Contextualisation in the management consulting ventures

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The objective of this report in management consulting is to describe the competencies and development of the author in this challenging and agile business world today. The author has been in Human Resource Management field for about three years, primarily on employee benefits. Prior to this, the author was employed in RSM Profit Improvement Pte. Ltd. in Malaysia that has given a foundation in change management, operations management and business process re-engineering (BPR) skills. The author is equipped with management theories upon completion of Master Degree in Business Admin. After gathering the valuable experiences, the author would like to explore another career path in benefits consulting industry, and start up a new consulting firm to help clients make distinctive, lasting, and substantial improvements to the performance of clients' organisation.

The new consulting firm namely Strategic Business Advisory (SBA), SBA is strategy and human resource consulting to help small and large organisation to achieve maximum value from the sale of client's companies. SBA professionals have solid track record of helping business owners evaluate, improve, grow and create value for his/her businesses. SBA methodology is holistic, as SBA professionals use the BOOST Approach, Business re-engineering, Operations management, Opportunity identification, Strategic planning and Thinking "Out of the Box".

SBA appointed to carry out market research and feasibility study for market entry of a large conglomerate with operation in small and large local manufacturer industries, retail and broadcasting industry.

However, the turbulence in the consulting industry is that there is no longer job security and consultants need to maintain or improve intellectual capital skills in order to ensure the compatible in the market (Merchant, 1999). Nonetheless, most of the consulting firms are enquiring at multi-intelligence so that they could be flexible in responding to market demands and needs.

Section 2: Building Consultant Competencies and Branding

This section will run through three main topics that comprise the turbulence in the consulting industry with the career transition cycle. The assessment of the author's consulting skills and development of the key competencies that the author needs as consultant in her opinion is the second topic and the lastly the branding of the consultant's career.

Section 2.1 Turbulences in consulting industry and effect on the consultant's career and actual career transition cycle

The trends in the consulting industry have been changing rapidly over the next decade, for example from agricultural to manufacturing, and then to services with knowledge base and multi-intelligence skills. Consulting firms are in the business of generating, not a tangible product, but an ideas or advice insights of looking at problem. Capital of a consulting firm is not money but intellect capital. Thus the most important asset to a consulting firm is the ability to use research and experience to generate new solutions and find innovative ways of doing things.

Consulting firms are extremely competitive in recruiting the best and the brightest graduates from business schools. Thus it's important for consultants to assess the powers of quick-thinking, diagnosing problems, making a plan of action, and problem solving. As industries continue to transform, consultants are required to acquire more skills to adjust consultants' career plans and competencies as companies are downsizing and delaying to have flatter organisational hierarchy (Merchant, 1999).

The definition of career is a person's progress and actions throughout a lifetime related to ones occupations. The changing psychological contract has also resulted in new expectations that consultant to demonstrate flexibility, career mobility, continuous learning and identifiable value-added contribution (Frohman & Johnson, 1993). Since the job security is no longer guaranteed, consultants need to maintain and recharge intellectual capital to ensure employability to the market (Merchant, 1999; Egan et. al, 2006). Moreover, internal consulting emerging within an

organisation to be cost effective is taking out big piece from the external consulting firm (Czerniawska, 2002). Same scenario applicable to those organisations setting up shared services rather than outsourcing its processes to external consulting firm. Therefore, the author would need to review the four types of market expectations regularly.

There are four stages in a typical transition cycle that is preparation, encounter, adjustment and stabilisation. SBA is still in the beginning of the consulting path and the author's consulting skills and has had worked as internal sale and marketing, as well as internal IT consulting exercises for three years experiencing all parts of the transition cycle during the author consulting role. Preparation or anticipation is the first phase of the transition cycle that demonstrates the readiness for change. Secondly, encounters are the experiences of the first contact with new situation and emotional coping and followed by adjustment that involves evaluating a misfit and follow through with personal change or innovation. Lastly, stabilisation is a period of settling in the current transition cycle and preparation for the next occupational change and can be experienced when moving between either consultancy projects or clients (Erwee, 2009; Egan, et. al , 2006).

