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Consulting Demons: inside the Unscrupulous World of Global Corporate Consulting [Hardcover]

Lewis Pinault
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

11 Aug 2000

In this gripping and colorful account of the American dream gone astray, Lewis Pinault provides the essential guidelines on how to get ahead and an enlightening perspective on the brutal infighting that can engulf even the most civilized consulting firm. This stunning exposé of some of the most prestigious and respected names in the business leads you into a world where a client's interests are skillfully subordinated to those of the consultants, where money rules the day, and where principles and morals are unwelcome baggage.

Humorous and insightful, this no-holds-barred account takes you behind the scenes of the dehumanizing indoctrination of an academic intellectual into an exploitative -- and exploited -- "global transformation contractor." Featuring new material dealing with the e-consulting industry's boom, bust, and its future, Consulting Demons offers the most complete look at an industry that exacts the highest prices for the most questionable standards of success.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 228 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness; First Edition edition (11 Aug 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0066619971
  • ISBN-13: 978-0066619972
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.2 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,789,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

Amazon Review

With the ubiquitous term "consultant" now being bandied about as practically every second person's job description, Consulting Demons is a book for everyone. At once an entertaining account of one man's personal odyssey through the various levels and organizations of the corporate consulting world, an informed opinion given to fresh-faced MBA schoosing this profession as a career and an ominous warning to clients not yet privy to its inner workings, Consulting Demons is a compelling read.

Earning an undergraduate degree in political science at MIT, Lewis Pinault channelled his interests in space development into areas more saleable in the late 1970s, namely, ocean engineering and Japanese. Hired directly out of college by a Japanese shipbuilder, he spent the next few years living in the conglomerate's dilapidated dormitories, mastering the language and gaining valuable project management experience. Pinault's introduction to the alluring world of corporate consulting came through company contact with consultants from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and a year later he'd been willingly sucked into the vortex of a fast-paced, all-consuming 12-year consulting career. His ensuing adventures led him throughout Southeast Asia, in and out of BCG, the MAC Group, Gemini Consulting, Arthur D. Little (ADL) and finally Coopers & Lybrand, and through a number of less-than-professional exercises in client scamming and industrial espionage (otherwise known as benchmarking).

Having left the sanctums of global consultancies to pursue his original aspirations in science and the law, Pinault has written an exposé of considerable force. Part autobiography, part cautionary manual, the book presents a dark picture of the world of management consulting; in fact, each of its chapters ends with a "Consulting Demonology" tract, including such topics as "Client Beware: Consultants' Spycraft Charms" and "Red Spots and Other Ruses Consultants Use to Close on Large Fees." Though Pinault's tone is sometimes rather arrogant, it serves to reinforce the nature of the consulting game, one that this book portrays as risky and lucrative for the consultant but extremely costly and often not worthwhile for the client. If you're already a bona fide member of the ever-growing management consultant population, read this book and measure your worth as a successful trickster or unknowing drone. If you're thinking of becoming a consultant, read this book and think again. If you're a client about to sign a pact with the devil (or its demons), beware. --S. Ketchum, Amazon.com

