Strategy consultants need strategy consulting, too
During my two-month internship at Third Wave – between semesters as a graduate student in the MBA in Design Strategy program at California College of the Arts – I “decorated” the office in Post-it notes, prepared preliminary research and workshop materials for a client’s business model project, and got to flex the kind of consulting muscles that I had set out to exercise this summer.
The outsider inside
Acting as an embedded consultant, so to speak, I took on a project to help Third Wave plan for its own future, including assessing the business model (based on the Business Model Generation approach), clarifying communication materials, diagramming the processes, etc. I carefully reviewed existing web and blog content, surveyed the competitive landscape, and conducted individual interviews with Third Wave’s team members.
As an “outsider” I was able to recognize needs and strengths, and as an “insider” I was able to understand the company’s culture and aspirations. It was a unique position that afforded me unique perspective.
You may be wondering: Why would a strategy consulting firm have a need for strategic consulting itself?
Ironically, the work one is most adept at in service to others can also be the most difficult to implement internally. For example, in my experience as a copywriter, it has always felt quite natural to write on behalf of companies, products and other people. But writing my own bio?! Oh, boy…
Similarly, while Third Wave has been hard at work building the business by producing innovative strategies for clients for close to two years now, the company’s own strategic planning has remained on the sidelines. It is not uncommon to put off taking the time to apply your own skills to your own needs. This speaks to the value that a consultant can bring: focus and commitment throughout a process.
Beauty and the Beast
As I prepare to depart from Berlin, I’m mulling over the role and benefits of strategic consulting work. On my mind is how, ideally, a strategy project sheds light on issues and ideas that, once written down, seem obvious. Yet up until pen hits paper (er, finger hits keyboard), the insights have a habit of dancing around elusively.
Transforming complexity into simplicity: this is the beauty and beast of strategy work. To help a company look into the future, sometimes all it takes is a pair of fresh eyes.
I hope my contributions will be as illuminating to Third Wave as the experience was for me. I’m looking forward to seeing how the company evolves.
Jasmine spent the summer helping us sort our thoughts and filling our walls up with Post-its before relocating to San Francisco. If you want to learn more about her, visit jasmineprobst.com.