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The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence on American Business [Englisch] [Taschenbuch]

Duff McDonald
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10. September 2013
IT RANKS AMONG THE UNQUESTIONED LAWS OF AMERICAN BIG BUSINESS over the last half century: If you want to be taken seriously, you hire McKinsey & Company. For decades, its consultants have helped companies and governments come up with the strategies and habits that have shaped the world we live in. In this book, star financial journalist Duff McDonald shows how, in becoming an indispensable part of decision making at the highest levels, McKinsey has done nothing less than set the course of American capitalism. He also answers the question that’s on the mind of anyone who has ever heard the word McKinsey: Are they worth it? After all, just as McKinsey can be shown to have helped invent most of the tools of modern management, the company was also involved with a number of striking failures. Its consultants were on the scene when General Motors drove itself into the ground, and they played a critical role in building the bomb known as Enron.

McDonald is one of the few journalists to have not only parsed the record but also penetrated the culture of McKinsey itself—a corporate mandarin elite whose methods have been compared (by others and by themselves) to those of the Jesuits or the U.S. Marines. To an outsider, they are a consulting firm. To themselves, they are simply The Firm. This revealing book uncovers the inner workings of what just might be the most influential private organization in America.

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  • Taschenbuch: 400 Seiten
  • Verlag: Simon & Schuster; Auflage: Export (10. September 2013)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 147673786X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476737867
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 23 x 15,5 x 2,4 cm
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 4.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (2 Kundenrezensionen)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 61.346 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)

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'Fascinating. If you want to know what it is about the culture of the firm that sets it apart and has made it so successful, read this book.' -- Liaquat Ahamed, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Lords of Finance 'A superb examination of one of the most powerful, secretive, and least understood organizations on the planet.' -- William D. Cohan, bestselling author of Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World 'Timely... A fast-paced account of a key business institution, its deeds and misdeeds.' Kirkus Reviews 'Revealing... McDonald combines a lucid chronicle of McKinsey's growth and boardroom melodramas.' Publishers Weekly 'This is critical reading for anyone who wants to understand how the world of business really works.' -- Bethany McLean, coauthor of the New York Times bestseller All the Devils Are Here 'Thought-provoking... offers a fascinating look behind the company's success.' -- Andrew Ross Sorkin New York Times 'An up-to-date, full-blown history, told with wit and clarity...' Wall Street Journal 'At a stroke, McDonald sums up the attraction of McKinsey to the world's largest companies, the mystique surrounding its methods, the envy it inspires in competitors and the anger it sometimes incites... a very readable account.' Financial Times '[An] admiring book that nevertheless asks hard questions about the organization's future.' The Economist 'Is this a good book? Yes. It is meticulously researched, well-written, and comprehensive and balanced. Is it enjoyable? Yes.' Management Today 'Quickly, McDonald gets into his stride... a rattling good read.' The Times -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Taschenbuch .

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

A contributing editor at The New York Observer, Duff McDonald has also written for Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, New York magazine, Fortune, and Esquire, among other publications.

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1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Nun ja, ... 27. Oktober 2013
Von PZF85J
Es war ganz interessant, etwas über McK-Geschichte zu erfahren. Viel Neues war aber ansonsten nicht dabei; vor allen nicht für die, die schon mal mit diesen Leuten gearbeitet haben.