During the career transitioning process, SBA is pursuing additional subject in project management in order to enhance technical skills in management consulting career. Besides, knowledge of the author in MBA study would serves a balance of generalist skills and specialist skills in managing and understanding client's organisational operations and experience to be competitive in consulting industry. Czerniawska (2002) stated that the ideal 'T-Shape' consultant is someone who is capable of generalist knowledge across a wide range of areas, complemented by an in-depth understanding of one specific area. Therefore, the author would need to build up some substantiate competencies and skills to providing niche consultancy services.

Section 2.2 Analysis and development of skill and global competencies to deliver a successful consultancy service

Czerniawska (2002) cited that consulting firms were more concerned about applying and re-applying knowledge as it is more cost effective than being innovation. Additional, Simon and Kumar (2001) has indicated the main reasons consultant are hired was due to expertise advice includes all advisory services relating to the organisational development or advice on organisational structure and methods to help client improve their organisation performance of operating activities (Simon et. al., 2001) Czerniawska & Toppin (2005) indicated that consultants need to be proud to be consultants, and delivers best value in successful to their clients (Czerniawska & Topping, 2005). Certainly consultant knowledge would be an important key competency and the knowledge of a consultant can be divided into consulting skills and global competencies.

A competency is defined as a capability and ability (Boyatzis, 2008; Rychen, et. al., 2001). It involves the ability to meet complex demands, by drawing on and mobilising psychosocial resource which including skills and attitudes in a particular context (Rychen & Salganik, 2003). Thus, consultants need a wide range of competencies in order to face the complex challenges of today's world.

In appendix Table 2.0 shows the global competence and the opportunities actions for development of these capabilities are listed when developing a business specializing in both strategy and human resource consulting. The six global competencies are managing competitive process, managing complexity, managing organisational adaptability, managing multicultural teams, managing uncertainty, managing personal and organisational learning (Rhinesmith, 1993). Additional, there are additional two competencies being identified that is managing emotional intelligence and managing social intelligence. With an ever changing global environment maintaining edge is key and consulting remains a discretionary expense item and therefore ensuring offering have 'real economic value attached to it' remains a key lesson and is fundamental as does in-depth knowledge of a client's organisation and industry (Greiner &

Poulfelt, 2005). All of the eight global competences are important for SBA because the consultancy is working mainly on strategic development versus human factors.

Boyatzis defines a competency as a capability and ability or behavioural manifestations of talent (Boyatzis, 2008). As discussed in Assignment 1, the professional body commented that a consultant should have the skill and competency to deliver solution within certain timeframe (Professor Doc. Faisal, 2010). In appendix Table 3.0 shows the author personal's technical skills and the relevance to the author and the relevance to the SBA consultancy. Block argues that in order to prepare for success, consultants require three types of skills. Technical skills relevant to the author's expertise, interpersonal skills focused on building network and maintain the client relationship and specific consulting skills aimed on taking a client through phases of consulting (Block in Study book, 2009). At the point of view from companies, the challenge with most of the companies is to achieve corporate potential by employing very limited resources. Thus, Operations Management, Change Management and BPR, System analysis and strategic planning skills are very important for SBA because SBA provide an in-depth analysis from strategic angles advising on corporate, market, operations, technology, capital, funding and exit plans to the client's organisation.

The author is flexible to adaptability in the system analysis and strategic planning skill and change management because the author can take part in a course in strategic management and project management to help become more effectiveness and confident in this area. For SBA, human resource management classified as medium important because not most of the client require the KPIs, Personal Incentive Program (PIP) scheme, and performance appraisal program. Although the author have three years of experience in Operations Management and process management but the author should acquire an operations management course for self-improvement in order to sustain competitive advantage in this challenging and agile business world today.

