What will you actually do as a management consultant? The work consultants do ranges from initial research and analysis, to putting together presentations, to winning clients, to 'execution.' Execution refers to the implementation of recommended solutions to clients' problems.
Consulting teams will often consist of six to eight people at varying levels of seniority. Junior consultants in management consulting typically do the data-heavy analysis work which underpins the project their team is working on. They spend their time working to assemble the slide decks or 'decks' which outline their team's analysis of a client's problem and its recommended solutions. These decks typically include very detailed contextual information on the client company's situation, a detailed analysis of the issues, and a detailed explanation of the proposed methods of resolving them. Decks are typically presented in chart format using Powerpoint. If you work in consulting, you'll need to be a Powerpoint master.
There is often a sense of urgency around the preparation of the deck, especially as the time for a client presentation approaches. Decks are typically reviewed and amended several times, with various members of the team - and clients - feeding into them.
While junior consultants work hard on putting the deck together, more senior consultants engage with clients to discuss the issues highlighted by the deck and then work to implement solutions to solve them. The most senior consultants of all are focused on keeping clients happy and bringing in a new flow of business.
Often, particular members of a consulting team will be assigned a particular problem or particular area of the deck to work on as their own. It will be up to them to work with clients on particular problems that have been assigned to them.
Consulting can be hard work and the hours can be long. Week days away from home at client offices can be inimical to family life. As a result, consultants have been attempting to make employees' lives easier. Boston Consulting Group has been implementing a policy known as ‘Predictable Time Off’ for the past five years. BCG consultants are assigned ‘predictable periods’ of downtime at the start of a project. They mustn’t check their email and they mustn’t check their voicemail. At McKinsey & Co, there are flexible work programmes, (as detailed in this report) which allow employees to take blocks of unpaid leave between projects, work three or four days a week, or take a leave of absence for up to a year.
Consultants have the advantage of variety. Over their careers they typically work at a variety of client companies on a variety of problems. If you like change, this can make for an interesting career.