How Management Consultants Are Evaluated At Different Levels

I’ve been asked on a number of occasions to describe how consultants are evaluated in terms of performance, so I thought that I’d finally write these thoughts down publicly. Here’s a whirlwind overview of an illustrative consulting firm evaluation framework for single career tracks. In a nutshell:

  1. Analyst / Associate – Performance on project activities and workstreams for a project as evaluated by the manager and partner/principal for the project plus any client feedback, minimum threshold for billable hours, support for internal firm activities and some professional development.
  2. Manager – All of the items for Analysts/Associate, plus performance for managing entire workstreams and entire engagements with feedback from principals/partners and clients, evidence of mentoring new consultants, potentially some support for proposal development for existing clients, and potentially some evidence of starting to develop an expertise.
  3. Principal (pre-partner type) – All of items for the previous levels but some slanting toward more evidence of specialization, thought leadership, business development at current clients, and potentially evidence of business development at new clients (may be more true of smaller firms). Compensation can have a more substantial component related to sales for some firms. Minimum billable hours starts to drop a bit, but this level (if pre-partner) can be a real gaunlet because the principal is stretched between sales, delivery, while trying to build their case for becoming partner.
  4. Partner/Managing Partner – Here we get into sustaining a business to support teams, multiple consultants, and potential practices. At the managing partner level it is about P&L and developing the business, including from strategic areas (e.g., new initiative, focus areas, offices). Also manages the higher level strategic relationships. Minimum billable hours can fall quite dramatically depending on the firm (e.g., cut in half plus/minus or even more at managing level).