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Henry VIII – A Consultant’s Dream or Disaster?

Although it seems reasonable to view management consultancy as a relatively modern phenomenon, we could probably track the development of the profession through history (not that I’m volunteering to attempt this).

Take the reign of King Henry VIII for instance; Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and Sir Thomas More are prime examples of sixteenth century public sector consultants. Henry had an advisory Privy Council, but Wolsey’s rise to Lord Chancellor in 1515 gave him a unique position of influence over the young king. Although Wolsey was a papal representative, his industry specialism didn’t stop him from adopting a generalist role.

From implementing taxation policies (outrageous and otherwise), to strategising England’s foreign relations (war, war or raise taxes for war?) to Henry’s religious reforms, Wolsey’s voice of reason was selectively heard over a career of 15 years at the king’s metaphorical side (they resided at separate palaces more often than not). As you might imagine, travel was a big part of the job; Wolsey’s engagements took him to France, Spain and Italy where he could be found networking with his European counterparts in Rome.

He was paid rather handsomely for it too. With multiple bishoprics under his expansive belt, Wolsey’s wealth was second only to Henry’s. The annual bonuses went some way to creating Hampton Court Palace: the ultimate expression of Wolsey’s prominent position at court. Nevertheless, his success as Henry’s consultant was dependent on his ability to give the king what he wanted. The failure to acquire a papal dispensation for the Aragonian marriage meant Henry disposed of Wolsey and his services. (He was forced to retire. Luckily, Henry was not in the full swing of his penchant for beheading).

And so steps in Henry’s close acquaintance Sir Thomas More as Lord Chancellor in 1529. More essentially project managed the mission to squeeze out (read: burn at the stake) heretics in Henry’s catholic realm. Most of his work was therefore client-side, with travel at a minimum. However, More’s stint as the king’s primary consultant was brief; he gravely insulted his client on a number of occasions. Not only did he refuse to attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn, in 1534 he refused to swear the Oath of Supremacy which recognised Henry as the head of the Church. One too many blows to the big boss sent More to the scaffold on charges of treason.

Unsurprisingly, not many were keen to succeed Thomas More. Though Thomas Audley was the lucky fellow who got the job, perhaps the risks were not so great. No man was to ever reach Wolsey’s esteemed position in the king’s graces, and none ever achieved a degree of closeness to Henry as had by More; the nature of work was never quite the same for the consultants to the King of England.

‘Welcome Zarina Khan’

Hello readers, this is Zarina, the newbie to the management consultancy team at BLT. Entering my second week here at BLT, I’m pleased to say that the team have not scared me off…yet. I graduated this year from Durham University where I read History, specialising in good old Henry VIII and his marital issues in my final year. Though I left the essays, deadlines and all-nighters behind, I take a personal interest in women’s history; reading about a bit of everything from Anne Boleyn to the former Comfort Women of East Asia. Before making a complete break with student life, I spent 6 weeks in South-East Asia after graduating, where I backpacked from Hanoi to Singapore, and though tempted to ignore my return flight, alas here I am. I was particularly eager to grab a desk at BLT as they provide an ideal environment for my first ‘real adult’ job. Challenging yet supportive, friendly yet focussed, I knew I would not be idly passing the hours here. Though it’s still early days, I am really looking forward to getting stuck in with the team’s work and building a career here! And I’m sure they’re equally eager for some of my infamous chocolate fudge cake. (Hot tip: a penchant for puddings on a CV wins hearts, minds and stomachs)

Can we build our way to growth?

Maybe we should pay less attention to the doomsayers and think more about how we can all help to get ourselves out of this economic mess.

Alan Leaman, CEO of the MCA, says it is time to stop talking and start building. In his article Can we build our way to growth? he shows how Government, the private sector and management consultancies can help.

Or have you any better ideas?

It takes all sorts!

Yesterday’s FT featured an article from Lucy Kellaway entitled ‘Everyone benefits from a beast in the boardroom’ and I felt I had to share.

It’s a well written, to the point and thought provoking piece which goes some way to highlighting the complex dynamics in the boardroom and it strikes me that there are compelling arguments for not just more women on boards, but more diversity generally, with a cocktail of personality types needed to ensure greatest effectiveness.

As a recruiter in the company secretarial arena I can appreciate the reference to the ‘SOB’ in Lucy’s article and hear stories of such characters every day, I thought it highlighted an important message that we should all remember: ‘It’s not personal, it’s just business!’

‘It takes all types to make the world go round’ but clearly it also takes all types to get the best out of the boardroom.

Innovation in Government

McKinsey’s public sector practice is featured in the September 2011 McKinsey Quarterly magazine. It discusses the big problem facing Governments around the world: squaring the circle of rising demand for services with limited resources.

The consultants draw on the experiences of Kenya and Georgia to show how a willingness to take bold risks can make public services better and cheaper. These countries believe they have no choice.

This clearly the challenges that face these – and other – developing countries. It is also a good introduction for consultants who are considering moving into international development consultancy, as it explores some of the top-down initiatives that consultancies can help Ministers implement.

I understand that this is the first in a series of features which should be relevant to the international development community which will be published over the next few months. I’ll alert you to the others as they come off the press.

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