During the past forty years the number of consultants has grown worldwide. More organizations use consultants and the global industry is worth $250 billion. There is a symbiotic relationship between Business Schools and Management Consultants that maintains a steady supply of fresh graduates to a growing industry. An interesting question is to ask what role management consultants play in adding value to organizations in both the public and private sector.
The 'Big Con' describes the confidence trick the consulting industry performs in contracts with hollowed-out and risk-averse governments and shareholder value-maximizing firms. It grew from the 1980s and 1990s in the wake of reforms by both the neoliberal right and Third Way progressives, and it thrives on the ills of modern capitalism, from financialization and privatization to the climate crisis. It is possible because of the unique power that big consultancies wield through extensive contracts and networks – as advisors, legitimators and outsourcers – and the illusion that they are objective sources of expertise and capacity. To make matters worse, our best and brightest graduates are often redirected away from public service into consulting. In all these ways, the Big Con weakens our businesses, infantilizes our governments and warps our economies.
Conflicts of interest can be problematic when organizations employ consultants. It is necessary to ensure that any conflicts of interest are declared at the outset before work is done. We have seen during the Covid 19 Pandemic that many contracts handed out by the UK Government suffered from a lack of scrutiny bypassing normal processes in an effort to speed up action. This increased costs and some contracts given to management consultants were excessive. £600 million spent on this. Much of it on Track and Trace. In addition much public money was wasted on Personal Protective Equipment contracts given out in grace and favour to those in the loop.
If you want to work in management consultancy then a degree at Business School is a starting point often the MBA. Business Schools will tell you about all types of tools and techniques to add to your toolkit. such as Motivation Theories, Theory x and Theory Y, Teamwork, Business Process Re-engineering, 7 S Framework, Lean Thinking, Agility, Flexibility, BCG Growth Share Matrix among many four box strategy models along with Porter's Value Chain Analysis, Five Forces and many other management fads. The problems emerge when the novice management consultants decide to put them into practice without sensitivity to context and specifics of the problems.
Here we take a look at the role of Business Schools in developing the supply chain for the management consulting industry. Drawing on some critical commentators such as Locke and Spender 'Confronting Managerialism'. The failure of management is explored in this book. Another contribution comes from Duff McDonald in 'The Golden Passport'. Henry Mintzberg wrote a book 'Managers Not MBA's' which makes some telling points about the nature of MBA's in Business Schools.
So what do you think? Have firms devolved their responsibility to manage by employing an ever-growing army of management consultants?