Bring in the consultants?
Saturday 1 November, 12.15pm until 1.15pm, Henry Moore Gallery Lunchtime Debates

Crisis in the workplace? Need to develop a business strategy? To understand the market, or develop a vision for the future? Increasingly the response of companies to any of these is not to talk to their staff, but to cry ‘bring in the consultants!’ 98% of the top 200 companies in the US and UK have used management consultants,  advising on ‘restructuring’, identifying ‘key stakeholders’ and ‘adding value’. And the use of consultants continues to be on the increase in workplaces across both the public and private sector, not to mention government.

But has management consulting reached the professional level of medicine and law to which it aspires? Or, as some critics have claimed, are consultants ‘witch doctors’ suffering from ‘physics envy’ and spouting vacuous jargon? Do management consultants ‘add value’ with their business expertise, or should management teams have greater trust in the experience and judgement of their own staff? Have consultants become a crucial part of the 21st century management function? Do they really know ‘what it takes to be a Tiger’? Or are they just the product of timid companies nervous of decision-making, and taking the easy option of outsourcing difficult decisions to ‘experts’?

Dr Christopher McKenna
director of MBA at Said Business School, Oxford; research director, Centre for Corporate Reputation; founding member, Clifford Chance Centre for the Management of Professional Service Firms
Patrick Hayes
director, British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA)
Alan Leaman
chief executive of the Management Consultancies Association; former Chief of Staff to Liberal Democrats Leader Paddy Ashdown MP
Bríd Hehir
writer, researcher and traveller; retired nurse and fundraiser

 Produced by
Bríd Hehir writer, researcher and traveller; retired nurse and fundraiser

 Recommended readings
Consultants ready to be branded a luxury

When recession strikes, cutting back on life's luxuries is entirely rational — and one perceived luxury likely to come under scrutiny is the use of management consultants.

Carol Lewis, The Times, 21 October 2008

Can local government manage change alone?

Management consultancy columnist, Mick James, wonders how long the value of consultants in the public sector will be debated.

Mick James,, 1 August 2008

The price of dubious advice - £100bn a year

Lord Lever was talking of advertising when he famously remarked that he knew that half his spending was wasted, but not which half. The same might be said of management consultancy.

The Observer, 6 July 2008

The creepy cult of management consultancy

Personal development, psychometric testing – I'm a veteran

Gary McKeone, The Independent, 6 May 2008

Meet the consultants who deliver deliverables

Management consultancy is such a broad field it is no surprise that not too many of us know exactly what it is that these people do

Carly Chynoweth, The Times, 27 September 2007

The World's Newest Profession: Management Consulting in the Twentieth Century

In 1930, Business Week introduced its readers to a new professional service: management consulting.

Christopher McKenna, Cambridge University Press, 19 June 2006

Ensuring sustainable value from consultants

Last year, organisations in the UK spent £12 billion on the advice and help of consultants. That’s a significant expenditure and, rightly, they have high expectations of the value they receive for their money – they want sustainable results.

Fiona Czerniawska, Management Consultancies Association, June 2006

The Timid Corporation: Why Business Is Terrified of Taking Risk

This book examines the enormous rise of self-regulation in the business world

Benjamin Hunt, John Wiley & Sons, 14 March 2003

 Festival Buzz

"I was astonished by the interest and by the fact that so many thoughtful and intelligent people were willing to give up a huge part of their weekends to listen to and discuss ideas."
Ruth Gledhill, religion correspondent, The Times