Etwa 40% des Buches bestehen aus Quellenangaben, der Seitenumfang von 400 täuscht also ganz gewaltig.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Das Geheimnis um McKinsey 17. Dezember 2013
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
Ein ohne Zweifel interessantes Buch um die Praktiken von Unternehmensberatungen, hier auch über die Historie und die Kultur der Nr. 1, McKinsey.
War diese Rezension für Sie hilfreich?
Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 3.9 von 5 Sternen  67 Rezensionen
9 von 10 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen very informative and enjoyable read 13. Oktober 2013
Von Alastair MacAndrew - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
This book documents well the beginnings and evolution of McKinsey as a consultaing firm: from providing generalist advise to clients on implementing the multi-divisional and conglomerate structures, from the 1940s to the 1970s, and later, changing its focus to knowledge-based and highly specialized consulting to business, government and other organizations from the 1980s onwards. The author points out the changing strategies but the relatively constant cultural values which drove them: an unrelenting and self-effacing devotion to client needs,selectivity in human resources and clientele, adaptability to changing demands, prizing teamwork over individual achievement, continuous culling of the workforce, and a capacity to bring rigorous analytic thinking to customer's decision-making processes. Side-effects of the company's success have been a large dose of hubris, uber self-confidence and a penchant for seeing themselves as Masters of the Universe.
He also points out that McKinsey managed to deftly balance the two opposing facets of a professional service organization, which are to maintain the professional values of providing sound and objective advise to clients, and at the same time, ensure the economics of the business itself are optimized. This balance was seriously compromised during the 1990s and early noughties, when under the leadership of Rajat Gupta the firm shifted its focus in favor of more commercial goals, and growth at any cost. Quaity was compromised and discontent flowed within its ranks. According to McDonald, these aberrations have since been corrected, although management is still struggling to hone its vision of itself and its future.
Although any consulting firm with over 2,000 assignments/year is bound to have a few failures, the author stresses that in the case of McKinsey these have been egregious: tending to the needs of the iconic GM just before its demise, allowing itself to be caught up in the dot-com bubble, failing to foresee early on the importance of the internet, and indirectly contributing to the systemic real-estate and banking collapse, among others. These are big-picture events which one would expect such a large bevy of world-class thinkers should have foreseen or shied away from. Then there is the continuous nagging critique, especially from the European press, that a large portion of McKinsey's bread-and-butter has come from helping CEOs justify downsizing, i.e. fire lots of people. But, the author concludes, this has not stopped McKinsey's huge client base from continuing to hire its services, nor from it gaining new customers.
Even though he dedicates each chapter ot an individual theme, the author's style is somewhat desultory: switching continuously from criticism to praise, from favorable quotes of journalists to unfavorable ones, from positive to negative anecdotes,etc. Yet, as th author suggests, this is a company hard to pin down, and this style makes the story juicy and more colorful.
In recent years McKinsey has had far more comptetition both for clients and for talent and in some surveys it does not always come out on top vs Arthur Andersen or BCG. ( But in this business, is being the biggest synonymous with being the best? does size matter? and if so, how ? to the benefit or the detriment of the client ? ). The author also observes that the company may not be so succesful in the "modern" world of the Internet, young entrepreneurs, technology firms and others not so inclined to hire the services of consultants. Yet,this whole book reveals that McKinsey has never had a serious problem with strategy or growth, and the author concludes that if it manages to retain its original strong culture as its own internal complexity grows, it will continue to succeed.
The reason why I gave four stars instead of five is because I feel the author needed to include a couple of examples of McKinsey's work, showing their thought-process, procedure, their conclusions and recommendations. Perhaps this may not be possible, but if it is, it would definitely enhance a second edition.
50 von 68 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
2.0 von 5 Sternen lacks insight 23. Oktober 2013
Von James - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
This book makes clear that there is no such thing as McKinsey. It changes so quickly that to work there is to touch a moving train. First it's all strategy and no numbers from Harvard Business School, then computers and engineers from all Ivy schools, then scientists and experts of any sex, color or nationality are fine. This is what is known in the trade as dancing between the raindrops. And the storm is getting stronger. It's important to note that as the focus shifts, the people change as well.

In this respect the book was an eye opener and expanded impressions I gathered from my employment there. There wasn't much in the book about how consultants actually work or what the day to day work is like. The perspective of the writer seems to be to blend hero worship with hero dislike. The result is a mishmash of mischaracterizations, probably of little interest to outsiders.

Here is a little peek from my years. You can compare this with what you find in the book to see if it expands your understanding.

I entered the "Firm" as an associate in the early to mid 1970's, a time of turmoil outside and weakness within. As the director of the Washington D.C. office of a minor competitor, I had recently beat McKinsey out of two prestigious assignments in real estate, a field where McKinsey had no credible capability but wanted to establish a foothold. I was also a consultant to the National Academy of Sciences in new town development feasibility. But my employer was sinking fast.

In an initial interview, John Garrity, managing director in Washington predicted that I would be attacked by others in the "Firm" since I insisted on working at least  time in real estate and since I was being brought in by an unpopular partner who was essentially banished to the London England office. Nobody made employment contract demands with McKinsey. You were supposed to be glad for any offer of employment. This was, after all, the leading fad employer of choice. We agreed that I would work out of New York. I was not loved there either.

Young college graduates often mistake placement for achievement. You're supposed to be special if you work in New York. Or employment at McKinsey is a putative sign of achievement. These assume that placement in a picture actually signifies something, that without this you have nothing.

Depak Chopra gives a lesson about the nature of a lump of gold. If it is turned into a ring, is used for a tooth or becomes part of a party mask it is always just gold. Employment in a place might eventually assist you in growth, but you're still you. You will become actually aware of this when you leave these places. The real you needs to have the right brand of horse power to succeed.

Soon after being hired I met Marvin Bower when he held a greeting session for new associates. I can still remember his large red nose, slicked back hair and pin striped Capone era suit draped over his huge frame (look for it on Wikipedia), very old fashioned. When he assured us that this employment would not lead to wealth, we all looked at the wall in despair.

The idea of a hair shirt job of service to large corporations wasn't what we had in mind while grinding through our Ivy League MBA's. Ron Daniel, the then New York managing director thought that associates ran to work each morning. It was more like looking around for a while and then running for the door. A component of employment therefore involved pretending that you believed the company orthodoxy.

