Should management training include consultant training?


This article looks at the demands placed on management and shows why current management training should now include consultant training.

Life at the top may always have been hard, but at least in former days the role of the manager was relatively easy to define. Management was "command and control": telling people what to do and making sure that they did it. Nowadays the manager's role has exploded. "Empowered" staff work in multidisciplinary or even virtual teams. Goals and strategies constantly change while timescales collapse. Not only is the modern manager expected to cope with this discontinuity, he or she is expected to thrive on it.

Management training - skillsets
Defining the skillset demanded by the new role of the manager seems a tall order at first. But if we take a step back, a number of themes emerge. The manager's role is now more interventionist and supportive, with a much greater project element. Results must be achieved though influence, particularly as much of the work will be with individuals or units outside the manager's direct control. In fact the skills demanded are remarkably similar to those of the management consultant.

Management, consultant or both
In the past there was a clear distinction between management and consultant, even to the extent that they seemed to demand different personality types. Management was involved with the routine or repetitive processes of the organisation, while consultants would come in for one-off projects designed to improve those processes.

Nowadays the element of process work has been greatly reduced, whether though automation or through being "reengineered" out of existence altogether. As one recruitment consultant put it recently: "You're either a revenue earner or a cost-saver. Everything in the middle has been automated."

Linked to these developments are changes in organisational structures which have affected the ways managers are able to achieve these goals. The old hierarchical pyramid structures of organisations created clear lines of command that flowed from the strategy makers at the top through layers of middle management. Now organisations are much flatter, with reporting lines that can be multiple and even extend outside the organisation. Managers can no longer simply issue orders, but like consultants must achieve results by using influencing skills to win support and implement changes.

We are told that change is now a permanent feature of organisations, and management consultancy is nothing if not the discipline of change. A successful consultant must be able to:

  • Assess the nature of a predicament and design a way of addressing it.
  • Manage and implement a project to identify and implement a suitable solution.
  • Work with the people in the organisation to ensure that they accept the solution and are committed to the changes required.

Success as a manager now requires exactly the same abilities: in essence the manager must learn how to become an "internal" consultant.

Management training and consultant training
Elevation Learning (formally Consultancy Skills Training) was originally set up to equip people with the skills they needed to enter or succeed in the consultancy profession. However, over time the demand for consultancy skills has also come from organisations far removed from consultancy which are either setting up professional services operations, or increasingly, looking for ways to work in more "consultative" manner internally.

Elevation Learning's Philip Taylor comments: "We used to joke that one day everybody would be a management consultant, and in a sense that's coming true, in that more and more people in business are finding they need part or all of the consultancy skillset. Not only that, but we are finding that those skills are precisely those which are left out of standard management training programmes. Training managers are looking to consultancy skills as the glue that holds together other elements of their manager development "programmes."

Elevation Learning is now provides management training programmes for clients that take elements of their long-established consultant training modules. This is now giving management those essential consultant skills they now need to fully meet the demands placed upon them.

For more information contact Elevation Learning on 020 8642 9568 or visit their website

Elevation Learning specialises in developing the performance of professionals, consultants and technical specialists so they bring increased value to their clients.

They design and deliver consultant training that addresses the core challenges involved in selling and delivering professional services. Elevation Learning training programmes include bespoke consultancy skills training that can be specially tailored for the needs of a single organisation, or through public consultant training courses which anyone can attend.

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