Management consulting is no different than any other advisory role. Though simplistic at first glance, it is not much different than a legal or medical advisor. The one most common similarity is that all advisory roles illustrate certain business and ethical issues. The most pressing issue, however, is the clients’ ability and willingness to adhere to guidance.
It is no secret that one of the greatest challenges in maintaining positive relationships with existing and potential clients is to convince them of the benefits of the advice given to them ; or as we refer to it as protecting the client from itself. This does by no mean imply that clients should blindly follow their management consultants’ suggestions; however it does imply that based on consistent record and relationship longevity, clients should be able to distinguish appropriate and useful recommendations from negative or self serving opinions.
Many times small business owners which have been lacking expertise in innovation and organizational effectiveness and efficiency, resist the dire and necessary organizational changes that would lead to greater profitability, effectiveness, efficiency and ultimately greater ROI and improve bottom line. Internal factors such as less than competent managers and executives , lack of continues education by upper management , industry specific habits , as well as lack of third party audits to improve upon existing procedures , farther create organizational redundancy which may in turn decrease the likelihood of organizational improvements.
Similarly the organizational culture that has led to some preliminary success may contribute to the halt of farther positive development in organizational evolution. Many times the previous success that may be correctly contributed to old and outdated business practices create sense of satisfaction which create a false sense of comfort for executive which may lead to neglects in innovation and evolution.
Ultimately, the abstract concept of organizational culture will depend on many factors that may or may not have a positive impact on overall outcome. Yet the alternative solutions to improve upon past successes can have similar negative impact; which brings us back to the issue of ethics .
Generally speaking it is certainly more profitable to prolonging problems; however, is it ethical? Of course it is not ethical nor does it actually make sense. From a business point, management consultants are certainly better off to create and maintain a relationship based on honest and upfront assessments and projections. From an ethical point it is equally important to illustrate integrity by consistently pointing to weaknesses that may influence the outcome.
Yet the ultimate question is when does one give up on an organization that is not willing to follow advise , is plugged with incompetence employees and executives , lacks clear strategy and even more importantly creates frustrations within the management consulting firm ? There is no good answer to this. One may suggest that it depends on loyalty issues; others may suggest that separation from such client may lead to negative rumors that can be harmful; yet others may argue that the success of projects that is hindered by clients errors should be clearly identified and criticized before the lack of success is blamed on the management consulting firm .
The final word on this is rather ambiguous. Each management consulting firm should decide on clear lines of tolerance. Basically deciding when a client becomes more of a liability than a business partner or client should be allowed. Many factors may contribute to a decision to sever relationship with such clients; including business profitability, industry specific reputation, personal relationships as well as contractual agreements.
Nevertheless, separation from a client should not be taken lightly. Any and all efforts to convince the client to change course should implement in order to preserve the relationship before any decision to separate is even considered.