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Life of a Management Consultant
Management Consulting 101 What The Heck Does A Consultant Do?
A quick glance
- The job of a “Content Ambassador”
- The daily workflow of a McKinsey Consultant
1. The job of a “Content Ambassador”
- Working directly with key personnel on the managerial level.
- Making solutions that are implemented by high level leaders spanning across multiple departments in a company.
- The “content ambassadors” who bridges the gap between a complicated client context with various needs, conditions, and attributes and a massive back-end network of knowledge and experts.
There is a saying that “Every McKinsey consultant starts his first day on the job as a manager” and it is probably true.
Let’s put this into perspective by examining my role in a real engagement case.
The Cement Project
Should the client close down the plant?
As the consultant in charge, I have to analyze the problem, break it into smaller parts and come up with an answer: Whether we can turnaround their negative profits and if yes, how long does it take?
I continue by hypothesizing that the root cause is in the first branch – profitability, then further break it down into two smaller branches: improving sales and cutting costs.
Suppose I was studying the costs and realize logistics is one of the biggest factors affecting profit. Then only at this point would I choose from the network a cement logistics expert to talk to.
2. The daily workflow of a McKinsey Consultant
Bring content, knowledge, expertise into disposal
- Research Internal Knowledge Database (PD).
- Research the Internet for additional data.
- Studying reports by independent parties.
- Interviewing experts / client / customer.
- Mystery shopping (pretending to be customer).
- Data analyzing.
Creating final products (deliverables)
- Making powerpoint: I had a visual graphics support team in India who turns my chart and map sketches into formal McKinsey-style slides. All I needs to worry about is the actual content of the slide.
- Content presentation: structured, concise, easy-to-follow document.
In the actual consulting project like the cement case mentioned, I found myself going back and forth between these tasks constantly. So to help you better understand the work stream of a management consultant in an actual project, I will disclose to you the journal of my involvement in this case from the very start until the solution presented.
First day on the job
Today I am assigned into the cement work stream in a state-owned-enterprise project. I immediately begin by going to the McKinsey content library to download the 100 page “Cement 101 PD”, scan and pick up the industry key terms & concepts. Then I go to the client website to find out about their plants, location, technology, sales, product.
=> With this data, I create a blank slide and start with the Client fact sheet.
Next, I try to find all cement market reports in the region and find out that the market was badly oversupply.
=> I create a Basic market perspective sheet and jot down this biggest takeaway along with some other insights.
I then call the Engagement manager to get the feeling for the workstreams and the overall project objective: “helping the client decide whether or not they should close down their major plant.”
=> With this in mind, I go back 101 document to study more in depth on the subject (cement turnaround, lean cement production cost, etc.).
Meeting the team
At night, we have team dinner with the leaderships (Associate partners in charge) to discuss team norms, working process, MBTI, Personal Development, etc. I am used to the process as we do this at the beginning of every project!
=> Although my team did not have good chemistry (yet!), I am looking forward to working with them.
Later that night, I go to the market research team to get any public data on the cement industry then later file a request for the specific data I needed.
=> At initial stage, any public data will be useful, although in developing country, public data can be unclear and inaccurate.
Before going to bed, I draft the ideas for the questions with the China team. I then schedule with the China partner for phone interview & prepare the v1 data request form to send to the client. Next day I make the call with the china partner, taking the lead and the call is well over 30 mins. Later, the data from the client also arrive.
=> The data are so insightful and confirm my hypothesis: “The client should close down the rest of plant”.
I plug the data into the turnaround model: a complex model with many inputs to answer one key question: “The plant is bad, but under all sources of improvement levels, can it make a profit?”.
=> After the analysis, I come to the conclusion…. (To see more, please watch our video above!)