What is a management consultant?

A Management Consultant helps companies and other organizations to improve their performance. Their work may be broad, such as planning a strategy, or it may be specific, such as to devise a staff reward scheme.

Management consultancy involves a range of skills. In addition to having specialist knowledge, consultants must be able to analyze problems, propose solutions, and help clients implement them.

An effective management consultant must also be able to build relationships and get on with people. Often, they may have to work closely with clients, as part of a team. However, at all times, the consultant needs to maintain an objective, independent view.

Hierarchy of involvement

A useful way to look at how consultants relate to client organizations is to see the process as a hierarchy of involvement. This comes from an idea that Arthur N. Turner first described in a 1982 article in Harvard Business Review. He named it the “hierarchy of purposes.”

Turner’s hierarchy has eight steps. The greater the step number, the more involved the relationship between consultant and client. The eight steps are:

  1. Supply information in response to a specific request.
  2. Provide a solution to a specified problem.
  3. Diagnose a presenting problem: perhaps even redefine it.
  4. Make recommendations in line with the diagnosis.
  5. Assist client to implement recommended changes.
  6. Build commitment around implementing changes.
  7. Help client learn how to solve similar problems in the future.
  8. Improve organization’s ability to adapt to a changing world.
Two images showing a management consultant with clients
Image created by Market Business News.

What do the best consultants do?

No matter how close they are to the client, the role of the management consultant is to influence and is not to control.

Although they can become deeply involved with the problem and its analysis, management consultants remain outsiders. They make it clear that the problem belongs to the client, as does responsibility for deciding solutions.

Management consultancies range in size from independent individuals to large global companies that employ thousands of consultants around the world.

Accenture is one such global company that offers management consulting among its services. Alexandra Nuth was a strategy consultant with the firm before becoming managing director of ATB Financial.

In Nuth’s view, the best consultants:

  • Build trust by doing exactly what they say they will do.
  • Pay attention to detail.
  • Have an area in which they excel.
  • Think before they act.
  • Face tough problems with resourcefulness.
  • Not be afraid to ask questions.

World’s largest management consulting firms

Here are the top ten management consulting firms according to revenue for the fiscal year 2021-2022.

  1. Deloitte Consulting – New York, USA – $50+ billion
  2. Accenture – Dublin, Ireland – $50+ billion
  3. PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) Advisory – London, UK – $45+ billion
  4. Ernst & Young (EY) Advisory – London, UK – $40+ billion
  5. KPMG Advisory – Amstelveen, Netherlands – $30+ billion
  6. McKinsey & Company – New York, USA – $10+ billion
  7. Boston Consulting Group (BCG) – Boston, USA – $10+ billion
  8. Bain & Company – Boston, USA – $4+ billion
  9. Booz Allen Hamilton – McLean, USA – $7+ billion
  10. Capgemini – Paris, France – $18+ billion

Note: These figures can fluctuate from one year to the next. It is always best to check the latest financial reports from each company.

Steps to management consultancy

These tips may help if you are thinking of becoming a management consultant?

1. Education

Get a bachelor’s degree (business, economics, finance, etc.).

Consider a master’s or MBA.

2. Skills Development

Build analytical, problem-solving, communication skills.

Learn project management.

3. Work Experience

Intern at consulting firms.
Work in relevant industries.

4. Networking

Attend career events, join professional networks.

5. Recruitment

Apply to firms; prepare for case interviews.

6. Certifications (Optional)

Consider obtaining CMC or other relevant certifications.

7. Continuous Learning

Stay updated on industry trends.

8. Career Progression

Progress from analyst, to manager, to partner.

9. Personal Development

Develop client management skills and resilience.

A good management consultant should have analytical thinking for complex problems, strategic vision for long-term planning, creative problem-solving skills, adaptability to new situations, excellent communication for clear ideas, and strong interpersonal skills to build client relationships.

You should also possess honesty to maintain trust, integrity to uphold ethical standards, and a strong work ethic to handle the demanding nature of consultancy work.

Video – What is a Management Consultant?

This video, from our sister channel on YouTube – Marketing Business Network, explains what a ‘Management Consultant’ is using simple and easy-to-understand language and examples.