Consultants have emerged as solution providers to complex management problems of modern businesses of today. Ideally, when there is no manual to fix the business machinery, the consultants are hired to explore solutions and study the impact, such that the organisation can brace itself.
The role of a consultant in strategic management transverse between that of an ‘insider’ manifesting relationship with the internal team members as a strong network, and an ‘outsider’ based on the system of availing services on payment of consulting fees, based on the market forces (Kitay, 2004).
Kitlay has highlighted the increasingly structured nature of consulting engagements, majorly based on social criteria, in place of purely market exchange (Kitlay, 2003). Further, he also examined the role of management consultants in strategic human resource management, especially in the role of consultants in employee engagements. He suggested that large organisations deploy consultants to improve the productivity of their employees (Kitlay, 1999).
There is also an observation that examines that the consultants influence the culture and functioning of the organisation through the deployment of their socio-political and technical skills. It is majorly due to the skills related to technology possessed by the consultants, which place them in an authoritative position in the organization (Bloomfield, 1995). Also, it was found that they may add value to client organization as they are functional in improving the overall operations of the organization (Solomon, 1997). However, the relationship between a consultant and a client may be established and maintained in different formats depending upon the managerial structure of the organisation as well as the objective to be fulfilled by the consultant (Fincham, 1999).
Consultants are the gold mine of business management ideas. Governments across the globe have been dependent on the knowledge, skills and wisdom of consultants to bring revolutionary changes to the administrative procedures and operations of public services (Saint-Martin, 2004). Further, Lapsley has studied the role of consultants in the reforms of the public sector and has identified them as ‘change agents’ amidst all the dichotomy and confusion around the actual impact of consultants on the public sector institutions (Lapsley, 2001). Therefore, the concept of consultant engagement is an integral part of the modern managerial practices, with a host of benefits to the organisations.
Away from the public sector, in the private sector, the pressure generated on an organisation due to cut-throat competition and challenging attributes of the modern markets, calls for a paradigm shift in the skill set and competencies of the teams functional in ensuring the growth of the organisation. Therefore, the managers are increasingly convinced or persuaded by senior management or Directors, to engage consultants to mitigate the challenges associated with profound organisational changes, and critical changes and projects (Clark, 1995).
There is an interesting comparison of consulting with liminal space (Czarniawska, 2003). Liminality is defined as a situation wherein the general practice and order are deemed to be suspended and thus substituted with new rituals and practices. Therefore, based on the anthropological analysis by Victor Turner and Arnold van Gennep, theoretical support was gathered to study the application of liminality to the consulting activity. It thus suggested that the engagement of a consultant can be considered as a condition of liminality in an organisation.
Therefore, the management consultants are considered as experts and trendsetters of the business community.
Bloomfield, Brian P. and Ardha Danieli. “THE ROLE OF MANAGEMENT CONSULTANTS IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY: THE INDISSOLUBLE NATURE OF SOCIO-POLITICAL AND TECHNICAL SKILLS*.” (1995).
Clark, Timothy. Managing consultants: Consultancy as the management of impressions. McGraw-Hill Education (UK), 1995.
Czarniawska, Barbara, and Carmelo Mazza. “Consulting as a liminal space.” Human relations 56.3 (2003): 267-290.
Fincham, Robin. “The consultant–client relationship: Critical perspectives on the management of organizational change.” Journal of Management Studies 36.3 (1999): 335-351.
Kitay, Jim, and Christopher Wrght. “An unexplored relationship: Australian management consulting and the management of human resources.” Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources 37.3 (1999): 1-17.
Kitay, Jim, and Christopher Wright. “Expertise and organizational boundaries: The varying roles of Australian management consultants.” Asia Pacific Business Review 9.3 (2003): 21-40.
Kitay, Jim, and Christopher Wright. “Take the money and run? Organisational boundaries and consultants’ roles.” The service industries journal 24.3 (2004): 1-18.
Lapsley, Irvine, and Rosie Oldfield. “Transforming the public sector: management consultants as agents of change.” European Accounting Review 10.3 (2001): 523-543.
Saint-Martin, Denis. “Building the new managerialist state: Consultants and the politics of public sector reform in comparative perspective.” OUP Catalogue, (2004).
Solomon, Andrew L. “Do consultants really add value to client firms?” Business Horizons, May-June 1997, p. 67+. Academic OneFile, Accessed 10 June 2019.