Staffing the engagement

Great engagements require staffing consultants from any background. Your graduating school plays a minor role in determining if you will be an outstanding strategy consultant.

Strategy Study W0 2

Helping the clients’ career

One of the most important roles a partner has is to not just help the client be successful, but to help the executives be successful at a personal level. Guillermo has very good qualities and I can see him making a very big impact at the bank.

We had a fairly long discussion this morning, yes – on a Sunday, and we discussed his career.

I will put together a plan to guide him through the process and make sure he is never surprised about the findings. He should be able to seamlessly take over once we depart. Moreover, I will equip him to be a better executive at the bank.

It’s vital to remember that any successful engagement boils down to some executive being successful. Since at least one executive must be in charge of the initiative the consulting team is running.

On the flip side, a failed consulting engagement means at least one executive’s career will stall or end. Our goal is ensuring the executives whose careers are intertwined with the engagement succeed in their careers. If they know this is our strategy upfront, they are far more likely to help us. It should be done in an indirect way.

In other words, one of my goals is to figure how to make the banking study both a success for the bank and for Guillermo.

I suspect my relationship still has to develop with the CEO before I can find ways to help him in his personal career. There is still time for that.

It gives me great pleasure to introduce the fine team of interns selected for this study. I used a thorough process to select them based on the needs of the engagement.

Staffing the Engagement Manager

Nimisha B. MBA student from a top-20 program in the USA. Background in consumer packaged goods and insurance before going on to enroll for her graduate studies. She holds an undergraduate degree in statistics and accounting. Nimisha is the youngest member of the team and fluent in English & Hindi.

(1) Nimisha demonstrated exceptional poise and communication skills during her case interviews. She was also very skilled at solving cases without using frameworks, wherein she relied on natural logic.

(2) Nimisha finished her undergraduate degree with a 4.0 equivalent GPA from an emerging markets school. She will however probably not finish in the top 10% in her MBA class. Though there is still a year for her to turn that around and I am confident she will if she tries.

(2) Nimisha’s hidden talent is singing Bollywood songs.

Associate for the Business Case

Peter Z. MBA student from a top-3 program in the USA. He has a background in investment banking and private equity. Peter is the oldest member of the team and wants to return to investment banking or consulting. Peter is fluent in English, Spanish and German.

(1) Peter graduated with 3.8 GPA from an Ivy school and has a pretty impressive background in sports. He also had a natural skill in cases but was exceptional in communication. Peter will likely graduate with the highest distinction for his MBA.

(2) Peter’s hidden talent is…I am still to find out.

Associate for the Market Analysis

Albert G. MBA student from a top-3 program in the USA. Albert worked in financial services equity trading before taking time off to support various social causes in Latin America. He founded a non-profit and a start-up before enrolling for an MBA. Albert is fluent in English, Spanish and Creole.

(1) Albert graduated with a 4.0 GPA from an Ivy school where he captained the Rugby team and was also a tutor in the bridging program where he was voted “Teacher of the Year” 3 times in succession.

(1) Albert’s hidden talent is teaching American’s Rugby over just one beer.

When is a star a manager?

Linked to this, I have noticed that everyone who views the profiles of the team members automatically asks an indirect question about why Nimisha was selected. They question the staffing of the engagement manager.

Guillermo asked the questions pretty directly since he saw more of a finance background in the two associates on the study.

Clients should never dictate staffing decisions. They may influence a staffing choice, but should not control the staffing since they do not always know what is best.

I suspect her non-Ivy background bothers others far more than it registers with her. I am not even sure she is aware of it – as it should be.

I had to remind him that we are relying less on past knowledge and more on the problem-solving process and that Nimisha had a CPG background, which would be useful.

Even so, we received a few emails from readers about why Nimisha was selected as the best person on the team and as the engagement manager.

Readers, and mostly tier-2 consultants, just assume that being the engagement manager means you are the best person on the study.

That is a significant misunderstanding.

If I had known each person on the team for 2 years and worked with him or her over that time, then yes, that assumption is correct.

However, when I have an “internship” view of the candidates then that assumption is no longer true. I have only known then over about 2 weeks before they arrived.

I would never make the most gifted team member the engagement manager.

That is Albert.

I do not want him to be bogged down by the daily burden of coordinating the team.

Albert needs to have the freedom to roam around the study, under my guidance, and develop insights on the value analyses.

Nimisha is confident and a good coordinator, and coupled with her intellect, she can manage the team.

Sir Alex Ferguson

That is a Sir Alex Ferguson lesson.

Your best playmaker should not be burdened with the captaincy.

They should have the freedom to roam around, knowing the captain will orchestrate the game around them.

If you are interested and can understand the Scottish accent, it is worth learning from him. Our MasterPlan program is heavily built around his thinking.

Many assumed Nimisha was the best due to being assigned engagement manager. She is the best engagement manager but I believe Albert will have the biggest impact.

When we split up for focus interviews, Nimisha will lead one group and I will be paired up with Albert to guide him. No point having the partner and engagement manager in the same group. If this happened who would make decisions in the other group?

Most of my lessons in business and leadership come from business, sports, and military stories…so I took the team to watch a game.

I could teach them plenty from that game, about strategy and tactics, but maybe not economics.

Consulting is a privilege. Not a right.

Over the course of the next 12 weeks – 2 weeks before the study and 10 weeks during the study – I will continuously stress a consistent message to the team.

You can do many things in life. Play the piano, football, go surfing, learn to code etc.

What you do does not matter. How you do it matters, and it matters intensely.

One person can make a difference. In fact, throughout history, it has only ever been one person at a time that has made a difference.

I want the team to understand this. This is a not an internship. That is just a title and a meaningless one at that.

We have the chance to change lives. If we do this right, people will look back and say a team from FIRMSconsulting led this and the study made a difference. It made America a better nation and changed the lives of countless people.

It found a way to help immigrant parents and low-income earners find a new path to the American Dream.

What could be a greater cause worth pursuing? I can think of nothing more important.

Consulting is an enormous privilege and in 10 weeks who knows how much change we can affect.

Too often consulting attracts the wrong kind of people due to the high salaries and prestige. I hope through following this series we inspire people to both pursue consulting and become better consultants for the right reasons.

To me, this is the most exciting work in the world. I would do it if no one paid me so it’s even better than we are paid. This is a skill that can change the world. We are surgeons to companies. We can solve complex problems. I am glad this is the skill I have mastered throughout my career.

I always ask my teams to summarize the final findings into a 2-page report. A simple step for a simple summary. Yet, we sign that report.

Artists must sign their work. You must have pride in what you do. You must want your name to be attached to the study.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: Do you think generating pride and excitement in a team’s work can radically change the quality of the output?

We answer this question, additional reader questions and discuss more issues raised in this article on the accompanying episode on the Strategy Skillspodcast channel on iTunes, Spotify, Acast and Google Android Podcasts. This is the world’s #1 ranked business strategy podcast channel.

If you have a question, please post it as a comment on iTunes and we will respond in a podcast.