MANAGING ACROSS CULTURES IN A BIG FOUR CONSULTING FIRM
Peter Massingham University of Wollongong
This case examines how a big four consulting firm reviewed the performance of two of its Asian practices. It explores how the review was conducted, the findings, and how the outcomes were communicated. It reveals the challenges faced by Western managers in telling Eastern managers they need to improve their performance. The case is about cross cultural management and organisational structure and control. It offers a fascinating insight into the Board Room of one of the world’s leading consulting firms.
Cross-cultural management Organisational structure and control Management consulting firms East versus West perceptions on strategy
Peter Massingham, PhD is a senior lecturer at the University of Wollongong’s School of Management and Marketing. He was Head of Management in 2002-2004. He is currently the Director of the Center for Leadership and Knowledge Management. His teaching and research interests are in international business and knowledge management. His current research projects include: measuring knowledge loss, expatriate knowledge transfer, first mover advantage, and managing risks associated with knowledge management. Peter has five years experience in industry in strategic planning, and ten years as a management consultant, most recently with a big four consulting firm where he was a manager, and has led more than 100 projects for many of Australia’s leading firms. He has operated in 13 countries. He has specific expertise in the Defence, automotive, metals, financial services, building materials, energy, and electronics goods industries. He is currently working on a number of projects for Australian industry on knowledge strategy.
Alfonso Farquar was sitting in a Mexican restaurant in Delhi, India. It was 12.30 pm on February 26, 1998. He noticed that the Pakistani waiter was dressed in an American Cowboy suit. He called him over to the table and ordered a German beer. It was to be the first of many beers as he contemplated what went wrong. How could this have happened? He had worked his whole career for this moment, developed and polished skills that had made him one of the best in his field. Two days ago he was at the top of a mountain, and now he felt crushed by an avalanche. What did he do wrong?
In Australia - the start of the Project
Farquar worked for Mr Richard Lovemore who was a senior partner at one of the big four consulting firms in Sydney, Australia (we will refer to this company as the Firm). Mr Lovemore recruited The Management Case Study Journal is available online at: http://business.unisa.edu.au/mcsj/ and is produced by the International Graduate School of Business: http://business.unisa.edu.au/igsb/ University of South Australia: http://www.unisa.edu.au/
20 The Management Case Study Journal Vol. 5 Iss 1 May 2005 pp 20-35 © University of South Australia ISSN: 1445-033X
Farquar because he felt the firm focused too much on the bottom line, that is, improving efficiencies and reducing costs, and not enough on the top line - growing revenues. Farquar was a highly educated and a very experienced consultant with particular expertise in strategic marketing. He had unique skills within the Firm and these were soon recognised by Mr David Mosman. Mr Mosman was the Partner-in-Charge of one of the Firm’s five national business units. He was also the Firm’s Partner-in-Charge of Business Development, on the Firm’s Australian Board, and a member of the Firm’s International Marketing Committee. As part of his role on the International Marketing Committee, Mr Mosman was asked to conduct a review of the performance of some of the Firm’s Asian practices. Mr Mosman told Farquar that the Firm was not happy with the growth of most of its Asian practices. Asia was a large market opportunity for the Firm and senior management felt that this was not being...
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