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What are the Strengths and Limitations of Consultancy Theory in Relation to its Practice?

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    Abstract

    Consultancy theory is a systematic evaluation process in businesses that is aimed at identifying critical areas of a production process in an organisation that needs improvement to ensure continuous quality production. Consultation may be internal or external depending with the situation and requirements in organisation. Consultancy has both positive and negative impacts to an organisation depending with its strengths and weaknesses. A client-consultant relationship is involved as the two main entities in the process and it has to take both professional and ethical approaches for a success. Both the client and the consultants should know their roles in the relationship to enhance its efficiency.

    Introduction
    There are different consultancy approaches, which have certain differences on their theoretical levels with specific development phases and certain additional ones that make the difference (Kubr 2002). The common phases in the consultancy approaches include introduction, analysis, design, implementation and operation (Kai 2002).  There are three main consultancy approaches including hiring/ outsourcing of experts, doctor-patient and process consultation approaches (Townsend 2001). In addition, there are different consultancy firms and they all use different approaches by implementing additional phases in their conceptual models.

    The consultancy firms included first, Boston Consulting Group, which emphasizes on a detailed initialisation phase where the top executives have to be fully involved to accept the recommended changes. The senior executive has to find a way through which organisational change has to be accepted internally and the required technical resources are adequately provided for the transformation process (Kai 2002).  Second, McKinsey that stresses on iterative reengineering between designs and analysis phases. Third, Brain that uses pilot testing for new processes just as it is in McKinsey in the labs before final system implementation to ensure user acceptance and enhanced usability. Forth, Anderson consulting which has emphasized on technology use from analysis to final implementation of new and incumbent IT infrastructures and the application processes.

    Negative and positive impacts of consultancy approaches internally and externally
    Different consultancy approaches have different impacts on an organisation whether internal or external. These effects can be investigated when the approaches are each evaluated separately depending on how they can be implemented in the organisations. First, purchasing expertise, which is mostly applicable when an organisation has defined a problem and the resources are inadequate for instance inadequate technical expertise or time so outsource the services (Townsend 2001). This will impact on the organisation positively because they will have received the services that could not have afforded in a relatively easier way to improve on their productions. On the other hand, this may impact negatively on the organisation because it is may be expensive particularly when it has to be done on large scale (Werr & Pemer 2005).

                Second, doctor-patient approach is where a consultant is invited to carry out a diagnosis on the firm such as auditing to identify any errors or malfunctioning in a system (Townsend 2001). The consultant may be outsourced or called from the other departments within the organisation. The process will impact positively on the organisation because it is a way through which the company can enhance transparency of their operations and integrity of the systems through the system audits. Moreover, it will be more beneficial if an organisation can achieve it internally because it will be relatively cheaper leading to operational efficiency and effectiveness and will lead to improved trust amongst members of the organization (Werr & Styhre 2003). On the side of the continuum, outsourcing an auditor may be very expensive and may lead to poor reputation of a company especially if the company is inefficient (Byrne 2002; Sorge & van Witteloostuijn 2004).

                Third, processing consulting approach, this mainly stresses on how things should be done having known what has to be done. This approach encourages members of an organisation to adhere to the appropriate project schedules. This may be done using the available technical resources within the organisation without necessarily outsourcing (Townsend 2001). This would impact positively on the organisation through improved efficiency on resource usage, in time completion of projects and within the required resources, adherence to production processes leading to improved quality and conformity. Process consulting may impact on an organisation negatively particularly when the required expertise for a project completion are inadequate leading to outsourcing which may be expensive in terms of need to train or familiarise the members with the system produced.

    Analytical awareness of ethical and professional issues with consultancy
    Stephen Consultants are much a ware of the ethical and professional issues during their work. Professional and ethical issues are considered for many reasons such as sales and marketing tool, risk management strategy, social and corporate responsibility that goes beyond the organisational stated missions (Lautens 2009). This is because commitment to ethical and professional standards is the core features of a success in a business (Warren 2004). Ethical behaviours has to be applied on various consultation services in an organisation including. First, management where ethical and professional issues should be considered when legal, social and moral issues such as settling disputes or grievances amongst employees is being done (Teubner 2000).

                Second, inventory services records should be professionally documented to show the clear picture of an organization in terms of business structures and processes in all departments to easily identify the benefits and limitations as faced by members of the organisation. Senior executives should be aware of the problems that their employees face in their workplaces to be able to find a lasting solution. Third, communication ethics for example during seminars or workshops. This involves training the employees on relational or interpersonal values required in the organization to promote quality of production and efficiency. Organisations have carried (Clark & Fincham 2002).

