It can count among its constituents some of the biggest names in business – corporations such as Deloitte, Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers – and attracts some of the most talented and brightest graduates from some of the most renowned institutions in education.  Its largest organizations are colossal, employing literally hundreds of thousands of qualified individuals across hundreds of cities and countries, turning over billions and billions of dollars each year, and its practices play a crucial role in just about every industry there is, from tiny independent enterprises and charities to multinational corporations and governments.  Yet, most of us don’t even know what management consulting is.  The funny thing, however, is that at its heart, management consulting has just one simple intention.

Perhaps what confuses, though, is the very fact of its scope.  Seemingly limitless in what it may encompass, even the term ‘management consulting’ is non-committal and, in truth, flatly fails to describe the true nature of the work.  Although, among those individuals who proudly describe themselves as ‘management consultants,’ you might find an eminent expert of his field or someone who has only recently entered the profession with some freshly printed business cards, neither necessarily fulfills the requirements of what a management consultant should in fact be.  Which, furthermore, is something that experienced, respected members of the industry often fail to agree on.

But despite its sheer breadth and range in service types, there nevertheless exists a widely accepted process on how consultants do their job.  Yes, different aspects of the phases that together form that process may vary according to the firm and the specifics of the engagement, but break it down and the steps are consistent, whether we’re talking about involvement in information technology, human resources, marketing, finance, strategy, or all of the above.  This process, of course, is one of the things that this book will discuss.

In addition to a process of management consulting, however, there happen to exist other matters that consultants have successfully agreed on, and standards is one of them.  While it may be true that, as in any industry, not every individual or firm adheres to those standards, there are nonetheless well-established bodies that provide regular examination, so providing globally recognized certification for candidates who must be consultants with a defined level of project management experience and knowledge of consulting-related concerns, such as quality control management, communications management, and risk management.  The matter of why standards are so important to the industry is another area that this book shall look into.

How it is possible, though, in such a vastly wide-ranging industry, to agree on such things as standards and processes brings us back to the common principle underlying it all, which, as it turns out, begs not the question of what management consulting is, but rather why it exists.  Well, it so happens that our clients are, ultimately, all after just one thing; whatever the forces that combine to motivate an individual or organization to seek our services are, their cumulative result is the same, and anyone who invites an outsider to enter his or her organization is investing their time, energy and money in the hope, or expectation, of just one single, specific event.

The growth of a company is not a reliable thing and, invariably, after periods of successful and sustained development, the upward curving line that represents that growth will begin to plateau.  Growth then occurs at only an inflationary rate, and returning to that steeply rising movement becomes problematic.  Yet often, somewhere within the same set of skills, knowledge and resources that allowed that earlier success to occur are the very issues preventing a similar level of advancement to continue.  However, through recognition and understanding of those issues, the necessary alterations in practice or outlook can be put in place, and the gap to that next, elusive curve bridged.  All that is required, therefore, is some kind of positive change, and it is this desire for positive change that all our clients share.  Furthermore, it is the challenge of affecting this positive change that has brought into existence our giant, multifaceted industry.

However, while giant and multifaceted it is, the categories into which just about every consultant can be classified are limited, with the largest of these represented by the companies of the Big Four, and the smallest by the independent; the entrepreneur.  Also limited are the fundamental approaches to management consulting, which take on two very distinct philosophies.  Whereas the expert approach involves a specialist who, with vast experience and knowledge in a very narrow field, enters an organization in order to offer assistance and analysis, which is limited by the parameters of their specific technical background, the facilitative approach seeks to bring about truly long-lasting and profound change.  This kind of change occurs not only at a cross-organizational level, and so incorporating all areas of practice and operations, but also in the entrepreneurial leader, themselves.

Achieving that kind of change in not just an organization but also an individual, however, is no mean feat, and requires a very special bond between client and consultant to occur – and a bond of this nature requires trust.  This book will also attempt to clarify, therefore, whether you are the kind of person that has the right blend of skills and qualities to be able to extract that kind of trust from someone such as your client; furthermore, whether you are the kind of person who will then be able to take that trust and use it to coax out the extra qualities and ingredients that they are looking for; and finally, then, whether you are the kind of person that can successfully become a trusted agent of change.