The failure of many consulting interventions arises because consultants and clients have different perceptions of time.
Professor Gerry McGivern of Warwick University Business School presented the research undertaken with two colleagues on this important issue for the success of management consulting assignments. It shows that consultants propose solutions that fit within their restricted timeframe – meaning they take a more simplistic view of the problem(s) at hand. By contrast client staff view the problem in more complex terms, as they have more time in which to address the issues. Whilst clients are able to accept the consultants’ recommendations, they would wait for the implementation to fail in order to legitimise their preferred, more complex approach to solving the problem.
The research suggests that overlooking discussion of the way stakeholders’ time frames affected how they viewed the project enabled them to avoid overt conflict. However, doing so, this ultimately undermined the sustainability of the solution developed during the consulting project, leaving the key problems to be addressed in the future.
You can read Dr Simon Davey's report on the lecture here.
Professor Gerry McGivern, Warwick University Business School