McKinsey & Co: Expensive advice, well sold

Consultants go in and out of big companies. But many employees are skeptical about them: Can they really help the specialists and executives?


    Nobody knows what they really do with their Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint slides. Nevertheless, the consulting companies in Germany have been growing for years – over the past eight years, the average has been 7.5 percent per year. And they are constantly hiring additional consultants. In view of this development and many evil prejudices, it is therefore quite possible to ask what proportion of consultants have in the success of a company.


    For example, many railway workers doubt that more external advice is always better. Deutsche Bahn spends hundreds of millions of euros every year to get better with the help of McKinsey, Boston Consulting and Strategy &. Nevertheless, the trains often come too late, it hapert on the economy. The railway "does not need more external consultants, it needs the expertise that exists in-house in the operational business and only needs to be called up," indignant the head of the railway and transport union Alexander Kirchner. As it would have been without the consultants for the train: One does not know.

"What comes now is very important"

Consultants often say that they know everything better, talk unintelligibly, and ruthlessly change companies. And, worse, consultants usually have no idea. In fact, the industry relies on newcomers who often know the business world only from the lecture hall. For lateral entrants, for example from physics, psychology or philosophy, that does not even apply. Can they really help experienced specialists and executives? Management consultant Elke Benning-Rohnke is convinced she says: "What makes the young consultants so efficient are the methods and techniques they learn very quickly in the consulting firm."


    If you're a business consultant, you're often referring to the big strategy consultancies, those called to turn over, smash and downsize entire companies. That's why you have a reputation for being the bad guy. This is also quite right for their clients: It overlooks the fact that it is always up to the management, the supervisory board or the owners to accept suggestions or not. Increasingly, however, companies are also calling consultants for specific tasks to help, as well as experts or trainers in specific areas such as IT and new applications, as moderators who bring departments together and engage in constructive discussion, as data analysts.


    Always one night ahead


    They do not necessarily have to understand anything about the product or the market segment. "What management consultants have to do well: recognize, process and evaluate the right data from a high degree of complexity," says Benning-Rohnke. The more companies and problems a consultant got to know, the better he gets in it.


    The expertise is in the business. That's one of the rules that make the consulting business work for job recruits and career changers. The often reported high number of overtime counselors have to perform is also a result of the advisors having to do the follow-up each evening and for the next day.


    There are three reasons to get advice into the house: The company wants to buy specialist knowledge. The company needs people who can recognize and name problems without hierarchical obligations – and come up with solutions. Or: The company is overloaded. The more intensive the cooperation with consulting companies becomes, the more often this is observed. "Today, consulting jobs are often about completing tasks that the company used to do itself and that today can no longer cope with a thinner workforce," says management consultant Benning-Rohnke.