One symptom may have different causes and we as doctors should never rely on the patient to diagnose.
So, always dig deeper. Get facts. Asks questions. Poke around. Challenge the client… until you find the real problem.
The McKinsey Way is a book by Ethan M. Rasiel, published in 1999, about what McKinsey&Company does, how McKinsey organizes and what working at McKinsey is like.
20 years after publication, the book still holds significant value, offering timeless insights into the world’s most prestigious management consulting firm: McKinsey&Company. In this article, we’ll provide a detailed summary of all the lessons and insights from The McKinsey way. We’ll re-organize the content and occasionally insert supporting insights to make it more friendly to the reader.
The McKinsey Way has 5 Parts (Sections) with 180 pages:
The McKinsey problem-solving process can be summarized in the 5 steps: define the problems, find the root cause, use “hypothesis-driven” process, analyze with “issue tree” and propose solutions.
No.1: Don’t force the facts to say what you want.
When you propose or work extensively with a running hypothesis, it’s easy to get emotionally attached and turn the problem-solving process into a proving exercise. So keep an open mind and listen to what the data have to say.
No.2: Let the hypothesis come to you naturally.
You will not be able to form an initial hypothesis every time. The clients may not even know their problems. The scope of the project is often large and vague. So, dive in, gather facts, conduct analyses, and the hypotheses will show themselves.
No.3: Don’t reinvent the wheel.
Business problems often resemble each other more than they differ. With suitable techniques, you can apply what you and the firm learned from other projects. After all, one of the values consulting firms bring is to provide the “best practice” – what the top players in the game are doing
No.4: Make sure your solution fits your client.
The most brilliant solution is useless without proper implementation. So know your client’s weaknesses, strengths, and capabilities and tailor your solutions accordingly.
No.5: Be mindful of politics.
There are always politics in projects. Many times, McKinsey gets involved in fights between corporate factions. This creates friction that prevents you from doing your job (late data; rejected interviews, etc.).
So think about how your solutions affect the players in an organization and always build a consensus along the way. If consensus requires you to change your solution, try to compromise. It’s no good devising the ideal solution if the client refuses to accept it.
It’s highly recommended that you refer to the following video for a general view on how McKinsey organizes and a better understanding of the insights from this part.
There is a whole system behind how McKinsey solve a business problem. In this part of The McKinsey Way, Ethan Rasiel describes how the company sells their projects, builds a team and manages its hierarchy.
McKinsey typically does not sell. The firm does marketing through a constant stream of books, articles, and scholarly journals like the McKinsey Quarterly, etc. The Firm also invites organize press releases and generates quite some coverage by journalists.
These publications help McKinsey Partners build and nurture a vast network of informal contacts with potential clients. And when a problem arises, the client knows who to contact.
Almost all projects need a full-time team of consultants. Typically, the process goes like this:
It’s solely the EM’s responsibility to keep the team happy and functional. McKinsey projects have a few common practices to do so:
The chain of command in McKinsey is very clear and strict. So is the responsibility funnel. In the ED’s eyes, the EM is responsible for everything in the project. In the EM eyes, the BA is responsible for everything within the assigned workstream. Even when a BA messes things up, to the ED, it’s not the BA’s fault, but the EM.
To provide the best solution for the clients, consultants need tons of skills in preparing presentations; conducting researchs and interviews; presenting the final products in a simple structure; communicating with clients; and brainstorming.
Most consultants spend a big portion of their time making presentations (often in PowerPoint). Utilize the support team! Keep it structured, from top to bottom, from end to end.
Note that there are diminishing marginal returns to your effort, meaning that the last miles toward perfection are always much harder than the beginning. So, resist the temptation to tweak your presentation at the last minute. Try to assess its gains vs those of a good night’s sleep for you and the supporting cast.
We subconsciously admire the people who talk in sophisticated language, so we make complex charts. However, simple and easy-to-follow charts go a long way in consulting. Charts are just a means of getting your messages across, not a Ph.D. project.
