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McKinsey, I am thankful


As many Mckinsey alumni and members of the global business community, I have been following with much interest and awe the developments of the Mckinsey saga, and its shocking revelations. As accusations of two consultants trading inside information about their clients were brought forward, the media frenzy that ensued seems to bring the perfect storm for the consulting firm.

I have followed the debates - both in traditional media and in social media. I read appalling pieces of journalism, noted the apparent lack of reaction from Mckinsey in the public sphere - apart from stepping up the amount of publications- and noticed a surprising vacuum and lack of reactions from the McKinsey alumni community.

It is not my place to debate here about the individual consultants involved. The justice system will find out what happened and, if responsible, people should bear the consequences of their acts. What bothered me was the complete disconnect between what I was reading, and the McKinsey I know, the people I worked with. I started wondering why I was taking this issue so personally. After all, why should I care so much about a company who employed me almost 20 years ago?

I think it basically comes down to this: I am thankful

I am thankful because to this day, the values and strong principles I learn at Mckinsey are still deeply part of my personal and professional ethics. Those principles are still shaping the way I work, every day. Here are a few of those principles:


  • "You must be invited in by the managers of client organizations who must want to establish an effective relationship" (dixit Marvin Bower, in the book cited below)
  • Client first - If you cannot add value, step out
  • Obligation to dissent: one of the most lost value in companies, sources of so many blindspots.
  • "Do not disrupt the organization more than is necessary to make the improvement needed" (Marvin Bower)
  • Client confidentiality - McKinsey consultants are known for not even disclosing the name of the client they are working with. To this day, I do not disclose names of clients who I am consulting with
  • Mastering problem-solving skills and the power of analytics
  • Never discuss personal details about an individual working at a client company. Our consulting engagements are with the companies, and we are not here to judge the capabilities of individual managers or executives, even if the CEO asks.


In fact, I digged back my copy of Marvin Bower's book, "Perspective on McKinsey" which is handed out to each new recruit at McKinsey on their first week. Marvin Bower is the visionary who shaped the firm's value and code of conduct in the early years and transformed McKinsey from an engineering consulting company to a professional firm. Note that the mere fact I still have this book after eight moves, four of those across continents, is already a symbol of its significance to me. In this book, Martin lays out a few principles of what it is to be a professional and the responsibilities it creates:


  • To put client interests ahead of Firm interests
  • To serve the client competently, i.e.  better than the situation calls and better then client managers typically expect
  • To adhere to high ethical standards in everything we do
  • To preserve the confidence of clients and client personnel
  • To maintain an independent position, being ready to differ with client managers and telling them the truth as we see it even though it may adversely affect Firm income or endanger continuance of the relationship


In conclusion, if I may leave with a final quote from John W. Gardner, former president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of teaching:


"What could be more satisfying than to be engaged in work in which every capacity or talent one may have is needed, very lesson one may have learned is used and every value one cares about is furthered?"


So to all those who have shaped, and are still shaping McKinsey's values, thank-you.


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  • Posted by jack P said:

    23/04/2014 12:56am (6 years ago) Hi Estelle,
    I wonder if you have a copy of Bower's Perspective on Mckinsey that you can share with me.

    Jack P

  • Posted by Luis F. Velez said:

    15/12/2012 4:59am (7 years ago) Hello Estelle:

    I don't know if you will ever get this note but if you do I would appreciate your perspective. Most of my career I worked in general management at Procter & Gamble in the Western Hemisphere and later went into self- employment. Recently, I did some consulting work for a family member and a friend. I liked it. I have begun independent study of the consulting field and have read sevaral books about Mckinsey & Company, of course. I am absolutely impressed by what I have read. It is reminiscent of my years at P&G, especially in the very strctured way Mckinsey approaches its work. I know at this point I will never get a job with Mckinsey but I would welcome the opportinity to work alongside Mckinsey alumni and learn first hand "The Mckinsey Way". Any suggestions on how to go about this.


    Luis F. Velez
    Western Hemisphere

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