Category Archives: Learning

What is post-merger integration?

This 21 letter hyphenated-phrase generates $billions of management consulting work. With M&A booming the last few years, it’s no surprise that companies need lots of post-deal support. Whether a company hire outsiders to help or not, post-merger integration (PMI) is needed with every part of the business. Yes, every part – sales, marketing, finance, IT, HR, manufacturing… Read More »

What is the elephant chart?

Thought-provoking. I first read about the “elephant chart” in Edward Luce’s The Retreat of Western Liberalism (affiliate link), where the author explained how income inequality was a key factor in the global rise of protectionism and angry populism. Surprisingly, the middle class of rich OECD countries were the one who felt disenfranchised, left behind, and generally unloved.… Read More »

Richard Thaler, Nudge, Nobel Prize

Richard Thaler, professor from University of Chicago, won the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. Most people know him for writing the 2008 best-seller Nudge (affiliate link) with Cass Sunstein. Super enjoyed the book and was surprised to discover how many of our so called “decisions” are actually default choices, illusions, and… 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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

Consulting tool: Finviz.com #1: How to screen stocks

Finviz.com is a great way to filter stocks and generally get smart on specific industries. While there are multiple tools on the website, will focus on something call the screener. As you can see here and below, there are 60+ filters (industry, country, P/E, operating margin, dividend %, beta, EPS growth rate) you can apply… Read More »

How I Built This Podcast – BCG and Beer

If you are like me, you love listening to successful people tell their stories – for their confidence, ingenuity, fears, failures, heroism, goofiness, and ultimately success. We see a little of ourselves in them and experience the art of good story-telling. So, listen to this NPR podcast called How I Built This – where they interview Jim… Read More »

McKinsey Report: Thriving in the New Abnormal, NA Asset Management

The global asset management business is huge. There are lots of billionaires and lots of people like you and me who have our wealth with pensions, 401K, and in stock/bond mutual funds. With the incredibly loose monetary policy (read: printing money), it is no surprise that global assets under management (AUM) have done well. In fact, they had… Read More »

McKinsey: How big is the gig economy?

McKinsey & Co published a very authoritative 148 page study here (3.8Mb pdf) arguing a fairly simple (perhaps obvious) fact; the number of people freelancing is larger than you might think (20%+) and growing quickly. For those who already do project-based solo work this is non-news. We all know ex-consultants, Uber drivers, photographers, web-sign designers, caterers, eBay arbitragers, mortgage attorneys, and real… Read More »

Anti-FOMO book: The ONE thing, by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

This book is all about focus. It is like the Pareto Principle to the extreme. The authors argue that by narrowing your focus to ONE thing in each area of your life, you will be happier, more successful, and find things easier. It turns out that pseudo multi-tasking, and not thinking about what is most important in… Read More »

What is FOMO?

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). Yes, we all have it sometimes. Social anxiety. It’s that nagging fear you that you might be better off – somewhere else, with someone else, doing something more fun. It’s that high-school sense of peer pressure to not be left out of the group. It’s that hint of jealousy and benchmarking to see how you’re doing… Read More »

Trust without clear expectations = fail

Trust, but verify. This is a Russian proverb that US President Ronald Reagan learned and used frequently when speaking about the Soviet Union and nuclear arms reduction verification in the 1980s. I use it quite a bit too – and when delivered with good comedic timing – it can be quite funny. Trust people. But don’t be so naive to… Read More »

Grit matters more than talent

Grit is a casual word which means “resolve” in English. Endurance with a mission. Doing something difficult and not giving up. It is the opposite of complacency or indecision. Clearly, people with grit are going to be more successful – because by definition, they are not giving up. That said, how important is it? Is it more important that… Read More »

Retirement tip: rental properties 101

Note this post is about rental properties – not about consulting. That said, all consultants and professionals making $$$, need to start putting money away to get yourself retired? It’s actually a question that I ask most all of my friends, and even acquaintances: “What are you doing to get money working for you (assets) so you can… Read More »

Corporate training: $70 billion largely wasted?