                Forth, general ethical behaviours as a way through which members of an organisation can become more flexible and easily adaptable to their environment. Consultants will review the internal structures and processes in the organization and advice or suggest for any improvements if necessary (Lindberg & Furusten 2005). Through consultancy theory, the consultants will always help an organisation to come up with the appropriate development tools that will be used to improve the corporate social responsibility to be an ethical culture (Sturdy et al 2006a). In most cases, a formalised and professional approach has been used during consultancy processes based on reasoning such as rigorous management processes, control and evaluation of consultants and strategic planning done (Lindberg & Furusten 2005).

    Analytical understanding of consultancy theory in conscious and unconscious elements in the client- consultancy relationship
    There have been increased failures in the consultancy services and it has been established that most of these failures are because of the client-consultant relationship depending on their personality such as level of expertise, technical limitations, poor relationships leading to inefficiency in communication and organisational socio-political issues. The success of a given consultancy project relies on the consultant –client relationship (Karantinou & Hoog 2001; Gammelsaeter 2002; Fincham 2003; Kakabadse et al 2006; Sturdy et al 2006a; Appelbaum 2004; Appelbaum & Steed 2005; Werr & Styhre 2003). A good relationship in a consultancy contract requires good communication system in which the key stakeholders will be easily reached for any consultations leading to a quality production system.

                Consultant client relationship is very fundamental because these are two different entities that are interrelated and they are meant to work together or as a team for a success (Reid & Gibb 2004). A third party has to be involved to facilitate communication between them. The third party may be a technology based system or an expert and therefore in case of a technology base system, a more interactive and user-friendly system should be made to facilitate information collection from the client (Sturdy et al 2006b). This is because the client and consultant are tightly coupled with the third party and it is only through communication where information flow between the client and consultant has to go through the agent (Luhmann 2005; Konigswieser & Hillebrand 2005, p.33).

                It has been established that the majority of consultancy failures are due to client-consultants relationship resulting from inadequate technical expertise, personality, poor client-consultant relationship and socio-political issues in an organisation. In many cases, external consultancy has been preferred to internal consultancy in the organisations. This is in order to prevent biasness in decision-making while designing strategic improvement plans in an organisation. Clients have been the sole determinants of the transformation factors or strategies in the organisations and the consultants only come in to advise on how to achieve what they have decided to do. In the event of a failure in the processes, the consultants have always been blamed even though the clients might have contributed to it directly or indirectly especially depending on the support they gave to the consultants (Sorge & van Witteloostuijn 2004, p. 1207)

    Evaluation of consultancy theories in developing integrated approach to clients and consultant roles
    Evaluation of consultancy theories in many cases has raised many questions amongst the public as to why an evaluation has to be done in an organisation. Evaluation process is meant for ensure the activities carried out in an organisation are favourable to organisational members and for authenticating their safety when using the new products (Nassehi 2005). An integrated unit has been formed to help educate people on evaluation as a standardised process that systematically assess the worthiness or merit of a product for example a policy set in an organisation to improve quality performance (Kriven 1999). Evaluation of the consultancy theories is based on two main phases. First, production of findings if the product meets the stakeholders requirements and reporting on the value or merit of the product. Second, using the findings or report generated to plan for the recommended changes that will involve reworking on the development stages (Luhmann 2002).

                Evaluation of the consultancy theories has been based on an interim draft proposed which stresses on structuring your report findings to include the recommendations of the current initiatives until the product worthiness will have been achieved (Kriven 1999). This is mainly to get the required input from the executives to help formulate the relevant and useful recommendations. The interim report will be used as the final report from the managers having contributed accordingly to the draft and the report is used within the integrated system of the stakeholders for the evaluation process (Mohe 2005). This encourages participation of the project team leading to quality production. Clients and consultants have been encouraged to reconsider their approaches in consulting theories practices to avoid possibilities of negligence or over estimation when getting into client consultant relationships. It is the role of a client to actively participate and take it upon them as to be self-responsibility (Mohe & Seidl 2007).

                According to Golden (2005), it the role of a consultant to convince the client that there is a problem in their organization that the consultants can easily provide a lasting solution to for the managers to accept their services. The consultants have to be keen on the clients’ requirements to come up with the right recommendations for improvement strategies and plans leading to quality production. On the other hand, the client has the role of explaining their problems on the existing system and their requirements for the consultants to work on them with ease. After the consultation services have done as agreed, it is the role of the client to ensure the clients are paid for the services as agreed and the consultants should ensure the clients get an efficient and cost effective product. To ensure the worthiness of the product, an evaluation process has to be carried out to attest the product efficiency and effectiveness to the stakeholders in an organisation.

