Management consulting is changing. Don’t take my word for it. There is a recent a Harvard Business Review podcast interview with Clayton Christensen of the Innovator’s Dilemma fame (affiliate link) and Dominic Barton (global managing director of McKinsey). They give a half dozen reasons that white-shoe consulting firms need to continually disrupt themselves. McKinsey Solution might be a good example.

The original article in the HBR applies the theory of disruptive innovation to both the legal and consulting industry. Completely worth a read here. The key takeaways:

  • Successful firms continue to do what has worked – seeking the largest clients, biggest problems, and highest profits – ignoring new disruptive players
  • The new guys provide “less for less”. They provide acceptable quality for the broad, middle market and rapidly start moving upmarket
  • You see disruptive innovation in all industries, from steel to publishing and consulting

Drivers of consulting competition. Ask any consultant and they will tell you that clients are getting more savvy and demanding.  Understandably, they want to know what they are getting for their $XXX,XXX fees and why their internal consulting and strategy groups can’t do it. It’s consulting fatigue, and the bar keeps getting higher for all of us.  In my mind, the reasons fall into big buckets. . .clients and competitors.

Consulting Disruption


McKinsey in changing. In consulting circles, it is easy to poke fun at the industry leader. They are the top-of-the-top.  They have an enormous alumni network and hire super smart people. Completely true. They also put together big-think recommendations that don’t always work or don’t get implemented.  None of the consulting firms bat 1.000

That said, I have developed a new-found respect for the McKinsey leadership that is willing to bravely disrupt their core business. It’s easy for successful firms to just do what they have always done (think Kodak and film). Not McKinsey.  They have deliberately created  start-ups with the larger firm – more focused on data, analytics, tools – which provide clients a different type of resource. McKinsey Solutions is a new, but I can see how it has the potential to seriously out-flank big 3 and big 4 competitors, while also providing a low-cost alternative to low-end disrupters. If you care about consulting industry trends, invest the 25 min to listen to this interview here.

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