Despite consistently high and growing revenues, management consultancy also consistently attracts a significant amount of criticism, both from clients, and also from management scholars.
“Management consultants are often criticized for overuse of buzzwords, reliance on and propagation of management fads, and a failure to develop plans that are executable by the client.”
A number of critical books about management consulting argue that the mismatch between management consulting advice and the ability of business executives to actually create the change suggested results in substantial damages to existing businesses.
Disreputable consulting firms are often accused of delivering empty promises, despite high fees. They are often charged with “stating the obvious” and lacking the experience on which to base their advice. These consultants bring few innovations, and instead offer generic and “pre-packaged” strategies and plans that are irrelevant to the client’s particular issue. They may fail to prioritize their responsibilities, placing their own firm’s interests before the clients’.
Another concern is the promise of consulting firms to deliver on the sustainability of results. At the end of an engagement between the client and consulting firm, there is often an expectation that the consultants audit the project results going forward for a set period of time to ensure their efforts are sustainable. Although sustainability is promoted by some consulting firms, it is difficult to implement because of the disconnection between the client and consulting firm after the project closes.
Further criticisms include: disassembly of the business (by firing employees) in a drive to cut costs, only providing analysis reports, junior consultants charging senior rates, reselling similar reports to multiple clients as “custom work”, lack of innovation, over-billing for days not worked, speed at the cost of quality, unresponsive large firms & lack of (small) client focus, and lack of clarity of deliverables in contracts.