This year Oakland Consulting celebrates its 30th anniversary. To celebrate the special milestone with its consultants, relations, clients and alumni, the consultancy hosted a special event on Tuesday evening. Among others founder John Oakland and Estelle Clark, a business assurance expert and Safety and Business Assurance Director at LRQA, took the stage to reflect on the firm’s past, future and the domain in which it operates.
Oakland Consulting was founded in 1985 by John Oakland, who currently serves as Chairman of the Leeds-based advisory. The company has in the past three decades remained close to its original heritage, and positions itself as a specialist in the field of operational excellence and performance improvement, serving both the private and public sectors. Oakland Consulting has a team of approximately 20 consultants, as well as a network of associates and functional experts that have committed themselves to the consultancy.
In a recent interview with the MCA, founder Oakland reflected on the history, aims and future of the consultancy. Asked for the ingredients behind the firm’s success, Oakland sees two main areas. With quality considerations always having been an issue for businesses, he remarks that the firm’s core competencies in helping companies improve performance and quality has been in demand, with reviewing costs and creating ‘leaner’ organisations key to Oakland Consulting’s continued role in the market.
He in addition points at the company’s origin as a business school, regarding it as one of the key elements which both sets the firm apart as well as provides the firm with its capacity to develop new lines of thinking and ways of approaching the quality issues faced by their clients. Oakland notes that the evolution of the firm from Business School allowed it to keep its “own research and education division and carry out studies with other firms and institutions on topics like change management and 'redefining quality.” Which, according to Oakland, “… keeps us not only at the frontiers of knowledge but also in the minds of clients as they like to be at the leading edge themselves.”
Keeping abreast of the latest developments and even pioneering and innovating on the subject indicates that there have been changes in the field. To get to what is the same and what has changed in the field for the consultancy, the MCA asked Oakland about the changes. In the 80s, Oakland recollects, the demand for quality support was high, with maturity in its infancy. At the time Oakland Consulting was called upon to deliver practical services, especially to government, for things like, writing booklets, case studies, videos, road shows, etc. Things have moved on since then according to Oakland: “If we tried to do what we did in the 1980s we would be dead. Certain sectors such as manufacturing, automotive and electronics have moved forward, of course, but there are still organisations out there where a lot of basic stuff is just not done right. For example, quality issues often arise when firms undertake a drive to take out costs. This has been a big factor in electronics, for example, so we are still seeing the need to support a whole range of organisations.”
In a forward looking move, Oakland highlights the changing landscape, both for clients as well as industries. One of the key moves the firm is embracing to meet a bright future in management consulting is through embedding sustainability in their projects. He states that Oakland Consulting has placed considerable value in developing quality in line with carbon reduction, remarking that, “a lot of things we learned over the years have been very applicable in [the sustainability] area and the work goes together well with what we already do. Often the senior person responsible for quality in an organisation is also responsible for environmental and health and safety issues.”
When asked about the ambitions of the firm, Oakland considers how technology development will affect the field of consulting, remarking that to have a vibrant future management consulting firms need to identify consulting models that work with the needs of the firm’s clients. “I’m certain that we will want to maintain a strong focus on innovation and high value, as well as quality, of course!” he concludes.