Management consulting is an independent, professional advisory service assisting managers and organizations to achieve organizational purposes and objectives by solving management and business problems, identifying and seizing new opportunities, enhancing learning, and implementing changes.
Source: Management Consulting: A Guide to the Profession, 4th ed., Milan Kubr, ed., 2002, International Labour Organization.
Professional management consultants are contracted by organizations to provide objective and independent advice. Advisory services may include identification and analysis of management problems, developing solutions, and the implementation of proposed solutions.
Professional management consultants may be asked to provide objective advice that will help an organization plan, solve business problems, or manage change, including business start-up, growth or expansion, reorganization, renewal, diversification, downsizing, disposal of assets, planning, review of operations, launching new corporate initiatives or projects, and/or acquiring and implementing technology.
In general, business management consultants:
Professional management consultants are hired when an organization lacks sufficient resources or expertise, or requires external objective advice. Most management consultants specialize in helping organizations solve particular types of problems, challenges, or changes.
There are as many specializations as there are types of business problems and challenges. The following are a few possibilities:
As with any profession, there is no one perfect model against which every entrant can be measured. While commitment to the profession is critical, there are certain characteristics that increase the consultant's chance of success and personal job satisfaction.
In management consulting, particular importance is attached to: analytical and problem-solving abilities, behavioral competencies, communicating and working with people, and helping others understand the need for change and how to implement it.
As a prerequisite, consulting is based upon a foundation of advanced business or technical education, industry and business management experience, a technical skill relevant to business, and the capacity to work collaboratively in a project environment.
Consultants, like other professionals, hold strong values concerning the conduct of their work. Since a consultant's most valuable asset is his or her reputation, successful consultants have a strong sense of ethics. CMC-Canada has developed a Uniform Code of Professional Conduct for its members. Since consulting is currently unregulated, this Code offers some protection to the public, and outlines the consultant's responsibility to the client. As a general rule, consultants are expected to place their client's interest ahead of their own.
There are many routes into consulting. The most common are: