Management consulting includes a broad range of activities, and the many firms and their members often define these practices quite differently. One way to categorize the activities is in terms of the professional’s area of expertise (such as competitive analysis, corporate strategy, operations management, or human resources). But in practice, as many differences exist within these categories as between them.
Another approach is to view the process as a sequence of phases—entry, contracting, diagnosis, data collection, feedback, implementation, and so on. However, these phases are usually less discrete than most consultants admit.
Perhaps a more useful way of analyzing the process is to consider its purposes; clarity about goals certainly influences an engagement success. Here are consulting’s eight fundamental objectives, arranged hierarchically (also see the Exhibit):
Exhibit A hierarchy of consulting purposes
- Providing information to a client.
- Solving a client’s problems.
- Making a diagnosis, which may necessitate redefinition of the problem.
- Making recommendations based on the diagnosis.
- Assisting with implementation of recommended solutions.
- Building a consensus and commitment around corrective action.
- Facilitating client learning—that is, teaching clients how to resolve similar problems in the future.
- Permanently improving organizational effectiveness.