Management Consulting

by Jörgen Eriksson on June 29, 2010

Management consulting is the practice of helping customers to improve their performance, primarily through the analysis of existing challenges and development of plans for improvement. Consultancies may also provide information technology or human resource consulting, organisational change management assistance, development of coaching skills, technology implementation, strategy development, or operational improvement services.

We consultants often bring our own proprietary methodologies and frameworks to guide the identification of problems, which serves as the basis for recommendations for more effective or efficient ways of performing work tasks. One example we have in Bearing is our Innovation Navigator methodology.

Consulting 1Management consulting grew with the rise of management as a unique field of study. Below are some milestones.

  • The first management consulting firm was Arthur D. Little, founded in 1886 by the MIT professor of the same name.
  • Booz Allen Hamilton was founded by Edwin G. Booz, a graduate of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, in 1914 as a management consultancy and the first to serve both industry and government clients.
  • In 1926, James O. McKinsey, professor of Managerial Accounting at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, founded McKinsey.
  • The first wave of growth in the consulting industry was triggered by the Glass-Steagall Banking Act in the 1930s, and was driven by demand for advice on finance, strategy, and organisation.
  • From the 1950s onwards consultancies not only expanded their activities considerably in the United States but also opened offices in Europe and later in Asia and South America.
  • After World War II, a number of new management consulting firms formed, bringing a rigorous analytical approach to the study of management and strategy. Work carried out at McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, AT Kearney, Booz Allen Hamilton, and the Harvard Business School during the 1960s and 1970s developed the tools and approaches that would define the new field of strategic management, setting the groundwork for many consulting firms to follow.
  • The industry experienced significant growth in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1980 there were only five consulting firms with more than 1,000 consultants worldwide, whereas by the 1990s there were more than thirty firms of this size.
  • An earlier wave of growth in the early 1980s was driven by demand for strategy and organization consultancies. The wave of growth in the 1990s was driven by both strategy and information technology advice.
  • At present, the industry experiences a trend towards a clearer segmentation of management consulting firms. Currently, there are three main types of consulting firms. Large, diversified organizations, Medium-sized management consultancies and boutique firms that have focused areas of consulting expertise in specific industries, functional areas, technologies, or regions of the world.

Consulting 2Organizations may draw upon the services of us management consultants for a number of reasons, including gaining external (and presumably objective) advice and access to the consultants’ specialised expertise.

As a result of our exposure to and relationships with numerous organisations in many geographies, we consultants tend to be aware of industry "best practices", and in Bearing we have the objective to help our customers go “beyond best practice”.

To gain further knowledge about the industry and what we management consultants do, the video below can be interesting to watch. It is a recording of David Warren presenting the management consulting industry to students at the Paris based HEC business school.

David Warren speech about Management Consulting at HEC

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