Imagine this… It's lunchtime, you're hungry, and you're looking for a restaurant to eat at. You have narrowed your choices down to 3 restaurants that go by the names La Isla, Il Generico, and L’Ensemble. Other than the names, you know nothing about these three restaurants, so you enquire about them and learn the following:
La Isla hires only employees who are the best in the world at what they do - the best waiters, the best chefs, the best management, even the best janitors! The requirements to be accepted to work for this restaurant are extremely stringent - the waiters have to be able to charm and delight customers while memorizing large orders instantly in their minds. The janitors must be experts at keeping a place clean. The chefs must be able to create delightful and tantalizing food. The kitchen employees must be the best in the world at whatever they have applied to do - be it chopping vegetables, frying meat, and what have you. As you hear this, this sounds pretty appealing. You think to yourself, “Wow! A restaurant with the best waiters, the best chefs, the best employees! That sounds pretty great!”
But there’s a catch. At La Isla, the employees may be the best in the world at their jobs, but they struggle to do work that is outside of their area of expertise. Not only that, but they are also unable to communicate with any of their coworkers because they all speak different languages. If you, as a patron of the restaurant want to have something done which involves more than one employee, you are tasked with being the mediating entity who communicates requests to each employee. Imagine what that would look like in practice…
You have taken your seat at the table in the restaurant and the friendly waiter comes over to take your order. He is the most charming waiter you have ever met, very kind, friendly, and he is able to handle even your most complicated questions about the menu. Quite a delightful fellow! So now you have placed your order, and your mouth is watering in anticipation of the delightful meal you are about to enjoy. But wait.
The waiter is still at your table, all of a sudden looking quite sheepish. You ask him why he’s still there and he reveals to you that he actually doesn’t know how to take the order to the kitchen and give it to the chef and that you’re going to have to do it yourself. You are a bit incredulous, but nevertheless, you dutifully take your order to the kitchen and show it to the chef, who cheerily exclaims, “Mama Mia! That’s the best dish on the menu, I can make it perfectly!”. Now you’re excited again, anticipating the delicacy you will soon get to consume...yum! But now the Chef is standing still, with that sheepish grin on his face, the same as the waiter. “Oh no…”, you sigh, “let me guess. You don’t know how to prepare the ingredients, that’s someone else’s job, right?” The Chef tells you that, yes, you will have to talk to the other employees and tell them what you need from each of them in order to get the food that you want.
This all sounds a bit tiresome, so you decide to leave La Isla and instead to check out Il Generico. La Isla is too isolated. Their employees would all benefit greatly from being able to communicate with one another.
Il Generico is a huge chain restaurant that operates on a very different model from La Isla. At Il Generico, the employees are more or less interchangeable. They are intelligent and capable and can handle any job they need to do. The chefs can wait, the waiters can cook, the janitors can ring you up at the cash register, and so on. So you think that maybe Il Generico can provide you with the delicious food you need to satisfy your hunger. You are about to step into Il Generico when your trusty informant tells, you “wait, there’s something else I need to tell you! Since no employee is a specialist, no one is exceptional at any one job. And although they may be able to efficiently make you a decent meal, it will not be something that you write home about. It will lack that je ne sais quois of individual tailoring to your gustatory needs that would really just hit the spot. The waiter who cooks a little will not be able to get just the right blend of spices, nor would the cook who waits be able to delight you with customer service. And oh by the way, since they’re a big huge chain restaurant with a big brand name, they get to charge you an arm and a leg for your meal.”
Well now that is starting to sound less appealing as well. Il Generico is too big and generic. Il generico needs to have more specialists and more fair pricing.
Finally, you are so hungry that you are ready to give up and eat a dubious corn dog from the vendor on the street corner. Just as you are about to make the dejected walk over to the corn dog stand, you are interrupted by your informant. He says to you, “are you seriously going to eat a corn dog? You’re better than that! Try L’Ensemble.”
