What Should I Look For in Management Consulting Firms?

There are some obvious things to look for in a management consulting firm, like the length of time the company has been in business and its reputation. That is only the beginning because the consulting firm that is the best fit for your organization needs to meet specific objectives. That means you must carefully identify your needs before searching for the right management consulting firm. Do you need advice on staying union-free or a union organizing campaign already in progress, improving employee engagement, or revamping employee communication strategies? Management consultants help find unbiased solutions to problems, so you want to hire an efficient firm to bring the knowledge and expertise relevant to your business needs. 

Start with Defining Business Goals and Culture Fit 

There are two overarching requirements for hiring a management consulting firm to achieve goals. First, defining your business goals and desired outcomes for hiring a management consulting firm is crucial to hiring the right firm. Needing assistance with implementing a new Information Technology system is quite different from preventing unionization. Management consulting firms may offer a broad range of services, but you need one that can provide the required expertise to achieve desired outcomes. That’s only possible when you spend time defining precisely what you are looking for. 

The second primary requirement is identifying the type of firm that will be a good culture fit for your organization or help you change your business culture if that is the defined goal. This may sound more difficult than defining goals and outcomes because culture involves so many factors, like decision-making processes, norms, knowledge, and values. Every company has a vision, rules, and accepted working styles.   

Robert E. Quinn and Kim S. Cameron at the University of Michigan identified four main culture types.  

  • Clan culture – A friendly working environment where the leaders are viewed as mentors and the workforce is loyal. There is high employee engagement, positive employee relations, teamwork, and a focus on meeting customer needs. 
  • Hierarchy culture – A formal, structured working environment where well-defined procedures drive employee behaviors. Smooth and efficient execution of tasks, low costs, smooth planning, and reliable delivery are vital traits. 
  • Market culture – Employees are goal-focused and competitive. Organizational leaders competitively drive effort. They are demanding, and winning is the focus. Achieving measurable goals and targets is essential, and market leadership is the real objective. 
  • Adhocracy culture – This is a culture in which the working environment is entrepreneurial, dynamic, and creative. Employees are committed to innovating and trendsetting. The organization’s emphasis is on growth by introducing new products and services. Individuals are encouraged to take the initiative. 

There are two aspects of culture that influence your selection of management consulting firms. The consulting firm must be able to work within your organizational culture to achieve outcomes. Second, suppose the reason you’re hiring a consulting firm is to change the culture, like developing a coaching culture. In that case, the consultants must know different cultures to provide solutions to moving from one culture to another. This is not an easy process but can be critical to increasing employee engagement and staying union-free. 

There are thousands of management consulting firms of all sizes, and each one has developed a working style. When evaluating management consulting firms, remember to discuss organizational culture and the firm’s approach to consulting.  

When evaluating management consulting firms, remember to discuss #organizationalculture and the firm’s approach to #consulting.

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Points to Consider When Looking for Management Consulting Firms

Once you have identified your organizational needs and the reasons for employing a management consulting firm, evaluate the firm in other areas besides culture fit to further refine your selection.

Reputation: The reputation of any business is a critical assessment factor. Though you can ask for client references, you can easily browse online for client reviews and articles about the consulting firm. Consulting firms will not reveal clients unless the client has agreed to be a reference. You can check the associations the consulting firm is involved in and business review websites. The point is to do an independent search for the management consulting firm’s reputation.  

Cost: There are management consultants of all sizes today. However, the cost is an important consideration. Large global firms charge significantly more than mid-size to small consulting firms. It’s important to develop a budget. The budget may be a range to accommodate the consulting firm’s final proposal.  

Communication style: Related to organizational culture is communication style. Most companies today are moving towards a transparent and honest communication culture because that supports positive employee relations and is union-free. The management consulting firm selected should be committed to the same values and always communicate openly, honestly, and without bias. 

Type of firm: There are specialist consulting firms and generalized consulting firms. They often have specific expertise in particular industries and tend to be much larger firms. A generalized consulting company may offer services that involve projects like a global organization-wide transformation involving IT implementation, finances, or a holistic change in the organization’s structure. 

Specialist Management Consulting Firms

Specialist management consulting firms have expertise in specific management areas. They help companies with particular issues, like increasing employee engagement, identifying leadership labor relations skills gaps, and developing teams. A specialist consulting firm can work organization-wide but has deep knowledge and expertise in the practice areas, like corporate campaigns or developing positive employee relations. The mid-sized to smaller management consulting firms offers more personalized services compared to mega-sized consulting companies.  

Consultants – Does the firm have management consultants with the right industry and project expertise? How will the consultants communicate with your organizational members, including leaders? Who will coordinate the consulting team if more than one consultant is assigned to the project? Will the management consulting firm have a single point of contact? Do consultants have access to various tools that streamline the consulting project? These are the type of questions to ask.  

Certainly, there are other things to look for in a management consulting firm. For example, you need to consider the geographical areas of operation, the type and scope of projects and services provided in-house versus services that must be outsourced, and access to resources, such as union campaign resources. The overriding message is to select a management consulting firm only after careful consideration of the value the firm can bring your company.   

Select a #managementconsulting firm only after careful consideration of the value the firm can bring your company! #consultingfirms #consulting

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Maintaining Alignment Between Management Consulting and Client 

In the Harvard Business Review article, What Professional Service Firms Must Do to Thrive, Ashish Nanda and Das Narayandas discuss the fact that many consulting, accounting, and law firms have begun offering services and accepting clients they should not be accepting. They add the services to mainly generate more revenue. Not all professional services firms that employ this strategy can deliver full value.  

The management consulting firm’s strategies and tools must maintain alignment with customer needs to deliver value. It can’t be all about generating more revenue. A management consulting firm like IRI Consultants has labor relations, organizational development, leadership development, and union-free teams with more than 40 years of experience. The teams supplement each other to ensure clients have access to the right knowledge and expertise as the consulting project unfolds. This is an important characteristic for any management consulting project, no matter which firm you select.  

The bottom line is to take a broad view of the management consulting firm first and then zero in on specifics. It’s the only way to ensure you get the type of assistance you need for organizational improvement.  

About the Author Jennifer Orechwa

With over 25 years in the industry, and now as IRI's Director of Business Development, Jennifer has gained a unique perspective on what it takes to build a culture of engagement. By blending a deep understanding of labor and employee relations with powerful digital marketing knowledge, Jennifer has helped thousands of companies achieve behavioral change at a cultural level.

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