House Of Lies
Prologue: My Story: Your Story: Her Story: History
Using you is a way to distance oneself from the first person—from oneself, in fact. After you have spent two years and more in consulting, that is exactly what you want to do
Here is the story: It starts in a meeting. “One hundred thousand… one hundred ten… You are sitting across a table from two of the more powerful people—for the moment—in nonnetwork television
This is your boss, the man who hired you. He was two years behind you at Yale, yet he is much more famous, powerful, and outgoing than you. Let’s call him Nosering
What he appears to be saying—$125,000, on average, per year, plus the same benefits—would double your current salary as head writer on the program Nosering dreamed up two years ago in a methadone stupor: the program you and your staff of four have written since the beginning
He lays out the concept with an enthusiasm for the truly mediocre that fills you with a kind of awe.
If this were ten years ago, it’d be different. But now I’m”—here you state your age. “I want to go to business school.”
You say, “I want to be a management consultant.”
Part I: Top-Tier Management Consulting for Absolute Blithering Idiots
Part I opens the kimono with a hairy entrée into the global megaverse of top-tier management consulting, with these observations:
- A bloodcurdling litany of betrayal and alcoholism
1: The Rainmaker & the Perfect Storm
No storm is perfect, of course—but the Rainmaker tries to brew one. He leaves in his wake such a tsunami of chaos and pillage that the total bill, in dollars and careers, will still be soughing through the eternal adding machine for years and years to come. The Rainmaker tears the heart out of your firm and crushes and pulverizes its testicles at a time when it has left itself for dead
This is the story of the Rainmaker and how he almost—but not quite—destroys your firm.
Now, the Rainmaker is an important man and, like most important men in New York City, quite short. You tower over him, and you have never been accused of gigantism. He has absolutely no hair and always smiles and dresses impeccably in Thomas Pink shirts and the subtlest of suspenders, but, because of a certain schlubbiness of build, despite fastidious behaviors and careful courtesy, he always seems a bit rumpled up. He looks up at people but he doesn’t look up—rather, in… deep in… like the world’s most oily general practitioner with the vaguest sense of space.
You liked him immediately. He is the reason that you joined the firm. It is he who is King of All Media (Consulting Division), the best-known media consultant in the world and perhaps—not perhaps, definitely—the best-known consultant consultant in the city of New York
It also turned out, no, the jacket copy wasn’t purely accurate. In the old British parlance, it was a tissue of lies. Seventy-five words—how many of them the truth? When you first read them, you were not in a position to know. Now, you are. Let’s take another look:
Unlike every one of his colleagues, the Rainmaker does not have an MBA; his degree from Yale is a BA.
There is more, however, a bigger lie than any of the above. It turns out that the book that bears his name and his alone, the one with the dubious jacket copy—well, he didn’t even write it.
To be a management consultant is to be always on the defensive
these besiegings are as nothing compared to the utter, irredeemable, unknowing cruelty of one’s parents, siblings, and friends when they ask—as they always do—when they ask, quite coolly but not without a certain challenge to their tone: So what do you actually do?
it is appropriate to point out an odd paradox at the heart of top-tier consulting
This paradox consists of two apparently contrary statements of principle:
Principle One: One is promoted from associate to senior associate to principal based solely upon one’s ability to analyze data and present these analyses.
Principle Two: One is promoted and rewarded thereafter solely upon the basis of one’s ability to sell the firm’s services.
The firm would come to deny it later, but it almost fired the Rainmaker at many points during his struggling early years
He was a principal now—and the rules changed completely, just like that.
Principle One didn’t matter anymore at all. His progress at the firm would now be determined entirely by Principle Two.
Overnight, the Rainmaker was born.
Within two weeks, he had found his first client—a friend of his mother
Like many questions consultants are asked to help answer, the one perplexing this company—ToyCo, we’ll call it—is simple. One customer accounts for over 90 percent of its revenues. It is beholden to a fast-food giant
*The e-mail fails to mention the most salient point, the one that transformed the Rainmaker’s abrupt departure from a major blow to a form of ritual humiliation.
He has left to join McKinsey.
2: Consultant, Heal Thyself
the literature is entirely harmonious on one point of execution: When you’re throwing people out into the streets, do it quickly.
Everybody with an MBA—everybody in your top-tier management consulting firm, which you joined today—knows this. They learned it. They feel it. It’s the right thing to do. But they do not do it.*
your firm chose to fire every single consultant on the staff.
Those former souls called consultants were younger people with degrees from good colleges who typically spent two to four years at the firm and left for business school
I don’t think it’s over.”
Louis was a big media partner—an Ohioan with an oddly Southern cadence and a pals-y manner—he was known as the friendly partner. There was only one
the lowest value-add people would be chopped first… who adds less value than a guy who just (last week, in fact) graduated from business school?
This line of thought is unproductive. It represents your universe for the next eighteen months
he is right about the month, wrong about the number—it is twenty-four.
He is one of them.
