Consultants must embrace professionalisation to survive
Whenever I tell people that I’m a member of the Worshipful Company of Management Consultants or the Centre for Management Consulting Excellence I’m met with one or more of the following reactions: laughter, bewilderment or incredulity. Laughter because the combination of worship and management consulting seems wildly inappropriate; bewilderment because either they think a City Livery Company is something akin to freemasonry (it isn’t) or they don’t really know what management consultants do; and incredulity as they doubt that consulting and excellence are natural bedfellows.
As Daniel Muzio argues elsewhere, we consultants only have ourselves to blame for this dismal state of affairs: anyone can call themselves a management consultant, we don’t join professional bodies and consequently recognition or enforcement of professional standards is lacking.
Yet, all the consultants I know are highly capable and are totally committed to bringing value to their clients; we’re clearly not doing ourselves any favours.
Perhaps the growth of automation – a hot topic at CMCE – will lead the profession to bite the bullet and put in place a system of professional accreditation. Why so? Because the automation of analytical and other routine jobs previously done by armies of relatively inexperienced consultants – a cash cow for the larger firms – will mean that the focus of value will shift to the experience and professionalism of the consultants working with their clients to interpret and help shape the solutions to the problems they have been brought in to help with.
One of the arguments against professional standardisation is that consulting is an agile business that is continually evolving to meet future business challenges and thus any accreditation will reflect business models and precepts that are already outdated. That’s largely a myth as the value of consulting lies in the more “timeless” skills that help clients as much as consultants’ insight into a particular specialism. The quicksilver nature of the business means standards won’t be easy to develop or adopt but that sounds like a problem that the best of the profession should be able to address.
At CMCE we’re happy to help address this problem: the long-term survival of the industry depends on it.