Review

"Part of the appeal of this book is not only the insider′s view of the consulting business, but also the effect on the people who work in it. Part of the charm of this book is Pinault′s writing style." –– Ambassador, October 2000 --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Management consultant in an integrity crisis 28 Feb 2000
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This book can save users of management consultants millions of dollars. But they can also miss making millions. The stories in the book appear to be true. They show that some of the most important and prestigious consulting companies are far more interested in making money than solving a company's problems effectively and with integrity. The author however also states correctly that good consultants have three unique advantages 1 intensive concentration on a problem 2 no blinkers as the persons working in the company 3 experience of similar problems and their solution elsewhere. These unique advantages when combined integrity can deliver important benefits. The quality of the individual consultant is very important regardless of whatever the most reputable consulting company may claim. Many clients once they decide to start a project want to start quickly which makes it often impossible for the consulting company to make suitable persons available. Therefore a company that engages consultants at short notice takes a high risk as there is no time to properly organize and staff the project. The book documents a considerable lack of integrity in consulting companies and among consultants, with the author being a frightening example. The book is also useful reading for consulting companies that wish to operate at a high level of integrity. An interesting issues is strategy development and gathering information about competitors. The book gives dramatic examples of how is "stolen". Every company worth its salt is benchmarking the performance of its products against the competitors'. Reverse engineering, that is dissecting a product of a competitor and figuring out how one can do the same or better is an accepted practice. Read more ›
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  25 reviews
33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Loved This Book 14 Feb 2000
By Avid Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A brave, significant work. By breaking the consulting industry's omerta, its own Sicilian code of silence, Lewis Pinault has taken a professional gamble to be much lauded, exposing the inherent skullduggery of a business gone unexamined for too long.
Pinault's "Consulting Demons" does for management consulting what Michael Lewis's "Liar's Poker" did for investment banking and Po Bronson's "Nudist on the Late Shift" did for Silicon Valley. In fact, Pinault's wry wit, engaging prose, and lucid insights invite comparisons with the best work of Lewis and Bronson. Yet unlike Lewis and Bronson, Pinault actually made it to the top of the profession he chronicles. This lofty vantage imbues his work with added credibility and authority.
The book is a thoroughly enjoyable read for the layperson, but for anyone considering a career in management consulting, it should be required reading.
Really two books in one--half memoir, half Machiavellian primer for career advancement--Demons triumphs on both levels. Pinault balances tales of swash-buckling success with monumental failure. The Shell snafu in particular is palpably frightening. Scarier for a professional than any Stephen King novel could be. As the incident unfolds, you'll find yourself screaming at the book, "Lewis, don't give that PowerPoint presentation!"
Yet this work is much more than just an "emperor with no clothes" expose of the oftentimes insidious world of the globe-trotting, management consultant. It treats its subject with remarkable compassion and fairness.
As a cautionary tale about the self-destructive effects of deferring one's true calling for the lure of fatter and fatter paychecks and sacrificing personal development for professional advancement, Demons will resonate with readers of all stripes who, feeling trapped in Faustian bargains with their careers, seek to throw off the shackles of modern corporate servitude and reclaim their passions.
Lewis Pinault's debut book is the harbinger of an extremely promising writing career. I can hardly wait for his next book.
37 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Personal Account of a Big League Consulting Career 28 Jun 2000
By Donald Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In the interests of full disclosure, I would like you to know that I worked as a consultant and later as a project manager at The Boston Consulting Group in Boston from 1971-74. As far as I can remember, I neither experienced nor heard about any of the sorts of problems raised by the author. In fact, senior members of the firm frequently encouraged me to be concerned about ethical issues, and made it easy for me to follow the right course. I have headed my own management consulting firm for the last 22 years, where I can made my own calls on ethics. So I am probably biased in my review. Forgive me for that, but this book called out to me to be read and reviewed.
This book should be required reading for anyone about to enter a business career. The reason I say that is because it exposes the reader to the kinds of ethical choices that can arise in consulting, investment banking, law and many other high impact professional careers. If you have your moral compass in front of you, you will probably make different (and possibly better) choices than Mr. Pinault did. If you don't, you may stumble into some places where you will later wish you hadn't gone.
The book is also promoted as a source that all clients should consider. If you think of some of the stories as being "what can go wrong during a consulting assignment," that can be valuable. But the book is hardly a thorough look at how to buy and get value from consultants. Here is where I graded the book down one star. I think the blurb and the subtitle are misleading on this point.
I drew a different lesson from this book than the author did. I thought that he was a victim of stalled thinking. Whenever a potential ethical problem arose, it seemed to me that he viewed the question as being one of whether he could duck the pressure put on by a colleague or not. Instead, he could have stepped back and considered how an alternative solution could have been designed that would have ethically fulfilled the same purpose for the client and his consulting firm. For example, you need not interview all of your client's competitors flying a somewhat false flag (as he and his teams sometimes did) to find out how your client is doing. There are plenty of public sources that are available to you, and these may even be more reliable in some cases. Also, the client needs enough information to make the right decision -- not every bit of information that can be gleaned (by fair means or foul).
So as you consider your future career, be aware that you need to take responsibility for your own actions. Ask yourself how you would feel writing a book about them and sharing what you did with your parents, children, and grandchildren. If you don't like the answer, come up with a better one. If you can't find that better answer, quit and take up with another firm or another line of work.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Management Consultant in an integrity crisis 1 Mar 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Management consultant in an integrity crisis This book can save users of management consultants millions of dollars. But they can also miss making millions. The stories in the book appear to be true. They show that some of the most important and prestigious consulting companies are far more interested in making money than solving a company's problems effectively and with integrity. The author however also states correctly that good consultants have three unique advantages 1 intensive concentration on a problem 2 no blinkers as the persons working in the company 3 experience of similar problems and their solution elsewhere. These unique advantages when combined integrity can deliver important benefits. The quality of the individual consultant is very important regardless of whatever the most reputable consulting company may claim. Many clients once they decide to start a project want to start quickly which makes it often impossible for the consulting company to make suitable persons available. Therefore a company that engages consultants at short notice takes a high risk as there is no time to properly organize and staff the project. The book documents a considerable lack of integrity in consulting companies and among consultants, with the author being a frightening example. The book is also useful reading for consulting companies that wish to operate at a high level of integrity. An interesting issues is strategy development and gathering information about competitors. The book gives dramatic examples of how is "stolen". Every company worth its salt is benchmarking the performance of its products against the competitors'. Reverse engineering, that is dissecting a product of a competitor and figuring out how one can do the same or better is an accepted practice. Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, was proud of the ideas he had "stolen" from others. Headhunters often search for candidates among competitors. Where does legitimate information gathering stop and stealing starts? This is not the kind of issue on which this book gives any guidance.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Skillfully Seductive 28 April 2002
By Leonard Chen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Very few recent business books have been written with such a superb combination of thrilling drama, industry confession, and informative insight. As I read this book I was equally captivated by the stories of corporate "spying" hidden under the cloak of strategic industry research, as well as by the careful analysis of the management consulting industry.
As a consultant currently working at a big Five (or Four) firm, and as an MBA hopeful, I recommend this book to anyone who is remotely interested in working in the consulting industry. Mr. Pinault provides a peak into the lives of consultants, spinning a web of glamor as well as well emptiness. His confessions are honest and almost vulnerable. Simultaneously, he provides a historical account of this very private and elite profession.
What's most intriguing to me is the effect the book has. On the surface, the book appears to be an industry expose and confession. However, the effect, at least for me, is not one of repulsion but of attraction. I can honestly say that, after reading the book, I want to be a management consultant even more than before. I wonder if Mr. Pinault still has a love/hate relationship with the industry.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A SLOG FOR NON CONSULTANTS 11 Dec 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Interesting book, but as my title suggests, as a non consultant, I had to force myself to finish some chapters. The mind numbing greed of these global big name consulting firms was matched only by the glaring ignorance of even the basic principals of business by their clients. After 17 years of living and working in Japan, I enjoyed some of Pinault's observations on life, love and business with the Japanese, others seemed quite contrived and the product of a somewhat overfertile imagination out to perpetuate the endless myths about "doing business with the Japanese". All in all, I learnt a lot about the consulting game, however I probably could have learnt just as much by reading a 5pg summary of the book.
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