In appendix Table 4.0, the interpersonal skills are identified. Active listening would be an advantage to the author as this skill would be very important in identifying client's needs.

Besides, assertiveness and managing stress would also be a plus point for the author as consultant would need to portray a calm and confident image to client in order to gain trust. However, the author requires improves the skills on communication and active listening skills in order to build up relationship with clients and consultants. The interpersonal skills added requirements are managing ambiguity and the ability to provide positive challenge. Lastly, the author has less experience with managing group processes. An overall interpersonal assessment, the author is still fresh in consulting industry and these interpersonal skills will be equipped along with time and experience.

The consultancy skills are being identified in appendix Table 5.0. The author needs to improve on negotiating client's demand (contracting phase) and working with resistance (feedback phase) will be the priority of development as benefits consultant would required to understand and work with client as well as client's employees. In general, the author has an average consultancy skills and it could be improve after familiarise with the consulting phases and understand client's requirement better and with more practice (Block, 1999)

Section 2.3 Development of a competency based brand of the consultant and investigation of marketing and branding strategy

Product defines as a tangible item which produces by a factory whereby brand delivers through features and benefits to customers. Whereas a product can be quickly outdated and imitated by a competitor; a successful brand is unique and timeless (Aaker, 1998). A strong brand strategy can increase the awareness of a company and its offerings in such a way that establishes strong feeling and reactions and a favourable view towards the SBA firm as a whole.

The key competencies the author shows particular of intellectual capital in Operations Management and Management and Understanding of multicultural working environment. Four key needs of clients to the two key competencies are listed in Appendix Table 6.0.

Key competencies

Four key needs clients have of a consultant

Operations Management

Need 1

Expertise to identify needs for change management to client.

Need 2

Ability to carry out Business Process Re-engineering to help client gain sustainable competitive advantage.

Need 3

Ability to carry out business process improvement for client

Need 4

Ability to carry out profit enhancement program and working capital management to client

Management and Understanding of multicultural working environment

Need 1

Ability to understand the complexity of nature multicultural workforce.

Need 2

Ability to implement and adopt an enhancement system, processes or policies considering a variety of national context.

Need 3

Ability to provide proficiency in conflict negotiation and strategy.

Need 4

Ability to develop internal or external relationship with clients or colleagues in the multicultural working environment

Table 6.0: Key competencies and needs of client for consultants

SBA is developing a brand in strategy and human resource consulting at Small-Enterprise Medium Company and others. Additional, SBA is building a brand based on key drivers of operations management and multicultural understanding acumen in broad number of subject areas. All members in SBA were consulted on key strengths of the company and the ability to deliver combined with relevant work experience were the main objectives. At the same time, Czerniawska's comments that clients are not only focus on the theory, but rather actual action and evidence of experience in target achievement. The branding must be monitor regularly to keep the established branding priorities and coordinate the most suitable direction in the market.

In Appendix Table 7.0, it recommended that SBA consultants should communication of the brand to potential clients where 'word of mouth', joint membership with consulting association, and network alliance with government department such as HRDF (Human Resource Development Fund). Addition, SBA should take the initial focus on business strategies where alliances with international firm and develop internal workforces to enhance the existing product and services support with new brand strategy in order to gain competitive advantage in the

market. Finally SBA should develop a website containing services information, company capability, and business approach will enable potential client access to relevant information.

Section 3: Managing the consulting process (Business Plan)

Strategic Business Advisory Ptd. Ltd. formed as a consulting firm specialising in business strategy and human resource services. The founder of the firm is a professional business engineer with three years of progressive and responsible experience. The founder, Marcus Leong, provided an initial investment towards start-up costs and together with two business partners. The firm will specialise in transforming ideas from a spreadsheet or whiteboard into a workable, profitable and viable business to clients. Provide business diagnosis review and develop business blueprints will be an integral part of the business plan. Implementation of a define processes and identify resources will provide a focus for production work.

