Management Consulting 101 What The Heck Does A Consultant Do?

Management Consulting has been a unique field of enterprise ever since its beginning during the Industrial Revolution. For most of its history, the industry has been associated with solving business problems of the client and, for the most part, that is true. But this is way over-simplified, what exactly does it mean to “solve problems”?

  A quick glance

  1. The job of a “Content Ambassador”
  2. The daily workflow of a McKinsey Consultant

1. The job of a “Content Ambassador”

Management Consulting comprises of two parts: “Management” and “Consulting”.


  • Working directly with key personnel on the managerial level.
  • Making solutions that are implemented by high level leaders spanning across multiple departments in a company.


  • The “content ambassadors” who bridges the gap between a complicated client context with various needs, conditions, and attributes and a massive back-end network of knowledge and experts.

There is a saying that “Every McKinsey consultant starts his first day on the job as a manager” and it is probably true. 

Let’s put this into perspective by examining my role in a real engagement case.

The Cement Project

 Should the client close down the plant?

As the consultant in charge, I have to analyze the problem, break it into smaller parts and come up with an answer: Whether we can turnaround their negative profits and if yes, how long does it take?

I continue by hypothesizing that the root cause is in the first branch – profitability, then further break it down into two smaller branches: improving sales and cutting costs.

Suppose I was studying the costs and realize logistics is one of the biggest factors affecting profit. Then only at this point would I choose from the network a cement logistics expert to talk to.

2. The daily workflow of a McKinsey Consultant

A MECE way to break down the daily workflow of a management consultant consists of

Gather Content

Bring content, knowledge, expertise into disposal

  • Research Internal Knowledge Database (PD).
  • Research the Internet for additional data.
  • Studying reports by independent parties.
  • Interviewing experts / client / customer.
  • Mystery shopping (pretending to be customer).
  • Data analyzing.
  • Surveying.

Create Content

Creating final products (deliverables)

  • Making powerpoint: I had a visual graphics support team in India who turns my chart and map sketches into formal McKinsey-style slides. All I needs to worry about is the actual content of the slide.
  • Content presentation:  structured, concise, easy-to-follow document.

In the actual consulting project like the cement case mentioned, I found myself going back and forth between these tasks constantly. So to help you better understand the work stream of a management consultant in an actual project, I will disclose to you the journal of my involvement in this case from the very start until the solution presented.

First day on the job

Today I am assigned into the cement work stream in a state-owned-enterprise project. I immediately begin by going to the McKinsey content library to download the 100 page “Cement 101 PD”, scan and pick up the industry key terms & concepts. Then I go to the client website to find out about their plants, location, technology, sales, product.

=> With this data, I create a blank slide and start with the Client fact sheet.

Next, I try to find all cement market reports in the region and find out that the market was badly oversupply.

=>  I create a Basic market perspective sheet and jot down this biggest takeaway along with some other insights.

I then call the Engagement manager to get the feeling for the workstreams and the overall project objective: “helping the client decide whether or not they should close down their major plant.”

=> With this in mind, I go back 101 document to study more in depth on the subject (cement turnaround, lean cement production cost, etc.).

Meeting the team

At night, we have team dinner with the leaderships (Associate partners in charge) to discuss team norms, working process, MBTI, Personal Development, etc. I am used to the process as we do this at the beginning of every project!

=> Although my team did not have good chemistry (yet!), I am looking forward to working with them.

Later that night, I go to the market research team to get any public data on the cement industry then later file a request for the specific data I needed.

=> At initial stage, any public data will be useful, although in developing country, public data can be unclear and inaccurate.

Before going to bed, I draft the ideas for the questions with the China team. I then schedule with the China partner for phone interview & prepare the v1 data request form to send to the client. Next day I make the call with the china partner, taking the lead and the call is well over 30 mins. Later, the data from the client also arrive.

=> The data are so insightful and confirm my hypothesis: “The client should close down the rest of plant”.

I plug the data into the turnaround model: a complex model with many inputs to answer one key question: “The plant is bad, but under all sources of improvement levels, can it make a profit?”.

=> After the analysis, I come to the conclusion…. (To see more, please watch our video above!)

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Mike SandersAustin DenisonQdotQdot InternationalShaylee Packer Recent comment authors
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Randy Chorvack

It’s good to know that consultants bridge the gap between the information and what is needed. I’m starting a small business and I think it would be helpful to have somebody to help me with strategy. I’ll make sure that I take a look at different consultants and see which one is best for me.

Admin MCP

Thank you Randy! Hope our articles help you on your journey!

Ron Booker

I like that you said that having a consultant can help you get rid of all your negative profits. I like that there are, businesses out there helping small businesses grow. Thank you for helping me learn more about consulting services.

Admin MCP

Thanks Ron, glad you find our content useful! Keep reading for more insights!

Kate Hansen

It was helpful when you said that a consultant can help with solving problems. My husband was wanting to learn more about it so he can know if he should hire one. I’ll make sure to pass this information along to him so he can know more about consultants.


People think only big businesses need consultation but consultants can help in the growth of small businesses too.

Shaylee Packer

It seems like this would be such a great tool to have in a large company. Having a content ambassador, like you mentioned, would be able to bridge the gap between the client and the experts. I wonder if there are any stats on how much having a consultant on the team impacts the company.

Qdot International

nice work, keep up the good work.


nice work, keep up the good work.

Austin Denison

Awesome article! I’ve been intrigued and can say that I am having a blast as a leadership success and productivity consultant. It’s interesting to know that we act as connectors between issues (or potential issues) and solutions! Ultimately I can say I have found this to be very accurate. I am curious as to how you go about making predictions around timeframes. Many thanks!

Mike Sanders

It’s cool that consultants can bridge the gap between client needs and back-end knowledge. My sister has been telling me about how she wants to make sure that her business is running well in the coming months. I’ll share this information with her so that she can look into her options for professionals who can help her with this.