In a world of chaotic events and change that exists right now I had some musings about the differences between transformation and management consulting.

Are They the Same Thing?

The quick answer is definitely not. Transformation consulting is or should be looking at the end-2-end process of getting to a new destination in terms of how an organisation operates. That will be a paradigm shift in the way things are done or perhaps in terms of location or maybe both.

Management consulting is much broader in its approach – dealing with a whole raft of ideas and competences that, taken together, can help a business to be managed better.

So Which Is Best?

Neither. It all depends on what you are trying to achieve. Management consultants, unless they have had specialist training in managing transformation and creativity are not the right people to handle it.

On the other hand a transformation consultancy is unlikely to be the right source of more general advice or insight into management issues. In fact many consultancies fail to address these contradictions and sweep everything up into a mixture of advisory competences.

The question that begs is how good are they at segregating the two? That’s very important because running a transformation (or sitting alongside whilst the business is doing it) requires a different skill-set. I wouldn’t hire McKinsey or Boston Consulting Group to do it but their research and insights into strategy and direction make for great management advice. You get my drift?

What Advice Is Right For Me?

In my experience it’s frequently the case that people seek advice from the wrong sources. An accountant can give great advice about cashflow planning or taxation. I wouldn’t expect them to know anything special about managing people. The same applies when you are looking at different ways of changing your business operating model.

Why would you only talk to people who operate solely within your industry? The best way to make transformational change work is to break out of traditional thinking. If you constrain that thinking to your existing industry then you are deliberately being blind to a host of other possibilities.

So by all means talk to people with your industry in mind but select help and advice from those who have a broader perspective. That’s the only way to move forward.

Which Comes First?

It’s a bit like asking chicken or egg? Yes you need to have a strategic direction for your organisation. On the other hand why do you need help at all?

The answer to this latter question is usually found in some pain that is being experienced. So getting to the bottom of that is most likely to help you work out whether you need more general management consultancy or specialists in advising/running a transformation process from start to finish.

If we assume (and assumptions can always be dangerous things) that the organisation has at some point worked out what it is about, then refining that is a management consultancy matter.

Installing new processes and/or technology tends to be more aligned with tech consulting and project management. That often also comes from a management consulting stable.

Going end-2-end through transformation requires additional skills in creativity and problem-solving. Funnily enough these ought to be found in management consultancies but the vast majority of what those do doesn’t reflect this at all. Tech consultancies may be innovative and creative in the use of particular technologies but they aren’t experts outside that specialism.

So, get your strategic ducks in a row with management consultants. Use transformation consultants to take the existing and really transform the outcomes. Along the way tech consultancies may be called in to help deliver components. I hope that makes more sense of what order to follow.

Who Should Lead?

Use management consultancy to get your thinking straight. Use that output as a solid base to work from. On the other hand the ONLY people who have the competencies to go end-2-end with transformation are those who specialise in this.

WHY? Because they bring together the right mix of enquiry, creativity, planning and governance to make sure you get there. You don’t want dry, bureaucratic project management. Nor do you want techies running away with ideas that aren’t necessarily what is right.

Curious To Know More?

It’s good to have a conversation around what advice you are using and why. So get in touch and let’s talk. We look forward to helping you transform in ways that take account of where you are as well as what you do. If you’d like more information then you can also follow this link.

Rob Wherrett can be contacted at

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