Sunday, November 8, 2009

Consulting vs Banking - Some Thoughts

So I have alluded to many times that I will blog about the difference between bankers and consultants. We all know that there is an age old rivalry between bankers and consultants, as typified in the hilarious and oft-cited video below.

Now, my AV skills were tapped out creating a 21st video for my bro so I won’t be dazzling you with my own musical today (legions of music appreciating fans heave a sigh of relief). Additionally, I find the process of writing b-school essays has sucked every last bit of my will to write extensively, so I am not going to offer you the comprehensive comparison you might be expecting. Instead, I thought I would focus on one question – What can consultants and bankers learn from each other?

So, in my limited experience, I think I have an answer to this question from both perspectives. From the consultants side, I think what we can learn is the concept of materiality. Bankers are concerned with money on the table, and they realise that small differences typically have little effect on the big picture. Consultants on the other hand care about literally every little thing. Bankers use the term materiality to denote a concept whereby they will focus only on the stuff that actually will really shift value. If you are reading closely this is of course an extension of the 80:20 rule – which is always on the tip of consultant’s tongues, but somehow goes out the window when your engagement manager is asking you to align boxes at 2am. If we focused only on appropriate levels of detail, our lives would much easier, without any reduction in client service.

From the banker’s side, I think they could stand to learn how to tell a story much better. For consultants, telling a story is at the heart of what we do. We gather facts, do analysis and make recommendations, but at the heart of what we do is taking the client on a journey such that by the end of the case, they are fully bought in to the result. See Steve Shu’s post on the topic for more detail. Bankers have the recommendation part down cold as you would expect, but from my experience they don’t do enough to get the client bought in – I think it would greatly improve the quality of some of their work.

Anyway there are my two cents. Anybody have thoughts on the topic?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Considering Consulting

Hey all,

Have a look at this new blog - its by a guy who is in the midst of the application process for a number of the bigger strat houses. I get a couple of emails from readers every now and then asking for advice on this process - I suggest you use this site as a resource as well.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Jumping on the bandwagon

I have succumbed, and am now on Twitter. I suspect my initial tweets will be random complaints about my job, but bear with me and I am sure they will get better. I have found two of the 'Insider Community' but anyone else, please jump on board.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I'm back, and musings on managing consultants

So after excessive time away, I am finally back to writing this blog. I wish I could tell you that in the last 2 months, I have finished all my essays and am ready to go with b-school apps - but that would be a lie. Its mainly been a combination of busy projects, and believe it or not an actual social life.

So today I thought I would pose the question - what makes a perfect engagement / job / project / case manager?

There are, in my view a couple of archetypes. Note the definition of archetype – these are extreme examples. Any evident bitterness is my own, and not referable to any one particular manager J

1) The Micro-Manager (MM)

This person loves the detail, and doesn’t trust their team. They want to know what is happening every hour of every day, and if you have a meeting, they want to be in it too. Only really good thing about the micro manager is that the poor worker can disengage their brain – they won’t be needing to be the excel / ppt monkey this manager desires

2) The Insecure Competitor (IC)

This person is really worried that his or her team is actually better at the consulting gig than they are. Typical motivations for this include a recent promotion, a recent failed attempt at promotion, or general lack of faith in their own abilities. The Insecure Competitor (IC) exhibits many traits of the Micro-Manager, but adds a veneer of competitiveness – the team shouldn’t bother to have ideas because the IC will always trump them, even when the replacement idea is worse. In meetings, the team can try get a word in edgeways, but the IC will inevitably be there first. The worst part is, the IC will always take credit for your work

3) Content Free, Hands Off (CHFO)

The CFHO is a great believer in laissez-faire economics, without really understanding the implications of said theory. He or she will let the poor consultant “manage their own work”. No help is offered, and in my opinion no value is delivered. No one really knows what the CFHO does with their time.

I think though that a really good consulting manager has to combine characteristics of all three archetypes – the content knowledge of the MM, the thought leadership of the IC, and the independence for the team of the CFHO.

To be fair, it’s a tough gig – there is a reason why the case manager level is widely known as the worst level in terms of rewards v work across many consulting firms.

Any thoughts on this? Does anyone have a different type in mind?