“What is so different about L’Ensemble??” you ask. Your informant tells you that L’Ensemble is unique because the employees at L’Ensemble are the best in the world at what they do! The best chefs, the best waiters, and more! “Uh-oh”, you think. “This is starting to sound a lot like La Isla…” As if reading your thoughts, your informant interjects, “but guess what! At L’ensemble, they have invented a special language that allows these employees to all communicate with each other effectively and play off of each other's strengths and ultimately deliver not only the tastiest food to the customer, but also the best overall experience, leaving you not merely satisfied, but delighted.”
Convinced, you decide to dine at L’Ensemble, and you could not be more thrilled with your decision. The waiters are experts at their art, the chefs, too. Everything is humming along as one coherent process that ultimately ends with a savory delicacy on your plate that was well worth the wait!
L’Ensemble is just right!
Alright, if I haven’t already made you hungry enough to leave this article and go get some lunch, then please read on!
The Goldilocks moment
The metaphor I was using aptly describes the state of the Consulting Industry today. In every situation, you, the hungry person, represented the clients or businesses who are looking for consulting solutions to help solve their biggest challenges.
At Il Generico (generico is Italian for generic), the client ran into the problem that many businesses face when hiring a major consulting firm. While these large firms have efficient operations in place that allow them to handle large scale cross-functional projects, and in many cases deliver value, the fact is that many junior consultants at these firms (who play key roles on the teams) lack the experience and personal insight to be able to make recommendations that carry true practical value to the client. It may be a palatable solution, but it is not the best solution for that particular client at that particular time. Additionally, since they have a huge amount of “perceived value” due to their impressive brand names, they are able to charge prices far beyond what the value they are delivering is actually worth.
At La Isla (spanish for The Island), the client ran into a bunch of boutique consulting firms. Each specialized employee represented a boutique consulting firm. Every language barrier represented limitations in expertise outside of their own. Boutique consulting firms generally have deep expertise and competency in their area of specialization. For projects that involve just that one area, there is no one better to bring in and solve the problem than a reputed boutique firm. The problem, however, is that many business problems cannot be confined to only one area of specialization. And boutique consulting firms can run into the problem of being “islands” in their own right, lacking the expertise to solve other business problems. Cross-functional projects are becoming more and more common today as the interdependencies between various divisions of a business are increasing dramatically.
For example, imagine a company that has been facing a lot of heat in the press recently because it has been overworking its employees. They think that they need to hire a PR Consultancy or an Advertising consultancy to help turn their public image around. However, if they decided to use the 5 Whys methodology to actually get down to the root cause of “why are we facing bad public image?”, they might uncover that the actual issue stems from a poor operational structure that is highly inefficient and is currently taking too many-man hours to produce a suitable amount of product. Once this is discovered, what actually is needed is an Operations Consulting Firm to come in and help restructure the company’s operations, which would ultimately correct the public image problem automatically. However, since the PR Consultancy and the Operations Consultancy are not connected with one another, the client is left hanging and has to take whatever the PR consultancy discovered and then go find an Operations Consulting Firm to help them solve the issue. This involves heavy financial and temporal investment on the part of the client and also ends up being very expensive!
Finally, at L’Ensemble (ensemble is French for together), the client found his Goldilocks moment.
The Power of Together
Ideas and models which defined the consulting industry are no longer as effective and viable as they were in the past. Clients expect more from their advisors as they require that much more to survive in today’s market.
This is what we are trying to do at Konsälidön. We are building a first-of-its-kind digital platform (the special language that allows boutique firms to talk to each other) to connect organizations with consulting teams more efficiently than in the traditional consulting partnership model. Our platform enables us to operate an agile, decentralized and distributed global consulting firm with very low overheads – which means that our clients work only with our senior experts (no more junior consultants) and we are also able to charge lower charge-out rates.
200 consulting teams, operating in many diverse industries such as Public Services, Healthcare, Education, and Finance have confirmed their participation in our ecosystem. Together, we will help clients find the most elegant, efficient, agile, and cost-effective solution to their business problems like has never been possible before.
This, we believe, is the future of consulting.