The public sector has a duty to ensure spending delivers value to the public.
Austerity and the consequent ‘more for less’ agenda have left public sector organisations facing major efficiency and effectiveness challenges. In many cases, these public sector organisations are not well placed to meet the challenges alone. In turn, this has led many to seek the support of consulting firms to help.
Last week’s BBC 2 programme, ‘Who’s Spending Britain’s Billions?’ (click here to view the programme) made some major criticisms of the motivation and approach some of our big firm consulting competitors have taken to respond. Allegations include; profiteering out of austerity, using confusing terminology to exploit naïve buyers and a ‘land and expand’ approach to maximise short term commercial return at their clients’ expense. In our opinion, these allegations were overblown and the programme lacked balance. However, we nonetheless believe the programme shone a light on some very real challenges in hiring consultants, and some very real flaws in the consulting industry.
These flaws are not news to us. Indeed, they were the very reasons that led us to set up Gate One; aiming to set a new standard for how consulting should work.
Firstly, we believe effective consulting requires partnership behaviours to be of paramount importance. A client’s success – in this context the public good – should be a consulting firm’s genuine professional focus, with any commercial considerations always subsumed into this. When we set up Gate One, we made a promise that we would always commit to making a pivotal difference to our clients’ success and that it would never be in our interest to act in our own interest. This makes candour extremely important.
Secondly, we believe in the value of lean, experienced expert teams who understand an array of transformation techniques and importantly, how and when to apply them. True understanding means consultants should be able to apply them in a tailored way, sensitive to a clients’ context and with empathy to the audience involved. We eschew the sort of heavy-handed out-of-the-box templated approaches and ‘blind-with-science’ jargon that tarnish the reputation of the industry as a whole.
Lastly, we believe in consulting with humility. Client organisations have capable staff with deep understanding about how their organisation works, and who, with the right leadership and support, are best placed to deliver successful transformation. We think it is the mark of a good consultant to be able to get the best out of them and not seek the limelight. We believe that a small team of consultants with the right leadership and approach, and committed to developing the skills and knowledge of those they work with, is all the consulting support required for the most effective results.
We believe these factors combine to create a consulting team that is motivated by purpose, rather than by extrinsic factors to sell more work at all costs, to get promoted or to tick boxes. When the latter creeps in, the sort of negative behaviours that the BBC programme highlighted are inevitable. From our point of view, the good news is that consulting buyers’ maturity is increasing. This means that they are becoming ever more tired with traditional consulting approaches and are increasingly able to look behind the veil of the big firm consulting brands to find where real value is delivered. We look forward to the day that the ‘land and expand’ model is dead and buried.
Alex McEvoy | Partner
Alex is a founding partner of Gate One. He has extensive experience of hands-on delivery of high profile, complex global transformation programmes, governance of £multi-billion change portfolios and building organisations’ capability to deliver change themselves.