Martin is a strategy consultant…

… But he’s not your everyday, brain-on-a-stick strategy consultant. No, he feels real empathy for the difficult situations in which clients find themselves, and is genuinely sad that they don’t have an expensive fountain pen like his. Which is why he’s finding his conversation with Carl so distressing.

Carl is a client. He’s got two decades of senior management experience under his belt, and he really couldn’t care two hoots about Martin’s fountain pen. No, he’s talking to Martin, because Martin and his team have been carrying out a refresh of Carl’s corporate strategy. Of course, they haven’t been doing that by themselves: As someone who’s used almost every major consulting firm under the sun, Carl is aware of the importance of working closely with the consulting firm. Martin calls this co-creation, but Carl simply wants to ensure that his staff pick up the skills and knowledge they need to help them do strategy work in the future. Carl is also not a fan of management speak.

“… so, this could be ground-breaking collaboration,” Martin is saying.

“Great.” Carl finds Martin faintly amusing and doesn’t want to hurt his feelings. He does, however, want to interrupt Martin’s smooth and apparently unending monologue by asking an important question. “But I’d also like to talk about how we measure the value you add.”

Martin pauses, fountain pen mid-air and looks momentarily puzzled. He carries on with what he was saying. Carl tries again: “If we look at the work we do around data and analytics, we can really see the difference the consulting team has made, and we’d like to see if we can apply the same approach where strategy is concerned.”

Martin has no choice. He puts his fountain pen down with a little more force than is perhaps strictly necessary and looks Carl in the eye. Carl looks back.

“That’s a very laudable aim,” begins Martin, “but you have to understand that strategy work is really very different. There are so many variables involved and, while we can help you in the planning stage, we’ve no control over what you do next.” Carl would like to argue with every part of this statement. From where he’s sitting, the strategy work they’re doing in-house is starting to look very much like analytics work, to a point where he’s not sure where one starts and the other ends. And the fact that Martin and his firm apparently don’t feel in any way accountable for the implementation of their suggestions is something Carl is getting increasingly frustrated by. “We’ve so many clients who tie themselves up in knots over this sort of thing. I mean, who’s responsible for what? I really don’t think there’d be any benefit to doing this…” Martin’s righteous indignation levels are rising fast. If Carl is going to intervene, it’s now or never.

“You could win more work.”

That gets Martin’s attention. There’s a faint tic around the side of his right eye which Carl has noticed in previous conversations around money. “I’m one of the 46% of senior executives in large US organisations* who say that the ability to deliver measurable results will be one of the top two factors we take into account when awarding contracts for strategy consulting work in the future.” Carl is, in fact, also one of the 27% of executives who’d be willing to pay more for strategy consulting work where there’s a demonstrable value add. He’s not going to tell Martin that, but he might mention it to Celia, the strategy consultant he’s speaking to later, and whose choice of pen is closer to his own.


*To know where these statistics come from, you’ll have to read our new report on strategy consulting. Seriously.