Welcome to the 53rd podcast on the Corporate Strategy & Transformation study. In our focus on values and placing the clients’ needs first, the question of how and when a consultant should disagree is bound to come up.

In this podcast we break down this issue further. We look at examples of when a consultant should and must dissent and how it should be done.

Click here to see the full study and here to see the merger study and market entry study.

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Also a huge thank you for making “Strategy Skills” one of the most popular podcasts in the world for careers. 

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6 responses to How and when a consultant must disagree

  1. You are welcome Thao.

  2. Michael,

    Thanks for taking time to write me a very long and detailed answer. I haven’t watched the whole video in the link yet, but I think the rest gave me some directions. Thanks!

    My memories is much worse btw.


  3. Hello Thao!

    It is wonderful to hear from you. Kindly note that we have just over 2,000 episodes of content released on the subscription-only sites, another 440 episodes on iTunes and another ~1,300 in backlog for editing. So, I cannot recall the context of the question. I am human!

    However, you have some choices here.

    And it comes back to analysis basics. Determine what the answer is likely to be from both approaches and see what makes sense. I do this a lot when I say, “Okay, if we did what you propose, what would be the outcome, is that the outcome we want and is there a better way to achieve that outcome.” This almost always works assuming what I am proposing is a better way than what the other person is proposing.

    For the above example, see the case on market entry cases. Market entry cases are NOT about entering a market. https://strategytraining.vhx.tv/videos/s3-jen-market-entry. This is a classic example of someone choosing the best market entry analysis when it is NOT the approach needed.

    Another problem is, and this is the far bigger one, is that most people are unable to deduce which approach is better. They lack the analytic skill to compare approaches. In the absence of that skill, they just go with the one that has a better brand or was recommended by someone they respect more. In this case, you need to focus on how the approach they want to use solves the underlying problem and ignore the branding.

    Linked to the 3rd approach, people like to say “McKinsey did this, so lets do it too.” This is a big flaw. Because McKinsey designs its way of working due to its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, McKinsey will include many benchmarks since they have a great system of collecting data across studies. In another example, McKinsey training may be relatively light on one area, since the firm assumes their people will pick up this area/skill during engagements. If your firm does not teach this lite area, and you copy the McKinsey training with the lite area, you will miss things. So here, you need to understand how your need/problem is different.

    Finally, you may need to back away and just let them proceed. And also consider your role in this. If you have a track record that may be poor, sometimes your peers are hesitant to take your advice. So even, if you are 100% right and explain everything correctly, if you have made mistakes often in the past, your team will not be easily swayed. You have to consider that the messenger governs the integrity of the message most times.

    Hope that helps. Michael

  4. Michael,

    You intentionally avoided saying the other person is wrong. What would you do next if they didn’t agree to go down your path and insist to try theirs?


  5. I like that Zander. That is a good way to look at it.


  6. Michael,

    This is a good point. I think of a disagreement as a failure to resolve a gap between two people’s positions. On one hand, if I am right, I should be able to bring the other party on-board without violent disagreement, even if this takes time. On the other hand, if I am wrong, it should be easy for me to admit as soon as I see the correct logic or data. Either way, there’s no disagreement, just a phase where options or conclusions are being analyzed.


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