The last issue (February 1999) of Management Consultancy magazine surveyed firms and consultants on the training provided within their practices.
The survey seemed to indicate higher levels of training for new staff, with the more senior consultants feeding off the earlier seed corn of their initial professional development. The faster changing area, information technology, had the lion’s share of training with others less well served.
In the smaller firms there were reported to be fewer formally developed training programmes.
But, despite the results of the survey, the situation is not all doom and gloom. At the IMC, we have recognised that continuing development is a way of life for the professional consultant. Life-long learning encompassing formal training, self development, experiential learning, varied assignments, self reflection, appraisal and guidance is the cornerstone of our professional life. The adequacy or otherwise of the formal training must be judged within the entire learning spectrum. The IMC has responded to the wider need.
If we track the history of management consultancy in the UK, we see that every five or so years the topic or issue that provides the impetus for the continuing growth of the profession has changed. At the same time many of the management consultants have had to re-invent themselves.
For instance, how many of the BPR consultants operating three years ago were existing consultants previously offering different specialisms?
The IMC has recognised the constantly evolving nature of the services provided by the profession; we have evolved with the changes in the profession and are continuing to do so.
The new Certified Management Consultant (CMC) qualification (see opposite for a quick reminder of the key features) emphasises the importance of a professional record which documents the learning obtained throughout one’s career. Examining these logs demonstrates in practice for most consultants that formal training is a significant, but not dominant, element of the learning mix. We all need to learn from each of our assignments: none of them will exactly fit any textbook or training room model. We must understand the novelties of the assignment and incorporate the learning into our professional “kit-bag”. Back in 1981 a colleague said to me, “Make sure you have another consultant to talk to” when I was considering setting up in practice on my own. He understood the need to make explicit the issues faced and covered in performing assignments. This need to show the improved understanding resulting from experience is one of the key reasons why we ask candidate CMCs to demonstrate that they have reflected on their assignments and learnt lessons from them. A professional record is the conventional way of demonstrating compliance with this requirement.
Incidentally, we are not the first profession to require our members to keep such a log, indeed some have established personal computerised log systems.
As well as the Institute’s drive to improve professional standards and standing through the portable CMC qualification, it has joined with several consultancies to develop the Certified Practice concept. Nearly 20 consultancies have joined in the initial development, firstly as provisional Certified Practices, and following the audit by the IMC and an external assessor, as full Certified Practices. One of the key features of a Certified Practice is the demonstration that all its consultants are actively encouraged to learn and develop professional skills, and that this development is recognised externally. Certified Practices will also prepare and recommend their consultants for the CMC qualification which is internationally recognised.
The first practice to successfully complete its audit was IBM Management Consultancy. Russell Kyte, principal in the group, in expressing his delight at being the first Certified Practice, said: “With Certified Practice status given by external validation, we are seen to be promoting best practice and ‘celebrating’ it: by that I mean gaining respect in the business community for our profession, for our firm, for the services we offer and above all else for our people.” The audit examined all aspects of the HR and development policies of the consultancy. Individuals were interviewed and the ethos of the firm, especially the commitment to professional standards, was examined. Andrew Smythe, the external assessor, commented: “I was impressed with the thoroughness of the preparation of the evidence for the assessment. I noted the commitment to ensuring that members of the firm undertake the necessary development to make them professional management consultants.”
The development of the Certified Practices concept has been led over the past 12 months by Peter Thomas, currently the Certified Practices’ representative on IMC’s Council, and Paul Brown, the full time professional registrar at the Institute. Peter has been a leading figure in the development of the competence-based assessment of professional standards and the achievement of the first Certified Practice is a fitting reward for all his efforts.
Paul Brown notes: “This confirms our view that even the largest and best known firms need to demonstrate to their staff and potential recruits their commitment to continuing improvement in a profession which changes, expands and refocuses more often than many others. I am delighted that the Certified Practices are standing up to be externally assessed on the training and learning support they provide for their consultants. This is the other side of the gloomy picture depicted in the recent survey.
I am confidently expecting IBM to soon be recommending its staff to the IMC for CMC status.”
There are several other practices approaching their audit to become Certified Practices. This is one of three key initiatives for IMC this year, along with the roll out of the CMC qualification and the expansion of membership on an inclusive basis to all interested in management consultancy.
The MC survey last month also examined the use of external tutors as a means of determining if there was a thriving supply of such training.
At the IMC we have 16 Approved Training Providers supplying an extensive range of consultancy skills and functional skills courses. The IMC web site (http://www.imc.co.uk) has a full list.
I am convinced that whatever the shortcomings of the past, there is a healthy drive within the firms and among individual consultants to enhance the professional standards and, with that, our standing in the commercial community. I believe that management consultancy provides a valuable contribution to the success of United Kingdom plc: the IMC, its professional board, qualified management consultants, and the Certified Practices are all working to increase that contribution, and make it more widely valued.
As we make further advances in our professional standards, we will report to members and those interested in management consultancy through the IMC web site, Update and the pages of this magazine.
IMC vice president professional
Certified Management Consultant qualification:
Competence based standard
Evidence based assessment by professional record and assignment study
Assessment of management, consultancy, specialist and personal competences
Life-long learning approach
Demonstration of consulting skills at assessment interview
External validation of standards and process
Portable and internationally recognised
Commitment to raising standards
External examination of training and development practices
IMC’s code of professional conduct
16 provisional and one full Certified Practices
Prepare and recommend consultants for CMC
Share best practice via Certified Practice forum
Provisional Certified Practices:
BDO Stoy Hayward PSCS
The Consultancy Company
ICL Business Consulting
KPMG Management Consultancy
Logistics Consulting Partners
Lorien Management Consultancy Solutions
PA Consulting Group
W S Atkins
Full Certified Practice:
IBM Management Consultancy
For more information on Certified Practices contact Paul Brown at IMC on 0171 242 2140.
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