Top questions to ask management consultants

questions to ask management consultants

I was sitting here thinking about what questions used to stump me when I was a consultant. I don’t mean to stump me in a missing way, but which ones really let me know the potential client was sharp? I’d like to share some of those with you here. When it comes to engaging the services of a management consultant, asking the right questions is crucial to ensure a successful outcome for your business. This post will cover the TOP questions to ask management consultants before you make the hire. Just like a new dating relationship, ask the right questions upfront!

You want to make a selection that provides you with a person with expertise and experience so they can help propel your organization toward growth and improved performance, right?

What are management consultants?

Management consulting is a professional service provided by experts known as management consultants or consulting firms.

These consultants are typically hired by organizations to analyze and solve complex business challenges, improve overall performance, and enhance efficiency. The goal of management consulting is to help clients make informed decisions, implement changes, and achieve specific business objectives.

Management consultants bring external perspectives, industry knowledge, and specialized skills to address various issues faced by businesses.

They work closely with the leadership team to identify problems, develop strategies, and implement solutions. The scope of management consulting can be broad, covering areas such as organizational structure, business processes, technology implementation, human resources, and strategic planning.

Key aspects of management consulting include problem identification and analysis, where consultants understand the client’s challenges and conduct a thorough analysis of the existing situation.

They then develop tailored recommendations based on their analysis to address the identified issues, often involving changes to processes, organizational structure, technology adoption, or other aspects of business operations.

Consultants not only provide recommendations but also assist clients in implementing the proposed solutions, working with internal teams, facilitating change management, and ensuring successful execution.

Many management consultants specialize in specific industries or functional areas, bringing deep knowledge and expertise to particular business challenges.

They often work on projects with defined timelines and deliverables, using project management skills to ensure that the consulting engagement stays on track and achieves its objectives.

Moreover, management consulting is focused on driving continuous improvement, with consultants revisiting strategies and recommendations over time to ensure they remain relevant and effective.

Common types of management consulting services include strategic consulting, operational consulting, technology consulting, financial consulting, and human resources consulting. Organizations hire management consultants for various reasons, such as overcoming growth challenges, optimizing business processes, navigating changes in the industry, or responding to competitive pressures.

In summary, management consulting is a professional service that leverages external expertise to help organizations address complex business issues, improve performance, and achieve strategic goals.

Questions to ask management consultants

To make the most of your engagement with a management consultant, here are three key questions to ask:

The first of the questions to ask management consultants is:

What is your approach to problem-solving? 

Listen for the type of approach they will use.

Understanding how a management consultant identifies and analyzes challenges within organizations is vital. Ask them about their problem-solving methodology, whether they rely on data-driven analysis, employ strategic frameworks, or utilize innovative techniques. This will give you insight into their problem-solving abilities and compatibility with your organization’s needs.

Consultants employ a variety of problem-solving approaches to address their clients’ challenges effectively.

I would recommend using open-ended questions to ask management consultants. An example is: “In three words, share how you would solve our problem.”

Then listen for these cutes based on popular approaches:

The first and most common is the “diagnostic” approach.

In this method, consultants thoroughly analyze the problem by gathering data, conducting assessments, and identifying the root causes (remember my previous post about the analytical thinking management consultant?)

This data-driven approach allows consultants to make informed recommendations and develop tailored solutions.

For instance, a management consultant may use diagnostic tools like SWOT analysis or value chain analysis to pinpoint areas of improvement within a company. This approach ensures that the proposed solutions address the underlying issues directly, leading to more sustainable and impactful results.

