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THE Firm: The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence on American Business (Anglais) Broché – 12 septembre 2013


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The Firm

INTRODUCTION:

THE MCKINSEY MYSTIQUE



Two minutes out of business school, Jamie Dimon decided to become a consultant. The experience left him unimpressed, and he has looked down on it since. “It’s substitute management,” he told me when I was deep into writing his biography. “A Good Housekeeping seal of approval. It’s political, so if you make a decision, you can say, ‘It’s not my fault, it’s their fault.’ . . . I think consultants can become a disease for corporations.” Dimon, who went on to become the chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase and was hailed as an Olympian financier for steering the bank above Wall Street’s 2008 humbling—only to be somewhat humbled himself four years later when its own trading caused more than $5 billion in losses—made one exception to his consultant rule. Most consulting engagements weren’t worth the price paid, he said, but McKinsey—well, it was the real thing.

Four years later, the Republican candidate for president, once a consultant himself, was asked how he would reduce the size of government. “So I would have . . . at least some structure that McKinsey would guide me to put in place,” Mitt Romney told the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal. When his audience seemed surprised, he added, “I’m not kidding. I probably would bring in McKinsey.”

After almost a century in business, McKinsey can lay claim to the following incomplete list of accomplishments: Once before, well before Romney was running for the presidency, it remapped the power structure within the White House; it guided postwar Europe through a massive corporate reorganization; it helped invent the bar code; it revolutionized business schools; it even created the idea of budgeting as a management tool.

Above all, McKinsey consultants have helped companies and governments create and maintain many of the corporate behaviors that have shaped the world in which we live. And in becoming an indispensable part of decision making at the highest levels, they have not only emerged as one of the great business success stories of our time but also helped invent what we think of as American capitalism and spread it to every corner of the world. The abstract, white-collar nature of modern business—the fact that the greatest value in our economy is now created by people sitting in air-conditioned skyscrapers and corporate parks who manipulate information—is a reality that McKinsey was instrumental in establishing, championing, and profiting from. The best evidence for McKinsey’s expertise is the firm itself. It has followed its own advice into an enviable position of power and prestige.

At the same time, however, the company can also be saddled with a list of striking failures, missteps that would have doomed lesser firms. McKinsey consultants were on the scene when General Motors drove itself into the ground. They were Kmart’s advisers when the retailer tumbled into disarray. They pushed Swissair in a direction that led to its collapse. They played a critical role in building the bomb known as Enron and collected massive fees right up until the moment of its spectacular explosion. And these are just the clients unlucky enough to have had their woes splashed across headlines. Many more have paid handsomely for guidance that shortchanged shareholders, led to unnecessary layoffs, and even prompted bankruptcies. And yet the consultants are rarely blamed for their bad advice—at least not publicly so.

Remarkably, that pervasive influence has come even though McKinsey contains more contradictions than the Bible. The firm is well known, but there is almost nothing known about it. Precious few McKinsey employees have ever become acclaimed in the outside world. The employees are trusted and distrusted—and loved and despised—in equal measure. They are a collection of huge egos that are yet content to stay behind the scenes. They are confident but also paranoid. And they are helpful yet manipulative with their clientele—and even their own people.

What do they actually do? They are managerial experts, cost cutters, scapegoats, and catalysts for corporate change. They are the businessman’s businessmen. They are the corporate Mandarin elite, a private corps, far from prying eyes, doing behind-the-scenes work for the most powerful people in the world. How do they do it? Well, their methods have been compared (by others and by themselves) to the Jesuits, the U.S. Marines, and the Catholic Church. They feel so strongly about themselves that they have insisted on a proper noun where one need not exist. To an outsider, they are a consulting firm. To themselves, simply, The Firm.

•    •    •

But the McKinsey story is even more than all of that. It’s also about the rise and reach of American business in the twentieth century—and its remarkable adaptability to changing times. American capitalism may be under stress now, but modern American management technique—which McKinsey has played a part in both creating and disseminating—has distinguished itself as much by its innovative ability as by its sheer might. Today McKinsey is a global success story. But first it was a distinctly American one.

