Editorial – Nothing ventured, nothing gained

The proposal by the Institute of Management Consultants to rebrand itself as the Institute of Management Consultancy is a bold move. This is more than a rebranding exercise: the change is intended to reflect a move in the Institute’s membership to a constituency of stakeholders, encompassing clients, academics, students, would-be consultants. It is a move that will not be without its critics: some would argue that the narrow view of the role – solely concerning itself with the interests of its members – of a professional institute is the correct one. There is also the possibility of an unedifying “turf war” with the Management Consultancies Association if both bodies are trying to position themselves as the voice of consultancy.

However, it is good to see the Institute moving on. For years it pursued a quixotic quest to become the gatekeeper of the profession, controlling a closed shop of certificated consultants who alone were allowed to practise the craft. This was always doomed: the big firms were never going to co-operate with a scheme which might interfere with their staffing, nor were clients likely to let an outside body dictate who their business advisers were. Later the quest was modified: IMC certification was to be a badge of quality, so that clients would never wish to use anyone else. Again, this failed to get buy-in from consultants and clients alike, who saw brand name and track record as more important than letters after the name. The fallback position, of a guardian institute protecting the client from unregulated rogue consultants has probably been outdated by the ever-increasing sophistication of the client.

My view is that the Institute was always wasting its time with clients.

If someone can’t even be trusted to employ a consultant without getting ripped off they shouldn’t be running a company in the first place. Caveat emptor. The importance of qualifications and quality controls is to other consultants. Recruitment is the big firms’ main problem at the moment: anything that helps pre-selection is a boon. Smaller firms are faced with a different problem: how to compete in a globalising world. Sure, you can network: but how do you know that the resource you’ve identified in Iceland is any good? A portable, international consultancy qualification would go a long way to meeting needs in an increasingly polarised profession.

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