Management consulting is a difficult business model. It’s not clear when a management consulting project is done nor if a deliverable has met or exceeded all the requirements. In fact, it’s often not even clear if the deliverables are what was agreed upon at the outset. There are no official standards, no governing bodies, and no licensure like there are with, say, engineering or accounting. There are only fickle clients with vague specifications and never-ending demands. We can be as specific as we want in our contracts, manage expectations, and set good boundaries, but none of that will make our clients any happier or more satisfied.
Further, many clients ignore recommendations made by even the best management consults. Value creation is dubious when good research, analysis, and recommendations are ignored by clients, despite the clearest and most persuasive presentation of top-notch deliverables. Some clients don’t want to change, even when they’ve paid you to help them do so.
These are all reasons why management consulting is a difficult business model. Of course, there are plenty of great clients, and many contracts go swimmingly for all involved. Still, all this is worth bearing in mind every time we take a new management consulting contract. Will it be worth the potential headaches or client inaction?