Top questions to ask management consultants about the diagnostic approach:

  • Can you describe what a diagnostic approach to problem-solving entails? What are its key principles and steps?
  • How do you typically gather data and information when using a diagnostic approach to understand a complex problem?
  • Could you provide an example of a situation where you successfully identified the root causes of a problem through diagnostic analysis? What methods or tools did you use?
  • What techniques do you employ to differentiate between symptoms and root causes when faced with a complex issue?
  • How do you ensure that the data you collect during the diagnostic phase is accurate and relevant to the problem at hand?
  • Can you explain the importance of asking “why” multiple times (the “5 Whys” technique) when conducting a diagnostic analysis? Could you give an example of when you’ve used this approach?
  • How do you prioritize the identified root causes once you’ve discovered them? What criteria do you use to determine which causes to address first?
  • After completing a diagnostic analysis, what strategies do you employ to communicate your findings and recommendations to stakeholders or clients?
  • Have you ever encountered a situation where the initial diagnosis was incorrect? How did you handle it, and what steps did you take to rectify the situation?

Ask these questions to ask management consultants in person and then select one to ask on the phone. The best answers are those that are impromptu.

Another prevalent approach in problem-solving is the “collaborative” approach.

Management consultants recognize that clients possess valuable insights into their organizations and challenges.

Therefore, they engage in collaborative problem-solving sessions with clients and their teams to co-create solutions. I love this sort of collaborative approach. One of the great questions to ask management consultants it’s how they go about doing this. What are there specific tactics?

This approach fosters buy-in and ownership among the client’s staff, enhancing the likelihood of successful implementation.

Management consultants should be skilled problem solvers who employ various analytical tools to thoroughly understand and address organizational challenges.

They conduct comprehensive analyses to identify root causes and contributing factors before proposing solutions.

Once consultants have a solid grasp of the problem, they proceed to develop and recommend customized solutions.

They draw upon their experience, knowledge, and best practices to devise strategies to address those root causes they identified during the analysis phase. 

These solutions and a detailed implementation plan are often presented to the client.

Consultants work closely with the client’s leadership and teams to ensure the proposed solutions align with the organization’s goals and culture. It should all be intermingled.

This will ensure the solutions are implementable and don’t “bump” up against the organizational culture. Frankly, it wouldn’t be a waste of time to ask them what they know about your organizational culture. This is another one of the fantastic questions to ask management consultants. Hopefully, they did their homework.:-)

Effective communication and change management strategies are often key components of their problem-solving approach, as they aim to secure buy-in from key stakeholders and facilitate the successful execution of the solutions. The worst thing a consultant can do is act “outside” the client.

Bad idea.

In this way, management consultants diagnose problems and provide actionable solutions and support throughout the implementation process, ultimately driving positive organizational change.

For instance, a management consultant working on a software implementation project may involve end-users in the design and testing phases to ensure the system aligns with their needs and preferences. Collaboration also enables consultants to tap into the organization’s collective expertise, yielding innovative solutions.

Questions to ask a management consultant about their problem-solving capabilities could include:

  1. Can you describe your preferred problem-solving approach or methodology? How do you typically approach complex problems?
  2. What is an example of a particularly challenging problem you’ve solved in the past? Could you walk me through your problem-solving process for that specific case?
  3. How do you gather and analyze relevant information when faced with a new problem or challenge? Are there specific tools or techniques you rely on?
  4. Can you provide an example of a situation where you successfully implemented a solution based on your problem-solving approach? What were the outcomes?
  5. How do you ensure your problem-solving approach is adaptable to different problems and industries?
  6. What role does creativity play in your problem-solving process? Can you share an example of a situation where creative thinking was instrumental in finding a solution?
  7. When encountering resistance or obstacles during problem-solving, how do you handle them, and what strategies do you use to overcome such challenges?
  8. Have you ever had to lead a team through a complex problem-solving process? What leadership and collaboration skills did you employ?
  9. How do you measure the effectiveness of your problem-solving approach? Are there specific metrics or KPIs you use to evaluate success?
  10. Can you describe a situation where you learned from a problem-solving failure or setback? How did you adjust your approach based on that experience?
  11. In your opinion, what are the key qualities or attributes a good problem-solver should have?

Lastly, the “iterative” approach is often employed by consultants, especially in complex and evolving problem domains.

