“If you want something done, give it to someone busy.”

I find this to be incredibly true. People who are busy (and effective) can really cut through the clutter, and get the most important things done. They don’t try to do everything, they do what is critical-to-quality (CTQ). What needs to get done, gets done. A few characteristics of “these” people.  1) They qualify the… Read More »

Strong opinions, loosely held

Love this expression. I first heard this in a Tim Ferris interview of Marc Andreessen here (min 6:10). Andreessen created the Netscape Mosaic browser (making the internet easy to navigate), sold it to AOL for $2B, then spent last 15+ years investing and running a dozen+ companies. Crazy smart guy. Listen to what he says.… Read More »

Consultants are like physical trainers

Mondays 440am wake up. My wife and I have a love/hate relationship with Mondays and Wednesdays because they start with a 440am alarm. Massive coffee. 515am we are at the gym with a physical trainer. Planks, V-ups, Goblet squats, push-ups, dead-lifts, lunges, you get the idea. Yes, we love the feeling after the workout. You feel… Read More »

Career opportunity: Swing like Tarzan

Swing like Tarzan. A consulting partner gave me this advice (hat tip: AG) when I asked him how to navigate my consulting career. At the time, I was staffed on the same project for a while and did not want to get pigeon-holed. Wanted to be a consulting generalist and experience different clients, industries, and functions. Was… Read More »

Saying “yes” to clients can get you in trouble

It’s easy to say YES.  Perhaps too easy. When the client asks for something – new research, some ad-hoc analysis, an extra workshop – it usually seems like a reasonable request. After all, they pay the bills and shouldn’t they get the most out of their consultants? When the consultant says YES to a new… Read More »

Amy Trask: Cold call to internship to CEO, LA Raiders

In 1983, Amy Trask USC (So Cal) law student makes a cold-call to the LA Raiders looking for an internship. Dialogue goes like this: LA Raiders switchboard operator: “What’s an internship?”  Trask quickly replies “I work for you, and you don’t pay me.”  The response: “C’mon down.” After an internship in their legal department, she… Read More »

BMI: Bureaucracy Mass Index?

I first read this catchy acronym in the Harvard Business Review here. It’s not a subtle metaphor, but very easy to understand. Apt. Vivid. In the United States, we have a huge obesity problem, and frankly, the same thing exists in corporations. This is not restricted to this country or just to publicly-traded companies. Global. Non-profits. Governments.… Read More »

Swen Nater (UCLA): Train with the best

While reading Coach Wooden and Me (affiliate link), by Kareem Abdul Jabbar, I ran across the story of Swen Nater, who was a first round NBA/ABA draft pick even though he never started, and only play 2 minutes on average per game while at UCLA. Deliberate Practice. Swen did not start out a natural. Apparently, Swen… Read More »

False equivalence: Washington Post vs. Washington Times

These two newspapers are not the same. Similar name, both based in Washington. That’s where the similarities end. You hear people quoting these interchangeably. Not good. Washington Post. Founded in 1877. Home of Woodward and Bernstein (Exposing Watergate). Circulation of 474,000+ (2013).  47 Pulitzer prizes. Washington Times. Founded in 1982 by the Unification Church. Circulation of 59,000+… Read More »

McKinsey Quarterly: The perils of bad strategy

Like anything valuable, good strategy is rare. Richard Rumelt, UCLA professor, outlines 4 common ways that companies often fool themselves into a bad strategy in a McKinsey Quarterly article here. Based on his book Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters (2011) (affiliate link). Bad strategy definitely exists. I would argue that that many organizational “strategies” are… Read More »

What is hypothesis-based consulting?

