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The one difficult question you should always be able to answer

A couple of years ago a friend of mine had an idea for a board game and wondered what I thought about it. Not knowing much about game development, I found, through my network, an expert in the area who took my call to test the idea. I’d expected a high-level guide to the steps one should carry out to take a game to market but instead she kept coming back to one key question: why? Why was I developing the game, why should people play it, and why should they care?

The question was sufficiently powerful to put paid to the game and for it not to get past the “nice idea” stage as my friend and I couldn’t answer those questions in a meaningful way. Since then I find that the question resonates in many other contexts and none more so than in my current role as director of CMCE.

Last month I had the pleasure of presenting to the FS Club on the topic of “Difficult Questions: Saving Management Consultancy from Itself” where I introduced the five areas where CMCE is exploring a few of the key questions that management consultants need to address in order to achieve excellence:

  • Client relationships.
  • Delivery (and how it might be disrupted in future).
  • Ethics and professional standards.
  • Excellence in consulting.
  • What is, and isn’t, management consultancy.

The format of the FS Club webinars is quite interactive and with half the time spent on Q&A I realised that in choosing the title I might have set myself up for some tricky questioning. However, the questions were challenging only in a good way and interestingly no-one thought to ask me the simple question my games developer asked me: why?

Why we have decided to address difficult questions is because we believe there is much that management consultancy in general needs to do to be relevant in a world where, for example:

  • AI is eroding the traditional routes into consultancy by taking the place of low-level analytical roles.
  • The next generation of knowledge workers will – post-pandemic – have very different ideas about working environments and the role of the firm compared to those currently in charge of consulting firms.

In an environment where there are no widespread professional and ethical standards, and where its value is hard to be determined, management consultancy faces an existential threat.

Our difficult questions focus on areas that  explore solutions, standards and new ideas as well as on areas for further investigation and research which we hope will contribute to the body of knowledge about consulting, and ultimately leading to better value delivered to clients.

CMCE is kicking off its exploration of these difficult questions by engaging with the topic of Excellence in Consulting at our upcoming round table discussion in June, and further events in the second half of the year to be announced. If you share our commitment to improve the consulting practice and your own “why?” is similar to mine, then I’d encourage you to get involved and help us future-proof our profession.

Wednesday 25th May 2022
Large question mark among smaller question marks