Consultants recognize that problem-solving isn’t always linear and that solutions may require constant adaptation. Through this approach, consultants continuously gather feedback, test solutions, and refine their strategies based on evolving circumstances. For instance, a marketing consultant may run A/B tests to optimize advertising campaigns, making real-time adjustments to improve performance. The iterative approach ensures that consultants remain flexible and adaptable, crucial qualities when tackling dynamic challenges.

As you can see, there are questions to ask management consultants a great deal. I think the iterate of approach requires more questions because it is a more unique approach to problem-solving.

Consultants can adopt an iterative approach to problem-solving to ensure that their recommendations and strategies remain effective in dynamic and evolving environments. The first step in this approach is to establish a baseline by thoroughly understanding the organization’s current state or issue. Consultants gather data, conduct assessments, and engage with stakeholders to identify initial pain points and opportunities for improvement. Once this baseline is established, consultants develop and implement initial solutions.

For instance, if a consultant is working with a manufacturing company to optimize production processes, they may introduce specific changes to streamline operations.

The iterative nature of this approach comes into play after the initial solutions are implemented.

Consultants continuously monitor the impact of their recommendations, using key performance indicators (KPIs) and other metrics to assess progress.

KPIs vary depending on the organization and the project. But some sample KPIs you could ask about are:

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) play a crucial role in helping consultants measure and track progress toward achieving their clients’ goals and objectives. The specific KPIs used can vary depending on the nature of the consulting project and the goals established with the client. Here are some sample KPIs that consultants commonly use across different industries:

Some of these KPS are tricky to present for the plethora of scenarios management consultants can work with. But, here’s my best try:

  1. Customer Satisfaction (CSAT): Measuring customer satisfaction through surveys or feedback data helps consultants gauge the effectiveness of customer service and product quality improvements.
  2. Cost Reduction: Consultants may track cost-saving initiatives and monitor KPIs related to reducing operational expenses, such as cost per unit produced, overhead costs, or inventory turnover.
  3. Market Share: For clients aiming to gain a larger market share, consultants can track market share percentages in comparison to competitors.
  4. Employee Engagement: KPIs related to employee satisfaction, turnover rates, and productivity can be crucial for HR or organizational development consultants. This KPI is one I’ve worked with clients to realize.
  5. Return on Investment (ROI): Consultants often use ROI to measure the profitability of specific projects or investments, helping clients assess the value of their initiatives.a
  6. Lead Conversion Rate: For clients focused on sales and marketing, lead conversion rate KPIs help determine the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and sales efforts.
  7. Project Timelines and Milestones: Tracking project-specific KPIs like project completion time, adherence to deadlines, and achievement of key project milestones helps ensure successful project management.
  8. Quality Metrics: KPIs related to product or service quality, such as defect rates, error rates, or customer complaints, are essential for quality improvement initiatives. This is more for a software development or IT training consultant angle.
  9. Website Traffic and Conversion Rate: Consultants specializing in digital marketing or e-commerce often use KPIs like website traffic, bounce rate, and conversion rate to optimize online strategies.
  10. Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): For businesses aiming to build long-term customer relationships, tracking CLV helps assess the overall value of a customer over their lifetime.
  11. Net Promoter Score (NPS): NPS is a common KPI for measuring customer loyalty and gauging the likelihood of customers recommending a company’s products or services.
  12. Compliance and Regulatory Metrics: In regulated industries, consultants may track KPIs related to compliance with industry standards and regulations.

Consultants select and customize KPIs based on their client’s specific objectives and industry requirements. These KPIs provide a clear and quantifiable way to assess progress and make data-driven decisions throughout the consulting engagement.

They gather feedback from employees, customers, and other stakeholders to identify any unexpected challenges or opportunities that may have arisen. Based on this feedback and ongoing data analysis, consultants adapt and refine their strategies. This iterative cycle of monitoring, feedback, and adjustment ensures that the solutions remain aligned with the organization’s evolving needs and goals. It allows consultants to stay agile and responsive, making necessary changes as the situation unfolds, ultimately leading to more effective and sustainable outcomes.

