Here Come Consulting Firms (Again)
Today's Washington Post has an interesting piece about the use of high-priced management consultants -- Deloitte, KPMG, McKinsey, Alvarez & Associates (of St. Louis and NOLA fame) -- in urban school districts, a good reminder that it's not just the policy wonks and think tanks that drive real live schoolpeople crazy. "Two dozen high-priced consultants have set up shop on three floors of the D.C. public schools' headquarters, wearing pinstripe suits, toting binders and BlackBerrys and using such corporate jargon as "resource mapping" and "identifying metrics," begins the piece (Big-Name Consultants Greeted With Wariness). "They come from big-name restructuring firms, and the city is paying $4 million for their services this summer." It's not just DC, of course. Chicago has used Boston Consulting Group on several projects, some of which haven't turned out particularly well. St. Louis and New Orleans have both used Alvarez, to mixed reviews. And, as the article points out, few of the consultants offer project management services or stay on to implement the plans that they make. Binders and powerpoints are all well and good, but making the plans work and building buy-in and capacity are the real keys.
UPDATE: The usually-insightful Kevin Carey mystifyingly defends the management consultant crowd by blaming incompetent management for DC schools' problems. A post written, perhaps, on a Blackberry.