Consultants & Best Practices

A love story, or a complicated relationship?

Consultants have a "love it or hate it" relationship with best practices.

Management consultants tend to love it. You can find the phrase “best practices” multiple times in every white paper and research by MBB. This is also the case for boutique consulting firms in HR, operations, and IT.

There are a few reasons why they are so popular and loved by both management consultants and clients:

  • They reduce risk: Best practices have been tried and tested for years. Clients feel safer knowing that these ideas were put to test in the real world before, and that they can benefit from someone else's experiments.
  • They save time:  Clients always think that their problems are unique but any specialized consultant knows that's not true. In most projects, there's no need to "reinvent the wheel". Best practices can give you 80% of the results, faster.
  • They appeal to the curious: Clients don't know what they don't know, and are looking for insight into what others in their space are doing. These apply not only to best practices but also to market trends and benchmarks.

With all of these advantages, who in their right mind would hate them?

The exceptions to the rule are strategy consultants. For them, using best practices is lazy. And indeed, they often bring those valid counterpoints to avoid them:

  • They are standardized: Best practices are the complete opposite of an individual and customized solution. They solve 80% of the issues for 80% of your clients and will make them more competitive. But won't help you with complex problems.
  • They are not strategic: Strategy is all about creating a plan of action to achieve a set of goals. If every organization has its own high-level objectives, using best practices to do strategy is about the worst thing a consultant can do.
  • They ignore people and culture: All of your processes and technology can be copied, but you still need people to implement and operate them. Best practices won't help you much to do that.

Do you make use of best practices to deliver value to clients and/or manage your own firm? If not, how could you start?

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