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A celebration of 25 years of the ICMCI

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ICMCI: Service Provider to the Developing World

ICMCI: Service Provider to the Developing World

By : Gabriel Al-Salem, Regional Director for Central Asia,
EBRD Business Advisory Services Programme

This is the story of a friendship between people and institutions spanning continents who have shown how much can be accomplished when likeminded people work tirelessly toward goals that at first seem impossibly distant.  When ICMCI and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) first got in touch, the idea of management consulting institutes and consultant certification in Central Asia was little more than a gleam in our eyes, and now two institutes in the region have gained ICMCI membership and a third is well on its way.  I have been privileged to play a role in this process and would be delighted if this story – as well as a few recommendations I put forward based on the experience – leads others in the international community to actively collaborate with ICMCI on supporting the development of world-class consulting institutes throughout the world in the interests of economic growth.

There is a backstory that begins long before the EBRD came on the scene, with networking among ICMCI members and, significantly, ICMCI’s obtaining UN NGO status.  A paper to a UN development commission authored by Peter Sorensen and Brian Ing on capacity building in developing countries was distributed among representatives of international development institutions and was positively received at the EBRD, an international financial institution owned by over 60 countries from around the world.

The fit with the EBRD’s mission to assist in the transition to market economies was perfect, and collaboration with ICMCI soon led to results.  In the Chairman’s Overview in the ExCom Report distributed at the Biennial Congress in London last September, Brian Ing called ICMCI’s cooperation with the EBRD “the key success” in recent years’ efforts to work with international entities and listed the new relationship as one of the highlights of 2007-2009.  We at the EBRD are just as pleased about the results we have achieved together over the past couple of years and have included the link with ICMCI in the strategy of the EBRD’s TurnAround Management and Business Advisory Services (BAS) Programmes, the EBRD unit I work in as Regional Director for Central Asia.  A major recent highlight for us was ICMCI Chairperson Aneeta Madhok’s participation in Consult Expo, an annual consulting industry fair jointly organized in September in Tashkent by EBRD BAS and the Uzbekistan Association of Professional Business Advisors (reported on in the previous edition of Meridian).  Aneeta’s contributions to Consult Expo and her on-the-ground advice to the APBC’s officers were major milestones for EBRD BAS and got us thinking about how ICMCI’s collective knowledge and experience could be made available in other countries, perhaps where the discussion about a consulting institute has not yet even begun.

The latest developments with the Association of Professional Business Consultants (APBC) of Uzbekistan, ICMCI’s newest member, are good examples of the outcomes generated by the ICMCI-EBRD relationship.  Based on similar work done in Kazakhstan, the EBRD BAS team in Tashkent introduced the idea of forming an ICMCI-member institute to consultants in Uzbekistan over a period of several months. 

In addition to meetings dedicated to the theme of institute-building, including experience-sharing roundtables with the President of the Kazakhstan Association of Management Consultants, the EBRD worked on the establishment of a continuous professional development (CPD) system by training local consultants to deliver world-class courses in consulting skills and ethics for consultants.  These trainings-of-trainers and the subsequent commercial deliveries of the courses by local trainers to more than 200 consultants generated a common understanding of key consulting concepts and stirred up interest about the APBC among the leading management consultants in the country.  In parallel, EBRD BAS engaged former officers of the Canadian Association of Management Consultants (CAMC) to advise the APBC on building the institute and its member base and fulfilling the requirements for ICMCI membership.  Provisional membership was granted in December 2009, and the APBC executive team is now working toward full membership and the certification of CMCs in Uzbekistan. 

These outcomes in Uzbekistan – as well as similar results achieved in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan – would have been impossible without the efforts of key individuals who have become friends and valued colleagues to dozens of consultants in Central Asia, as well as the EBRD BAS team.  Calvert Markham, ICMCI ExCom Member, was instrumental in devising the approach to CPD, particularly in the area of consulting skills.  Heather Osler, past President and CEO of CAMC of 23 years and the first inductee into ICMCI’s Order of the Meridian, has been a frequent visitor to Almaty, Tashkent and Bishkek, advising institute officers on the big picture and nuts-and-bolts of building sustainable associations of management consultants.  Nick Shepherd, past Chairman of ICMCI’s Professional Standards Committee and currently a member of that Committee, as well as the Quality Assurance Committee, is spearheading our joint efforts to introduce compliant and rigorous CMC certification systems and is now a well-known consulting ethics guru throughout Central Asia because of his trainings-of-trainers on the subject.  Most recently, Drumm McNaughton, IMC USA Chairman, has joined the effort, partnering in work that will lead to the first wave of CMC certifications in the region; Clint Burdett and Don Scellato have also been instrumental in developing the process whereby Central Asian candidates will apply for CMC certification from IMC USA.  Our constant companion along the journey has been Immediate Past Chairman Brian Ing, whose valuable guidance is always just an e-mail or Skype away.

We at EBRD BAS were fortunate to have been introduced to these and other individuals, mostly via the networking that takes place among ICMCI members  and trustees.  It would be ideal if other international development institutions could similarly gain access to the massive knowledge that has accumulated in ICMCI and apply it for the benefit of emerging consulting institutes in countries all around the world.  I believe that the opportunities are vast, if only because there are few ICMCI members in Africa and South America, priority continents for many international development organizations.  But most development professionals, even those working in the area of “business development services”, or “BDS” to use development-speak, are unaware of ICMCI, the CMC designation and the economic benefits that can be generated by consulting institutes.  The good news is that the knowledge and tools needed to support the launching and development of new consulting institutes already exist.

Which leads me to my recommendation: I recommend that ICMCI develop a specific offering of services to emerging institutes, international development organizations and other stakeholders in the consulting industries of developing countries.  I would see ICMCI’s role first and foremost in proactively communicating to these interested parties – about ICMCI’s values, its members and the advantages that derive from a consulting institute to a country’s business sector and overall economy.  The track record of recently-joined ICMCI members in this regard is notable.

Central in the communication should be a listing of specific services that can be arranged by or via ICMCI.  These could include:

  • Introduction of training courses and commercially-viable CPD systems
  • Advice on launching and building sustainable consulting institutes
  • IT systems for efficient management of membership
  • Setting up CMC certification regimes
  • Designing and developing services for institute members

The attractiveness of an ICMCI offering of this kind would lie not only in the fact that ICMCI can provide access to these services but also in ICMCI’s global span.  Local attitudes and business norms must be front-and-center in any discussion of consulting institute-building, and ICMCI can make available a truly worldwide network of potential advisors, representing virtually all business cultures, to emerging institutes and those wishing to support them.

Various options exist for exactly how these services could be delivered.  These range from ICMCI acting as a facilitator to direct contracting with ICMCI, and different approaches may be appropriate in different situations.  This is probably an implementation issue on which flexibility should be maintained.  The major change from the current situation would be that ICMCI’s value proposition to folks like me would become explicit and actionable.

The story of the ICMCI-EBRD relationship is still in its beginning chapters, and many opportunities still exist for new work in the EBRD’s countries of operation – I will be visiting Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia in May together with a representative of Kyrgyzstan’s institute to discuss the whys and hows of launching institutes with groups of local consultants.  But there is a whole world out there, many stories in the making and, I’m certain, many friends of ICMCI waiting to be discovered.

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