Consulting Culture

Succeeding as a Management Consultant Consulting Culture

11 comments

This is a topic which is very dear and close to me. In fact, it is why we started Firmsconsulting and run it the way we do. Very, very few people truly understand the culture of management consulting. Many existing consultants also struggle to understand the culture. Consultants are professionals, not business people. I would strongly urge you to listen to this podcast.

Why we do what we do, is far more important than what we do. Intent matters in this professional. It is a privilege and a calling.

Consulting is not just about being analytic and solving cases. Average consultants are merely strong on analytics. While this base is important, the great consultants understand the power and privilege that comes with the ability to set management agendas. This podcast hopes to educate aspiring consultants about the enormous privilege that comes with the skills and abilities they will hopefully master, and why they need to place ethics at the center of their thinking.

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11 responses to Consulting Culture

  1. Hannah,

    I definitely think you need to show empathy towards colleagues and employees. However, you need to be tough when it is needed. The organization/school relies on its leaders to be tough when it is needed.

    If you are not tough, you are simply passing the problem to someone else.

    I would also say that I struggle at this. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt too often.

    It is not easy to do and does not at all imply you are a weak leader. Every leader has many flaws so this is just one of your own.

    Michael

  2. Hi Hannah,

    I definitely think you need to show empathy towards colleagues and employees. However, you need to be tough when it is needed. The organization/school relies on its leaders to be tough when it is needed.

    If you are not tough, you are simply passing the problem to someone else.

    I would also say that I struggle at this. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt too often.

    It is not easy to do and does not at all imply you are a weak leader. Every leader has many flaws so this is just one of your own.

    Michael

  3. Hi Hannah,

    On the issue of bringing up unethical behaviour within a client, we will do so, but only to the CEO or another senior person. It is our duty to do so, but we do not share it with the public.

    We also do not pass judgment on what we find. We bring it up as an anomaly versus “fraud” to be investigated. We are very careful on the phrasing.

    No, it is not unethical to make unsubstantiated claims on a product. It is criminal. There is a difference. You may read this article for more details: https://www.firmsconsulting.com/quarterly/ethics-shaped-by-social-network/

    Ethical and criminal breaches are different.

    Hope this helps.

    Michael

  4. Michael,

    You also brought up another issue about being tough AND nice. Being a female and a boss (kind of, I have a technician working for me), I found it challenging sometimes. I am tough and rarely think of my gender at work. But sometimes I worry that my tech will think that this woman is too tough so I try to be more accommodating than what I would feel comfortable doing. I think it’s a woman’s intrinsic characteristic to worry about their image and what others think. Toughness and kindness still overlap sometimes for me so I have to figure out myself what I feel comfortable doing without compromising my own standards. But it’s good to be in a manager position since you learn a lot about yourself, and it’s always an evolving process.
    Best,
    Hannah

  5. Hi Michael,
    Many CEOs only care about making short-term big bucks and not about the company or customers so thank you for caring about your clients.
    This brings up another issue since not many companies have ethical practices. What to do when during your analysis, you discovered that your client is practicing unethical behaviors but changing those behaviors are not necessary for solving the case? Do you still bring it up or not?
    Ethical or not can be a gray zone, so another example question: stem cells is a hot field but it has not been scientifically proven that it can cure cancer (just a hypothetical situation, I can’t confirm). Biotech A now puts on the market a new therapy that PROMISES cancer treatment by stem cells. Is that unethical? I found many unvalidated claims by companies and that really annoy me. What is your thought on that?
    Thank you.
    Best,
    Hannah

  6. Hannah,

    I would also say we routinely lose business because of the ethical manner in which we operate. However, that only occurred at the start. Over time, we started attracting clients similar to us so the pay back is very large over the long term.

    Michael

  7. Hi Hannah,

    I completely understand the pressures you would face. I suppose that makes it tougher especially when others do cut corners and seem to jump ahead of those who do the right things.

    Here is one thing you should keep in mind as a type of useful consolation. When you cut corners you are actually robbing yourself of the ability to learn how to do things the right way. This is because you have not slogged through the right approach.

    Now, it is possible this will not be a problem in the short term, but eventually those abilities and skills you never learned will be your Achilles heel.

    Finally, keep in mind that being ethical and “nice” are mutually exclusive. You can and should be tough in business and you can do so without being unethical.

    So, remember that you can be ambitious, tough and determined without compromising your ethics.

    Hope that helps.

    Michael

  8. In addition, you are absolutely right about being ethical rather than taking shortcuts for short-term benefit but long-term loss. People can lose sight of themselves and it takes courage to not take shortcuts. Righteousness always triumphs in the end. I’ll remember that message when facing challenges. Thank you.
    Best,
    Hannah

  9. Hi Michael,
    Thanks for the respond. Of course being ethical is always the right thing to do. BUT, what do you do when in your profession, you have to be ‘somewhat unethical’ just to survive?
    Let me give you an example. Imagine you are an assistant professor and you have 5 years to prove yourself or you are out. Two key metrics of success: the number of publications, and the amount of grant money you bring in. (Well, maybe you should go give a talk to scientists so we can change our value-based system). You have very interesting project but it’s very difficult and takes a long time to optimize and get data. The clock is ticking so what should you do? There are 3 options:
    1. Concocting the data to get high-impact publications. A few individuals take this extreme step, though they will always be exposed in the end.
    2. Publish half-baked data that have not been carefully validated because there is no time to test everything (scientists are aliens to the 80/20 idea). A larger percentage (I’ll argue that most) will take this route, so they keep their jobs. This practice is in this gray zone, you know it’s not unethical but it’s not something to be proud of.
    3.Live true to your value and have a 50% chance of losing your job. Very few individuals have the courage to take this step. I am lucky to have mentors who belong to this group.
    I strive to live to my highest ethical standards, but I just want to show that at least for scientists, the value-based system does not encourage the highest ethical behaviors. If only we could correct the system to have more focus on the values scientists offer, not the money/publications. Steps are being taken slowly, and I hope we will get there one day.
    Best regards,
    Hannah

  10. Hi Hannah,

    Thanks for the comments. Yes, I think you will suffer a little in the short term due to being ethical – but life is a 70 to 100 year journey. In the long term you will always benefit if your are ethical.

    It is better to lay the right foundation and slowly build a strong career versus rushing to build a career on a shaky foundation.

    Michael

  11. Wow, this is a very deep and thoughtful podcast. (Summary: consulting is not about being able to solve problems/the bottom line, it is about being ethical and truly caring about your work and its impacts. Hint: should you turn down a client if their proposed work does not fix their true problem?).
    A must for all aspiring consultants, though I would say that it should be a must for all working people (not ‘professionals’).
    I have only met a few truly ethical professionals in my life (and one suffers for his high ethics), if only everyone truly cares about their work and is ethical.
    Best,
    Hannah

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