4 common challenges in the consulting industry


We asked Carl Lindeborg, program director of Managing Professional Services, to share and lay out four concrete survival tips for the consulting industry.

CarlLindeborghl1. Pay attention to what is happening in your own industry, in other industries, in the technology landscape, and in research.

– To be able to spot the big trends, you have to broaden your perspective and look beyond everyday operations. Look outside your own industry and get inspiration from the leaders and innovators in the field.

In practice, Carl explains that this means setting aside time and resources to identifying and analyzing trends.
– Make it a habit to use sources that you don’t normally use. This has to be an integral part of your everyday, and you have to be consistent with it. I say this because I know how challenging it is not to get fully absorbed by day-to-day operations. 

A good advice is to think of it as part of your business and create a living process for it.

– You won’t be consistent with it if you do it on an ad hoc basis. There needs to be a purpose behind it and, again, resources allocated to it. If it is thoughtfully implemented and seen as a central part of your business, you will have laid the necessary groundwork to be at the forefront of your industry.

2. Add this question to the agenda: “In what way do we need to be something today or tomorrow that we have never been before?”.

– I usually ask this exact question to the companies I work with, especially to the leadership teams. This question is so important in taking your business into the future. We cannot trust that any past growth we’ve achieved will get us there. Rather, we need to adapt to the current landscape.

This means continuing to be curious, perceptive, open, and receptive.

– Again, I am aware that all of this is so much easier said than done. We just don’t have all the answers, no matter how much we wish we did.


3. Establish evolving relationships: Find customers and customer contexts where you are challenged and forced to be innovative together with the customer. Ask yourself: “What customer can help us grow in the direction we need to?”

Once again, the key is to be systematic. Forget strategy and work with hypotheses that you test and find answers to.

– What direction do you want to go in? In the service industry, it is difficult to drive innovation internally. We need the customers’ help to test things out — to find out what we can’t do today but can learn to do tomorrow. The question we need to answer is which customers and which customer journeys can help us do that. Seek out those contexts because that is where innovation happens.


4. When it comes to hiring talent, don’t just work to attract the right skills, work to attract individuals with the drive and ability to grow.

– Someone at some point said that it doesn’t matter what we know, but how fast we can learn. Keep that in mind when hiring new staff. Recruit the employees that have the right skills and are very curious about learning new ones.

And one last thing: we talk all about failure, but when is it actually okay to fail? How should we act?

– Of course, we always talk about it, but it doesn’t mean anything if no one is willing to fail. This is where senior leadership comes in and shares their own failures. Understand that failure is a part of the learning process. Work with different hypotheses, test things out, and fail fast.


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ABOUT Managing Professional Services 

Managing Professional Services (MAPS) is a specially-designed leadership training program for managers in knowledge-intensive service companies focused on advisory services and consulting. The program builds on the specific business logic of the knowledge-intensive services sector, helping you more effectively address the challenges and opportunities encountered.

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