Section 3.1 Company Objectives

In 2010, the company objectives of SBA are modest revenues the first year, with slow steady growth over the next two years (2012). Besides, SBA aims to achieve 20% of marker value at the end of the third year (2013) of operation. Lastly, SBA expected to increase gross margin significantly by the second year of operations (2013).

Section 3.2 Company Mission

SBA's mission is to provide clients across the ASEAN country such as Korea, China, Taiwan, Singapore with structure of identified a variety of mistakes that keep the business owner from getting what he/she deserve for businesses and helping clients achieve maximum value from the sales of companies from diagnosis review and planning through to completion, with a highly skilled professionals team working together, using common sense and practical experience (Appendix Table 9.0).

Section 3.3 Keys to Success

In order for SBA to achieve the company objectives and mission, SBA requires to provide professional quality services on time and on budget and implement and monitor for improvement to clients' organisation. Thus, SBA requires develop a follow-up strategy to gauge performance with all clients in order to maintain the relationship between clients and SBA.

Section 3.4 External Analysis for SBA

A PESTEL analysis can be particularly useful for organisational who have become too inward-looking. Organisation may be in danger of forgetting the power and effect of external pressure for change because organisations are focused on internal pressures (Rogers, 1999). Thus, SBA scanned of the external macro-environment by PEST to express a few factors, likes Political, Economic, Social, and Technological. In Appendix, Table 10.0 identified the PEST analysis fits into an overall SBA's environmental.

Political factors identified government regulations and legal issues and define both formal and informal rules that SBA must operate. The regulation includes political stability of Malaysia, environmental regulations and employment laws. Economic factors affect the purchasing power of potential clients and SBA's cost of capital. Economic growth, country inflation rate and industry trends are consideration into SBA's macro-economy factors. Social factors include the demographic and cultural aspects of the external macro-environment. These factors affect SBA's clients' needs and the size of potential markets. Technological factors cal lower barriers to entry, and reduce minimum efficient production levels, as well as influence outsourcing decision.

Section 3.5 Internal Analysis for SBA

SWOT analysis is a powerful strategic planning method used to evaluate the organisation internal strengths and weaknesses and external environment opportunities and threats (Thompson & Strickland, 2003). In Appendix Table 11.0 shows internal analysis of SBA. SBA's strengths

are its resources and capabilities that can be used as a basis for developing a competitive advantage and help to achieve company objectives. Examples of such strengths for SBA include expertise of consultant teams with professional of consultancy skills. The absence of certain strengths may be viewed as a weakness. For example, SBA is unable to deal with multi-disciplinary assignments because of size of company and lack of team members. The external environmental analysis of SBA has well defined market niche and it's create new opportunities for profit and growth. Changes in the external environmental may also present threats to SBA, such as competitors like large consultancies are operating at a minor level with sufficient ability and other small consultancies looking to invade the marketplace.

Section 3.6 Corporate Strategic for SBA

SBA has taken Porter's Generic Strategic to analysis the future strategy direction. SBA positions itself by leveraging its strengths in broad market segment with differentiation strategy (Refer Appendix Table 12.0). A differentiation strategy calls for the development of a product or service that offers unique attributes that are value by customers and customers perceive to be better than or different from the products or services of the competition (Porter, 1998). The value added by the uniqueness of the consultancy service may allow SBA to charge a premium prices and SBA hopes that the higher price will more than cover the additional costs incurred in offer these unique consultancy services. To be success in a differentiation strategy, SBA has internal strengths such as highly skilled and strong consultant team with the ability to successfully communicate the perceived strengths of the consultancy service.

