Magazine article Management Today

Solutions That Work

Magazine article Management Today

Solutions That Work

Article excerpt

Britain's world class excellence at management consultancy presents an odd contrast to its reputation in management. There's exactly the same annoying contrast between the high international standing of British designers and the lesser repute of British industrial design. Is some national characteristic at fault? A preference for clean paper rather than dirty hands, talking rather than doing, the theoretical rather than the technical?

Arguments from the general to the particular are hard to prove, and easily contradicted. Some consultancy work, involving both design and management, is as dirty-handed and technical as anything in industry. Pera International, for example, was founded as a research association four decades ago, and has been solving complex technological problems ever since.

Work on technology projects for consortia of companies - the typical research association mode - is justified by the excellence of hard results, and nothing else. So why has PI launched Peratec, a consultancy operating on a single-client basis, which advises on management rather than technology? The first answer is that this new kid on the block is also an experienced old hand. PI built its reputation and business by widening its services; those developed naturally and early into providing advice on the management matters which are now Peratec's domain.

In consequence, a healthy fee income existed to give Peratec an extremely solid base. The separation fits PI's new strategy of developing strong, independent affiliates round the central core. The new company has access to all the skills and resources of the parent. But it is independent in everything from staffing to marketing, with its own identity, challenges and opportunities.

That evidently makes sense for PI (and Peratec). If there's one lesson that all managers have been forced to learn in recent years, though, it's that external purpose outweighs internal convenience every time.

Demand for expert assistance is expanding across the whole range of management concerns. The driving idea behind Peratec is fully shared by its clients: they only want solutions that work, that fit their businesses, and that are not imposed, but worked out and through with management. In a phrase, they want results, not reports. This demanding approach to consultancy reflects other trends.

In face of pressures every business has become vastly more complex. Managers might prefer coping with complexity unaided: but that would demand expertise which can't be provided exclusively from within. More and more, companies are becoming |virtual' - concentrating on |core competencies' and forming close partnerships with outsiders who can meet other vital business needs.

That suits Peratec: because of its background, and the wide mix of skills within the consultancy, it is well-placed to work with internal teams and put together a comprehensive team to tackle projects from start to finish.

Core competencies, too, need to be identified and strengthened. In doing both, Peratec makes itself a partner in essential activities without which the clients can't exploit their core strengths. To that end, it draws on all essential skills - including training, marketing and design. A generalist consultancy today needs a full range of expertise. It covers the gamut from Total Quality Management (where Peratec has one of the largest practices in Europe), via applied materials technology and strategic marketing, to managing change itself.

Many managements have been disappointed by the results of their change programmes. …

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