What would you say you do here?


What would you say *you* do here?

In Friday’s Independent, Johann Hari described what he terms the “management consultancy scam.” He draws from a recent string of memoirs by former management consultants. As one of them described the industry:

We were proud of the way we used to make things up as we went along… It’s like robbing a bank but legal. We could take somebody straight off the street, teach them a few simple tricks in a couple of hours and easily charge them out to our clients for more than £7,000 per week.

And another:

I felt like a snake oil salesman without snake oil.

The column hammers the profession hard for its tendency to recommend layoffs and for the often disastrous results. However, I think the larger point is that managers in any kind of organization (corporate, government, etc.) are perfectly happy to use consultants to outsource tough decisions. Consultants present themselves as experts, we accept them in that role, and thereby achieve cover for when things go poorly. We could tell a similar story about the advice that consultants from the World Bank etc. give to developing country governments.

(Hat tip to 3QD.)