Section 4: Cross-cultural consultation, conclusion and personal learning

Organisational culture is the basic assumptions and beliefs that are shared by members of an organisation that operate unconsciously and define in a basic taken-for-granted fashion an organisation's view of its environment (Johnson, et. al., 2008, p.189). At current societies, global and international consulting is becoming more practice such as Deloittle, KPMG, Ernst & Young and RSM International. Although most of the consultancy would like to become an international consulting but there are still cultural differences that are barriers to cooperation with national firms (Greiner & Poulfelt, 2005; Czerniawska, 1999). The basis for a global consulting or international strategy management and human resource consulting is throughout the analysis of cross-cultural management. The main objective of cross-cultural management is to integrate diverse cultural values between Parent-country national and Host-country national without destroying the origin of uniqueness for both countries (Daniels et. al., 2000).

SBA works worldwide with a network of around six consultants (multi-domestic strategy) and three freelancers (international strategies) who serve in China, Korea, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. SBA has a potential client with the neighbour countries which is Thailand and Singapore, where Thailand have different nations with own history, religion, tradition and language. To cope with the different national cultures, SBA uses the project-based structure to suits the national culture of the client and can satisfy the requirement needs of the client. A project-based structure is one where freelancer teams are created, and undertake the work by external contracts basis (Johnson, et. al., 2008, p.443). SBA will show differences to the Thai people and try to find out the differences to the Thai people and try to find out if Thai peoples are more collectivists or individualists.

Trivadis (2002) analyses the differences of national cultures. "Individualism" can appear in cultures that are both complex and loose and "collectivism" tends to emerge in tight and simple societies (Erwee, 2006, p.6.6). The author can be said that both countries (Singapore and Thailand) are more complex than simple but it seems that Singapore is simpler than Thailand especially regarding the language(s). There are less than half of Thai people communicate with

English and primarily only Thai in Thailand. Most of the Thai people who can communicate with English are who doing business with others country and tourism. And Singapore is primarily of English education background.

The culture is a result of history and traditions of a country. If compare Singapore with Thailand, it is clear that both countries have a great history. Thailand has never experienced foreign colonization and the British gained a colonial foothold in the region in 1824, but by 1896 and Anglo-French accord guaranteed the independence of Thailand ( At the outbreak of World War II, Japanese forces attacked Thailand, but after five hours of token resistance Thailand yielded to Japan. The diversity of Thailand is greater than form Singapore so it can be assumed that Malaysia is more collectivists and Thailand is more individualists.

Appendix Table 13.0, the societal culture such as personal value, beliefs, and personal ethics will influence the organisational behaviour and the global competences of the company to fulfil with different clients. The objective for SBA is to communicate with all clients with comfortable manners and to be accepted by clients because of the quality of work and professional skills and knowledge.

In "Vertical" cultures of relationship is accepted as a given and in "Horizontal" cultures of relationship consider as equality accepted as a given (Erwee, 2006, p. 6.5) For both Singapore and Thailand are democratic and all people has the same rights but there are still demographic differences in business and private life. Both Thai and Singapore's male people are preferred in businesses life and Thai women are stay home to take care of family. And Thai people are concern more on religious and personal beliefs compare to Singaporean. Besides, the income of Thai worker and Singapore workers are different, because of the economic steabality of Singapore is higher than Thailand. It can be summarised that both countries are different vertical and horizontal of relationship.

To summarise the report informs about the turbulences in the consulting industry and the cause of affects the consultancy career of the author as an external consultant. The consulting global

competencies and the branding from the author were compare with relevance of the intellectual capital, knowledge and skills of SBA and define the target clients' needs. Additional, the report include the key competencies should be developed and maintain the employability of the author as an external consultant. Lastly, the report pointed out the issues in the consulting process and cross-cultural management especially between Thailand and Singapore were analysed.

The report provided a good analysis on few areas relevant to building an effective consultancy service and deliver a successful consultancy service to clients. This report provides a consistently reviews of the author consultancy competencies and this will assist the author to have clear of career direction. Besides, the report provided a good analysis in identified consulting gaps that need to be trained to become a better skilled and professional consultant. In summarise, this report gave the author a great insignts in consulting industry and motivated the author to continue and develop a successful career in consulting market.

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