Also, don’t forget to:
There are many tips on client management, but the general principle is to bring the client to your side. You never win by opposing the client. Remind them about mutual benefits. Do it everyday!
Some of the client members can be “liabilities”. There are 2 types of them:
With both types, the number 1 option is to subtly trade them out of your realm. When that is not possible, the next best option is to play ignorant. Leak out information only with the right “secret audience”.
No matter what, engage the client members in the process. The more they feel everybody is on the same boat, the more they would support you.
You should also get buy-ins throughout the organization along the process. Every important party has to agree with you. Ideally, the final document has already been discussed many times through many rounds with the client before the official presentation.
Don’t reinvent the wheel! Whatever you are doing, chances are that someone, somewhere has done something similar. Building upon someone’s work is the best way to save time and energy while achieving the highest standard.
Besides, here are some research tips:
This is one of the most effective ways to gather qualitative facts during a project. You will find yourself interviewing multiple industry and function experts as well as key client leaders.
Here are a few tips:
In McKinsey, we often use the word “Problem-Solving” interchangeably with brainstorming sessions. It’s a very topic-focus meeting within the McKinsey team, consisting of the consultant in-charge, the EM, and sometimes even the ED and experts.
Before the session, prepare in advance as much supporting data as possible. It will come handy in the process.Inside the White room: Start with tabula rasa — a clean slate. When you get your team into the room, leave your preconceptions at the door. Bring in only the facts, and find new ways of looking at them.
Management consulting is an interesting yet challenging job. To survive and thrive at McKinsey, here are some advices for you:
At McKinsey, every consultant is officially assigned a mentor, who may not be in the same office. How much you benefit from the official mentor is pretty much a matter of luck. If you want great guidance, you have to go out and get your own. Get a few too, don’t stick to just one.
Business travel can be exhausting and difficult, here are some note you can take to deal with it:
Here is the list:
Having a good assistant is a lifeline. Treat them well. Be clear about what you want. Give them room to grow. Take time to train them well. Answering their questions and showing them the ropes.
Since you have a large amount of work to cover as a consultant, there is almost no work-life balance. However, if you want a life, lay down some rules. For example:
80% of the wealth is owned by just 20% of the population. 80% of the output can be produced by 20% of the effort. 20% of the problems can cause 80% of the trouble.
So if you wanna save time and effort. Always try to find those 20% and act upon them!
If you don’t take shortcuts, there is simply too much to do. Be selective. Find the key drivers. Focus on the core problem, then apply analysis. This helps avoid going down blind alleys and boiling the ocean.
Concise communication is crucial in consulting. Anytime the EM asks you for your workstream status, you have to be able to give him a 30 seconds summary. Short yet insightful. This skill takes practice. Try doing it every day in various contexts!
Solving only part of the problem can still mean increased profits. Those little wins help you and your customers. Try to see such opportunities and grab them first.
Get your job and only your job done, don’t try to do the work of the whole team.
It’s impossible to do everything yourself all the time. Even if you manage to pull it off once, you raise unrealistic expectations and once you fail, it is difficult to get back credibility.
When you are feeling swamped, take a step back, figure out what you are trying to achieve, and then look at what you are doing. “Does this really matter?”
Probably not! All of these troubles will go away!
The firm pounds the concept of professional integrity: Honesty. If you don’t know something, just say “I DON’T KNOW” in an empowering fashion. Admitting that is a lot less costly than bluffing.
There are not many people who stay with McKinsey for their whole career life. In the last part of The McKinsey Way, Ethan Rasiel and other ex-McKinsey consultants share their valuable lessons and memories from working at the company.
Management consulting is an industry providing expensive and professional advice to organizations to improve their overall performance, through better “management”, which includes strategy, governance, operation, organization, finance, and marketing. The three most prestigious management consulting firms are McKinsey, BCG, and Bain (the Big Three).