Mastering Strategic Consulting
Part 1) A critical review of the current strategic position of an organisation of your choice,
reflecting on past and current antecedent activities and providing an analysis of emergent
strategies and/or strategic perspectives. (Approximately 45% of the proposal.)
In effect, this means an analysis of the industry the organisation operates in, and an analysis of the
position of the organisation in the industry. You need as much hard data as you can get. This section
should form the main part of your proposal. Divide Part 1 into two elements:
a) Analysis of the industry (the industry that the organisation operates in):
- industry boundaries (it is not always straightforward to define the industry the potential
client organisation operates in)
- five forces
- analysis of key players (a competitor analysis)
- KSFs (key success factors) needed to be successful in the industry
- industry status (is it growing, stable, in decline, evolving, profitable)
b) Analysis of the organisation:
- brief history of previous changes that the organisation has made to address changes in the
industry, and the changes that have been made to the organisation’s mission and strategies.
(What changes has the organisation made in the past to fit better with external changes in
- current situation, for example:
- stated mission
- stated vision and current plan/ploy
- position in industry value chain
- brand, reputation among customers
- outline of the main company structure
- products and services, and the value proposition offered to customers
- customers, segments served
- main competitors, competitive position (cost, differentiation, broad/narrow focus, blue
ocean) and % of market held
- organisational culture
- performance (profitability, and/or mission achievement)
The above is a long but not complete list of concepts and tools you should consider using; you may
use other concepts and tools as well.
Some of the above may be answered in a single sentence, while others may be worth paying more
attention to. It is your job to determine the most appropriate structure of the analysis and the
degree of detail to go into. Your choice will be based on the hard data you have readily available to
you and what you believe will convince the client to engage further with you.
The assignment requires you to take a ‘critical’ approach. This means you should:
- weigh up the quality of the data you have available to you before reaching any conclusions
- identify when the data is conflicting, and use your judgement to reach a considered
- evaluate the potential client organisation’s performance – for example, to what extent is it
meeting its mission? To what extent is it creating value? How does it compare with
competitors? Are its strategies working? Answering these questions requires sensitivity.
You might think that your client will know all of the above. Maybe they will know a lot, but often
they will have the knowledge but they will not have organised it to turn knowledge into
understanding. You, as the potential consultant, can help them a) by organising all the bits and
pieces into a clear and coherent view of the organisation and the world it operates in, and b) by
bringing some fresh insight or new knowledge. (Look at the Belbin team roles – a strategic
consultant is often expected to be a resource investigator and plant –
Part 2a) A critical analysis (using a method, or methods, of your choice) of the organisation’s
strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and the determination of possible strategic
options for the future direction of the organisation. You should justify any recommendation for
strategic posture(s). (Approximately 25% of the proposal.)
You might as well use the SWOT/TOWS matrix. If you have done a thorough analysis of the industry
and the organisation in Part 1, you will have much of the data needed to fill in the SWOT.
Remember, if there are gaps in your knowledge or you have uncertainties, you must say so.
Do some reading about how to produce an effective SWOT/TOWS to make sure you don’t make the
usual mistakes. You must avoid producing a long list of factors. You must identify the ‘critical few’
factors that are the most important and urgent, perhaps following the 80/20 Pareto rule, and you
You should provide a brief commentary giving your reasoning for the results.
You should then use the SWOT results to outline a number of possible corporate and business level
strategic options; you are NOT expected to go into great detail about each one. The TOWS
framework is good for addressing the specific findings in the SWOT. You can use it to define a
number of business level strategies to address the most important Ss, Ws, Os, and Ts. Bundled
together, this may form a sufficient corporate level strategy in which the internal aspects of the
organisation ‘fit’ with the external environment. (Achieving ‘strategic fit’ is one approach to
strategy.) But, you should also be proposing options identifying alternative future states of the
organisation, alternative visions of what the organisation should be doing, what it should look like in
the next 3-5 years or so.
You can also use one or more other strategy frameworks for identifying strategic options, for
example, Reeves et al’s 5 approaches to strategy, Porter’s generic strategies, scenario planning,
Miles and Snow’s aggressiveness, Kim and Mauborgne’s blue ocean, Ghemawat’s AAA framework,
etc. Your choice of framework(s) will depend in part on the situation and what you think will be
attractive to the potential client.
How many options to identify? You need at least two options to choose from; more than five options
is difficult to handle.
You should make a brief assessment of the options; this will be an approximate assessment only. To
make the assessment more systematic and objective, you should apply a framework, for example,
SAF – Suitability, Acceptability, Feasibility, de Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats, a risk analysis model, etc.
Part 2b) A proposal outlining your recommendations/general approach to further develop a future
strategy. (Approximately 10% of the proposal.)
In this part of your proposal, you are NOT making a recommendation for a particular strategy; you
are making recommendations for what needs to be done by you and the client to ‘further develop a
You need to address questions such as:
- Which aspects (‘problems’) of the organisation are the priorities to be addressed first?
- What uncertainties identified in the proposal need to be addressed?
- What further information needs to be collected to make the analysis in the proposal of the
current situation, the SWOT and the identification of options accurate and complete?
- What process of strategy development could be followed (who, how, what, when and
- What type of consulting relationship you can offer the client?
Part 3) A critical reflection on the concepts and tools used. (Approximately 20%)
In this Part, you are no longer writing a Proposal to a client; instead, you are required to ‘step back’
and look objectively and critically at the concepts and tools you used in Parts 1 and 2. This is an
‘academic’ piece of writing. You should look for research articles which have identified their
strengths and weaknesses in practice, and compare what they say to your own experiences. You
should make proper references to the research in your discussion.
As a result, if the client asks you as a consultant to explain why you have used the concepts and tools
that you have, you will be able to do so.
Part 4) A consulting CV (résumé) as an appendix, highlighting specific projects and experience that
evidence the skills you have to develop your strategic recommendations. (Part 4 does not count in
the word count, and is not graded, but it MUST be included for the assignment to be passed.)
Executive Summary. When you have finished, write an Executive Summary. You place this at the
start of your proposal. It should summarise what is in your proposal. It should be written in such a
way to make the client want to read in more depth what you have to offer. In the Executive
Summary, add a statement saying why you are making your proposal. For example, something like,
“Company X has been growing rapidly but it is facing capacity limits in a number of areas. It needs to
make a choice about the next steps, for example to continue rapid growth, which will entail risk of
overstretching itself, or to take a break and consolidate its gains. Other options identified in this
proposal are also available for consideration.” This is a form of ‘problem statement’.