One of the secrets of McKinsey is its very similarity to America—it has a solid foundation with an adaptive overlay, all topped off with a bit of old-fashioned luck. Make no mistake: McKinsey is not an enduring institution by accident. It has been built with much purpose. Still, could it be an accident of history, founded in the right place at the right time? Yes, but only in the same way that Google, LEGO, and Toyota are accidents. Other companies stumble into extinction.

McKinsey started in typically American fashion: with self-invention. Although it was technically founded in 1926 by a University of Chicago accounting professor named James O. McKinsey, the mythical leader of the firm is a successor, Marvin Bower, a man whose abiding goal was to invent a new profession committed to preparing clients for the challenges and uncertainties of the onrushing future. Plenty of other firms had the same idea at the same time, some even earlier, but none could match Bower’s discipline and focus. He distinguished McKinsey not just for what it did but for how it went about it, starting with the physical appearance of its employees and moving right on through hiring, training, and the culling of their ranks through a merciless system known as “up-or-out.”

Consultants of one kind or another have existed for centuries. Han Fei Tzu, founder of the so-called legalist school of ancient Chinese philosophy and adviser to the emperor, has been called the first consultant.1 But McKinsey can nevertheless claim a remarkable number of firsts: It was the first consulting firm to realistically apply scientific approaches to management, solving business problems with a method of hypothesis, data, and proof. It was the first to gamble on youth over experience, and the first to take on the challenge of becoming truly global.

McKinsey was a major player in the efficiency boom of the 1920s, the postwar gigantism of the 1940s, the rationalization of government and rise of marketing in the 1950s, the age of corporate influence in the 1960s, the restructuring of America and rise of strategy in the 1970s, the massive growth in information technology in the 1980s, the globalization of the 1990s, and the boom-bust-and-cleanup of the 2000s and beyond. So pervasive is the firm’s influence today that it is hard to imagine the place of business in the world without McKinsey.

•    •    •

So what is the net effect of McKinsey consultants in the world? What has been gained and lost as this relatively small group of like-minded people has consolidated power and spread the gospel of American capitalism? It’s best to take that question from a few different perspectives.

McKinsey’s clients, specifically those in the executive suite and the boardroom, have gotten an extremely intelligent if high-priced sounding board, a beacon in the night of managerial uncertainty. McKinsey offers a kind of industrial espionage couched in the language of “best practices.” Want to know what the competition is up to? Hire McKinsey. After all, it’s working with everyone else as well. The flip side of that argument is that your competitors find out about you too. But most clients have found the tradeoff rewarding.

When IBM wanted to expand into Europe in the 1950s, whom did it call for some hand-holding? McKinsey. So too did scores of other companies, from Heinz to Hoover. And then when Europe started recovering its own confidence? Why, McKinsey was there to tell the likes of Volkswagen and Dunlop Rubber that they could surely bounce back from near devastation with the consultants’ help. With McKinsey’s army of hardworking and youthful overachievers—what one reporter called “a SWAT team of business philosopher-kings”2—clients have surely gotten more effort per dollar spent than you might find anywhere else in the corporate milieu.

They have a remarkable ability to be in the right place at the right time—so many times, in fact, that you have to wonder whether they really can see the future. But the truth is subtler than that. They have created one of the most flexible business models in the history of Western capitalism: They sell what their clients are buying, and where the clients are buying it.

So powerful is the McKinsey name that merely hiring the firm can bring the desired effect—as in 2009, when publishing giant Condé Nast brought in McKinsey to demonstrate its seriousness about reducing expenses by 30 percent. The rank and file got the message. The act of hiring McKinsey can be as symbolic as it is practical.

Of course, criticisms of McKinsey’s contributions to client welfare are not hard to find. For one, once McKinsey is inside a client, its consultants are adept at artfully creating a feedback loop through their work that purports to ease executive anxiety but actually creates more of it, offering and then obscuring what one author has referred to as “an illusion of a sure path to the future.”3 Executives can get so accustomed to McKinsey’s presence that they can’t function without it, leading to situations like the one at AT&T in the early 1990s, when the company paid the firm $96 million over five years for ongoing work.

