The common proposition of today’s management consultancies is ‘we are the industry experts!’ This means you, the client, should use their services because they know more about your marketplace than you do, irrespective of your level of experience and expertise. This thinking and approach to business strategy contains many flaws that ultimately inhibits successful outcomes. The most dangerous flaw is that from its outset, the project and relationship is fractured. It is built on a foundation of ‘us versus them’ – meaning ‘we will tell you what you should do, and you should listen to us and do what we say’.
From this point on, the assignment is destined for mediocrity. Organizational channels for capturing information and important insight are closed, ownership is neither accepted nor therefore transferred, roadblocks and issues reside, final recommendations are way off the mark and destined never to be implemented – quite simply, a waste of time and money.
The rule for cultivating a successful business strategy is for the advisor to understand the customer’s circumstances and how they can contribute first, and then to build a plan to extract insight and deliver business strategy effectively. The key competency should be to provide deep functional and specialized business strategy advice, which includes the thinking, methodology and expertise to work collaboratively with the client so that the project is implemented successfully.
Successful business strategy means acknowledging that your clients are the true industry experts. They are looking for a partner to unlock and harness their knowledge in order to develop business strategies that are comprehensive, innovative, collaborative and cost effective – not a process where a cast of thousands ask irrelevant questions and disrupt the business while charging an enormous fee to justify the head count. The advisor must acknowledge that the client is in need of its services because it may not have the time, the resource, the strategic expertise or the thought processes necessary to achieve its aims – and not because it does not know its industry.
In some situations, clients do seek specific industry expertise as they may be new entrants, yet even in these circumstances, management advisors will still fall short in terms of industry knowledge, as invariably, the direct participants in markets and sectors will always have the better insights – all you need to do is identify and talk to them.
Winning business strategy is about cultivating the power of what lies within your clients minds. It is to believe that knowledge gaps can be bridged intelligently and cost effectively. It means working with clients to identify their strategic imperatives, to collect pivotal information, to engage them and their market to capture insight and to deliver cost effective, forward thinking solutions based upon repeatable platforms.