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The generalist is dead, long live the generalist!

 
#1 The generalist is dead, long live the generalist!
12/10/2006 10:23

londonkiddo

I read and hear everywhere that the generalist consultant is dead; that clients want specialist consultants, experts in their narrow field.

Is this a load of guff? Some ideas:

1) The specialist will "know the answer" rather than work towards a shared answer, in partnership, with their client: a less fruitful relationship in the long term?

2) The generalist will develop versatility by navigating new learning curves more often, more rapidly. More versatility = easier to assign = more chargeability

3) The generalist will spot more opportunities for cross-selling and business development by casting a wider net

4) The specialist will lose skills currency faster than the generalist

5) Are firms missing a trick by saying "we'll bring you our Telecommunications CRM experts" and not saying "frankly, we invest in recruiting people so bright you can count on them to do almost anything, and do it bloody well"

Interested in other people's views.

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#2 RE: The generalist is dead, long live the generalist!
12/10/2006 12:24

Boxershorts to londonkiddo (#1)

Agree wholeheartedly. The only qualm I have with your comment is about cross-selling. This outlook seems a bit more commercial that client-minded - though of course I understand that revenue streams, paying the mortage and putting bread on the table are important factors too :)

Viva l'generalist.

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#3 RE: The generalist is dead, long live the generalist!
12/10/2006 14:25

JJ to Boxershorts (#2)

In theory this looks right but in practice the customers are saying they want specialists.

For example ERP implementation has grown faster than Strategy consulting for years.

Also the job market (which reflects consulting markets) pays little attention to transferrable skills. Hard to move from SAP to Oracle. Impossible to move from project manager in a coal mine to project manager in a software house.

Be interested to hear if anyone disagrees with this?

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#4 RE: The generalist is dead, long live the generalist!
12/10/2006 14:32

P Emm to JJ (#3)

I've seen the opposite, though - PMs from IT move to PM roles in engineering infrastructure...

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#5 RE: The generalist is dead, long live the generalist!
12/10/2006 21:01

Pantalons? to P Emm (#4)

The loudest noise in this debate, outside of this forum, is often from those on the egotistical extremes.

The comment 'the generalist is dead' is spin. It is not great spin as it is clearly hypocritical, unless the original writer has died. In this case my commiserations to his/her family and friends. The sentence ‘The generalist is dead, long live the generalist!’ is much better consulting these days. It clearly identifies a problem and proposes a possible solution.

Consultants are frequently brought in for their objectivity, and this matters a lot if you are advising a CEO on enterprise resource planning. Consultants might also be brought in for a more specific task, such as a workshop session for a finance function resulting from an ERP system upgrade.

In fact a lot of consultants are neither pure play generalists nor pure play specialists. Many CEO's have numerous specialist skills as well. IT experts very often have other skills outside of their specialist IT skills, even if this is not entirely specified by their job title.

What box do they try to put Bill Gates in these days?

Client consulting teams are frequently actually weakened when this diversity is compromised, although in a consulting recession the short term economics of over specialisation can appear to hold sway. In the long term an industry that can favour both generalist and specialist talents is likely to create more economic profit.

Est ce qu’il y a une problème avec cet stratégie ?

D’habitude un débat a plusieurs théories.

Vive les généralistes, et les spécialistes, et les spécialistes qui peuvent généraliser!

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#6 RE: The generalist is dead, long live the generalist!
13/10/2006 17:16

londonkiddo to Pantalons? (#5)

Excellente reponse, merci.

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