Who is a Management Consultant?
A person who helps organisations to solve management problems to improve performance is a Management Consultant. While technically it is a perfect definition, the entire perspective changes if the question is slightly modified to – ‘Who is a Professional Management Consultant’?
The point is, how do we define what is ‘Professional’?
One may tend to agree that a consultant, who provides implementable consultancy at a reasonable cost is a Professional Management Consultant. While another may believe that a consultant who understands what the client’s management expects and advises accordingly is a Professional Management Consultant. Though the definition of Professional may vary from individual to individual, the fundamental principles of professionalism must prevail in the determination of ‘Professional’ in this perspective.
Can we accept only the above two definitions of a Professional Management Consultant as complete in itself?
- What if ……………. ?
- There is absence of Ethical behaviour
- There is absence of required education and skills
- The consultant shows lack of empathy and high in arrogance
- The Consultant lacks in commitment
- The Charges are exorbitant and unrealistic
Logically, the connotation of the word ‘Professional‘ in a profession refers to his professionalism and to be a Professional, an individual must possess certain minimum requirements as explained in the 7 point approach.
The Management Consultant’s Paradigm – Value Driven Approach
Let us try to decipher the modalities of considering someone as a Management Consultant. This understanding is important for those who wish to choose Management Consulting as a profession and also for those who wish to avail the services of a Management Consultant. A Consultant’s paradigm should comprise of,
- Ethical and Moral Values
- Desired Qualification & Experience
- Required Aptitude for the job
- Certification and Professional Membership
- Understanding of Management Consulting Process
- Continuous Learning and
# 1. Ethical and Moral Values
I emphasize Ethical and Moral Values in the top of everything as without this aspect, there is no professionalism. Unethical of Immoral behaviour/ approach – though may sometimes benefit in the short run – will invariably affect adversely in the long run.
A consultant may find many occasions when s/he may find situations wherein a bit of unethical approach may help winning a work or getting benefited at personal/ organisational level or avoid certain immediate conflict. However, the strength of conviction and organisational policies should be so strong that such temptations are always avoided.
Any organisation appointing a consultant must first check the organisation’s culture and declared policies before taking a call. Since many times the services are individual driven, the value system of the individual must be understood.
# 2. Qualification & Experience
While in general qualification and experience complements each other, a Management Consultant must possess an appropriate basic qualification and some level of practical experience. For example, a consultant offering Marketing consultancy should ideally have a UG, PG or Doctoral qualification (BBA, MBA, P.Hd) in marketing and also have at least a few years of experience in the marketing domain.
One may debate that a practical experience is not as important as a qualification, but the fact is that experience is important for appropriate market understanding. Otherwise, the consultant may mostly provide theoretical solutions, which may be difficult to implement. It takes a lot of time to acquire the required marketing consultancy skills without a first hand experience in marketing or allied role. The same logic applies to consulting in any other domain, say- HR, Finance & Accounts.
Large consulting organisations may have the flexibility of building up teams consisting of highly experienced professionals with practical subject experience and trainees. This helps in balancing and improving value.
# 3. Aptitude
Aptitude refers to natural ability to learn and excel in certain areas.
Management Consultants deal with clients, client’s teams and data. They need to assess the client’s assets. Taking up extensive primary and secondary research is an integral part of Management Consulting assignments.
As a result, a candidate needs to have aptitude in numerical, organisational and logical abilities to deal with data, take up strategic analysis & business analysis.
# 4. Certification and Professional Membership
Certifications carry a special weightage because of their being structured across important and subject specific coverages. Typically Management Consulting profession requires two types of learning requirements, general certification and specialised certifications.
While specialised certifications are subject specific and a candidate need to do some research to find out the most appropriate certification suiting personal requirement, the following two general certifications are appropriate for aspiring professionals.
- Obtaining a certification in Management Consulting may not be a requirement for practicing consultants, but it is good to have. In this regard, Certified Management Consultant (CMC Global) certification from The International Council of Management Consulting Institute (ICMCI) is most appropriate. ICMCI is based out of Zuric and has affiliate institutes in different countries. In India, it is known as Institute of Management Consultants India (IMCI)
- Management Consultants handle every case as a project. Hence, handling each project successfully till project closure and obtaining client appreciation is a must. In this regard a certification in project management becomes important and here comes the importance of Project Management Certification (PMP) from Project Management Institute.
# 5. Understanding of Management Consulting Process
There will always be two ways of working.
One way is the mundane approach without proper understanding. Work is carried out without a proper stipulation of processes and often jumping steps.
And the other with a professional process approach having set actionlines as well as input – output criterion.
It is always good to have an understanding of the process before jumping into doing something. Understanding the consulting process in blocks of activities helps in mental mapping and continual process improvement.
A seasoned Management Consultant will always follow a systematic process approach.
# 6. Continuous Learning
What is true today may not be the same tomorrow. It means that what we know today may not be relevant in the future.These are facts. Moreover, the more we know about sectors/ industries, the more knowledgeable we will be to try different approaches. In addition, there is a continuous need for improvement of personal efficiency like,- communication skills, project management skills, negotiation.
Management Consulting projects offer immense learning opportunities. Continuous learning happens through meticulous understanding of projects. A mechanical way of working will seldom enlighten anyone.
In addition, learning is through joining seminars, conferences, academic courses on a selective basis and reading journals/ books are good learning approaches.
# 7. Attitude
Attitude plays a pivotal role within the organisation and externally with the client. Maintaining an attitude that represents professionalism is important as a differentiator.
Maintaining a decent presentable attire, being on time, preparing well before meetings, listening to opposite views, maintaining calm behaviour under difficult situations, giving due credit to others, keeping promise, are some examples of professional attitude.
Management Consulting is a lucrative profession that offers name, fame and remuneration to the deserving candidate. Like any profession, it requires a highly professional approach, wherein following the right path and inculcating the right behaviour becomes important.
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