In situations like this, there is a potential anticlient bias to the consultants’ business, where the long-term result is dependence on, not independence from, the consultants. In other words, once they get the wedge end of a relationship into a company in the form of one engagement, they usually manage to hammer in the rest—becoming the so-called Men Who Came to Dinner. (To wit: They never leave.) McKinsey isn’t actually embarrassed by this notion—the firm calls it the “transformational relationship,” arguing that true change comes only from long-term relationships. But over the years, many McKinsey clients have paid for exorbitant, lengthy engagements with little to show for it.

•    •    •

What the McKinsey consultant himself has gained is a far simpler question to answer. He has gained money, power, and prestige, as well as the pretense of an intellectually minded pursuit within the corporate sphere. He is not a banker, accountant, or lawyer. He is a thinker. He has had the chance to whisper into the ears of power, to exercise influence while being insulated from responsibility. McKinsey was Enron CEO Jeff Skilling’s most favored outside adviser during the Houston natural gas company’s rise and fall. Skilling went to jail for his transgressions; McKinsey emerged from the scandal largely unscathed.

Perhaps best of all, a job at McKinsey is a ticket to almost anywhere in the world. The firm is the best finishing school in business, a launching pad, and a matchless résumé line. A job at McKinsey, regardless of duration, can serve as an enviable listening post for plum corporate roles, particularly at McKinsey’s own clients. The firm has an astonishingly successful network of alumni, occupying corner offices and boardrooms all over the world. Lou Gerstner, the man famous for turning IBM around, worked at McKinsey before decamping for one of his clients, American Express. Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman spent a decade at McKinsey before jumping ship to his client, Merrill Lynch. It literally happens about once a week.

Of course, not everyone goes on to a distinguished career. Enron’s Skilling came from McKinsey. Two figures convicted in the greatest insider-trading scandal in history—the 2009–12 investigation of convicted hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam—are ex–McKinsey: former director Anil Kumar as well as former managing director Rajat Gupta.

You rarely see an old McKinsey consultant—like its symbiotic other, the Harvard Business School, the institution favors youth over experience. McKinsey is like Harvard in other ways. To the Harvard grad, there is Harvard and there is nowhere else. Likewise McKinsey. Indeed, McKinsey alumni almost all wear their sense of specialness for the rest of their lives. This is why the Rajaratnam scandal has shaken the firm to its roots. Even though Anil Kumar sold client secrets and Rajat Gupta trashed the firm’s long-cherished value system in a public and mortifying way, neither event really affected the firm’s business. The damage to its self-image has been much more severe.

•    •    •

Finally, what of society? There is little doubt that McKinsey has made the corporate world more efficient, more rational, more objective, and more fact based. But to what extent have its contributions gone beyond the bottom line?

McKinsey would have the world believe that its consultants are missionaries of the best in business thinking; that by pushing companies fearlessly into the future they are not just boosting profits but aiding the cause of human progress itself. There is more than some merit to this point of view. And if the smartest, most successful companies in the world continue to hire them, that in and of itself is evidence of the value they create.

But as with many of the world’s big firms, it is also hard to overlook the mounting number of instances in which McKinsey advisers have behaved no better than mercenaries, collecting huge fees for work of dubious worth. At their most craven, they can be recruited to provide a high-gloss imprimatur of objectivity that is in reality mere cover for executives. They are, without question, the go-to consultants for managers seeking justification for savage cost cutting as well as a convenient scapegoat on whom to blame it. While this is surely impossible to measure, there is a distinct possibility that McKinsey may be the single greatest legitimizer of mass layoffs than anyone, anywhere, at any time in modern history.

In a sense, McKinsey is the Goldman Sachs of the consulting world. Both occupy the top rung of their respective professions, but both have come to symbolize something else as well—a nagging question of whether all the brainpower and energy devoted to them have truly been worth the opportunity cost. Is this really where America’s best and brightest can make their most meaningful contributions? McKinsey itself has answered that question in part by shifting its sights to a more global clientele, as the U.S. economy faces its starkest challenges in more than fifty years. The country has been thoroughly McKinseyed, and there’s nothing left to do but rebuild it from the bottom up, a task for which McKinsey may be ill suited.

