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Time for consulting to find its voice again

Ten years ago I was approached by a serious transatlantic magazine to write a lengthy piece under the working title of, "Global Management Consulting — the fifth estate".

The title referenced an idea coined by the C18th thinker Edmund Burke — that in England the Press represented a fourth estate of the realm — and the brief was to paint consultants as new masters of the universe, the powers behind every throne.

What had encouraged this thesis was a heady cocktail of ambitious innovation — think Enron, PFI, the dotcom bubble — much of it indeed driven by consultants, and on the back of this enterprise, a short lived cult of the celebrity consultant; for a while it was hard to avoid the consulting thought leader on BBC's Today programme or the op-ed pages of Handelsblatt.

It is pretty clear that no one would accuse the current crop senior consultants of hogging the headlines or the limelight. When is that last time we saw Jeremy Paxman sneer at a nameable consultant?

At a time when there is a sovereign debt crisis around the world, when the Eurozone is in meltdown, when financial services face tumult, when organizations and individuals face revolution by social media...perhaps it is time for consultants to put their heads over the parapets again, and start shaping opinion in a world bereft of strategic leadership.

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