The future of management consultancy ?

Management Consultancies Association MCA round table: an entertaining perspective on the future of management consultancy.

Prism, as Associate Members of the Management Consultancies Association, was invited to attend an MCA round table addressing current issues in consulting. Professor Andrew Sturdy, Head of the Department of Management at Bristol University was brave enough to take on the challenge of addressing a full house of management consultants.

Professor Sturdy has undertaken research which, in his view, points to “The successful slow death of management consultants”: a controversial title! The same research has also been titled “the demise of management consultancy and the rise of the consultant manager”. And finally the book, a steal at £61.10 for 200 pages (the rest is appendices etc.), is called “Management as consultancy: Neo-bureaucracy and the consultant manager”. The “N” is indeed capitalised. I think the premise can be summarised as “we’re all consultants now” and therefore firms of consultants should be very worried. He also made the point that consulting must and no doubt will continue to adapt to respond to changes in management and clients, which is indisputable.

Unfortunately I don’t think there seems to be anything new here: his research is over four years old and pundits have been predicting the death of management consultancy for about as long as they have been predicting the death of recruitment agencies and (sorry to disappoint) it hasn’t happened yet.

During the course of the roundtable I jotted down nine reasons why organisations might call upon an external firm of management consultants and the notion that “internal” staff (whether as internal consultants or line managers) might fulfil that function only negates two or at the most three of those.

He is an entertaining and informed speaker and to give him credit he didn’t have long to summarise his work. I’m sure there is much more to this but I was overall left with the feeling that some interesting and provocative headlines distracted from the fact that it wasn’t especially earth shattering.