Customer Reviews

6 Reviews
5 star:
4 star:
3 star:    (0)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
Most Helpful First | Newest First

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Story, 9 April 2014
Kenneth J. Morris (Burton-upon Trent, UK) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As an employee of no less than three large UK-located businesses in the period 1960 to 1990 which were clients of "The Firm" I was both entertained and educated by this book. It explained a great deal about their methodology and faithfully traced the changes made over the period I experienced. I consider it required reading for any management consultant.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

4.0 out of 5 stars In Truth Not Beached, 23 Jun 2014
Well-written, and its own considered way a vital addition to the general debate on globalisation and the further transfer of power to international elites.

The prose slightly lacks passion, although the very manicured calm of the company being profiled must represent a great inhibitor of a more lively piece of work. The basics of the story are definitely there, including interesting vignettes on the (implied and definitely odds-on) fighting of company elections for leadership positions through the pages of major publications, and also the sense that (and this may not persist) that for now many in McKinsey feel slightly beached, with the real action at Apple, Google, and other technology firms.

The rejoinder to that is that McKinsey’s networks extend so far and so widely that the company’s influence, although adapted, remains formidable, making Mr McDonald’s well-researched book a much prized guide.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

4.0 out of 5 stars Great insight, 7 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Firm: The Inside Story of McKinsey, The World's Most Controversial Management Consultancy (Kindle Edition)
Well written and compelling read.
A real insight into one of the most influential organisations in the world of leadership.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Meticulous Research, 21 Dec 2013
R. Parry (Bahamas) - See all my reviews
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] 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".

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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkably circumspect examination of "the best finishing school in business", 19 Nov 2013
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
After briefly but sufficiently reviewing the historical background to the creation and subsequent development of McKinsey & Company," Duff McDonald correlates this frame-of-reference with the process by which "The Firm" has had an increasingly greater impact, not only on American business but indeed on almost every part of the world where business is conducted. However, there are several acknowledgments throughout McDonald's narrative that it is difficult (if not impossible) to quantify the nature and extent of that impact, directly through its client relations and indirectly through its former partners who have relocated to corporate C-suites and through books and articles published by partners and former partners.

Here in Dallas near the downtown area, there is a Farmer's Market at which some of the merchants offer slices of fresh fruit as samples of their wares. In that spirit, I now provide a few brief excerpts.

"[Alfred] Sloan and his ilk were perfect customers for McKinsey: Lacking the legitimization of actual ownership, professional managers felt great pressures to show they were using cutting-edge practices. And who better to bring those practices to their attention than consultants who were talking to everyone else?" (Pages 19-20)

"From the very beginning, James McKinsey went to great lengths to distinguish his firm from its less savory predecessors -- he and his partners had multiple university degrees and strong connections to the establishment. And just as McKinsey flipped accounting on its head, he and his contemporaries likewise turned Taylorism on its head. Instead of focusing on line workers at the bottom of the organizational chart, they zeroed in on the growing white-collar bureaucracy and top managers." (27)

"It's an impossible number to quantify [the firm's economic impact], given that McKinsey doesn't actually make final decisions for its clients, but it may not be too far off the mark to suggest that McKinsey has been the impetus for more layoffs than any other entity in corporate history." (96)

"Marvin Bower told his protégés that the secret to success was to act successful. He wasn't just talking about McKinsey. He was talking about a specific kind of American confidence that allowed the country to conquer the economic globe to a degree that is only now being called into question, some fifty years later. The country has that confidence -- or it used to -- and McKinsey expressed that as totally and fully as any company the world has ever seen. So it made mistakes. It could fix them. And it did." (191)

"McKinsey's main asset continues to be the trust its clients have in the firm, an unquantifiable, intangible thing that is constantly being tested. The consultants' secondary assets -- their trust in each other and the internal culture of the place -- have likewise come under stress. The more the organization grows, the harder it is to enforce a coherent set of values." (325)

These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of McDonald's coverage.

o Bastards Require No Diplomacy (Pages 25-38)
o Death of a Pioneer: James McKinsey (35-36)
o The Repeater: Marvin Bower (41-44)
o A Strategy Around Strategy (53-56)
o The McKinsey Process (57-59)
o Organization Man (64-67)
o London Ho! (73-80)
o The Emergence of Arrogance (90-95)
o Lost Moorings (99-103)
o Having Their Lunch Eaten (109-116)
o The Last of the Great Generalists (120-125)
o Hiring McKinsey Just to Make a Point (187-190)
o Enter the Dragon: China (227-230)
o Doing a 180 (273-275)
o Mercenaries, Not Missionaries (278-282)
o Victims of The Own Success (294-297)
o The Double-Edge Diaspora (303-307)

No single book can do full justice to the scope and complexity of a professional services firm as large and as complex as McKinsey & Company has become since founded by James McKinsey and then by Marvin Bower during a period of spectacular growth. Nor can a brief commentary such as mine do full justice to the scope and depth of coverage provided. What lies ahead for The Firm? Here's Duff McDonald's response to that: "McKinsey's greatest challenge going forward -- the true test of its genius -- is no longer finding solutions to its clients' problems. The test is managing the complications that have resulted from its own stupendous success. One of the firm's recently stated goals is helping to '[solve] the world's great problems.' But if it wants to achieve this, it's going to have to continue solving its own."

Those who share my high regard for this boom are urged to check out Marvin Bower's The Will to Lead: Running a Business With a Network of Leaders, Elizabeth Haas Edersheim's McKinsey's Marvin Bower: Vision, Leadership, and the Creation of Management Consulting, and Walter Kiechel's The Lords of Strategy: The Secret Intellectual History of the New Corporate World.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It is also like the history I did at school all about the ..., 7 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Readable, just, but you really need to want to learn about McKinsey and its history.

It is also like the history I did at school all about the kings and queens and not a lot about the rest.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Only search this product's reviews