In that, a question for McKinsey is the same one we might pose to American business itself: Is it still coming up with new ways of thinking, or is it merely relying on past accomplishments to stay ahead of the competition? It is surely doing both, but in what measure of each?

•    •    •

Consulting in general—and McKinsey in specific—has always been a difficult phenomenon to pin down. On the one hand, that’s because the ideal client-consultant relationship is one in which the consultant fades into the background almost immediately after the work is done and the checks are cashed. But there’s another reason, and that’s the elusiveness of what is actually being bought and sold in the first place.

In a word, McKinsey sells its own enlightenment, the firm’s ability to see things more clearly than its clients. Doing that once is no great accomplishment—a fresh perspective is the way out of many problems, in business or otherwise. Doing it for nearly a century is a tall order indeed, but it is one that McKinsey has apparently met.

When a CEO hires McKinsey, he knows he is hiring some of the smartest and hardest-working people worth opening the corporate checkbook for. Insight can—and often does—come from extreme analysis, and there is no better army of analysts in the world than McKinsey’s. And they do always seem to be where the action is: In 2012, McKinsey’s China-based business was one of the most rapidly growing areas of the firm.

But the CEO who hires McKinsey is also hiring it for its influence and its power, for the fact that the firm is woven tightly into the fabric of decision making at the very highest levels—corporate, political, or otherwise. It really is no surprise that Rajat Gupta, the former McKinsey managing director, was dealing in inside information from his seat in the boardroom of Goldman Sachs. Sometimes it really is simply about whom you know. And McKinsey knows everybody.

For better or for worse, McKinsey just might be the most influential collection of talent in the world. How the firm managed to gain and hold on to that influence without most of us noticing is only one part of its story. What it has done with that influence since its founding in the 1920s is what this book is about. --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Relié .

Revue de presse

“[T]hought-provoking . . . a fascinating look behind the company’s success. . . . [The Firm] chronicles McKinsey’s rise but also raises an important question about it that is applicable to the entire netherworld of consultants, advisers and other corporate hangers-on: ‘Are they worth it or not?’” (Andrew Ross Sorkin, The New York Times DealBook)

“There have been other books about this American icon, but The Firm is an up-to-date, full-blown history, told with wit and clarity.” (The Wall Street Journal)

“[T]hrough an expert accretion of damning detail, McDonald builds a convincing case that, for better and (mostly) worse, McKinsey became the quintessential American business of the 20th century.” (Bloomberg Businessweek)

“[An] admiring book that nevertheless asks hard questions about the organization’s future.” (The Economist)

“[The Firm] is a book that fits one McKinsey colleague’s description of former managing director Ron Daniel – ‘so smooth he could skate on your face and not leave a mark. … very readable.’” (Financial Times)

“Duff McDonald’s book on McKinsey, one of the world’s biggest consulting firms, should be made mandatory reading for every management education aspirant around the globe.” (Business Standard)

"A fascinating account of the rise of McKinsey. If you want to know what it is about the culture of the firm that sets it apart and has made it so successful, read this book." (Liaquat Ahamed, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Lords of Finance)

“In this highly readable history, Duff McDonald brings us deep inside one of the smartest and most important firms doing business today – a place where no other journalist has taken us before. With his straightforward storytelling and thoughtful analysis, McDonald demystifies the secrets behind McKinsey’s successes and offers concrete lessons on changing companies and practices for the better.” (Jamie Dimon)

"In his superb examination of one of the most powerful, secretive, and least understood organizations on the planet, Duff McDonald finally solves the mystery, in elegant prose, of how McKinsey can be well known without anyone knowing anything about it. Thanks to McDonald, now we do." (William D. Cohan, bestselling author of The Last Tycoons, House of Cards, and Money and Power)

“I read it. It’s a good book.” (Dominic Barton)

