What the heck does a consultant do?
Take a walk in a consultant’s shoes
Ok I get it, on the high level, you consultants solve problems and help clients with whatever business goals they have. On the low level, I know you guys travel, go to meetings, make documents, etc.
I get all of that … I have been in enough information sessions of consulting firms…
But at the end of the day, it still very unclear to me: What the heck does a consultant do on his job?
I guess I don’t know how to put up my question together. But can you shed some light into this matter? I have seen you did that before and I expect nothing but that for this!
Thank you for bringing this up. I think I understand your question. I have been there before. This was something I, too, was wondering throughout my case prep process even until couple months into the real work at McKinsey. I don’t know if it was me not being able to frame the question to ask or people all failing at explaining this.
Either way, I am glad to have a chance to talk about this, something I had to realize myself the hard way and I don’t want you guys to go through that.
Ok, so what the heck did I do as a management consultant?
People say that I solve business problems. That’s not wrong. But it’s way over-simplified. What does it mean to “solve problems”? What specifically do consultants do to do that? How in the world can college graduates solve problems that experienced C-level businessman can’t do?
So let’s put it this way. Think of management consultants, especially entry level ones as “content ambassadors”. We act like the bridge between a complicated client context with various needs, conditions, and attributes and a massive back-end network of knowledge and experts.
This sounds simple but it’s not. There is a lot of slicing and shoveling involved. Let’s look at an example. I was in charge of the cement workstream and the key question was: Should the client close down the plant?
Yes I have a massive network of experts behind me but there’s no way they can answer that question given how little they know about the client and market context. As the consultant in charge, I have to analyze the problem, breaking it into smaller parts,…
In order to know if the client should close the plant or not, we need to know if we can turnaround their negative profits and if yes, how long does it take? Then into the first branch, I explore ways to improve sales and ways to cut costs. Suppose I was studying the costs and realize logistics is one of the biggest. Then only at this point would I choose from the network a cement logistics expert to talk to.”
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