Tag: management consulting

Management Consulting Myths

By James Kwak

Two people forwarded me Johann Hari’s Huffington Post article about management consultants, provocatively titled “The Great Management Consultancy Scam — and How it Could Be Coming for Your Job.” It seems that someone is once again bashing management consultants as witch doctors and scam artists, and I, improbably, must come to their defense. “Improbably” because I am generally critical of management consulting, and I have spent many hours with former McKinsey colleagues talking about how little we knew back when we were consultants. I am frequently asked by other students whether they should become consultants, and my general answer is, in a nutshell, “It’s a lousy job, and not nearly as exciting as the recruiting pitch makes it out to be, but it’s a good thing for your resume if you actually want to be in the business world.” (If you know me and are actually considering becoming a consultant, feel free to call me.)

Hari’s article is largely based on books by former consultants, primarily David Craig’s “brave” memoir (written five years ago; David Craig is a pseudonym). Here’s a quote from Craig: “We were proud of the way we used to make things up as we went along. . . . It’s like robbing a bank but legal. We could take somebody straight off the street, teach them a few simple tricks in a couple of hours and easily charge them out to our clients for more than £7000 per week.” According to Craig (according to Hari), all of management consulting boils down to recommending that the client lay off thirty percent of its staff, after one week of observation and analysis.

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Management Consulting for Humanities Ph.D.s

Ezra Klein referred me to a 2006 article, “The Management Myth,” by Matthew Stewart, which has just led to a new book by the same name. Stewart has a Ph.D. in nineteenth-century German philosophy and was a founding partner of a management consulting firm; I have a Ph.D. in twentieth-century intellectual history and spent three years as a management consultant (at McKinsey) before co-founding a software company, so I thought I might find a kindred soul. Also, I’ve been thinking for years that I should write a book about my strange journey through the business world, but will probably never get around to it, so I was wondering what that book might have looked like.

Well, we’re not so kindred after all, although my criticisms of the management consulting industry certainly overlap with his. One difference: I have never, ever found myself thinking, “I’d rather be reading Heidegger!,” although (or perhaps because) I read my share of Heidegger back in the day – Being and Time was on my orals list. (That said, I have also never read books about management, which is what Stewart was doing when he was wishing for Heidegger.)

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