A couple of weeks ago, I attended the very first in-person meetings I have had in the last 11 months. The client, the general manager of a logistics company, told me a joke about a “mouse consultant” that has been resonating in my mind ever since.
The story goes that the consultant mouse was very fit as it went to the gym every day. This consultant mouse was helping the entrepreneur mouse, who had a belly from all the fast food he ate while working and due to the stress of struggling with a new company. They were together and a big cat showed up and started to chase them.
The fit consultant mouse ran past the entrepreneur mouse, but then the latter thought: “If I’m paying this guy to support me. Why am I being left alone to deal with the cat by myself?” So he yelled at the consultant and told him to come back and help him deal with the feline. The consultant mouse turned back and came to help, as he recognized he was on a retainer fee while they were being chased. He analyzed the situation and came up with the solution:
“Entrepreneur mouse, what you need to do is to transform yourself into something that can make a stand against the cat. Transform yourself into a dog and you will be able to compete for your space and even chase away the cat. Very well, I’ll continue running now.”
The entrepreneur mouse gave him a look and screamed: “But how? The cat is going to eat me any moment! How do I turn myself into something else?”
The consultant mouse looked back and said: “Well, that is not my problem. You paid me to advise you on what you needed to do, but it is up to you to do it. And don’t forget to keep track of your progress.”
Business consultants and transformation experts must come up with pricing schemes that are value-based
Concepts Are Great, But What About Actions
We laughed a little, but the joke helps to exemplify the rising expectations – for good – of exactly what a business or management consultant is and where their value resides. This is changing rapidly as Covid-19 has disrupted the whole consulting industry. What is expected from your management consulting service provider or MCSP is changing. I will add two comments from separate sources that reinforce the main idea in the joke:
- You need to get your digital transformation provider to “put some skin in the game”. This comment comes from a seasoned expert in digital transformation in the P2P (Procurement to Payment) cycle taking about the lessons learned on many transformation projects and why – according to him – almost 80% of P2P improvement and transformation initiatives disappointed or failed to reach the original expectation.
- In a separate conversation with the leader of a robotics technology platform, the CEO said many clients had told him that many management consultants were very high on conceptual ideas but were rarely able to land them in operational terms that could actually help on the ground. He called them the “blah, blah, blah consultants”.
These three stories highlight the message I meant to write about when I started this commentary:
- Organizations need and expect real operational expertise from their advisors. They don’t want an opinion on what should be done. Rather they need practical guidance to realize the end benefits of hiring a consultant.
- As technology has commoditized (you can read my previous commentary here) the type of solutions clients expect have become less about the “innovative concept” and “the awareness of what could be done.” Instead, clients want hands-on expert experience to deliver their end-goals.
- Clients want “more skin in the game” on the part of the consultant. In practical terms, that means that business consultants and transformation experts must come up with pricing schemes that are value-based, at least partially. Pricing schemes that have a portion of the honoraria tied to the end results of goals will start to become the norm, as this provides not only more confidence to clients but also provides a filter for the “blah, blah, blah consultants”.
Whether you are a client or a consultant, you would benefit from adopting the best practices for contracting consulting and agreeing on results prior to the contract. These principles are promoted by the ISO 20700:2017 Guidelines for Management Consultancy Services. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the ISO 20700 standards are being promoted, trained and coached by the ICMCI (International Council of Management Consulting Institutes), the very same not-for-profit organization that worked for five years with ISO and other industry stakeholders to develop this standard. These guidelines have been adopted by the European Union through CEN TC 381, the committee at the European Committee for Standardization.
Adopting what ISO 20700 promotes is healthy for both the client and the consultant. It ensures both sides have a clear understanding of what good results “look like” when contracting consultancy services. This process of making sure both sides agree on the deliverables, expectations and compromises is a healthy exercise that not only improves the quality of the deliverable but should also prevent uncomfortable situations or confusion. It addresses all three points made in the mouse consultant joke.
In the Caribbean, two consulting institutes provide you with information, training and mentoring on how to hire a consultant. They also offer ISO training for consultants themselves:
- The Caribbean Institute of Management Consultants covers the Caribbean region.
- The CMC-Global Institute covers all of Latin America apart from Brazil. It is the “virtual arm” of the ICMCI and can provide ISO training in English, Spanish and Arabic.
The ISO standard is a quick route to improvement in the way you procure consulting services. In this post-Covid, highly-virtualized environment, you need to make sure you are getting value from your investment in advisors and consultants. ISO 20700 provides you with easy-to-follow best practices to separate the wheat from the chaff.
I volunteer with the ICMCI, so if you are interested in more information about ISO 20700 or how to use it, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.