Consulting frameworks are tools that help consultants better understand and solve client problems. They’re frameworks for thought, not just tools for action.
Consulting frameworks are a tool set of concepts, tools, techniques and processes for solving business problems. They’re also a way to organize your thinking about the future of your industry or company. Consultants use them to frame problems and solutions in new ways, helping clients make better decisions.
Consulting frameworks help you break down complex situations into manageable pieces, so you can solve problems more effectively. That’s why they’re so useful in business consulting — they can help you diagnose what’s wrong with an organization, then find a solution that works for everyone involved.
What Is a Consulting Framework?
Consulting frameworks are sets of questions, theories and concepts that help consultants to analyse a given business situation. They can be used to guide the entire process of consulting, from analysis to recommendations.
Consulting frameworks have been developed by some of the most successful management consulting firms in the world. They are usually based on extensive research into business practices, and often include tools for collecting data and analysing it. They are designed for use by both junior consultants who need to learn about a new industry or company, and senior consultants who want to compare different situations.
The benefits of using a consulting framework include:
- They standardise thinking so that everyone works from the same starting point when dealing with a client problem;
- They make it easier for consultants to find relevant information;
- They allow more focus on key issues because they simplify the process of collecting information;
- They give clients confidence that their problems will be analysed carefully.
Types of Consulting Frameworks
Consulting frameworks can be broken down into three main categories: management consulting frameworks, strategy consulting frameworks and operations consulting frameworks.
Management Consulting Frameworks focus on improving organizational performance, efficiency and effectiveness by implementing new processes.
Strategy Consulting Frameworks focus on helping organizations develop strategies to achieve specific goals such as increasing market share or profitability.
Operations consulting frameworks are used to improve operational efficiency through process improvement, automation and other technical means.
Frameworks can also be classified according to their ultimate purpose, rather than the functional area they lie in. There are many types of management consulting frameworks, each of which has its own unique purpose. The most common frameworks are:
Goal-based Framework: A goal-based framework helps companies identify their goals for the future and develop strategies for attaining them. It also helps companies prioritize their goals, so they can focus their efforts on those that provide the biggest payoff.
Process Improvement Framework: A process improvement framework helps companies improve their internal processes by analyzing how well they currently work and identifying ways to make them more efficient or effective by changing them slightly or completely overhauling them altogether.
Customer Journey Map: A customer journey map helps companies visualize how customers think about them at different points in their relationship with the company, including how they interact with your brand across multiple touch-points like social media, phone calls or website visits. This allows you to better understand how they view your brand, what they want from it and how best to meet those needs in order to retain customers
Popular Consulting Frameworks
There are a lot of frameworks for management consulting that you can use. As an aspiring consultant, it’s important to understand what these frameworks are and how they can help you in your career development.
Here are some of the most popular frameworks-
1. McKinsey 7S Framework: This framework is used to organize any business into seven categories — strategy, structure, systems, skills, style, staff and shared values. It helps consultants understand how the organization functions and how it can be improved.
The McKinsey 7S Framework is a model that can help you understand and drive organizational performance. It was developed in the 1950s by McKinsey consultants Marvin Bower and James Rowan. The basic idea is that an organization can be viewed as a collection of activities that produce value for customers. To create value, businesses need to focus on seven key areas: strategy, structure, systems, staff (talent), style (leadership), skills and shared knowledge.
This framework has been used by countless organizations to improve their performance. Many companies use it as part of their annual strategic planning process or as part of a larger change initiative.
2. BCG Matrix: This matrix divides a company’s products into high-growth/low margin (stars) or low-growth/high margin (diamonds). The products are then placed in one of four quadrants depending on their market share relative to their sales growth rate: stars in the upper right corner have high market share and high sales growth; diamonds in the bottom left have low market share but high profits; question marks in the upper left have low market share but low profits; and dogs in the lower right have high market share but low profits.
The BCG Growth-Share Matrix was developed by Bruce Henderson and Marvin Bower at the Boston Consulting Group in 1970. The matrix divides businesses into different categories based on their market share relative to competitors and growth potential over time.
3. SCOR Model: The SCOR model was developed by a consortium of top consulting firms (including McKinsey) to help organizations benchmark their performance against industry best practices. It’s a comprehensive set of guidelines that helps managers understand how their organizations compare to others and can be used in many different types of businesses.
4. PESTEL Analysis: PESTEL analysis is another popular framework commonly used by consultants when they’re performing an external analysis of an organization’s environment. PESTEL stands for political, economic, social, technological and environmental influences on an industry or company.
5. Porter’s Five Forces: Porter’s Five Forces is a model used by companies to identify “threats” and “opportunities” from their external environment. The five forces are generally considered as the following:
- Threat of new entrants
- Bargaining power of buyers
- Bargaining power of suppliers
- Threat of substitutes
- Competitive rivalry
Developed by Michael Porter, a Harvard Business School professor, the five forces framework has been used in business for decades. It helps companies assess competition from other firms in their industry and predict how their strategy will affect profitability.
How Management Consultants Use Frameworks
Management consultants don’t use frameworks directly. Rather, they use them for an initial understanding of the client’s situation. Here is how consultants can leverage frameworks without directly using them. Management consultant frameworks are used as part of their diagnostic process because they provide a common language that allows you and the consultant to discuss your challenges in a meaningful way. For example, if you have identified that morale is low in your company, then it helps if there is a framework available that will help you diagnose why morale is low (e.g., lack of clear goals) so that both parties can start discussing possible
When management consultants advise clients on strategy, they do not come with a ready-made solution in hand. Instead, they use a number of frameworks to better understand the problem and provide recommendations that are tailored to each client’s unique situation.
This process is called “framing” and involves a number of steps:
- Identifying important issues
- Assessing the current situation
- Identifying and analyzing alternative solutions
- Evaluating the pros and cons of each alternative solution
- Selecting one or more alternatives as feasible solutions
Resources To Know More
If you want to know more about consulting, here are some books that will give you a deep(er) dive. Mind you, not all these are only about consulting frameworks, but the practice of consulting in general.
1. The McKinsey Way: How the World’s Most Powerful Consulting Firm Innovates, Operates, and Trains
McKinsey is one of the most influential firms in the world, and its methodology has been adopted by many other consulting firms. The book describes how McKinsey’s approach to problem solving differs from other firms, as well as how it manages consultants. It also covers the firm’s training process.
2. Consultants at Work: How Management Consulting Touches Everyone’s Life
This book profiles four consultants from different backgrounds and industries—a banker, a management consultant, an investment banker, and a scientist/entrepreneur—and explores what they do on a day-to-day basis and how they deal with client relationships and management issues within their organizations. It also gives an overview of how consulting firms work with clients and how they are structured internally.
3. The Consultant’s Calling: Bringing Who You Are to What You Do
This book focuses on helping consultants develop their personal brand as well as their consulting skills through case studies that show you how to apply your own unique strengths to client situations where those strengths are needed most.