HotSeat Interview: Parthenon Education Co.'s Rob Lytle
You might have heard the name Parthenon here and there over the past few years, but unless you're actually in the education business you might not really know who they are (a Boston-based consulting firm) or what they do (help beleagured foundation and education staff research and make decisions).
They've been mentioned on this blog a few times before. Previous posts include The "New" Think Tanks (2008), NYC Clones The Chicago Consortium (2008), Did Wireless Generation Ever Give NJ's Money Back?. There's also an Elizabeth Green feature in Scholastic Administrator from a few years back (here). Vault ranks them 17th in terms of prestige and 10th in terms of strategy consulting. What's it like to work there? A 2011 report on consulting firms here might help.
What's up with Parthenon these days? Well, the company has 25 senior level staffers who focus on education, including some like Seth Reynolds you may have seen speak at education conferences (on turnarounds, in Reynolds' case). New hire Michael Sandler was involved in the Chelsea (Mass) takeover, worked for New American Schools, and founded Eduventures (a research company whose reports I used to get and love). They're newly on Twitter.
During this new and exclusive HotSeat (below), Rob Lytle, co-head of The Parthenon Group’s Education Practice, talks about what the company is up to these days, why consultants don't actually do any real work, and how Parthenon compares to Bain, McKinsey, BCG, and the other consulting firms.
What's your response to the accusation that consultants get a lot of money but don't provide any real services in exchange?
RL: We help people develop the fact base, gather the data they need to make decisions - that’s our task as advisors. Were very rarely involved in the direct provision of services, except perhaps occasionally running a training.
Are you the biggest education consulting firm out there?
RL: I don’t know if we’re the biggest guys on the block or not, how do you measure that? We're the broadest and deepest education focused practice within the consulting business.
Are you doing a lot of Race To The Top work these days?
RL: Parthenon worked with a number of states on Race applications, but most of that work has come and gone. [See this 2010 Lessons Learned report]
Who are some of your current clients?
RL: We don’t disclose them specifically but they include organizations focused on delivering education services, which includes districts, universities, private and public and charter schools, as well as companies that provide products and materials in the education space. [Chicago keeps admission rules unchanged for magnet, selective schools (Chicago Tribune), Stopping the Dropout Exodus (TIME)]
What are some of the big projects you've been working on recently, or will be in the near future?
RL: We've spent a lot of time on in last 12 months working with people who are at the intersection of the next generation of learning, where education content delivery and digital applications meet [mentioned in this article from the Pendleton (IN) times, this Governing article, and this WSJ article]. We're also working with a variety of education reform organizations, and on helping organiations prepare for the impact of the Common Core on their operations.
What are the company's annual revenues?
RL: I'm not going to say.
You're private - you don't have to. Is there a publication out there or an analyst who tracks firms like Parthenon?
RL: No, not that I know of.
Well then how can people like me keep track of what Parthenon is up to in education?
RL: There are lots of white papers on our webpage, and we've finally set up a Twitter account (@Parthenon_Group). I was literally just setting that up yesterday.
Edited and condensed for clarity.