Do management consultants add lasting value?

Note: there are many types of consultants, but I’m talking specifically about management consultants

When I was younger, I thought that a career in management consulting would be really cool. You get to work with different types of companies, you get to travel, you get to fix problems, etc. Sure, the hours are crappy, but like investment banking, the payoff in the end can be huge.

Over the last couple years, though, I’ve started to wonder whether consulting is really something that adds value, or is it used more as a stopgap and excuse by managers who are unable or reluctant to solve their own problems. I’ve had the displeasure of working with processes that were devised by consultants and the end result is just….off, somehow.

I suspect that management consulting is often indicative of some deeper organizational problems, primarily managers who lack the courage and/or competency to run their business unit and make hard decisions, and must therefore waste thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of dollars bringing in an outsider that they can blame when things go wrong. I also suspect that it’s difficult to track the effectiveness of management consulting on the bottom line, which is good, because I doubt the results would be good, especially in the long run. It seems highly unlikely that a company lacking whatever core competencies they’re looking for in a consultant will be able to extract, grow, and maintain value from that brief relationship for very far into the future.

Management consulting almost seems to be an expensive extension of committees, those time-honored organizational purgatories where good ideas go to die.

Am I way off here? Are management consultants valuable players in the business world? Sound off in the comments.