A lot of people think that the McKinsey's of this world are the business geniuses.
You hire McKinsey, Bain, or The Boston Consulting Group when you need to address big organizational problems--frequently those that involve broad reorganizations, massive cutbacks, reformulation of strategy, and culture makeovers.
According to Bloomberg Businessweek in a book review of The Firm, the notion is that these consulting big boys come in to "teach you how to do whatever you do better than you do it--and certainly better than your competition does it."
The question is can consultants really do it better than those who do it everyday, or perhaps an objective 3rd party is exactly what is needed to break broken paradigms and set things straight.
These global consultants are usually generalists--who specialize in "rational thinking and blunt talk."
It's like going to an organizational shrink to have someone listen to your crazy sh*t and tell it back to you the way it out to be--and then guide you with some behavioral interventions (i.e. the recommendations).
What's interesting also is that these consulting firms hire the "A" kids right out of school--so they are inexperienced, but bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ready with their idealistic thinking to tell you how things ought to be done--the question is do they have enough fundamentals under their belts and genuine solid thinking in a real setting to make sense to your business.
Probably the best thing is that these graduates can think out of the box and for an organization that needs to make a leap forward, these newbies can cut through the clutter and give your organizational a fresh start.
One of the problems pointed out is that with these consultant companies, it's heads they win and tails you lose--if their ideas pan out, it's to their credit--and if it doesn't, well you implemented poorly.
Basically consultants are not magicians, but they do listen to your organizations tales of woes, put the pieces together, and tell you what you told them...many times, it's basically validation of what people already know--but now it's coming from "the experts"--so it must be true.
Another problem of course is whether their recommendations become more shelfware, collecting dust, or whether the organization can actually make the difficult choices and changes...or perhaps, there is another consulting firm that assists with that? 😉
(Adapted from my blog at www.andyblumenthal.com)