of ways to eliminate duplication of roles and decrease overlap, simplify complex processes to manage workforce demand and enable capacity optimisation and consolidating call centres to enable efficient workforce management. As a result, one bank was able to save between USD30-USD50 million within the first year of implementing these measures.
Consultants also bring on board specialised skills to turn around targets in a shorter time span and cost-effective fashion. They are useful in organisational transitions that might bear a high risk in terms of financial and reputational costs. For example, organisational restructuring and mergers may be implemented with better outcomes through the unbiased and professional services of a consultant. This makes them a catalyst for positive change to support in steering the organisation towards its optimal state, identity and achievements.
A consultant can be contracted to support the generation of more business. A business development consultant for example can enable an organisation to identify potential products or services within its scope of expertise or provide guidance to enlighten an organisation on the target market’s buying habits or decision making and how to align product, processes and workforce to these needs to increase revenue.
On the flip side
Working with a consultant may not be the panacea to all institutional woes, or else business would be winning all the way, every day. There are challenges and losses that come with engaging the wrong consultant; in terms of lack of experience for the outcomes they are supposed to drive or lack of commitment to the process, misdiagnosis of an organisation’s position or failure to approach a project with the required inputs, process and diligence. The results of this are usually detrimental and may even cost more to reverse the damage.
Additionally, a consultant’s input is mainly facilitatory and must complement an organisation’s internal efforts to achieve a common outcome. Ideally, it is the organisation/institution to ‘do all the work and go beyond the extra mile’ if desired results are to be achieved. This may prove to be a daunting task mostly because it means investing in various ways and most critically, changing the norm of the familiar and comfortable. A competent consultant can mitigate this resistance to change which can hinder achievement of consultancy outcomes by gauging the readiness to change from the onset as well as stakeholder engagement to secure buy in of the organisation for the target outcomes. Once the ball gets rolling on the implementation of the project, the process becomes self-reinforcing.
KIM consultancy services
The consultancy unit has been offering various consultancy assignments across a diversified spectrum of organisation. Our principle objective is to help organisations and other institutions remain relevant and competitive in the context of the dynamic environment. We therefore aim to provide market responsive, world class, cutting edge consultancy solutions to the modern-day organisation. The consultancy department currently specialises on offering the following solutions;
• Executive recruitment and selection • Psychometric assessment and testing • Talent management and staff development• Strategic planning and review • Job placement services • Job evaluations and compensation structures • Training needs assessment (TNA) • HR audits and metrics • Productivity improvement services • Organisations restructuring and change management • Market and social research • Board evaluations, leadership • Management development
Claudine Muthama is a consultancy officer at the Kenya Institute of Management. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org