Strategy consultants don't normally wade into the political arena, preferring to stick to their rightful place of expertise: business. However, when an opportunity to apply business rules to government presents itself, the bigwig strategists often enter the fray.
Enter Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, a British politico-turned-businessman who now issues directives from the helm of FTI Consulting. "It's an extraordinary moment for Egypt," said Malloch-Brown from the World Economic Forum at Davos. "But there shouldn't be glib, instant punditry from Davos. One's just got to hope it emerges in the outcome as a much more inclusive government. But how they get there, when and if government changes, must be a matter for Egyptians." Fair enough; it's the kind of laissez-faire attitude that many consultants at Davos have been hoping world governments will adopt toward business. But no business lesson there.
Soon enough though, the good Lord delves into some pure management philosophy. The only type of government that is "going to make it," Malloch-Brown begins, is the "sensitive, representative, inclusive government that keeps its ear to the ground and responds to popular anger." He also notes that these regimes are "usually, but not always democracies." This isn't political philosophy 101, it's commonsense business practice: treat your employees with respect, and listen to their ideas and concerns. Malloch-Brown carries on. "The ones that get ossified and formalistic, there for too long, and rely on their security forces rather than use their political antennae to respond and control the people, are the ones that get into trouble," he asserts.
Ossified, formalistic, there for too long? If you haven't caught on yet, these terms—and with them, Malloch-Brown's whole hypothesis—could easily be applied to business as much as to government. Want examples? How about MySpace or AOL on the web? Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in housing/finance? GM and Ford in automobiles? Nearly all the major banks? Shall I go on? I shan't—I think you get the point.
Consultants don't always make good public sector advisors, but this is an example of when they are effective as such: sound, simple advice can indeed translate smoothly between the public and private sectors, Malloch-Brown proves. Good Lord!
For more information:
At Davos, experts say Egypt should be allowed to resolve problems without outside influence
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