    Diagnostic and research issues in consultancy
    Diagnostics and research on consultancy issue suggests that employee’s potentiality in workplaces should be developed to make individuals participate actively in quick decision-making using real life initiatives to maintain the status quo in their daily operations (Wilson 2006). This is the working environment that will be favourable for supporting and developing each other leading to production of quality leaders who are inspirational to their fellows (Smith 2001). Inspirational leaders will encourage teamwork leading to shared vision and mobilization of other workers towards real and lasting success opportunities in an organisation (Pries & Stone 2004).

                Diagnostic and research in consultancy emphasises on certain capabilities in an organisation including. First, a 360 degrees feedback system that provides both individual and group perception of issues in an extensive manner leading to leadership effectiveness (Wilson 2006). Second, integrated management system to assess the individual employees’ performance to monitor each and everyone’s activities and their contribution towards quality performance. Third, diagnostics of the organization and its stakeholders that involve the stakeholders’ different views towards the organisational culture, capabilities and preparedness for change. Different diagnostic systems have therefore been developed to assist in fostering improvement qualities in organisations such as leadership, management competencies, and preparedness for change, governance and organisational culture (Obolensky 2001).

    Strengths of consultancy theory
    Consultancy theory involves many phases such as evaluation, which is done by a separate body making it strength to the theory. This is because an evaluator being a separate body serve as a guide on knowledge production for decision-making to ensure the product is equally beneficial to all stakeholders (Luhmann 2003). The evaluator will ensure the product worthiness to the users by suggesting for any improvements necessary to ensure it is operationally effective and efficient (Kriven 1999). Moreover, the strength of the consultancy theory is that they offer objectivity using wide range of experiences and analytical skills to their clients leading to improved quality products (Klenter & Möllgard 2006).

    Consultants may also be fully committed to their clients to offer full time services such as free training to organisations leading to empowerment of the members of the organisation (Nerida 2009; Ko et al 2005). Consultancy theory strengths are the following. First, objectivity that stresses on independent and impartial viewpoint of an individual that is free from biases that may result from personal interests, prejudice, allegiance or socio-politics. Second, the consultants have a wide variety of experience having dealt with different organisations with different and unique user requirements in different industries. The varied knowledge can be applied in completely different organizations based on their similarities in objectives and goals leading to improved quality and efficiency (Nerida 2009).

                Third, diagnostic skills can be easily applied in different problems in an organisation to identify areas where improvements are required to enhance organizational productivity. Consultants are well equipped with analytical skills and knowledge leading to increased concentration and participation on the problems raised by the organisations (Nerida 2009). Enhanced participation will lead to clear definition of the user requirements to facilitate formulation of strategic plans through a lasting solution can be achieved. Forth, full-time attention from the consultants to their services without any disruption or monitoring from the organisational executive. Consultants are in most cases genuine with their services and will work little or no supervision from their clients.

    Limitations of consultancy theory
    There are limitations of the consultancy theory such as misleading the clients to make money. Some consultants are business-oriented and will only convenience a client in order to find money and never bother to deliver quality products. According to Niehaves et al (2007), the consultants have to convince the clients that they have a problem and it is through their service that the client will succeed. This is misleading and in some cases, inexperienced consultants may take advantage of that to earn money from their clients without any quality improvements. In addition, another limitation of consultancy theory is that, it may be too expensive especially for the developing organisation (Pinault 2001). In many cases, the managers have not trusted the consultants since they are not aware of what to expect from them while in other cases the less experienced consultants have may have mislead other managers (Nerida 2009).

    Another limitation is that consultancy theory is still new in many places and so most managers still do not trust the consultants. It is very difficult for the consultants to convince the clients on their capabilities of making the organisation more competitive through operational efficiency and effective practices. Moreover, many organisations fear change and so because consultancy is based on organisational change that has to start internally in an organisation, it may not be a favourable choice for them (Nerida 2009). This is because managers fear for the uncertainties that may happen such as failure of the change strategies leading to losses or being more incompetent in the business environment. This is more often with the external consultants who in most cases are assumed to be in a position to give a poor reputation of an organisation after carrying out an analysis or an audit (Byrne 2002; Sorge & van Witteloostuijn 2004).

    Conclusion

    Consultation is an essential practice in almost all business sectors in all economies. There is increasing use of information technology particularly ERP in the markets which is also associated with the political issues. Consulting processes involves negotiation between management, consultants and employees making it more political when IT is used in an organisation as a way through which they can support and promote their interests (Niehaves et al 2007). The consultant-client relationship should be encouraged in any consultation project. This is because through a good relationship, the two entities will be able to communicate well to understand each other’s requirements and capabilities for the suggested project (Golden 2005). As a requirement, the consultant is not just to offer unique solutions but should understand well the client requirements to ensure efficiency and effectiveness.

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