How to Think Like a Management Consultant

How to Think Like a Management Consultant

Sara R Moulton

Editor of HQ Asia

HQ Asia spoke with Phillia Wibowo, Partner at McKinsey & Company, who is based in Indonesia, about what companies can learn from the management consultancy structure as well as how to assess organisational health.

The components that make up organisational health

When it comes to organisational health we measure two things: (1) how healthy are you today and (2) what do you need to do to stay healthy. You can compare it to personal health: the first is a doctor's full-body checkup, looking at the state of your current health; the second is you telling your mother whether you have been eating your vegetables and sleeping enough. Both are important indicators in predicting whether you're going to be fit enough to perform in the future. For instance, if you want to go on a hike, you would want the doctor to clear you in a checkup, but you also would want to be rested and well-fed enough to make it through the hike. 

How leaders can assess their organisation's health

There are various ways. We often complete a baseline health check first, to see where you stand today and what you should prioritise, for instance should you focus on getting more rest and being more mindful or on going to the gym more often. Companies often identify four or five priority areas in this exercise. We might then check the pulse on these priority areas every few months to see if you are making progress. Some companies even measure organisational health on a continuous basis. Like a person wearing a Fitbit, these companies measure their activity daily, for instance through a one-question-a-day survey. This is then aggregated into an online dashboard. Leaders can carefully monitor the effect of actions on the organisational health and answer questions like: Did the townhall last week really help bring strategic clarity? Did the customer event improve our customer focus? Did the innovation challenge last month increase our bottom-up innovation practices?

How teams can quickly establish rapport and trust

Two can be especially powerful:

1. Work with the team to develop a common, objective understanding of why members are not collaborating effectively. There are several tools available for the purpose, including top-team surveys, interviews with team members, and 360-degree evaluations of individual leaders. 

2. Develop a highly effective top team. This typically requires good diagnostics, followed by a series of workshops and field work to address the dynamics of the team while it attends to hard business issues.

The benefit of organising talent on a project basis

I would look at this through the lens of having an agile team vs a traditional team, and being agile means being able to quickly reconfigure your company toward value-creating opportunities.

There are three critical differences:

1. Focus on process vs focus on outcome: Traditional teams tend to focus on a part of a process, such as attracting candidates into a recruitment funnel, and on how work is done, such as whether policy is being followed, while agile project teams tend to focus on end-to-end activities, such as filling a position, and on an outcome, such as whether an objective is achieved. The benefits of organising talent into agile teams include employees are more motivated when they can see the end outcome and process innovation and issue resolution becomes faster when the team owns the end-to-end activity.

2. Rigid positions vs flexible roles: Traditional teams tend to have fixed positions, such as recruitment specialist, that change very slowly and do not usually react to routine fluctuations in load, such as the recruitment season or the performance review cycle, while agile project teams tend to have fluid roles that are dynamically reallocated frequently, for instance someone might be tasked to support recruitment for a two-week posting. The benefits here include reallocating talent quickly to meet cyclical and new demands and enabling faster and less painful structural changes because now it is just a matter of changing projects, rather than changing positions.

3. Part-time responsibilities vs full-time projects: Traditional teams tend to have members whose attention is split across multiple responsibilities, such as various committee memberships, while members of agile project teams tend to be fully dedicated to one project at a time. Flexible roles allow this, since staff can always be reallocated temporarily where needed. Employees who can focus better can deliver better results. In addition, resourcing becomes more transparent compared with obscure side-project resourcing that doesn't appear directly in payroll costs.

Lessons from the structure of management consultancies

Our model helps us capture the benefits of scale, while delivering fast, flexible value to our clients. We are "one firm" globally, which means that we share a clear set of values, have a single operational structure, and are all part of a singular global network. 

Our collaborative culture bridges all aspects of our work: client innovation, knowledge development, and personal training and capacity building, among others.

Our non-hierarchical approach allows us to configure and reconfigure global, virtual teams to address quickly whatever challenges our clients bring us. It also helps us bring new recruits into the team smoothly and advance their careers using an apprentice/mentor model.

One of the lessons for other companies from all this is the importance of inclusion and diversity. Performance – individual performance and corporate performance – improves when every voice is heard.

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