Category Archives: Consultant

Focus on expertise and relationships

Wrote this blog post in 2013  (yes, when I was 10% younger). New comments in red color. Recently, I was reminded that there are three types of power in the workplace. While you might not have all 3 – you better have some. Positional, Relational, Expertise. I first heard this on a manager-tools.com podcast, but please let… Read More »

BCG: Nine trends shaping Tech M&A

The BCG 2017 M&A report has a great subtitle here (3Mb pdf) called the Technology Takeover.  BCG notes that 30% of 2016 M&A involved the acquisition of technology companies (no surprise), of which 70% were from outside the technology sector (surprise). In sum, every industry is rapidly acquiring, morphing, and becoming technology companies. BCG goes one step… Read More »

Are we less willing to listen to experts who disagree with our world view?

Yes, I think so, and that’s a bad sign. . . I saw this book at the library and was intrigued by the cryptic title: Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters (affiliate link), by Tom Nichols. I flipped through the book and landed on this high-powered statement: “The issue is… Read More »

“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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

McKinsey’s $125B savings plan for the Pentagon, Ignored

So this morning there was a fantastical headline in the Washington Post here: Pentagon buries evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste What the hay? Isn’t this a Ben Affleck movie about a government cover-up? No, it’s an internal report created by the Defense Business Board, “a federal advisory panel of corporate executives, and consultants from… Read More »

Consulting tip: How to roll off a project

When I worked for Big 4 consulting, one of the hardest things was rolling off a project you did not like. Too often, what you become good at – is exactly – what bores you. It’s a bit tricky because no one likes a short-timer. There are multiple ways to orchestrate this, but also many ways to… Read More »

Consulting tip: Minto’s Pyramid Principle

Repost. This is from 4 years ago and covers the Minto’s pyramid principle – one of the most important concepts in executive communication and logical structuring of arguments. This is really big at all the big 4 and big 3. It is the scaffolding of management consulting thinking. My revised thoughts (2016) shown in red color. Consultants must structure… Read More »

Bain: Founder’s Mentality

Founder’s Mentality is a simple and elegant framework from Bain that describes how companies lose their way as they grow. The path from start-up to global juggernaut is not a straight line and Bain research shows that only 1 in 9 companies show sustainable growth for 10+ years. They call it the growth paradox – growth creates complexity and complexity kills growth. As consultants – I… Read More »

Consulting basics: What is a SOW?

A statement of work (SOW) is a phrase you will hear almost daily in your life as a consultant. It’s a client-facing document that outlines what the consultant is proposing to get done on a new project or phase of work. This is particularly important why? Because new projects are the lifeblood of a firm’s utilization, profitability, and career… Read More »

Case interview advice from Bain

It’s consulting interview season which means well-groomed MBAs are sitting across small tables with consulting firm partners and senior managers in something called a case interview. For those readers from consulting firms – you know this fire drill – and probably remember it fondly like Marines who remember “hell week”. Case interview advice. For those in the throes of case interview for full-time… Read More »

Consulting tip: Watch videos on LEAN

Lean. Toyota Production System. These are words and concepts that any business person should readily know and understand – even if you are not an operations consultant. Process improvement initiatives built on these concepts take out billions of dollars of waste every year – from every industry. A typical LEAN consulting project will easily take out $1-5 million of waste –… Read More »

Leading by example, with data entry?

Yes, this morning I did 4 hours of data entry.  Yes, data entry.  Our project was in a time crunch and we had major issues getting good operational data, so we begrudgingly took some print outs and manually typed them into excel. Yikes.  Yes, we did look at other OCR (optical character recognition) methods like ABBY,… Read More »

Peter Drucker Quotes: “Time”

The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker is a a classic.  Written 40+ years ago, and still enormously relevant.  You can find pdf online for free or buy it used at Amazon for $2 (affiliate link).  A steal. Great quotes from Drucker (shown in blue italics) on the subject of time: Time is THE most valuable resource. Effective executives know… Read More »

BCG: New CEO’s Guide to Transformation

The title of the BCG report sounds serious, but its a bit of a gem – easy to read and understand.  Download here (1Mb pdf). Boils down to three points: Successful CEOs need to plan the transformation before they start work Transformation is expensive, need to fund the journey with cost takeout There are 10 types of transformations; see… Read More »

