Federal vs. Commercial Consulting Sectors


First off I want to thank you for the information available on your site. It has been extremely helpful in my attempt to learn more about the consulting industry.

I have a phone interview coming up with [top consulting firm] for the Federal Management Consulting Development Program. I was wondering what your take was on the similarities/differences strengths/weaknesses for federal consulting versus the commercial sector. I was asked this question in a phone interview with [another firm] and had not thought about this and did not give a great answer. I appreciate all of your help.

My Reply:

At one level, problem solving is problem solving. There is structuring, there is analysis, there is the testing of a hypothesis. So the problem solving approach is similar.

However, in Federal Management, the "goal" and "constraints" are different. Whereas in the commercial sector, we might optimize for profitability, in Federal, the metric of performance will likely differ. Same with constraints.

In the commercial sector, anything legal is fair game to consider. In Federal, things that are legal but perhaps controversial may effectively be off limits.

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