Deloitte & Touche Consulting Group Case Analysis

April 12, 2011

The presented case of Deloitte and Touche Consulting Group engagement with SKS Manufacturing is offering invaluable lessons in team and project management. It briefly touches upon all major facets of the consulting company involvement with client projects, such as:
• Engagement planning
• Team selection
• Roles and responsibilities of team members
• Background and qualifications of key people
• Client participation
• Gathering and analyzing data
• Making recommendations

Most importantly, however, the case is emphasizing the need for the proper balance between the core competencies that consulting companies bring to the table in their engagement with the clients. Namely, the balance between the technical knowledge and skills vs. internal communication and interaction with the client.
It will be demonstrated in this analysis that there were a number of critical flaws in planning and conducting the engagement in the first half of the project. These mistakes could potentially lead to extremely unfavorable outcomes for the engagement team, and the Consulting Company at large.
Even though Maria Chen is seemingly the focal point of the case, she in fact just serves as a proxy to the bigger issues that were present during the engagement.
The Deloitte team was made up of five members. Two senior leads of the group, David Hendry, and Annette Wattley-Davis, had extensive experience both with the Consulting Company and the automotive industry. Given the complexity of the project, and especially the urge for delivering concrete quantifiable results within relatively short 12 week engagement, it seemed as a sound strategic decision to enforce the consulting team with these high-profile experienced employees.
The other three members, Ben Rohan, Maria Chen and Ramesh Patel, were the most critical part of the engagement. Of this group only one, Rohan, was a senior consultant with extensive prior experience in procurement and manufacturing. He also had been on three different engagements while with Deloitte. On the other hand, Maria and Ramesh did not have enough relevant experience, especially in client-facing situations.
The three team members were supposed to do all the actual legwork in interacting with the client on daily basis, collecting and analyzing data, finding, presenting, and helping with the implementation of the solution to the client’s inventory problems. It is obvious that their outstanding academic credentials and technical skills were a great asset for the team, and given the right guidance from the senior managers they were capable of tackling the problem at hand.
However, this did not happen. David Hendry was only nominally involved with the project and provided a very high-level oversight for the engagement. Due to his other very demanding responsibilities as a partner at Deloitte he was not physically present at the engagement, except for the milestone meetings with the client.
Annette Wattley-Davis was the one to lead the team on the ground. Unfortunately, she was not able to solely focus on the project and managing the team because of her finishing another project across the country, which left her with only two-three days a week available on the SKS engagement. Her double focus effectively prevented her from being closely involved in monitoring the project progress and the work performed by the team. Given the constraints on the team leaders mentioned here, the leads for the engagement were not able to provide guidance, constructive evaluation, and timely feedback to the group members.
From these observations it appears that the engagement team’s efforts were seriously undermined by two major factors:
• Leadership vacuum
• Communication breakdown
To avoid this type of situation in the future, it is highly advisable that the senior manager who is selected for the project, would be able to be more directly involved in the engagement. If this were the case in this engagement, then the manager could have kept track of the team efforts and direction. Overall, the leaders of the engagement reduced their participation to reactive mode instead of embracing on the leadership role.
To be fair, Maria made a few mistakes of her own:
• Failed to initially establish rapport with the SKS stakeholders and include the client’s team in the process
• Did not maintain ongoing communication with the client’s team, Deloitte peers and managers
• Focused on technical analysis without getting first-hand information from the people and actual processes
• Got caught up into developing a spreadsheet model based on inaccurate premises instead of focusing on the final objective of the engagement
• Did not work closely with Rohan’s team even though their pieces of the project were very closely connected
Because of these mistakes three weeks of Maria’s time were virtually lost, as she spent all that time on the model that was eventually thrown out. Had she had more guidance from the manager, she could have gotten corrected earlier on and would have had a chance to redirect her efforts. Also an involved manager could have gone over the presentation with the team members before the meeting at a three weeks mark, to validate the team’s findings and at least to remove the most embarrassing parts that did not make sense.
Under the circumstances the Deloitte team should try to do damage control at the upcoming steering committee meeting:
• Managers of the consulting team should take responsibility for the engagement progress being slower than originally anticipated
• Acknowledge that original hypothesis (model presented by Maria) was flawed and focus more on the progress made by the team, including Maria, in the last three weeks
• Emphasize the progress made and results obtained from the Rohan’s team
• Present clear objectives and milestones in the remaining six weeks of the engagement, as well as the means of reaching them

The lessons for Deloitte from this engagement:
• Pay more attention to the group make up
• Realistically evaluate the ongoing commitments of the team members, especially the teams leaders
• Emphasize with their senior level employees (partners and mangers) the need for giving timely constructive feedback and guidance to their team members.