Consulting tip: How to make a good survey

Consultants should use surveys more often. They are cost-effective, seemingly impartial, easy to use, and provide data in the “touchy and feel-y” areas where data might be hard to find, collect, or quantify. Bain, PWC, BCG, Deloitte all use surveys; see the links at the bottom of the post. Even on this website, readers reply to surveys to… 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 »

Rough consulting week: Embrace the suck

Last week was brutal. Was glad to just make it through the days without disappointing people or making too many mistakes. I had 32 different conference calls, a boat-load of work, a dentist appointment and planning for my mom’s 70th birthday. Apparently, the military uses an expression which was entirely appropriate last week: “Embrace the suck“,… Read More »

Review of 39pg McKinsey Presentation

McKinsey & Company do great work. On this blog, I have written about their leader, culture, high-visibility assignments at the CIA, and Department of Corrections. Overall, have enormous respect for the work they do, and the way they have built their practice. By any measure, they are monolithic at what they do.  So, now I would… Read More »

Review: The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey

Deloitte surveyed of 7,700 millennials globally here. The respondents were folks born after 1982 with college degrees, working in large organizations (100+) across 29 different countries. You work with millennials everyday – anyone under 33 years. As I have lots of opinions (nice thing about having a blog), see my comments in green. “Remarkable absence of loyalty” This is how… Read More »

McKinsey gets phase 2 on NY jail project for $7M

McKinsey & Company is a premiere management consulting firm with a long legacy of influential alumni, thought-provoking research, top-shelf billing rates, and legions of ivy-league smarties.They get called in to solve difficult problems – everything from corporate mergers to changing the organizational design at the CIA here. So, it is only with a bit of humor and… Read More »

Self-feedback: “How do you feel about your work?”

Self-feedback. I ask this of my team all the time. My favorite question to ask on team calls – to discuss analyses, client presentations, work product, or most of anything – is an open ended question. “What do you think? “”How do you like it? ” My thesis: If you don’t like your work, I likely won’t, and the client… Read More »

Consulting templates: Visualize what you want to say

PowerPoint. Over the last 20 years, there are very few days when I have not worked in PowerPoint. Sad, but true. Even when I am not creating one, I am often reading investor relations presentations or analyst reports. Pay attention to strong presentations. Collect them. See how authors structure data. Yesterday, I worked with my team on a… Read More »

McKinsey: 20% of CEO’s job can be outsourced

Routine work is going away. It always has been. Technology as old as the wheel, letter typeset, and the cotton gin have freed people from mundane and repetitive tasks. The market has a wonderful way of arbitraging work (thank you Adam Smith) to the least expensive person who can most reliably finish the job. That precisely is what leverage means.… Read More »

Good day for me, Tableau stock up 20%

I am a terrible stock-picker.  Trust me, my portfolio returns lag the general market. If you read about a stock on this consulting blog – just look the other way. I am writing about it because management consultants need to understand how the capital markets, annual reports, investor relations presentations, and investment research work. If you can learn a… Read More »

Management consulting stocks, quick comparison

Most management consulting firms are privately held. They start off as partnerships and remain that way: McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Deloitte, E&Y, KPMG, PWC, AT Kearney, PA Consulting, and LEK etc.  PRTM, Monitor and others were bought out. It takes a lot of patience, trust, and brand-building to build a management consulting firm – and that is probably why… Read More »

Consulting confession: I love the whiteboard

Who does not love using the whiteboard? It makes the experience creative, tactile, interactive, and open-ended. It’s a running joke with my teams that I will take any opportunity to pickup a dry-erase pen and head towards the whiteboard – like a moth to a night light. I actually have a 8 ft one in my personal home.… Read More »

BCG: Atlas of Strategy Traps

Much more graphical. Take a look at Boston Consulting Group’s new website here – the design is more graphical, interactive, and actually. . . fun. Of the big 3 consulting firms, they are the first to step away from the standard menu-driven, list of solutions and industries. Their old website was very staid, but this is something… Read More »

Consultant’s or Mechanic’s Motto?

Saw this sign at the car mechanic. It covered an entire wall at the place where I changed the oil on my car. It was about 10 feet tall. Big talk on a big wall. If this the mechanic holds for himself, shouldn’t it be the minimum standard for us professionals – who are billing at $250-$500 an hour? Look… Read More »