On The Big Con...
The big 'four' aren't consultancies any more, they're outsourcing factories whose business model is built on scale and volume not incisive interventions.
Ok, the article title here says it all, but there's a key part of this wonderful piece about the horrendous role of consultancies in the shaping and delivery of 'the state' that I think is crucially important.
For years, most of the 'big four' (although there are probably about ten now) have anchored their entire business plan on 'land and expand' strategies. Basically, get in the door, flood the place with consultants and build a drug-like dependency on them by limiting the client organisation's ability to develop its own capabilities, often by using bafflingly-complicated and pointless 'models' that do nothing except drive that dependency even higher.
Now, I run a consultancy, and, like all consultancies, we want more work from our clients. Duh. The difference is that we want more work from them to help with new things, not to become a dependency. As Mariana says of her own academic unit's work: “the main difference is that our goal is to make that government entity independent . . . We don’t want that second contract.”
Consultancies and consultants get a bad name because of the practices of those that don't think like this. We've long designed 'offboarding' into our engagements for this reason: our role, and that of any external expert, is to bring 'unusual' skills to the mix – i.e. expertise to help with something that is beyond the organisation's normal activities, from a new perspective on future strategy to new ideas or experiences that can be leveraged from other sectors.
The big 'four' aren't consultancies any more, they're outsourcing factories whose business model is built on scale and volume not incisive interventions. It's the equivalent of a knee surgeon who only wants to sell you walking assistance for the rest of your life. Or who recommends operating on all of your joints while they're there.
It's so frustrating to read pieces like this because external experts are vital contributors to business success, health, wellbeing... you name it. We need to recognise that real expert consultancies won't take on work they don't have expertise in. And we do the minimum necessary to achieve the client's end goals, not the maximum possible to achieve our own, at the ultimate expense of the client – in every sense.