An individual’s effectiveness is down to more than winning extra business, according to a new report into consultancy performance reviews – and agencies can take learnings from this.

A feature in the FT’s report into the top management consultants in the UK, which seeks to understand how the discipline is changing, suggests that too much emphasis has been put on sales for the short-term rather than the quality of the advice.

But the problem goes both ways, according to Andrew Sturdy, management professor at Bristol University: “There are very few clients who welcome and reward a consultant who says what they don’t want to hear.” Sounds familiar.

Ad agencies aren’t the only ones struggling to challenge clients. Though notions of critical friendship or supportive challenge are common, many firms struggle to draw the line between becoming overly friendly with the client or too abrasive.

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This is effectively Bain’s mix of both longevity and profit-based rewards that uses three dimensions:

  • Client outcomes
  • People outcomes
  • Intellectual property and expertise.

On a rolling basis, staff are also asked to report whether they would advocate for particular colleagues, creating what is essentially an internal net promoter score.

KPMG, meanwhile, uses a framework installed just two years ago to drum out unconscious bias in its appraisal systems. As such, it now looks for a balance of core consulting and leadership, technical skills, and sector expertise. Since a series of reputational blows ranging from fines to client collapses, the firm has tried to shake up its partner rank, as it works through exactly what it means to instil good behaviour and values.

Effectively, though the impulse toward repeat business won’t stop being important, the means are now a much greater part of a consultant’s performance than the ends.

These ideas matter to agencies because consultancies have led the way in the business of selling strategy, way beyond many advertising agencies for whom strategy was a useful add on, but not a core offer.

Ultimately, the time-based or commission-based models are falling out of favour as a results-focused remuneration models grow in prominence for marketers

Sourced from the Financial Times