"Duff McDonald's new book about the people who built McKinsey, the consulting firm that has quietly influenced American business for decades, explains the firm's tremendous accomplishments—and its equally stunning failures. As McDonald shows, the firm's greatest success may well be itself. This is critical reading for anyone who wants to understand how the world of business really works." (Bethany McLean, coauthor of the New York Times bestseller All the Devils Are Here)

"McDonald has written the definitive history of McKinsey, and through McKinsey of the entire multibillion-dollar industry that is management consulting. It's a heartbreaking tale of wasted talent." (Felix Salmon, finance blogger, Reuters)

“Timely.… A fast-paced account of a key business institution, its deeds and misdeeds.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Revealing… McDonald combines a lucid chronicle of McKinsey’s growth and
boardroom melodramas.” (Publishers Weekly)

“[A] highly readable and thoughtful history . . . Duff McDonald offers a lucid and engrossing narrative as he considers the question of the effects and value of McKinsey.” (BlogCritics.com)

“Duff McDonald has written a breezy, entertaining book about McKinsey’s glorious past . . . . refreshingly light on buzz words and heavy on personalities. . . . A fascinating tale, deftly told.” (Globe & Mail) --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Relié .


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  • Broché: 400 pages
  • Editeur : S & S International; Édition : Export (12 septembre 2013)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 147673786X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476737867
  • Dimensions du produit: 15,2 x 2,5 x 22,9 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)
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1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par yanln le 26 octobre 2013
Format: Format Kindle
Pour le lecteur anglophone, ce livre est probablement ce qui se fait de mieux sur Mckinsey et plus généralement l'évolution du conseil en stratégie à travers la seconde partie du XXe siècle et le début du XXIe. Très bien écrit et tout aussi bien documenté, ce livre dresse un portrait exhaustif sans jamais être complaisant d'un groupe devenu un acteur majeur du système économique.
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Par MATHIEU LINDER le 8 août 2014
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
Excellent. Retrace la progression de mc kinsey dans contexte eco americain puis global, postionnement des consultants, strategie, concurrence bcg, etc
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11 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
very informative and enjoyable read 13 octobre 2013
Par Alastair MacAndrew - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
This book documents well the beginnings and evolution of McKinsey as a consultaing firm: from providing generalist advise to clients on implementing the multi-divisional and conglomerate structures, from the 1940s to the 1970s, and later, changing its focus to knowledge-based and highly specialized consulting to business, government and other organizations from the 1980s onwards. The author points out the changing strategies but the relatively constant cultural values which drove them: an unrelenting and self-effacing devotion to client needs,selectivity in human resources and clientele, adaptability to changing demands, prizing teamwork over individual achievement, continuous culling of the workforce, and a capacity to bring rigorous analytic thinking to customer's decision-making processes. Side-effects of the company's success have been a large dose of hubris, uber self-confidence and a penchant for seeing themselves as Masters of the Universe.
He also points out that McKinsey managed to deftly balance the two opposing facets of a professional service organization, which are to maintain the professional values of providing sound and objective advise to clients, and at the same time, ensure the economics of the business itself are optimized. This balance was seriously compromised during the 1990s and early noughties, when under the leadership of Rajat Gupta the firm shifted its focus in favor of more commercial goals, and growth at any cost. Quaity was compromised and discontent flowed within its ranks. According to McDonald, these aberrations have since been corrected, although management is still struggling to hone its vision of itself and its future.
Although any consulting firm with over 2,000 assignments/year is bound to have a few failures, the author stresses that in the case of McKinsey these have been egregious: tending to the needs of the iconic GM just before its demise, allowing itself to be caught up in the dot-com bubble, failing to foresee early on the importance of the internet, and indirectly contributing to the systemic real-estate and banking collapse, among others. These are big-picture events which one would expect such a large bevy of world-class thinkers should have foreseen or shied away from. Then there is the continuous nagging critique, especially from the European press, that a large portion of McKinsey's bread-and-butter has come from helping CEOs justify downsizing, i.e. fire lots of people. But, the author concludes, this has not stopped McKinsey's huge client base from continuing to hire its services, nor from it gaining new customers.
Even though he dedicates each chapter ot an individual theme, the author's style is somewhat desultory: switching continuously from criticism to praise, from favorable quotes of journalists to unfavorable ones, from positive to negative anecdotes,etc. Yet, as th author suggests, this is a company hard to pin down, and this style makes the story juicy and more colorful.
In recent years McKinsey has had far more comptetition both for clients and for talent and in some surveys it does not always come out on top vs Arthur Andersen or BCG. ( But in this business, is being the biggest synonymous with being the best? does size matter? and if so, how ? to the benefit or the detriment of the client ? ). The author also observes that the company may not be so succesful in the "modern" world of the Internet, young entrepreneurs, technology firms and others not so inclined to hire the services of consultants. Yet,this whole book reveals that McKinsey has never had a serious problem with strategy or growth, and the author concludes that if it manages to retain its original strong culture as its own internal complexity grows, it will continue to succeed.
The reason why I gave four stars instead of five is because I feel the author needed to include a couple of examples of McKinsey's work, showing their thought-process, procedure, their conclusions and recommendations. Perhaps this may not be possible, but if it is, it would definitely enhance a second edition.
68 internautes sur 90 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
lacks insight 23 octobre 2013
Par James - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
This book makes clear that there is no such thing as McKinsey. It changes so quickly that to work there is to touch a moving train. First it's all strategy and no numbers from Harvard Business School, then computers and engineers from all Ivy schools, then scientists and experts of any sex, color or nationality are fine. This is what is known in the trade as dancing between the raindrops. And the storm is getting stronger. It's important to note that as the focus shifts, the people change as well.