Bower also emphasized that this was essentially a word and logic shop that had little use for computers. When he said "There are no formulae at the top," I wondered where I would fit in. I was an engineering and MBA finance grad with a heavy career background in computer modeling.

The engagements to which I was assigned mostly had similar characteristics. A conclusion was formed almost immediately followed by months of shaping arguments and data for selling the conclusion to the client, followed by an illusion of verbalization session presented with an overhead projector. The client had no opportunity to preview the analysis. The actual analysis was the sort of weak stuff you would expect from liberal arts graduates with business school degrees, the McKinsey specialty of that era.

In one assignment with the British House of Commons, for instance, we were to determine the feasibility of building a new city near Gatwick Airport. The main analytical team didn't know how to construct a spreadsheet with discounted cash flow, an essential feature of this type of assignment. In another, Certainteed Products wanted to know if they should continue with the development of a resort community that involved high pressure phone sales. When I suggested to the partner that the McKinsey cash flow analysis was flawed by failing to distinguish between cash and installment sales, the response was "Shut up, this division is immoral and should be closed anyway!"

The worst study I witnessed was for the State of New York. Many students were defaulting on student loans. What could they do? The answer was obvious; be stricter with the loans, monitor grades, etc. But this would violate the liberal nature of this team. The result was to tell them after $50 thousand or so that we determined they had a loan default problem and we needed another hundred grand to figure it out. They were not impressed.

The big one for me was Sea Pines, a developer of high end southern U.S. resort properties. We were to determine the financial feasibility of Brandermill, their first primary home community located in suburban Richmond Virginia. A retired Supreme Court justice owned the land.

The rest of the team quickly but informally conceded primarily control of the analysis to me since this was my specialty. After the first week I determined that for Brandermill to break even, everybody who would buy a house in the Richmond Virginia metropolitan area for the foreseeable future would have to buy it here. This development was headed down fast and hard. For a new community to have a 10 percent market capture would be a fabulous success. 110% was ridiculous.

For the next three months, the report was shaped and rewritten many times. Sea Pines had recently been one of the leading employers of graduating students at Harvard Business School. The people running the place were classmates of others on our McKinsey team. This was supposed to be a white shoe rubber stamp of a Sea Pines expansion into the primary home arena. Instead they were headed for insolvency.

Everybody associated with real estate from the senior director down to the lowest research person was released from he "Firm," although not necessarily at the same time. "McKinsey's clients don't go out of business, we make them better, stronger." The underwriters sniffed this all out, analyzed all of the Sea Pines developments and liquidated the company. It's all on line for you to see.

I was informally advised that I might possibly be able to become part of an analytical team in Tanzania. I declined and took a job with a company that previously built the Pan Am building over Grand Central Station. One of their clients was Aristotle Onassis. This was REAL real estate. Snakes in the parking lot in Africa had no appeal for me.

The net from all of this is that the idea of having generalists floating around in multiple fields is ridiculous, as I saw in real estate. All of the other consulting companies I worked in did a better job with real estate than McKinsey. The people might not have been as smart, but they had more depth from specialization. The idea that time at McKinsey leads to executive success is at odds with the facts. A quick scan of the McKinsey alumni directory will reveal that while there are notably successful alums, most are mediocre and many never had another job. The idea that there is a tremendous supporting network of alums is another myth. In the 40 or so years since I left, not a single person from McKinsey or its alums has ever contacted me for anything.

At this point, a career in Silicon Valley holds much more promise. At least if you're going to bust your hump for an employer, it should also hold the prospect of a path to riches. Recent graduates from prestige schools are preferred simply because they are young, dumb and full of............. well, you know. The kind of bookworm students who typically excel in these colleges have mainly spent their early lives perfecting their appeal to little old ladies, feminized males and eccentric loner professors. The resulting social retardation persists about two years into an early career, which is about as much time as a good percentage of associates spends at "The Firm."
3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Meticulous Research. 21. Dezember 2013
Von R. Parry - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Consulting firm, McKinsey & Co, has been saddled with lurid descriptions: “Jesuits of commerce”, “Marine Corps with calculators”, and “MI5 with MBAs”. “The Firm” - as it nicknames itself - is sometimes described as secretive and reclusive. This book sets out to discover the truth – and, by and large, succeeds. It debunks many McKinsey myths and gives a deep insight into its culture and leadership. But it is not uncritical and there are parts that McKinsey and its 23,000 alumni won’t like.

Author Duff McDonald has done a phenomenal amount of research and seems to have enjoyed unprecedented access to many of McKinsey’s normally reticent Managing Directors. The notable exception was Rajat Gupta the MD who was sensationally convicted in 2012 of insider trading in the USA. It is the notoriety of Guptagate that validates the book’s description of McKinsey as “controversial”. And is probably why so many senior people agreed to be interviewed - to redress the reputational damage.

