|Typical Day in Consulting|
Here is another question that a lot of people thinking about going into consulting ask: what is a typical day in management consulting? First, let me say that there isn’t really a typical day, client, or project. Everyday there is a good chance you will find yourself doing something that you weren’t expecting. I’ll give you a recent example: one of our senior partners was initially only going to participate in a client meeting via phone on a limited basis, and next thing we know she tells us she is flying into Boston to speak with the client in person, so we (i.e. I) needed to make sure the partner was fully prepped on the work we are doing at the client and the vision going forward. It wasn’t something I had planned for, but it was something that needed to be done.
You begin each with a certain list of things you want to accomplish but flexibility and the ability to prioritize will become your two new best friends. Just make sure you understand the big picture of your assignment so that you can prioritize correctly, and if you don’t have a firm grasp on the big picture then you should ask.Trust me – it’s better to get it right up front than to have someone asking you later on why you didn’t you clarify things.
With respect to typical clients (the people in this case, not the company), you may find yourself specializing in a particular industry, but there is no predicting the types of personalities you will encounter at a given company. Truth be told, the same applies internally to the colleagues you will work with on your project teams. While you may try to work again with people you gel with on future assignments, there are always some different players that come into the picture and change the chemistry of the team. The change doesn’t have to be good or bad, per se. It’s just different and takes some time to adjust.
Each project, even when performing the same type of work, has different challenges that you will face, particularly company culture. The culture goes beyond the individual personalities that I referenced in the previous paragraph. Culture speaks to how business operate as a whole in dealing with both external parties (customers) and internal parties (employees) and how the business responds in the face of change. The change piece is the one you have to really monitor. Just because your previously client was able to do something in 10 weeks that does not mean this client can do it in the same amount of time.
The underlying reasons for the difference in change uptake can vary. It may be as simple as resources are constrained and you need to extend your timeline as a result (i.e. you have to understand what % people are dedicated to a project as they are still responsible for their “day job”) or something complex such as being fearful that their jobs will be rendered obsolete. The bottom line here is to work with your direct client contact to understand the environment you’re working in and the most efficient and effective ways to get things done.
Any more specific questions on a “typical day” just let me know in the comments.