In this respect the book was an eye opener and expanded impressions I gathered from my employment there. There wasn't much in the book about how consultants actually work or what the day to day work is like. The perspective of the writer seems to be to blend hero worship with hero dislike. The result is a mishmash of mischaracterizations, probably of little interest to outsiders.

Here is a little peek from my years. You can compare this with what you find in the book to see if it expands your understanding.

I entered the "Firm" as an associate in the early to mid 1970's, a time of turmoil outside and weakness within. As the director of the Washington D.C. office of a minor competitor, I had recently beat McKinsey out of two prestigious assignments in real estate, a field where McKinsey had no credible capability but wanted to establish a foothold. I was also a consultant to the National Academy of Sciences in new town development feasibility. But my employer was sinking fast.

In an initial interview, John Garrity, managing director in Washington predicted that I would be attacked by others in the "Firm" since I insisted on working at least ½ time in real estate and since I was being brought in by an unpopular partner who was essentially banished to the London England office. Nobody made employment contract demands with McKinsey. You were supposed to be glad for any offer of employment. This was, after all, the leading fad employer of choice. We agreed that I would work out of New York. I was not loved there either.

Young college graduates often mistake placement for achievement. You're supposed to be special if you work in New York. Or employment at McKinsey is a putative sign of achievement. These assume that placement in a picture actually signifies something, that without this you have nothing.

Depak Chopra gives a lesson about the nature of a lump of gold. If it is turned into a ring, is used for a tooth or becomes part of a party mask it is always just gold. Employment in a place might eventually assist you in growth, but you're still you. You will become actually aware of this when you leave these places. The real you needs to have the right brand of horse power to succeed.

Soon after being hired I met Marvin Bower when he held a greeting session for new associates. I can still remember his large red nose, slicked back hair and pin striped Capone era suit draped over his huge frame (look for it on Wikipedia), very old fashioned. When he assured us that this employment would not lead to wealth, we all looked at the wall in despair.

The idea of a hair shirt job of service to large corporations wasn't what we had in mind while grinding through our Ivy League MBA's. Ron Daniel, the then New York managing director thought that associates ran to work each morning. It was more like looking around for a while and then running for the door. A component of employment therefore involved pretending that you believed the company orthodoxy.

Bower also emphasized that this was essentially a word and logic shop that had little use for computers. When he said "There are no formulae at the top," I wondered where I would fit in. I was an engineering and MBA finance grad with a heavy career background in computer modeling.

