CXO

The virtues of consulting myopia

An industry magazine just named the best consulting firms to work for, but how reliable is such a list? Columnist Tom Rodenhauser says shortsightedness is what keeps consultants happy in their jobs.


Consulting Magazine recently ranked the recently ranked the “10 Best Consulting Firms to Work For.” Employing the requisite data complexity to back its analysis—these are consultants, right—Boston Consulting Group (BCG) barely edged McKinsey & Company as the Camelot of consulting.

Gosh, what a revelation! BCG partners must have danced a merry jig, while McKinsey partners clenched their fists in rage. Campus recruiting will never be the same.

Such lists are great for generating reprint revenue but inane as quality benchmarks. Yes, industry positives are many. Consulting compensation rates are amongst the highest of any industry. Perks are abundant. And the intellectual stimulation that flows from client work is constant. Where else can you advise a major petrochemical company one month and a retailing behemoth the next?

On the other hand, by most normal quality-of-life measures, consulting firms can be rather hellish places to work. Hours are long. The Darwinian partnership track can be brutal. Commitments are exclusively focused on the firm and client.

From a worker’s perspective, consulting is a paradoxical industry. Consultants don’t necessarily love this industry, but they usually love their firms that operate within this industry.

That’s because consulting is an insulated business; they breed their own. The seniority ladder in this business does not reward leaps from one company rung to the next. Cross-pollination is purposely kept to a minimum lest the cultural gene pool become tainted.

Inbreeding usually weakens a species. But let’s face it: If we surveyed professionals with more than five years of consulting experience (i.e., career consultants), most would rate their firms as a private Eden. They can’t judge what they don’t see.

In a business where success depends on the cultural distinctiveness of your people, myopia is consulting’s greatest strength.

About the author
Inside Consulting is written by Tom Rodenhauser as a free weekly supplement to The Rodenhauser Report. The report informs senior advisors and business executives of consulting trends and best practices. Subscription cost is $295 per year for 10 issues. Copyright 2001, Consulting Information Services, LLC. Reproduction is prohibited. Quotation with attribution is encouraged.

 

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