Yes, I know it sounds like jargon, but actually it’s part of the secret sauce of management consulting.  It’s more than educated guessing; this is how consultants smartly break down complex or ambiguous problems, and quickly start driving towards an answer. At its heart is the scientific method – used for hundreds of years by scientists and… Read More »

Career focus: Short and long-term

We do not do this. Instead, we often spend our career focus on the exact opposite – focused on the medium term. We focus on the next project, next promotion, next job. We want a faster return on investment (urgency, impatience, selfishness) rather than putting in the thoughtful work to get better at our craft. We obsess… Read More »

BCG: Digital Marketing Revolution Has Only Just Begun

It’s a provocative title, but BCG argues the case. Digital is more important than ever; it’s where people spend their attention and advertisers place their dollars. Money is abundant. Attention is in short supply. This digital conversation gives marketers a chance to micro-target and build relationships by testing/learning at scale. Instead of using marketing proxies, marketers can use… Read More »

Change Management: Head + Heart + Hand

After reading Switch (affiliate link) by the Heath brothers, I am convinced that successful consulting projects must appeal to the head, the heart and the hand. It’s a simple way to think about change management, but it also makes a lot of sense. We all want to create sustainable change. Head: The logic of the analysis… Read More »

HBR: Guidelines for authors (and consultants)

Great advice from the HBR editors. If you have ever thought (or dreamed) of writing for the Harvard Business Review, then you should read the guidelines from HBR here. As an educator, there are so many things to take away from this blurb on their website. Only 900 words, but well-written (no irony there) clear, and… Read More »

Jigsaw puzzle : Consulting?

It rained last Sunday in Atlanta. Spent a few hours working on a jigsaw puzzle in the kitchen while drinking coffee and eating chocolate. The good life. Get a good puzzle.  Sometimes, you want to do something mindless besides binge-watching Netflix. Yes, yard work is good. A 4 mile run is good. So are old-school, jigsaw puzzles. Easy ones. Attractive… Read More »

FT called consulting a curse. Seriously?

The Financial Times wrote a short scathing article on the management consulting industry here. Some valid points, but clearly a quickly assembled article with a Warren Buffett quote and visual used as a wrapper. If you are going to argue that a $133 billion industry is a “curse”, do a good job. Calling consulting a curse is 1) odd… Read More »

Get staffed: Don’t become consultant inventory

Everyone understands inventory. It’s the stuff sitting on Home Depot’s shelves. It’s the frozen pizzas in the freezer. The unsold house in the neighborhood. The empty hotel rooms and empty movie seats. Non-billable consultants are no different. Non-billable consultants should either be selling new projects, or they are inventory. It’s complex. Inventory can be tricky… Read More »

Drucker, “The question that faces the strategic decision maker. . .”

“The question that faces the strategic decision maker is not ‘what his organization should do tomorrow.’ It is, ‘what do we have to do today to be ready for an uncertain tomorrow’?” — Peter Drucker  This quote is right-on. Without writing a New Yorker-length article, 6 things: 1) Question. Leaders are in the “ask the right question”… Read More »

30+ McKinsey presentations

Curious what a McKinsey presentation looks like? Please find links to 30+ McKinsey presentations which are publicly available online. Many of these are from conferences, or governmental / non-profit organizations clients who have chosen to make them available online. Yes, Google is useful. I selected the ones which as less than 10 years old have more than… Read More »

Best practice: A tool or a crutch?

I wrote this post 5 years ago.  It is still true today.  Management consultants use the phrase “best practice” often.  Perhaps too often. You will see that magical phrase mentioned numerous times in white papers and research on these websites: Boston Consulting Group, Deloitte, PWC and Accenture.  A few pictures that help explain why a best practice can be so… Read More »

Important, not urgent

Generally speaking, I am pretty good under pressure. This can take the form of final revisions the night before the presentation, or conference calls lined up back-to-back. The endorphin gets going and you can ignore the pain. The dopamine gets going and you feel the achievement. If it’s team-based work, the serotonin gets going and it feels like… Read More »

Anti-example: 10 bad charts

Consultants are in the business of taking ambiguous problems, structuring them, and telling cogent, actionable stories. This often involves charts – yes – charts and graphs. The older crew – like me – is used to Excel, but you will also see Tableau, Cliq, and other Prezi-like craziness. First and foremost, the content needs to be relevant and accurate. Then, it… Read More »

Word choice

Clearly, eloquence has many parts – content, structure, conviction, tone, pacing, empathy, and word choice. Ah, words. Let’s not forget the words. Word inflation. Seems like we are bombarded with words constantly – most of them advertising or loose “pseudo-news”. The endless stream of facebook / linkedin “forwards” and “likes”.  So many words for such limited and often… Read More »

