Terribly naive story about the state of management consulting
This blog post in the Harvard Business Review online begs a comment. It seems that since the early 1980′s someone comes along every year with the great finding that strategy consulting is dead and clients now want implementation projects lasting 12 months at least, and fetching $20M. This post is no different. This one person, writes one biased book where he interviews only US clients and feels he is the global expert.
He forgets that companies go through waves of change. Each wave requires a new strategy and then its implementation. Companies will go through another wave of change soon and require new strategies as well. For this person to say that companies no longer need, or are willing to buy, strategy work, implies that companies no longer need to change. He is both naive and simply try to flog an idea, which to him, seems like a differentiating insight, but which has been around for the last 30 years.
Go back in time through the Fortune and New York Times archives and the same idea emerges either at the start, middle or end of a market cycle: Strategy is dead, implementation lives! Just to be clear, you can only implement a strategy. You cannot implement a vacuum of ideas. Therefore, by default, you need a strategy first before you can carry out any implementation. This obvious logic seems to be eluding the author. To him, implementation is the way of the future, and can be done without a plan to implement!
He makes the same mistake so many do. He confuses operations and implementation. Yes, a client can continiuously improve their operations WITHOUT corresponding changes in strategy. Yet, you need an operations plan or strategy to carry out an implementation. This is a crucial understanding he misses. That is because strategy and operations, and implementation are all different. You can see more about this here.
Moreover, it is incredibly naive for him to just look at the US market when consulting fees outside the US now exceed US fees. Surely the likes of Gazprom, Codelco, a slew of Indian companies and their Chinese counterparts need great strategies to continue expanding and growing, and in ever crowded market. If these companies simply implemented on the basis off their current strategies, they would be larger, but not better managed.
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