James McKinsey, a Chicago accountant, in effect invented the profession of management consulting in the 1920s when he peddled some revolutionary ideas about budgeting. His embryonic firm was honed and polished by his protégé, Marvin Bower who established principles and practices which have resulted in a highly distinctive or, as The Firm seems to suggest, a slightly sinister culture.

In the 1980s, recruits were given Bower’s own book Perspectives which was handed over like a religious relic to communicate the “McKinsey way”. As a piece of literature it was quite hard going. McDonald’s book is considerably better written. He makes much of The Firm’s “indoctrination” techniques observing: “Most impressive, perhaps, is [McKinsey’s] unrivalled ability to attract an enormous pool of smart people and mould them into like-minded smart people – an army of highly motivated, high impact consultants.”

Fuelling the cult idea, the book makes much of Bower’s dress code, demanding, for example, that the consultants all wore long socks and the suggestion that only tall and good-looking candidates would be favoured. Much has clearly changed since those early days but the McKinsey’s recruitment regime remains painstakingly selective.

The author’s own McKinsey description is “the corporate Mandarin elite”…“doing behind the scenes work for the most powerful people in the world”. He notes the active cultivation of alumni implying a tight knit clique, saying “You are still McKinsey even after you have left.” He quotes McKinsey alum, the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, “[At McKinsey]….you are encouraged to believe that you belong to a special club of elite people”.

As might be expected from a topflight financial journalist (Mr McDonald is a star Fortune writer) the book takes a balanced approach. Indeed, at times, it feels it is trying too hard by raising a lot of contrasting questions without in some cases ever really answering them.

The Firm’s narrative is structured like Chinese history – a series of Managing Directorial dynasties. This results in an excessive focus on the personality of the individuals. To the cost of Rajat Gupta who is portrayed as “greedy” - turning his back on the ethics of Bower and turning McKinsey “from a profession into a business”. By contrast, his successor Ian Davis – the first British MD – comes out well as the man who returned to a higher minded purpose. And his successor, the incumbent Dominic Barton, is painted as almost a candidate for beatification who has saved the company, at least for the time being.

In a rather gloomy Epilogue Mr McDonald concludes McKinsey has grown too big: “..the greatest challenge … is managing the complications that have resulted from its own stupendous success”. He is almost certainly correct.

To summarise, and to adopt the author’s own Socratic style: Is this a good book? Yes. It is meticulously researched, well written and a comprehensive and balanced history. Is it enjoyable? Yes. If you are a McKinsey alumnus, a competing consultant or anyone wanting to know about running a professional service firm. Is it for everyone? Not sure. With the exception of the racy sections on malfeasance at Enron and “Guptagate”, it is quite dense going. However according to Wikipedia McKinsey receives some 225,000 job applications annually so this inquisitive and motivated audience may ensure healthy sales of The Firm for many years to come.
31 von 43 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Valuable lessons from a highly successful business 5. September 2013
Von John Gibbs - Veröffentlicht auf
McKinsey consultants, in becoming an indispensable part of government and corporate decision making at the highest levels, have helped invent what we think of as American capitalism and spread it to every corner of the world, according to Duff McDonald in this book. At the same time, McKinsey has been implicated in a striking list of failures.

The book describes how James McKinsey, an accounting lecturer, wrote an influential book on budgeting for corporations and then started up business in the mid 1920s as James O McKinsey & Company, Accountants and Management Engineers. He soon developed a General Survey Outline as a system for understanding all aspects of a company including finances, organisation and competitive positioning.

The firm subsequently grew to a position of great influence with its distinctive values and operational methods. A downturn in the 1970s led to a focus on systematic knowledge building. In the 1990s when Rajat Gupta (subsequently convicted of insider trading) was managing director, the firm focused more on money than on its core values, according to the author, but subsequent managing directors have brought a return to the core values.

A very significant percentage of the largest companies and governments in the world use the services of McKinsey and pay very handsomely for the privilege. The question which the book raises is whether the services provided are worth the cost, and the author's answer is a qualified yes. Some companies seem to have received very bad advice, and other companies seem to have been paying fees for too long a period of time, but on the whole McKinsey's clients seem to have benefited.

While the book provides interesting perspectives on the history and business of one management consulting firm, it also provides some valuable lessons for anyone involved in the management of other types of professional services firms.
3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen worth the read 5. Februar 2014
Von Iain Allen - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
This book is a useful history of McKinsey, who, true to form, have recommended lots of layoffs at my employer. It's weakness comes when the author tries to second guess what has been a v successful firm. He s clearly not a fan of management consulting, but McKinsey is the biggest and most successful, so people are buying what they sell. I enjoyed the book, and would hire McKinsey, but only for specific roles. They don't have all the answers, but if you ask the right questions, they can definitely help.
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