If one takes a look around in today’s business world, one can recognize a major shortage: time, and a major requirement: speed, speed, speed. With this ever-changing environment, the role of the manager changes dramatically. Frequently the challenges cannot be tackled by the manager alone. He has to transform the problem into a project so that it can be handled in a professional and agile manner. Organizational development happens for more and more companies in a series of projects. It is exactly this specific knowledge of designing a project, to decide about adequate resources, time frames, and tools for analysis, concept development, and implementation, which is the core of the consulting skills. And once a solution for a challenge has been found, the manager has to present it in a convincing way and may have to cope with resistance. This again belongs to the core skills of good internal consultants.
The main aim of many managers is now to assist project teams to cope with the accelerating change in a more and more borderless world. The ability of an organization to learn faster than its worldwide competitors has been identified as a major source for achieving sustainable competitive advantage. The combined role of internal consultants and the leader of an operational unit is the reality for today’s managers.
Therefore, it is no coincidence that internal consulting units are set up to provide professional assistance for the manager from within their own company. Internal consulting units have the advantage that they know the company and the acting individuals well. They can act quickly when a new challenge arises that is to be dealt with. And there is a full commitment to the company.
This is not to say that external consultants are not needed anymore. They bring in an external view and their experience gained elsewhere, they provide benchmarks and specific know-how in specialized areas. In many cases a combination of internal and external consultants created the best results.
In such a setting the manager has to deal with a variety of consulting-like tasks:
- Strategic project management: This is about launching the right projects, which address the actual challenges of the company properly. Strategic project management is also about aligning the project activities with the strategic goals of the company, about giving priorities to certain projects, and the allocation of the necessary resources.
- Project steering: The manager has to ensure that the project design is serving its purpose, that the staffing is done properly and that project controlling mechanisms are in place. This implies that he has to supervise the whole system of internal and external project staff.
- Project sponsoring: The manager in his capacity as a sponsor of the project has to ensure that the project is not suffering from a lack of funds. This includes the implementation phase of the project.
- Project marketing: The manager has to analyze possible sources for resistance in the organization, to deal with resulting conflicts, and to pave the way for a successful implementation of the project.
- Innovation and entrepreneurship: Projects are by definition innovative; also more and more companies rely on internal entrepreneurship (so-called “entrepreneurs”) to ensure the constant flow of innovative products and business models.
How can a manager develop these consulting skills that he needs in today’s business world? To a certain extent the manager will get the experience on the job. However, this alone will not always lead to the level of personal mastery in this field which is required. Structured education for such qualifications is offered in Vietnam in a joint venture between the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology (HCMUT) and the School of Business of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW). The format of this practically oriented program is the part-time MBA in Management Consulting International (MBA-MCI).
Prof. Dr. Rolf-Dieter Reineke
Head of the MBA-Programs of the School of Business of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts North-Western Switzerland (FHNW).
Project Manager of the Swiss Innovation Challenge.