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I had been thinking of writing on this topic for quite some time, but other topics kept taking priority somehow. It is here now finally. It is an important topic because the huge body of evidence shows that independent consultants have been adding very significant value to organizations and individuals since so many decades. Peter Drucker, Tom Peters, Michael Porter, Marshall Goldsmith did not achieve world fame for doing nothing.
Consultancies are of several types; firms like KPMG and Ernst & Young are multinational consultancy firms with a long history. They are not just accounting firms, they provide consultancy in several other areas also, like EY got contract from Punjab government for auditing pharmaceutical manufacturing companies. They did not have expertise in this area, so they hired a bunch of pharmacists, gave them a bit of training, and sent them to companies. I was incidentally sitting with the CEO of a medium size pharma company in his office when the EY team comprising of a boy and two girls arrived there. So, I got to know first-hand their plan and methodology. They asked for three days, and I went back to join their debriefing session. I must say they did a reasonably good job is assessing basics; however, their handicap was lack of experience and exposure and they accepted it openly. I hear their reports were collected but never worked upon. Money and time wasted like it happens in many projects.
Project consultancies such as engineering projects has been around for a long time. For example, building a dam requires several types of experts whose consultation is essential to do the project. IT consultancy has emerged over the last few decades as a major discipline. Management consulting is quite old internationally with big names like McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Company etc. While technical consulting is here in Pakistan, management consulting is conspicuously absent.
There is a critical difference between how multinational and national companies work; the MNCs collect expertise of many relevant experts from project to project, with a lean core in the center, and do a great job. Local companies try to do everything within their shareholders or paid staff and end up doing a mediocre job. This is what is happening mostly in Pakistan.
I have the good fortune of being part of an international community of Recognized Experts – RExers, as we call it. As the name suggests, they are all accomplished, highly qualified, and fully engaged with their own consulting work, not as a job, but as a passion. I am constantly amazed by their energy, intensity, and dedication. I am the least qualified in the group, yet I can appreciate and get inspired.
In the area of management consultancy, the most common and popular are recruitment consultancies. Plenty of them have been around, most started by HR professionals who got into their own business. Their modus operandi is quite simple. They get contract from the employer for one or more positions, search candidates, interview them, shortlist them, and present the shortlisted ones to the organization for final selection. For every hiring done, they receive payment which may range from equivalent of one to two months’ salary finalized with the candidate. They do not charge anything from the candidate. At the lower end of this business, there are smaller outfits who offer hiring services for smaller, low-paid jobs; they charge from candidate as well as the organization.
Another field in which many people have forayed is training. Almost all training consultancies are individual enterprises who may have a background of management, HR, or training. None of these ever went beyond an individual enterprise, and it was mainly due to the fact that the money offered by organizations was barely enough to support one core trainer with couple of support staff. Many of these did not survive beyond a few years because the business volume did not support survival.
Management consultancy in terms of consulting for organizational turnaround, major organizational changes, making management layers more effective, CEOs and senior management coaching are non-existent in Pakistan, as far as I know. If someone is doing it on a very private level, on very selected basis, it is not publicly known.
The biggest consulting companies and consulting businesses are in the US. There are hundreds of individuals also running their consulting business in many niche areas. A CEO of any organization, when faced with major market shifts, organizational issues, profitability matters, etc. always engages one or several consultants for advice and practical help. The consultants work closely with the management teams to bring about the desired results.
Are our entrepreneurs/CEOs/ executives more capable than their counterparts in the US and Europe? My experience of nearly fifty years in corporate sector tells that we are decades behind on every count; from thinking to planning to doing the things, our ways are almost ancient, conventional, crude, and ineffective. We are not even cognizant of the huge developments that have already taken place, and the fast pace at which further changes are happening. It is due to our lack of knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of new world, and our insistence to stick to our ways which stops our executives from seeking consultancy. Apparently, no significant change is on the horizon, rather some deterioration is expected.
Lastly, a major portion of blame goes to the consultants also. Firstly, they are not appropriately qualified; if they have a degree from a good institution, they did not build upon it further, their knowledge is stale and old, even they are not aware of the latest trends in management practices. Almost all trainers develop a handful of training programs and keep repeating it. No wonder, their clientage runs out quickly. Executive coaching is virtually non-existent because there are no qualified coaches. Most coaches take up professional coaching after having worked at a senior position, but our senior management layer is neither qualified nor interested.
Economic reasons also play a huge part in consulting business. The corporate owners in Pakistan do not see value in many essential things, including consulting. Or they do another calculation to make it cost-effective. For example, for training, they would hire a full-time training manager and expect that she/he would do all kinds of trainings without asking for external resource.
The conclusion is that the management consulting landscape in Pakistan is murky, unfavorable, and non-promising, and it does not bode well for the managers and management practices.
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