Following increased pressure on Europe’s borders from the current refugee crisis, it has been reported that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reached an agreement to bring a top US management consultancy firm to help in the government’s response. So what value can consultancy firms bring to issues like the refugee crisis?... Alan Leaman, Chairman of the Management Consultancies Association (MCA), discussed the topic with Chris Mason as part of an interview for The World Tonight programme on BBC Radio 4.

How would a management consultancy go about assembling their expertise and the team required to go in and do this?

The consulting firm will have people available on the ground straight away. They will be doing a lot of diagnosis to start with to make sure they understand fully the nature of the issue. They will also look at what resources are already available within the client organisation that they can mobilise. From this they will complete an analysis that states what is really needed in order to get from A to B. It will be quite a creative process.

How much will it weigh upon the mind of the management consultants about addressing the source of the problem, in this instance an unstable Middle East? Or is that beyond the confines of a project that a consultant would be hired for?

Well management consultants can’t be governments. Governments are responsible for their own foreign and domestic polices and ensuring that those are as successful as possible. Management consultants cannot duplicate or substitute for that but they can give advice. I am sure in instances like this management consultancy firms are offering good guidance and point out where perhaps problems can be solved more successfully by tackling them earlier in the process.

What about the relationship with Germany and its European neighbours? Because that is clearly one of the central issues that is causing so much anxiety around Europe, there are so many disagreements around exactly what to do. In comes a management consultant hired by a particular government; is that then something they can look into?

One of the things the consultancy should bring to this is a real sensitivity on the views of not just the people in Germany but around Europe and their different governments. It is important that when you are involved in a enormously complex project like this, that you think about the huge numbers of actors and players who are effected by it. You must have good communications program in place and must understand the views and perspectives of different stakeholders, be it their government or others. The best management consultancies can be very alert to all those issues and bring them to the table when they do their analysis and recommendations.

Why would a wealthy European country, with an extensive civil service and well-trained military and intelligence agency, need a management consultancy?

It makes sense in today’s world for governments to draw on the best advice, skills, knowledge and experience that is available to them, but not to burden themselves to employ that continuously. A lot of that is available on tap via the management consulting industry for them to use and deploy. It just doesn’t make sense for the public and the taxpayer to have to employ that all the time when it might not be used all year round.

The full interview can be heard on the 22/09/2015 recording of the The World Tonight programme on BBC Radio 4:
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