Tuesday, 07 February 2017 11:02

Open letter to my Saudi Friends

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For the best part of a quarter of a century I have been travelling to Saudi Arabia on a frequent and regular basis. I have seen the country change and evolve and, like any major economy, go through its ups and downs.

During this time I have been privileged to have made some very good and dear friends. I have also come to respect and cherish many of the businesses and business people that I deal with.

At their best I think Saudi companies have something special and unique going for them. In particular what I have come to admire is the long term thinking of these enterprises, their boldness, their decency towards their employees and business partners and the humility of their owners. Those of us who know the Kingdom will each have their own personal examples but I am sure that all will agree that what I describe is particularly true of the businesses of Olayan , Muhaidib and Al-Jammaz. There are doubtless countless other examples.

Today Saudi Arabia is facing considerable economic and demographic challenge – which are linked to lower oil prices, growing population, the need to diversify the economy and create jobs for Saudi Nationals.

The good news is that there is a plan in place (Vision 2030) and considerable energy and resources are being devoted to implementing this plan.

However what concerns me at this juncture is the spike in widespread use of foreign management consultants. There is always a place, there is always value in working with good quality management consulting firms – the best are capable of making a tremendous contribution to an organization.  But…I have noticed recently legions of young management consultants working in some of the newer entities being set up. I have seen their work at close hand - and whilst not wishing to demean their earnestness and long working hours – I believe that what these management consultants  are contributing is, in many cases, of questionable value, expensive and, at worse,  disingenuous. The loser in this are the enterprises that have appointed them.  And worse I know that my Saudi colleagues who work in these organizations would have come up with far better solution for their organizations – and are acutely aware of the poor quality of work that is being delivered to them. But the ‘prestige’ of these foreign firms trump their own judgement and experience.

I therefore urge caution in the blanket use of management consultancy firms to implement Vision 2030– selective use is no doubt required but, in my opinion, not the widespread use that  I am seeing right now. Saudi Arabia has plenty of its own talent and I believe that more can be done to leverage this valuable resource.

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