Corporate learning and development is a huge market. Training magazine estimates here that it is approximately $70 billion annually for companies with more than 100 employees.  While that is a huge number, it feels about right. All of this training takes the form of L&D headcount, outside consultants, training tools, travel, and other education spending. They estimate… Read More »

Review: BCG 2016 M&A Report

2015 was a blockbuster M&A year. Lot of big name deals as companies re-position themselves and push for growth in a slow-growth, low-interest rate environment. Good times for investment bankers and due diligence big 4 firms. BCG 2016 M&A report here. 2016 has slowed down. BCG notes that 1H 2016 is down 27% YoY, but still flat compared to 10-year average. Remember, this… Read More »

Billionaires part 2: The Bad

Too many billionaires? That can be bad: Ruchir Sharma is an investment strategist for Morgan Stanley who focuses on emerging markets. He uses a 10 point system to evaluate the investment-worthiness of countries, and the billionaire index is one of them. He makes a simple but logical macro-economic argument against having a large % of a country’s wealth… Read More »

Billionaires part 1: The Good

Billionaires are more common than ever. Ruchir Sharma- Morgan Stanley global strategist – notes in Rise and Fall of Nations (affiliate link) that the number of billionaires increased from 1,011 to 1,826 between 2009-2014. That is a 80% increase in billionaires over 5 years.  If the number of “billionaires” were a stock, it would been a great investment. As… Read More »

Review: PwC Global 100 Software Leaders

PWC released their 4th report on top 100 global software leaders here.  Of course you will see the major bulge-bracket software companies (Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, EMC etc), but you will also see a lot of names that you may interact only tangentially.  For example, companies like Kronos (timekeeping), Workday (HR software as a service), Concur (expense… Read More »

Review: 2016 BCG Global Challengers

In sharp contrast from the last post about slow global growth, BCG writes in their 10th annual report about emerging market companies that are killing it. BCG notes that the top companies – i.e. highlighted in this report – are growing revenues at 3x the market with above average margins. The old days when multi-national firms… Read More »

Morgan Stanley – expect slower and lower global growth

Driving back from lunch today, listened to this podcast interview of Ruchir Sharma here, global strategist for Morgan Stanley, manager of $20 billion of assets. Well-spoken, very clear point of view about the world economy after the 2007 crisis: It is a new normal of slower, and lower growth – in part driven by population slow… Read More »

Are emotions contagious in the workplace?

Yes, they are. Emotions are contagious. Lots of research on this topic and a great TEDx talk here by Brandon Smith showing that, yes, emotions do exist at work and play a much larger role than you might think. I am a huge believer that culture trumps strategy and the importance of leaders in setting the direction and an environment of… Read More »

Invest time in people, experiences, assets, and writing

Grandpa-sounding advice coming your way. Here is a thesis for you to test out.  Do you agree with this statement? There are 4 smart ways to invest time: people, experiences, assets, and writing because all these things get more valuable over time. In the age of immediacy and instant access, your relationships, memories, passive income, and point of view will be unique to… Read More »

Time quotes from Tolstoy, Jobs, Wooden, Buffett, Dickinson

I turn 45 this year and honestly, my 40s > my 30s > my 20s. When people say, “Aw, I wish I were ____ years old again”, I honestly, don’t get that. Enjoying the journey too much for that kind of romanticism. That said, I do think a lot about time and really enjoyed these… Read More »

Sadly, 20 email tips

Surprisingly, many people use email poorly. They write long-winded email essays that are ambiguous, and often copy too many people. These sloppy people create more confusion, frustration and rework. In this case, more communication is actually worse. Email tip: Take 15 seconds to think before you send out emails.  What am I trying to say, am I sending… Read More »

Brazil: What do management consultants say about Brazil?

What’s going on in Brazil? Yes, the Olympics. But also an economic recession/depression. According to the Economist, this is the biggest economic slump since the 1930s here. This is a problem. GDP falling. Look at the GDP growth rate over the last few years.  Clearly you don’t have to be an economist to see that the economy is… Read More »

Review: Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2016

Deloitte 2016 Global Human Capital Trends was released here (5.6Mb). It is a 124 page manifesto of well-organized thinking on how the workplace is changing, what employees want, and how the old way of thinking about human resource (read: people) just does not work. In real consulting style, the survey is rigorous – interviews and surveys of more… Read More »

What is deliberate practice?

It takes more than 10,000 hours. Malcolm Gladwell popularized the idea that people have to practice for 10,000+ hours before becoming experts. At the time, this dispelled the idea that it is just raw talent or genius at work. No, he concluded, it takes lots and lots of practice to be excellent at something. When listening to the most recent Freakonomics podcast here entitled How… Read More »

Consultant’s gripe: Why is the US tax code 9,000 pages?

April 15 is tax day in the United States for individuals. There are other tax days (e.g., March 15 for corporations), but yesterday was the day most people know – and loathe. People take off work, look for receipts, download bank statements, and answer questions from self-service software like TurboTax. “The hardest thing in the world to… Read More »