Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A lesson in consulting's murky past

I was made aware quite some time ago of a new publication being launched this year, by Chris McKenna of Said Business School. Entitled "The World's Newest Profession: Management Consulting in the 20th Century", the book was set to chart the rise of the management consultancy profession and how alumni of the top consulting firms have come to yield such power in today's corporate world.

The publishers have yet to send through my review copy, but a piece in the Observer this last week reviews some of the key messages to emerge from the book. One observation is how the consulting "profession" came to exist thanks to changes in legislation in the US that essentially created a need for consulting professionals. It's then suggested that changes in legislation ever since - most recently in the form of Sarbox - have stimulated further waves of demand for our services and helped to sustain the growth of the consulting sector.

Unfortunately much that is published on the subject of consulting these days seeks to portray management consultants as underhand and undeserving of their success. Similar vibes emerge from this review of the book, though it is unclear whether it is the Observer's take on McKenna's work or the actual content of the book itself that is to blame.

Looks like an interesting read nonetheless, if only to gain an understanding of the roots of the consulting industry.

Enjoy. Tony

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Consulting lifestyle issues

Consulting lifestyle issues - has anything changed?

Just recently got back from vacation and one of the most pleasant aspects of my holiday was not worrying whether I'd get disturbed by urgent calls from the office. Partly this is an acknowledgement of the trust I have in our talented team (thanks all) - but it particularly stood out as it's a degree of relaxation totally at contrast with my experiences as a consulting employee. Back then (pre-2000) interruptions to weekends and holidays were a major source of discontent - and indeed even the possibility of being disturbed was enough to take some of the shine off of one's free time.

During the hols I met up with a friend who's now leaving consulting for these very reasons. Whilst on holiday, a call came in asking what time his plane was touching down on his return. The consulting firm in question wanted to figure out if there was a way of having the consultant get home from holiday, pack things and be back out on a transatlantic flight to start work with a new client that same day (a weekend, incidentally). This got me thinking, have consultancies really not moved on at all in this respect?!

So I thought it would be an interesting exercise to test the water with you all. Do you still:

o have a problem in your office that consultants are disturbed whilst on holiday or go away on holiday uneasy at the prospect that they might be called?

o leave the office for the weekend either knowing that you've got to come back in over the weekend or dreading the fact that you're likely to get a call asking you to?

o find a long-hours culture prevails?

I'd be interested in your feedback, because I'm convinced that simple company policies on these issues would make consulting employees sleep a lot easier and would have negligible impact on client delivery if the senior team members knew that they had to adhere to these rules.

So what have your recent experiences been - do you still suffer from these types of problems? Any others you'd like to flag up too? Post your comments below - I'm looking forward to reading them! Thanks, Tony