In business, there are always buzzwords and phrases that are popular. It seems that “strategic’ is having its moment in the spotlight. The term really began to take off in 2013/14 as all the business magazines such as Forbes and HBR were writing about it, and all the consulting firms were refreshing their websites to convey that they could be it. But what does being strategic really mean? Why is everyone tossing the word around like it will solve all problems?
Most consultants and consulting firms boast about their ability to be strategic. Many client executives use the word as an adjective, a verb and sometimes a noun. The word Strategy has become all things to all people. Don’t get me wrong, in business, having strategic partners is paramount to success but with so many organizations moving to leaner, more cost-effective operational models – and with so many consulting firms offering strategic (support, guidance, planning etc.) – who is actually doing the work. Who’s getting stuff done?
Clients engage consultants or consulting companies because they have a problem to solve that they cannot resolve on their own: a technology implementation, a significant process change, a business transformation, or all the above. So they engage with consulting firms to help with the strategic planning of whatever their change might be. This is useful. It produces a carefully designed plan to serve a purpose or solve a specific problem. Here’s the issue; often the client is left with a pretty PowerPoint presentation, a hefty bill, and no way to get the work done. Where is the real value?
As consultants, if we are proposing how to solve a problem, shouldn’t part of our value proposition be providing delivery support as well? Shouldn’t we be both strategic partners and delivery execution partners? We think so. This doesn’t mean we take over, what it means is we consider the strategic planning and work with our clients to ensure they have the right blended team to get the work done and to build the capability internally to keep the work going.