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BCG chief executive on Gulf: Making hard change happen at speed and scale

In an exclusive interview, group CEO Rich Lesser explains the role of management consultancies in helping to shape a post-oil Middle East

Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
Rich Lesser, CEO and President, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) during an interview with Gulf News in Dubai.
Gulf News

Dubai

The past few years have seen the arrival of an army of consultants into the Gulf, as governments undertake enormous public transformation programmes, and seek to execute sweeping economic and social reformation plans.

Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is one such consulting firm, working in the UAE with government clients, and companies in the financial services, energy, technology, and health care sectors.

According to BCG group chief executive Rich Lesser, his company’s clients in the Middle East, and globally, are facing a “challenging” operating environment, and a world of “immense change.”

Speaking to Gulf News in an exclusive interview on Wednesday, Lesser said that his clients were “facing a faster change, [and a] bigger disruption, than ever before.”

Responding to a question about the kinds of challenges that the Gulf’s leaders were facing, Lesser said: “Navigating today’s challenging world means a few things: It means helping to get the strategy and direction right, set the right priorities and set the right agenda, it means helping to make hard change really happen at scale and at speed and doing it in a way that enables the organisation to have sustained success.”

Such is the scale of the consultancies’ work in the Gulf that last year, management consultants were expected to collect $1.3 billion in fees from Saudi Arabia alone, according to Bloomberg News, for their assistance in planning for a post-oil future.

Whilst Lesser acknowledged that most organisations in the Gulf are very effective in doing their day to day operations, he emphasised that the kinds of changes that are required now, are “really very substantial, and the result of that around the world, is that it has certainly been a vibrant few years for the consulting firms who have been able to help their clients do that.”

Lesser confirmed that Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar made up the bulk of BCG’s business in the Middle East. “Both private and public sector organisations [in the region] are dealing with a world of immense change,” the chief executive added.

As for what specifically BCG was helping the governments of the region try to achieve, Lesser responded: “It’s certainly a time when governments are trying to step up in terms of, what’s the next generation of the way they engage with their citizens, the way they bring public services to them, [the] aspirations for how they’re going to operate in a world where funding levels are lower because oil prices are much lower.”

He added that as a result, both productivity, as well as shaping the economy for the years ahead, were currently both incredibly important in the Middle East.

“We do see a dynamic time. Particularly in the public sector, the bar is so high for how do you earn trust, and ensure you live up to high expectations,” Lesser said.

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