On top of the world Down Under

If management consultancy has a reputation for TLAs (three letter acronyms), then, as you would expect, bodies of consultants are just as culpable. The IMC (Institute of Management Consultancy) is one of 35 member country institutes of ICMCI (The International Council of Management Consulting Institutes). I have recently returned from the biannual congress of the ICMCI, which was held in Sydney. I have to tell my fellow professionals it was good news.

The CMC (Certified Management Consultant) qualification has been extended in its geographical reach and is now the recognised qualification for our profession in 35 countries. Avid observers of the qualifications scene will be aware that the CMC was, as far as we know, the first professional qualification to be awarded to the same standard through many countries.

We could (if it were not too non-PC) claim to be the world’s oldest profession.

The worldwide standards group of ICMCI continues to update the behaviours and outcomes expected for each of the consulting competences to reflect the changes in our professional working environments.

In order to make the qualification more portable, ICMCI has established a quality assurance process to ensure that each country operates processes to the same standard for the award of the qualification. The process involves peer reviews by one country of another. Trials of the process across the European members have shown that there is a remarkably common standard but that each country gains further insights into its own route to CMC by learning from the other countries. It is clear that the process can never be exactly the same: there are cultural and business differences to which ICMCI needs to be sensitive. An interesting example is the use of the word “sponsor” in the standards framework, agreed at the 1999 Amsterdam Congress, for those who as fellow professionals and clients attest to the competency of the candidate. This term cannot be used in Poland by a modern professional body as it is redolent of the recent communist regime where “sponsor” was open code for “member of the party”.

In Sydney, we were made very aware of the needs of the global large firms to have an international body act as the voice of the profession. The Institute has nominated individuals to co-ordinate the work of national institutes with selected global practices so that this mutual aim is progressed.

As part of this work, ICMCI has for the last 10 years undertaken a process of being recognised as an NGO (Non Governmental Organisation) by the United Nations. This is an important step forward for the profession and ICMCI intends to make full use of the opportunity to add our voice to the global issues that affect us.

Looking parochially at the impact on the UK, I am pleased to report that the UK has been a thought leader in the ICMCI since helping found the organisation in the early ’80s. Canada developed and branded the CMC qualification (it is now registered as a trademark or similar in all the countries where the legal system allows). The UK has built on this groundwork with the modern competence based assessment of the CMC, which has been adopted by ICMCI as the basis for all future assessments. As president in 1998, Richard Popple led that effort in the UK.

The UK also proposed the quality assurance process which was developed and trialled by Peter Thomas, ex vice president of the IMC. The UK established the Certified Practice scheme (now with nearly 30 large firms signed up or working towards full audit) whereby those whose training development and assessment procedures are demonstrated to be equivalent to those required to meet the requirements of the competency standard for CMC can recommend candidates to the IMC for the award of the CMC qualification. This scheme has now been adopted by ICMCI member Institutes as the model for their interaction with the large firms. Your professional Institute (and it is yours whether you are a member or not) has been a noted leader of our profession globally and, as an incoming president, I find this inspiring.

The ICMCI congress strongly reinforced my view that management consultants the world over are united in their desire to make a positive and real contribution to the wellbeing of their clients. We had so much more in common than nationality differences could outweigh. With this degree of commitment to serving clients, the future for the profession in all economies is sound for the long term, despite any local short-term difficulties.

  • Dr Brian Ing, head of management consultancy at Siemens Business Services, is deputy president of the Institute of Management Consultancy, and will take over as president in January 2002.

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