Introduction and Background
The Accredited Practice (ACP) concept was approved by ICMCI at the Amsterdam Congress in 1999, within the framework of ICMCI’s CMC Standard (of which it now forms a recognised strand).
Since 1999, the momentum has continued. Several national institutes have included the CP concept within their own countries, (UK, Denmark, USA) (under the name of Accredited Practice scheme), and another (South Africa) seems about to do the same. In the UK most large international practices (as well as many of the better medium sized ones) are now accredited practices of the UK institute. And interest from large practices in having more formal international recognition of accredited practice status across the ICMCI community has grown significantly.
Although ad hoc initiatives for such recognition have been attempted in specific countries with particular firms (IBM, Shell International), these have proceeded slowly – resulting in considerable frustration in those firms. This matters, because ICMCI and its member institutes have only a limited window of opportunity to build on the interest of the large practices in the Accredited Practice scheme, and its international dimension in particular. If ICMCI does not respond, it is inevitable that these practices (all internationally organised) will conclude that ICMCI is not relevant to them and turn their attention elsewhere.
It is therefore important to maintain the momentum of the ICMCI Accredited Practice initiative. This paper identifies two areas where we should learn from experience so far:
- models for implementation
- language and terminology
and addresses the need for better mechanisms to facilitate international implementation, proposing:
- an ICMCI protocol or procedure for international recognition of Accredited Practices, to facilitate ICMCI-wide implementation.
The Accredited Practice Concept
First, however, it is worthwhile recalling the basic features of the Accredited Practice concept.
The designation can be awarded by a national institute to any management consultancy practice which has demonstrated to the institute, by undergoing a systematic audit, that its professional standards for the training/development and assessment/qualification of its consultants, and the internal systems which assure these, are of at least the same level and rigour as those required for the ICMCI CMC standard. The continued conformance of the practice is monitored by periodic checks.
Practices awarded the designation are consequently accredited to propose candidates from their practice to the national institute for award of CMC; and in recognition of the standards demonstrated by the practice, these candidates will be subject to more limited scrutiny, examination and checks than are required of other candidates.
The Accredited Practice arrangement gives benefits to the practice, to the consultants within it, and to the national institute. For the practice, this external independent accreditation of its training and professional standards helps it in recruiting high quality consulting staff and in demonstrating its professionalism to them and to clients. For consultants within the practice, the arrangement gives readier and simpler access to the portable, internationally recognised CMC qualification. For the national institute, the Accredited Practice designation gives it relevance and a basis for relationship with large and medium practices, and a means of recruiting into membership the consultants within these practices.
Varying Implementation Models
It has become apparent that, within the framework and spirit of the Accredited Practice concept as described above, there is room for flexibility of practice in the implementation of the concept. To this degree, the Accredited Practice concept is already demonstrating that it is a practical and robust one, which is adaptable to the culture and approach of different national institutes without impairing its integrity.
The main area in which variations in implementation have emerged is the extent and nature of the scrutiny applied to individual CMC candidates from practices. In one implementation model, applied for example in the UK, the over-riding emphasis is on a thorough audit of the standards and processes of the practice; scrutiny of individual CMC candidates is undertaken on an exceptions basis (although the right is reserved to scrutinise and if necessary reject any or all candidates). A somewhat different implementation model has emerged (for example in the USA) where, although CMC candidates from such a practice do not have to submit evidence to demonstrate their experience and competencies, they are still required to undergo part of the normal assessment process (in the case of the USA, the written examination and face to face interview). Both these approaches are within the framework of the Accredited Practice principles.
It is likely that other areas of detailed variation in implementation will emerge. Provided the integrity of the basic concept remains fully intact, ICMCI should accept these as providing flexibility for national implementation.
A Common Terminology
Variation in basic terminology have also emerged in different implementations. In particular, the USA has adopted the term Accredited Practice or Accredited Consulting Practice, instead of Accredited Practice. It would seem highly desirable that a single term is used by ICMCI for the concept, whatever the local implementation variations may be. In fact, the terms “accreditation” and “Accredited Practice” are more consistent with the language of ISO 9000 and similar international initiatives than are “certification” and “Accredited Practice”, and consequently are arguably better descriptors of the process.
It is therefore recommended that “accreditation” and “Accredited Practice” are adopted by ICMCI as the generic terms it uses for the concept (for example, in the ongoing work on standards). National institutes should similarly describe the process (for example in their literature) as “accreditation” of consultancy practices in respect of the standard of their professional development of their consultants; but are of course free to designate practices so accredited as either Accredited or Accredited Practices (or if necessary some other name), as seems appropriate in their markets.
Framework for ICMCI-wide Implementation
National institutes who are full members of ICMCI are obliged to observe reciprocity rights in respect of all other full members: that is, to recognise within their own country CMCs awarded by other full member institutes; and should a consultant awarded CMC by another institute move to their country, to accept that individual into membership if he so requests.
Reciprocity of recognition of Accredited or Accredited Practices is not quite so straightforward. But it is becoming clear that some parallel, ICMCI-wide protocol for recognition of Accredited or Accredited is most important if the initiative is to progress internationally: lack of this is a significant reason why ad hoc attempts to achieve limited international recognition of certain practices have largely so far failed, (see the Introduction to this paper).
Extending reciprocity to this area is also logical: The standards and processes for the professional development and assessment of consulting staff are increasingly uniform in international practices, wherever staff are located: consequently, if a practice in country A qualifies as an Accredited or Accredited Practice, it is highly likely that it would do in all other countries where it operates. However, it has to be recognised that the institute in country A cannot actually check and be sure that this is so or fully so in countries B, C, D…etc.
With these considerations in mind, it is recommended that ICMCI adopt the following simple protocol, binding on member institutes, for international recognition of Accredited or Accredited Practices.
- The first national institute to carry out a detailed assessment of an international practice and award it Accredited or Accredited Practice status, should be recognised as the lead assessor of that practice internationally.
- It would be registered with ICMCI as such (this register being available to all members of ICMCI), and its assessment documentation should if possible be lodged confidentially with ICMCI.
- Should that practice request to extend its Accredited or Accredited Practice status to one or more other ICMCI countries, the national institute in each of those countries is obliged to respond, and respond constructively, to that request (which of course offers it the opportunity of increased membership).
- The national institute in each of these countries should firstly be given confidential access to the lead assessor institute’s detailed assessment of that practice in its (i.e. the lead assessor’s) country.
- The institute should then carry out a simple supplementary audit or review of the practice in its own country, designed to confirm that the same standards are in place as in the lead assessor country. It is up to the institute to decide the extent of such a supplementary audit (indeed, whether it wishes to undertake one, beyond the lead assessor’s evaluation); but it should normally be on a much smaller scale than the lead assessor’s audit.
- Subject to a satisfactory outcome, the institute would then grant Accredited or Accredited Practice status to the practice in its own country, operating in accordance with its own local arrangements.
This protocol was approved by the Executive Committee of Excom on 24 June 2002.