Here are some questions to ask management consultants about this approach:

  1. Can you explain the iterative problem-solving approach and why it’s valuable in various contexts?
  2. Share a specific example of a project or situation where you applied the iterative approach. What was the initial problem, and how did you iterate on your solutions to achieve a successful outcome?
  3. What methods or tools do you use to collect and analyze feedback during the iterative process? How do you ensure that feedback is meaningful and actionable?
  4. Describe a situation where you encountered unexpected challenges or obstacles while implementing an iterative solution. How did you adapt your approach to overcome these hurdles?
  5. How do you determine when it’s appropriate to make adjustments to your strategies versus when it’s best to stay the course with the existing plan?
  6. In your experience, what are the key success factors for effectively managing and tracking progress within an iterative problem-solving framework?
  7. Can you provide an example of a project where you worked collaboratively with a team to implement iterative solutions? How did the team dynamics contribute to the iterative process?
  8. How do you balance maintaining project timelines and allowing room for iteration and improvement during ongoing work?
  9. Have you ever had to communicate changes or adjustments to stakeholders or clients during an iterative project? How did you manage their expectations and maintain their trust?
  10. What do you consider the most significant benefits and challenges of using the iterative approach, and how do you mitigate those challenges?
  11. Have you received formal training or certifications related to iterative problem-solving methodologies, such as Agile or Scrum?

These questions to ask management consultants will help you gauge the individual’s experience and proficiency in using the iterative approach to problem-solving and their ability to adapt and drive continuous improvement in projects and processes.

Each of these are good approaches.

The key is determining if the management consultant knows when and how to utilize the right one for a specific scenario.

questions to ask management consultants

Questions to ask management
consultants – Question # 2

2. Can you provide examples of similar projects you have successfully executed? 

Requesting specific case studies or success stories in related industries or areas will give you a sense of the consultant’s track record. Understanding their previous accomplishments can help you assess their expertise and determine if they have the necessary skills to address your specific business challenges.

Ask for past clients are references. Then, CALL or email them. Ensuring the management consultant can deliver on the promise is critical for your project.

Checking references for a consultant is a critical step in the hiring process.

It offers valuable insights into their track record, work ethic, and ability to deliver results.

When contacting references, ask specific questions about their experiences with the consultant, including their work quality, communication skills, ability to meet deadlines, and overall impact on the organization.

By speaking with past clients or colleagues, you can understand what to expect when working with the consultant and make a more informed decision about whether they are the right fit for your project or organization. This due diligence helps mitigate potential risks and increases the likelihood of a successful and productive consulting engagement.

When getting a reference for a new consultant, consider asking the following three questions:

  1. Can you describe the consultant’s specific contributions to your project or organization? This question helps you understand the consultant’s role and their impact on their previous engagements, providing insights into their skills and expertise.
  2. How would you rate the consultant’s communication and collaboration skills? OOOOH! This is a biggie. I’ve learned through the years so many challenges could be remedied had communication been clear. Effective communication and teamwork are essential for successful consulting projects. This question helps assess whether the consultant is a strong collaborator and can work well with your team.
  3. Did the consultant consistently meet project deadlines and deliver quality work? Boom! Another important characteristic. Meeting deadlines and maintaining work quality are crucial for project success. Asking about this aspect helps you gauge the consultant’s reliability and commitment to delivering results.

Next, ask the consultant directly about their communication skills!

The last of the questions to ask management consultants: How do you make sure it happens?

3. How do you ensure effective communication and collaboration throughout the engagement? Effective communication is vital for a successful consulting relationship. Inquire about their communication strategies, whether they provide regular progress updates, and how they engage with key stakeholders in your organization. This will help you gauge their commitment to transparency, collaboration, and building strong working relationships.

Remember, tailoring these questions to your unique needs and circumstances is essential. By asking relevant and insightful questions, you can ensure that you are selecting the right management consultant to get results and meet your needs.

I found some more great questions from