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on 3 May 2017
Working for one of the competitors mentioned in the book, the book has come as an interesting read. Not only does it provide a gentle insight into the company, it provides a foundation for the context of consulting as a whole; outlining the principles of the occupation and the challenges continually placed on the employee in order to please the corporate leadership.
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on 9 April 2014
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.
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on 23 June 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.
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on 10 November 2014
As a consultant myself (at a McKinsey competitor of sorts), I was intrigued to understand what makes the firm tick. I have long wondered how they justify the colossal fees earned and the ability to consult with firms time and time again, even after seemingly adding no value with some of their 'studies'. This book goes some way to revealing the rationale and the mind set of clients and the culture within McKinsey that helps support this. At times the book is a little hard work as it is heavy on sequences of internal events, but at its best it is truly insightful! On balance, the book is an enjoyable read. I would recommend it to anyone who works in consulting or anyone who hires consultants. However, this book may not be for you if you do not have a real interest in the mind set of the world's most influential CEOs or an interest in the internal politics of a firm that is made up entirely of intellectual over-achievers!
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on 21 December 2013
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".

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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on 7 April 2014
Well written and compelling read.
A real insight into one of the most influential organisations in the world of leadership.
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on 2 October 2014
Good book on McKinsey history with some great insights. An easy and enjoyable read
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on 11 March 2015
Exceptionally well written and laid out. Appeared factual and objective with no sensationalist comments. You'll come away with your own opinion of McKinsey. Well researched and uses a variety of sources from different perspectives.
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on 27 July 2015
Brilliant book, will appeal to those interested in consulting and may appeal to others
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on 6 July 2016
Good book, very thorough and dense and we learn a lot about this mythic company.
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