Many organizations turn to consultants for information. It might be gathering and analyzing information on an emerging market, getting the latest data on industry and competitive trends, or conducting a cost analysis.
But there’s often an underlying need that’s driving this desire for information. And it often points to the real issues and priorities that both the consultant and the organization should address.
For example, a company may want to conduct a detailed competitive analysis. It wants to know what products and services its competitors are selling, what markets they’re targeting, what strategies they execute to drive growth, and the measurable results they are achieving.
But there’s often something deeper that’s driving this request. For instance, the company’s executives may feel the business is lagging, underperforming, and losing market share to its competitors.
In this case, the most likely result is that the competitive analysis will confirm and reinforce what the company already knows: it’s not meeting growth targets or keeping up with industry rivals. Moreover, the analysis itself won’t address the real problems causing these issues, which may have very little to do with competitors and everything to do with internal problems.
This is why it often pays to do a bit of second-guessing when it comes to that first impulse or desire to gather information.
Rather than commission the competitive analysis, the company might be better served by working with a management consultant to ask some higher-level questions:
- What’s really driving this inquiry?
- Why do we want this information?
- What’s it going to tell us that we don’t already know?
- Are we just looking to confirm what we already know about our business and our competitors?
- Do we already have relevant information on-hand?
- What are we going to do with this information once we have it?
- Would it make more sense to bypass the analysis and focus on the underlying problems and priorities driving?
- Do we already know enough to shift our focus to solving these problems and implementing the needed changes?
Getting to the Real Problems and Solutions
Information gathering is crucial to making informed decisions, but sometimes it’s a symptom of other issues within an organization.Company executives might already have a good sense of what’s going on and where performance needs to improve, but they lack confidence and certainty about their conclusions or about what to do about them.
They might hope the competitive analysis will confirm their conclusions and give them the confidence to act. Or they may hope to figure out what to do by seeing the strategies their competitors are using and what they’re doing well.
In the end, a competitive analysis might be an unfortunate necessity if the organization can’t act otherwise. But if executives are indecisive and lack confidence in their own instincts or the company’s understanding of the market and its competition, that itself is a problem. And it could be a factor in the company’s underperformance and its failure to keep up with competitors.
This is why it's so important to ask the larger questions and find out why you're seeking information and the real purpose behind the undertaking. As an expert observer and strategist from outside your business, a management consultant is often well-positioned to ask those questions and identify issues that executives may be unable to see or realize.
Additionally, it can be dangerous to assume that what competitors are doing is the right path for your own business. Each company and its place in the market is unique, and it may need to develop and executive strategies to fit its own goals, business model, structure, customers, and circumstances.
Analyzing your competitors can tell you a lot about how they do things and what works for them, but doesn’t necessarily tell you what you need to be doing and what will work for your business.
That’s where a management consultant can often deliver the greatest value: by asking the larger questions, helping companies better understand themselves and what they’re trying to achieve, and identifying obstacles and issues that might be getting in the way.
The right management consultant will also provide strategic guidance and recommend the changes needed to solve difficult business problems and address the real issues that often drive a consulting engagement in the first place. Working together with top executives and management, they can help businesses make the right choices for their unique goals, needs and circumstances, informed by extensive insights and experience from working with an array of clients.
Ultimately, it comes down to following a proven structure and process for problem-solving as well as grappling with a company’s real underlying challenges and issues. In the end, this is often far more valuable than any information a consultant might gather and analyze. It’s how you turn information and insights into real action and meaningful change.
Are you looking for a management consultant to help your business improve performance and solve its biggest challenges? We can help.
Graphite is a network of over 5,000 of the world’s top independent consultants, with expertise in management consulting, corporate strategy, finance, sales and marketing, big data analytics, HR, IT and more.
Each of our highly qualified consultants is vetted through astringent screening process and must have a minimum of two years at a Big Three consulting firm or similar organization. Our experts average over 12 years of experience and thousands have MBAs, including over 1,000 with MBAs or advanced degrees from a top 10 U.S. business school or leading international program.
To learn more about our consultants or get started and begin your search, visit us at www.graphite.com.