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What is Management Consulting?

Management Consulting is the practice of offering business executives third party advice, expertise, and support with the aim of enhancing the business's performance resulting in an overall increase in the value of the business for its shareholders - and other stakeholders. 

Management Consulting got its start in the late 1880's when Frederick W. Taylor began to perform studies of the time required to complete processes in manufacturing.  The practice developed over time and eventually, James O. McKinsey formed McKinsey & Company with Tom Kearney -in the mist of the great depression, when companies needed consultancies most.  McKinsey's group set out to help troubled businesses grow and recover from economic crisis.  Shortly after that, Management Consulting
grew as a field  and other firms began to take shape.

Today, there are many management-consulting firms.  Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey & Company, and Bain & Company are all firms with which you may be familiar.  Organisations typically hire management consultants for their problem-solving abilities, specialised industrial expertise and commercial acumen.

What Does Management Consulting Entail?

Good management consultants possess both strong creative problem solving ability and excellent people skills. 

Skilled consultants possess the ability to provide a careful analysis of a problem and suggest creative methods to find solutions to the problem.  Management consulting also requires excellent people skills.  Successful consultants can tune into their clients' needs and focus on keeping their clients happy.  Consultants often will spend much of their time at a client's site observing and performing research to find the best strategies to assist their client company in meeting goals and solving problems.

Finally, the work hours that a management consultant puts in may be long.  Be aware that you may be putting in far more work than those who work at the company - sometimes as much as ninety hours a week.  Management consultants are hard working self-starters who don't mind going the extra mile in the name of keeping their clients pleased.

What Are the Entry Routes for Management Consulting?

Management consulting is one of those fields where you find people from various academic and professional backgrounds sharing one single attribute - a passion for solving business problems and driving business performance. While not every management consultant has a Masters in Business Administration (MBA), many do hold this degree title.  Most consultants have backgrounds in business, economics, mathematics, engineering, or other scientific oriented disciplines, though it is not unheard of for an English major or philosophy major with business experience to hold such a position. 

As well as grad hires and MBA hires, there is also an route to entry for experienced hires you have a strong industry-specific expertise. These opportunities are usually advertised on the consulting websites or sourced through executive search firms. 

What Are the Typical Activities of  Management Consultants?

It is very difficult to generalise the typical activities of a mangement consultant,  as each project is unique and requires a tailorised approach and skill set. However, the following characteristics are common amongst most project-types:

  • Scoping client problems and conducting hypothesis of possible solutions
  • Researching and collecting data to investigate and solve specific client problems
  • Synthesising analyses outputs to build an overall diagnosis
  • Running workshops to facilitate discussions for performance improvement
  • Managing client stakeholders to create "buy-in" to a change initiative
  • Constructing and delivering business presentations, and interim progress reports

Because the face of business is always changing, companies are always looking for better ways to do things.  This means that as long as companies want to be better, bigger, wealthier, and more productive, management consultants will find they have much work.

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