Bill, Melinda, Warren

I recently read the 2017 Gates Foundation annual letter.  It starts with this alarming and kitschy picture. Whoa – this caught my attention. Huge fan of Warren Buffett – for his intellect, quirkiness, and generosity. In 2006, Buffett donated $31B to the Gates foundation – the biggest gift in history. Remember, he could just as easily donated… Read More »

Bain: Global private equity report 2017

Bain published its 2017 Global Private Equity Report here. For those interested in private equity (who isn’t?), this is a simple and easy read. The PE business continues to do well (fund-raising, exits, returns), with two big caveats: the NAV of funds is going down and assets are getting pricier. As a simple and graphical way to… Read More »

Consulting tip: Read the Snapchat prospectus

If you have never read a prospectus, you should. First, it’s useful. With an initial public offering (IPO), it is often times the first time outside investors are given a chance to understand how the company makes money and how sustainable their competitive advantage really is. Second, it’s refreshing. In the US, the Securities and Exchange… Read More »

McKinsey: 10 tests of your strategy

McKinsey, in a 2011 article entitled Have Your Tested Your Strategy Lately?, makes the very valid point that executives and leaders too often treat strategy as a ” procedural exercise or set of frameworks”, rather than a way of thinking through problems. Amen. McKinsey’s advice is to not look for the newest strategy fad or business guru, but instead… Read More »

Sample size: What is your n?

Sample size. This is a phrase every consultant should know and (kinda) understand. Consultants are in the business of 80/20 rule, and smartly deducing insights from a sample of structured data (read: excel), qualitative interviews, observations, benchmarks and other KPI.  We often look at samples to see what it can say about a larger population (statistics… Read More »

Consulting tip: How to make decks for other people

Over my career, I estimate that I made 700+ presentations.  Some were executive summary or update presentations of 5-10 pages. Some were financial and operational reviews. Some were full-scale consulting engagement read-outs (e.g., 40+ pages).  They were all top-shelf and required enormous time / effort / love. Many of them were also for other people.… Read More »

Geek out. Become the mini-expert

Geek out. I have been using this slang a lot.  Many of us who have heard this expression know that it means to become a little bit obsessive about something (usually a hobby). Applying this to business problems, my argument is that business consultants and students need to harness that kind of enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity and… Read More »

Top tier consulting compensation = good coin

Charles Aris is an executive recruiting firm based in N Carolina that specializes in placing top-tier consultants into industry. They are good at what they do. Take a look at their 2017 strategy consulting compensation study here. Rigorous methodology. In true consulting firm, their survey has a large sample size (900+ data points) from more than… Read More »

BCG report: The most innovative companies, 2016

BCG recently published its 11th annual global survey of the most innovative companies here (PDF, 1.1Mb). It’s brief (20pg) and not controversial. It highlights a few case studies – J&J, Cisco, BASF and Under Armour. See the list of top 50 companies. Consultantsmind opinions in red. No surprise you see FAANG companies (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google).… Read More »

Chilling out with The Economist

The Economist has a blog called Graphic Detail, which excels at showing complex ideas simply. Engaging, thoughtful, and often surprising.  Some recent graphs: 1) High blood pressure globally, not just affluent countries here          A recent study in Lancet largely dispels the myth that high blood pressure is a rich country’s problem; it’s prevalent… Read More »

Who is Peter Thiel?

On Wikipedia you will quickly find that Peter Thiel is the founder of Paypal, the first investor in Facebook, and has a net worth is $2.5B+. Oddly, those three facts are the least interesting parts of his story, point of view, and personna. Recently wrote Zero to One here (affiliate link). Super contrarian – Thiel is… Read More »

Intellectual curiosity is fuel for your career

Life is a long time. Yes, I am only 45, but after 25+ years in corporate America, I can tell you that A LOT of people are “checked out” while still at their jobs. Middle-management and mortgages. That’s not the way it should be. That’s not the way they first envisioned their careers.  My assertion… Read More »

Metacognition: thinking about thinking

Today I was speaking with some friends about metacognition. Yes, I realize that is a $10 word, but the idea is fairly simple on the surface – being aware of your own thoughts. Essentially, thinking about your thinking. Whoa – deep, I know. Skill. Consultants pride ourselves on being skilled and competent – at Excel, at… Read More »