The engagements to which I was assigned mostly had similar characteristics. A conclusion was formed almost immediately followed by months of shaping arguments and data for selling the conclusion to the client, followed by an illusion of verbalization session presented with an overhead projector. The client had no opportunity to preview the analysis. The actual analysis was the sort of weak stuff you would expect from liberal arts graduates with business school degrees, the McKinsey specialty of that era.

In one assignment with the British House of Commons, for instance, we were to determine the feasibility of building a new city near Gatwick Airport. The main analytical team didn't know how to construct a spreadsheet with discounted cash flow, an essential feature of this type of assignment. In another, Certainteed Products wanted to know if they should continue with the development of a resort community that involved high pressure phone sales. When I suggested to the partner that the McKinsey cash flow analysis was flawed by failing to distinguish between cash and installment sales, the response was "Shut up, this division is immoral and should be closed anyway!"

The worst study I witnessed was for the State of New York. Many students were defaulting on student loans. What could they do? The answer was obvious; be stricter with the loans, monitor grades, etc. But this would violate the liberal nature of this team. The result was to tell them after $50 thousand or so that we determined they had a loan default problem and we needed another hundred grand to figure it out. They were not impressed.

The big one for me was Sea Pines, a developer of high end southern U.S. resort properties. We were to determine the financial feasibility of Brandermill, their first primary home community located in suburban Richmond Virginia. A retired Supreme Court justice owned the land.

The rest of the team quickly but informally conceded primarily control of the analysis to me since this was my specialty. After the first week I determined that for Brandermill to break even, everybody who would buy a house in the Richmond Virginia metropolitan area for the foreseeable future would have to buy it here. This development was headed down fast and hard. For a new community to have a 10 percent market capture would be a fabulous success. 110% was ridiculous.

For the next three months, the report was shaped and rewritten many times. Sea Pines had recently been one of the leading employers of graduating students at Harvard Business School. The people running the place were classmates of others on our McKinsey team. This was supposed to be a white shoe rubber stamp of a Sea Pines expansion into the primary home arena. Instead they were headed for insolvency.

Everybody associated with real estate from the senior director down to the lowest research person was released from he "Firm," although not necessarily at the same time. "McKinsey's clients don't go out of business, we make them better, stronger." The underwriters sniffed this all out, analyzed all of the Sea Pines developments and liquidated the company. It's all on line for you to see.

I was informally advised that I might possibly be able to become part of an analytical team in Tanzania. I declined and took a job with a company that previously built the Pan Am building over Grand Central Station. One of their clients was Aristotle Onassis. This was REAL real estate. Snakes in the parking lot in Africa had no appeal for me.

The net from all of this is that the idea of having generalists floating around in multiple fields is ridiculous, as I saw in real estate. All of the other consulting companies I worked in did a better job with real estate than McKinsey. The people might not have been as smart, but they had more depth from specialization. The idea that time at McKinsey leads to executive success is at odds with the facts. A quick scan of the McKinsey alumni directory will reveal that while there are notably successful alums, most are mediocre and many never had another job. The idea that there is a tremendous supporting network of alums is another myth. In the 40 or so years since I left, not a single person from McKinsey or its alums has ever contacted me for anything.

At this point, a career in Silicon Valley holds much more promise. At least if you're going to bust your hump for an employer, it should also hold the prospect of a path to riches. Recent graduates from prestige schools are preferred simply because they are young, dumb and full of............. well, you know. The kind of bookworm students who typically excel in these colleges have mainly spent their early lives perfecting their appeal to little old ladies, feminized males and eccentric loner professors. The resulting social retardation persists about two years into an early career, which is about as much time as a good percentage of associates spends at "The Firm."
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worth the read 5 février 2014
Par Iain Allen - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
This book is a useful history of McKinsey, who, true to form, have recommended lots of layoffs at my employer. It's weakness comes when the author tries to second guess what has been a v successful firm. He s clearly not a fan of management consulting, but McKinsey is the biggest and most successful, so people are buying what they sell. I enjoyed the book, and would hire McKinsey, but only for specific roles. They don't have all the answers, but if you ask the right questions, they can definitely help.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The Firm 7 novembre 2013
Par Brian H. Sprowal - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
Great Book. I study and analyze management, leadership, and organizations. This product would be an excellent choice to add to a management and or leadership graduate course programs syllabus.
4 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Meticulous Research. 21 décembre 2013
Par R. Parry - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Consulting firm, McKinsey & Co, has been saddled with lurid descriptions: “Jesuits of commerce”, “Marine Corps with calculators”, and “MI5 with MBAs”. “The Firm” - as it nicknames itself - is sometimes described as secretive and reclusive. This book sets out to discover the truth – and, by and large, succeeds. It debunks many McKinsey myths and gives a deep insight into its culture and leadership. But it is not uncritical and there are parts that McKinsey and its 23,000 alumni won’t like.

