Fast Game’s a Good Game: The future of Consulting in our new world.

“We’re still early in the story of consulting’s disruption… More likely than not, alarms won’t sound until it’s already too late in the game.”

Clayton Christensen

Disrupting the disruptors. It’s a very attractive thought. Especially for the part of our business that has so often been perceived as being… shall we say… a little more theoretical than action oriented. 

It would be fair to say we thought long and hard about the role of “Consulting” in our business model. We have long had a belief in the power of independent advice and the importance of creating internal alignment prior to the launch of any truly new platform. Critical in this for us was having the ability to work at the senior levels of the organisations – to not only have access to key decision makers but to ensure their voices were being heard. 

So, as an organisation looking to enable positive change – to help business to make genuine progress – we had to face the reality: Business Consulting had to be part of our remit.

But how to avoid being caught up in the “big, slow, expensive” trifecta of old-school consulting’s reputation? Especially when this stereotype is so often reinforced – like this well-meaning description of consulting from a major website advising graduates on “What consultants actually do.”:

“Most consultants speak in PowerPoint. Truly. It is a necessary skill – and if you become a consultant, you’ll soon find yourself obsessing over the size of your text boxes and their alignment. You will be a PowerPoint master in no time!”

As we were planning the launch of this iteration of SMART, we found ourselves obsessing over how to turn this conversation to one that focuses on outcomes, rather than inputs. PowerPoint for good, rather than evil, as it were. 

We believe in the consulting and its capacity to deliver change. But what is absolutely needed is a bias for action. As Google puts it so beautifully succinctly in one of its Leadership Principles (#9 to be precise) 

“Bias for Action: Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.” 

In a previous life, my partner in SMART Dominic Walsh and I developed a strategic methodology we dubbed “Brand Sprint”. It was a modified design-thinking approach which allowed us to go from brief to outcome in a matter of days, not months.

It’s a pace of business we still believe in. But as an organisation looking to provide more holistic and business centric advice – we have shifted the process to focus not only on the brand, but understand the Business issue underpinning the project, and most importantly bring a focus on the  People part of the problem – not only consumers or users, but also the internal stakeholders and change management required to achieve sustainable success.

“Do. or do not. There is no try.”

Master Yoda

Actually, in recent months this need for speed has itself accelerated in importance. Confronted, as most organisations are today, by a pandemic which has changed the ground rules for not only how we do business, but how we function as a society, the need for organisation to act swiftly, yet respond thoughtfully has never been greater. 

Great examples of this right now are all around us, from the obvious ones like Dyson’s capacity to design a new ventilator to be offered to the world’s health authorities in just ten days, to perhaps less publicised but equally agile responses like Emirates SkyCargo reconfiguring it’s operations (and in some cases its planes) to switch from passenger to cargo focus in just three weeks.

Perhaps the last word should go to our contemporaries in the consulting field who are also wrestling with this problem: What is the role of the consultant? During a recent symposium hosted on,  titled (not making this up) Are consultants full of shit or are they awesome or useful? – the following conclusion was agreed:

“Bad consulting is about nurturing dependence or shirking responsibility for implementation. Good consulting is about building strong partnerships and supporting implementation and change.”

Couldn’t agree more.

Further Reading:

SMART is ready.

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