Consulting is a curious dedication. Someone (perhaps a client) may think that the consultant, having landed in the company as a parachutist, is a character who pontificates about a business that he knows worse than his interlocutor. You may be convinced that the consultant will make every effort to put most of the work on the client. To top it off, he intuits that if the result of the work is not satisfactory – it does not produce the expected effects – the consultant will not assume any responsibility.

I am a consultant and, therefore, anything I write can be interpreted as a disclaimer. However, this does not mean that I will not accept some of the criticisms that are made against us, for the simple fact that sometimes they are justified.

I have always argued that consulting is more than just knowledge. Nor is it just experience. It is not enough to master a sector, a function, or a procedure because they are known in depth. That makes you a scholar. This is not bad, especially if you can keep up to date; more than ever in today’s times, characterized by a speed of evolution of knowledge as we have never experienced before. Nor is it sufficient to have spent many years managing the company, in the direction of a division, a function, or the overall company. That can make you a seasoned professional.

Knowledge, experience, and wisdom

Consulting is the sum of both elements, knowledge and experience. The two summands yield something I would call “wisdom”, were it not for the fact that the word can be bombastic to some, though tamer in its English version “wisdom“.

It is very difficult (at least, it seems to me) to be at the head of business management, whether partial or global and to keep completely abreast of the evolution of the many and varied factors that determine one’s management. Because they are, indeed, very many: functional, sectorial… And because of what has been said: knowledge evolves at the speed of light. As if that were not enough, economic globalization and the cross-cutting nature of business mean that an increasing number of factors, more heterogeneous and less well-defined than a few years ago, apply to the company.

Nor is it enough (once again, it seems to me) to simply be a veteran at the helm of management. Experience -understood as learning through the application of behavioral patterns to the situations that arise- is beginning to fade away: it is very risky to think that nowadays problems are solved through the repetition of schemes learned and used with more or less success in the past. For the simple reason that the present is not the addition of a single day to yesterday. The same as tomorrow -for these purposes- will not be a day more than today. There has been an exponential leap. The problems are not the same. The solutions cannot be the same.

Everything is becoming more complex and more diffuse.

Talent network

There is likely a lot of talent within the companies. But it is unavoidable to think that not enough to successfully face today’s problems.. Therefore, it is essential to incorporate more talent; but not necessarily through the traditional procedure (hiring people), as the speed of change itself would soon make them obsolete. We will therefore have to resort to talent wherever it is and for as long as necessary.

I see that companies are increasingly becoming a nucleus around which different dynamic pieces are configured and fit together. The core, small and stable, defines the strategy and keeps it up to date, reorienting action according to external elements (the survival of a species in its habitat). It also prioritizes, defines, and allocates resources, but incorporates them because of timeliness.

In this process, which takes place in such a changing environment that it goes as far as a qualitative leap, consulting is essential. A vantage point from which to survey the terrain and provide detailed knowledge of the terrain. A laboratory where new solutions are developed and tested, simply because it has access to the many different problems that arise; access that in many cases is forbidden to other companies, no matter how collaborative the business fabric may appear to be.

Brand Consultant Requirements

Of course, consultants have to meet two requirements for this.

– The first is to focus on deepening our knowledge of our corresponding fields and, increasingly, in many fields that until now seemed alien to us, but which, with the current model, it is essential to know. Almost nothing is monofunctional anymore; practically everything, including knowledge, is intertwined, interwoven, the result of the fusion and interaction of many different disciplines, which must be addressed.

– The second is to approach consulting as a structured process. Starting from a correct definition of the problem (which implies a necessary dose of knowledge of the sector and the company), arriving at the final proposal through the exhaustive analysis of a multitude of factors, internal and external (a wise man told me that the solution usually lies underneath an analysis).

I add a third requirement. I do not understand consulting without the assumption of responsibility for the outcome, with all the necessary caveats. There can be no good work without involvement; in short, without responsibility. And – if you wish, consider it another requirement – with humility.

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Ignacio Muñoz

Consulting Partner at Branward®

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