Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Management Consultants Are Often ‘More Project Workers Than Ideas People’

25.07.2007
The popular impression that management consultants are key to spreading new ideas in organisations is exaggerated and misleading, according to a unique fly-on-the wall study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The consultant’s image as an expert outsider bringing new knowledge or understanding to clients is firmly contradicted by findings from the three-year long project led by Professor Andrew Sturdy, of Warwick Business School at the University of Warwick.

For the investigation, researchers spent 30 months working alongside consultants and their clients in four diverse consultancy projects. Their aim was to clear away the mystique and understand exactly what clients and consultants do when working together and how their relationships work for or against the flow of knowledge.

Observations, surveys and interviews took place among people involved in projects in a multinational company, a financial services retailer, a prison and a local authority. The researchers also gathered insights from clients involved in the Management Consultancies Association’s 2004-05 Best Management Practice Awards.

They concluded that, contrary to widespread belief, management consultants are, like their immediate clients, more ‘knowledge brokers’ than innovators. Both groups are often more concerned with managing projects and getting the job done.

Professor Sturdy said: “The image of consultants as experts - the shock troops of the latest approach to management - doesn’t match their day-to-day work with clients in projects.

“Typically, they are seen as outsiders, bringing ideas and organisational techniques which are new to their clients. But in reality, we found that prospective clients were unlikely to welcome consultants if their knowledge was ‘too new’.”

The study findings suggest that consultants walk a tightrope between offering what might be seen as either a ‘helpful’ challenge or an unconstructive interference. So whilst clients were generally happy to be challenged, this was only if the consultant did so sensitively, showing a good understanding of the business.

Consultants also needed to earn the respect of staff at all levels in the organisation – something best achieved by demonstrating intelligence, commitment and willingness to engage with its problems, and respecting the knowledge of its employees.

It was frustrating when they failed to appreciate a client’s particular circumstances and seemed to impose a standard solution.

Clients were often themselves very knowledgeable - sometimes with similar backgrounds and education to the consultants. Far from being the outsiders then, consultants could often be seen as insiders, personally and politically close to the commissioning client and in terms of shared knowledge with other client project team members.

Professor Sturdy said: “The real outsiders then, are those people not directly involved in the project team, often including the most senior management and the rest of the client organisation.

“This is important, as it means that consultants are not as innovative or different as is often thought. But this can help in their role as knowledge-brokers. The main barriers then become the initial selling process, and later the implementation; typically still the preserve of managers more than consultants.”

As an alternative to consultants, the ESRC Business Placement Fellows Scheme aims to enhance business sustainability by giving businesses access to experienced social science researchers to work on projects crucial to the needs of the business organisation. The Scheme allows academics to spend one to 12 months in the business, not necessarily in one block of time, to carry out an agreed project and assist with staff development, should there be a demonstrated need. The opportunity also exists for employees in the business sector to undertake a placement in a research environment where work would be done on a project. The placement fellows are jointly funded by the ESRC and a host organisation, with the flexibility to shape the placement to the needs of the business. One of the Scheme's key aims is to improve knowledge transfer between academic departments, partner organisations and the staff they employ.

Annika Howard | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esrc.ac.uk

More articles from Business and Finance:

nachricht Europe's microtechnology industry is attuned to growth
10.03.2017 | IVAM Fachverband für Mikrotechnik

nachricht Preferential trade agreements enhance global trade at the expense of its resilience
17.02.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Business and Finance >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Transport of molecular motors into cilia

28.03.2017 | Life Sciences

A novel hybrid UAV that may change the way people operate drones

28.03.2017 | Information Technology

NASA spacecraft investigate clues in radiation belts

28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>