Types of consulting (management consulting vs. strategy consulting)

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New answer on Apr 30, 2020
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Anonymous A asked on Apr 10, 2020

I may be bringing up a controversial question, so let me try to be brief to the point.

When a management consultant tells me, "Your background is more focused on operation and implementation (I have been working at a boutique strategy firm, so everyone at my firm regards all of our work to be "strategy" ). What is the underlying assumption of the management consultant here?

Could some experienced management consultants tell me how you define operation, implementation, and strategy work with a specific example?


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Anonymous replied on Apr 12, 2020

To start with my answer, I want to clarify that currently almost all firm wanted to all projects in the spectrum of category. Strategy houses wanted to do operation / implementation work through different entities (e.g. McKinsey with McK implementation, Strategy& with PwC) or no separate entitite (e.g. BCG, Bain) while the Ops / implementation focus consulting also wanted to do Strategy work that can lead to implementation (e.g. PwC with Strategy&, Accenture Strategy, Deloitte with Monitor, EY with Parthenon). So having experience in any of the spectrum should not affect your candidacy to a firm as they need all skills. However, what can make a difference is the perceived analytical powers demonstrated through your past work.

As an illustration strategy work involve a short burst of sprint to create a strategy for a large company with multiple division / business units, martkets and stakeholder. So prioritization skill is very important to identify what matters, strong analytical and endurance is required to generate analysis that matters from an ocean of data, Creativity is a needed to come up with strategic initiatives that is out of the box and not a me too strategy, strong selling skill VERY important as you need to convince your clients that your strategy actually sensible.

In operation consulting analytical is important but in my experience doing operations work, different industry will have slightly different process to cater (e.g. bank and factory) but the solution more or less can be similar (e.g. throughput, turnaround time, de-bottlenecking)

Implementation is actually a very important skill these days and not many strategy consultant can do it as they don't have the patience or interpersonal skill to be successful. But this usually involve PMO of specific / all initiatives in the strategic plan, drive people to work on it (in a nice way) on top of their day-to-day work and help them solutioning any issues encountered. The work usually less fast paced (but not less pressure) than typical strategy work.

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Content Creator
replied on Apr 10, 2020
Consultant at BCG Nordics| PE and Due Diligence | BCG London, Boston & Dubai office experience

There is no clear definition of the three and it personal interpretation may differ. You can think of the three consulting types as follows:

Strategy consulting work refers to helping senior executives determine the overall direction in which they will take the business. It is about taking a top-down view of the business and looking at the allocation of scarce resources.

  • For example, whether it makes sense for the client to get into the business of producing ventilators (hottest product these days)

Operations consulting is a sub-segment of strategy consulting where the focus is on improving business processes through the use of metrics and benchmarks. At this stage, the client and consultants have not yet implemented the recommendations.

  • For example, let's say out client decided to manufacture ventilators, then how can they increase the throughput of the plant, reduce costs, increase productivity, reduce bottlenecks, etc.

Implementation consulting is different from operations and strategy consulting. The consulting skill sets are different, the hours are different, the type of work is different and so is the profile of consultants and fee structures. In an implementation engagement, the consulting team must take the recommendations from the strategy and operations engagement and help the client realize the targets.

  • In our example, this would involve Setting up the new division to manufacture ventilators, Transferring employees from other divisions and making adjustments to their employment contracts, Creating a new profit center, adjusting SAP, setting up PMO office etc.
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Content Creator
replied on Apr 11, 2020
150+ interviews | 6+ years experience | Bain, Kearney & Accenture | Exited startup| London Business School

Hi there,

It is an excellent question and these terms are somewhat used interchangeably. After all, a lot of projects possess a mix of these elements and consulting firms are widening their offering to tailor to all. Having said that, please see below my take.

Management & strategy consulting: These are high-level projects that impact the whole firm. These could be corporate strategy projects, M&A, PE or major organizational transformations. E.g. Do we want to acquire this car manufacturer?

Operations consulting: This can be slightly firm-specific, but tends to be oriented towards buying, manufacturing, logistics, supply chain, and analytics. Projects usually surround the topic on how to optimize. E.g. How do we integrate the manufacturing capabilities of the acquired manufacturer with our own?

Implementation consulting: Nowadays there is quite an overlap between management consulting and implementation consulting and what I mean with that is that management consulting projects often have an implementation phase that is conducted by the same team. Exceptions to this are long-term projects. Implementation projects are about the practicalities of making something work. E.g. Who do we transfer from manufacture 1 to 2? How does their salary package change? How should it be administered?

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Anonymous replied on Apr 12, 2020

Hi there,

Management consulting and strategy consulting are quite often used interchangably.

Operation & implementation, though, by nature of the work, would be quite different from strategy. What that consulant was asking/thinking is more about whether you have experience in strategy formaluation. It seems to me there could be a misunderstanding or misinterpretaion between what your work in the boutique firm entails and what he/she understands.



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Content Creator
replied on Apr 30, 2020
McKinsey | MBA professor for consulting interviews

Hi, they are synonyms. Operations, implementation, digital, marketing & sales etc. are only practices typical in consulting. Top firms are Mckinsey, BCG, Bain, Kearney, Oliver Whyman, Roland Berger, Strategy&


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