Author Duff McDonald has done a phenomenal amount of research and seems to have enjoyed unprecedented access to many of McKinsey’s normally reticent Managing Directors. The notable exception was Rajat Gupta the MD who was sensationally convicted in 2012 of insider trading in the USA. It is the notoriety of Guptagate that validates the book’s description of McKinsey as “controversial”. And is probably why so many senior people agreed to be interviewed - to redress the reputational damage.

James McKinsey, a Chicago accountant, in effect invented the profession of management consulting in the 1920s when he peddled some revolutionary ideas about budgeting. His embryonic firm was honed and polished by his protégé, Marvin Bower who established principles and practices which have resulted in a highly distinctive or, as The Firm seems to suggest, a slightly sinister culture.

In the 1980s, recruits were given Bower’s own book Perspectives which was handed over like a religious relic to communicate the “McKinsey way”. As a piece of literature it was quite hard going. McDonald’s book is considerably better written. He makes much of The Firm’s “indoctrination” techniques observing: “Most impressive, perhaps, is [McKinsey’s] unrivalled ability to attract an enormous pool of smart people and mould them into like-minded smart people – an army of highly motivated, high impact consultants.”

Fuelling the cult idea, the book makes much of Bower’s dress code, demanding, for example, that the consultants all wore long socks and the suggestion that only tall and good-looking candidates would be favoured. Much has clearly changed since those early days but the McKinsey’s recruitment regime remains painstakingly selective.

The author’s own McKinsey description is “the corporate Mandarin elite”…“doing behind the scenes work for the most powerful people in the world”. He notes the active cultivation of alumni implying a tight knit clique, saying “You are still McKinsey even after you have left.” He quotes McKinsey alum, the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, “[At McKinsey]….you are encouraged to believe that you belong to a special club of elite people”.

As might be expected from a topflight financial journalist (Mr McDonald is a star Fortune writer) the book takes a balanced approach. Indeed, at times, it feels it is trying too hard by raising a lot of contrasting questions without in some cases ever really answering them.

The Firm’s narrative is structured like Chinese history – a series of Managing Directorial dynasties. This results in an excessive focus on the personality of the individuals. To the cost of Rajat Gupta who is portrayed as “greedy” - turning his back on the ethics of Bower and turning McKinsey “from a profession into a business”. By contrast, his successor Ian Davis – the first British MD – comes out well as the man who returned to a higher minded purpose. And his successor, the incumbent Dominic Barton, is painted as almost a candidate for beatification who has saved the company, at least for the time being.

In a rather gloomy Epilogue Mr McDonald concludes McKinsey has grown too big: “..the greatest challenge … is managing the complications that have resulted from its own stupendous success”. He is almost certainly correct.

To summarise, and to adopt the author’s own Socratic style: Is this a good book? Yes. It is meticulously researched, well written and a comprehensive and balanced history. Is it enjoyable? Yes. If you are a McKinsey alumnus, a competing consultant or anyone wanting to know about running a professional service firm. Is it for everyone? Not sure. With the exception of the racy sections on malfeasance at Enron and “Guptagate”, it is quite dense going. However according to Wikipedia McKinsey receives some 225,000 job applications annually so this inquisitive and motivated audience may ensure healthy sales of The Firm for many years to come.
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