As the call continues, you come to believe you are not the only one who has lost interest in this particular “clear image of the future state.” Your image is pretty clear right now: homeless, friendless, alone. No wife, no job, nothing but a buddy named Jimmy Beam and another named Johnnie Walker.
An MBA used to mean something in this world—when was that?
You realize that your mentor, who seemed so genuine and real when you worked at the firm last summer—the only Mr. Media with these qualities—has changed too. He has been sucked into the House of Lies
You trust your instincts. Your instincts are good. Every instinct and outstinct you’ve got is telling you it’s not over, not over at all, not slightly, not hardly, not yet.
Later, you can’t believe how naive you were.
3: The McKinsey Problem—or, the Mind of Machiavelli
Immediately after starting work at McKinsey, the Rainmaker alters the Web site he created for the purpose of promoting his book. All remotely positive references to your firm are excised or replaced with neutral mentions of a former place of business.
It is a truth universally known that every man and woman of ambition who applies to business school applies to Harvard Business School. Likewise, every MBA candidate of ambition who wants to go into consulting applies to work at McKinsey & Company. Both truths are universally known, but they are never admitted.
So you apply to Harvard—though you will never admit it—and do not get in. You interview at McKinsey.
Your first encounter with the Machiavelli of consulting firms is in the course of a group “information session” on the second floor of Uris Hall at Columbia Business School
the sole purpose of which is to impress. The employees take notes. Even they don’t listen to their answers. There is nothing outrageous about a large firm one cannot learn from a few moments with their annual report, a visit to their Web site. There is nothing an employee can say that will alter a single student’s desire or lack of desire to work there.
No—the unstated but overt purpose of these sessions is to give you a chance to ask such a great question that you are catapulted onto the “closed list,”18 given an offer and granted the luxury of refusing it.
Your next encounter with the firm is at their official presentation to the student body. Again, there is a distinctly secondary flavor to it: as though they left their real presentation somewhere else.
“We put people first… at McKinsey,” he says. “I’m not sure what that means. Let’s hope it is a good thing, eh?”
He’s getting giddy. You wonder if you have ever seen anyone so tired. He’s so tired, Mr. Ribbletropp, that’s he’s shot out the other side of tiredness into a land of strange objects. Like slides
The Slide is simply a curve showing 20 percent annual growth. That’s 20 percent compound annual growth over the past decade in both revenues and in the size of McKinsey’s staff
Compounding is not unlike magic
It turns out, of course, there is an alternative to 20 percent compound annual growth. It looks like this:
In June 2002, McKinsey’s utilization was about 50 percent—meaning half of its dwindling supply of consultants were working for free. This was the lowest level of busy-ness in thirty-two years. At your firm, the number is closer to 30 percent. It is an odd time, that winter of 2001.*
But you’re very, very busy.
The reason, oddly enough, is September 11.
Life is good.
Or it would be—if not for McKinsey.
They run the model. In any consulting engagement, the model—pronounced The Model—is the nexus of power. It is an Excel workbook, or multiple workbooks, that is built carefully over a period of weeks with an elaborate cross-mesh of references and formulas so complex it is only really understood by its maker, and often not even by her
The model is a mathematical re-creation of the New York City economy, specifically its overall gross city product.
Four weeks of this makes you feel really stupid. You begin to believe you don’t deserve to work with McKinsey. You really don’t have what it takes, and this is a depressing and liberating thought. You have found your people: the truly second-rate.
You believe this until you see the final presentation and read the final report
You have gotten so sick of words you barely talk at all anymore. People don’t shut up. We live in a country of yappers and it’s getting worse. You love ballet—you love how no one talks. “Words,” said Lenny Bruce, “are all lies.” And so they are.
So you are predisposed to the McKinsey approach. Or you would be if it were in service of the truth. In the case of the New York City Partnership, however, it appears to be employed in the service of saving McKinsey time.
Afterward, your principal says, “My key take-away from this project is we’re better than we think we are.”
The New York City Partnership consulting coalition’s findings were ignored by the city, and not a single one of its recommendations was adopted
Consulting interviews are unique in the world of interviews for one reason: the case.
It turns out there are two very distinct versions of the case: (1) the one you read about in the Columbia Business School Management Consulting Association’s Case Interview Guide and similar books from Wharton and the Vault, and (2) the one you actually get. Case 1 is terrifyingly complex
Case 2 is so simple you think you heard it wrong
During your anxious preparations for this moment of high farce, you purchased the classic book on structured problem solving for business people, The Pyramid Principle. In this clearly written, highly structured book, author Barbara Minto lays out her five basic rules for solving a problem—any problem
That evening the phone rings in Queens. Your wife answers. It’s for you: McKinsey.
You don’t get the job.
4: An Analytical Digression: “On the Means by Which the Prince Maintains His Power”
People do not understand how hardwired McKinsey is into the power grid of American business, nor how annexed it is to the Harvard Business School. It sounds hyperbolic to say Harvard and McKinsey own the U.S. economy
by now they own, run, or manage the entire world.
Say you were to have a child. You don’t like children much; you’re not perhaps so young as you could be. But still—you could bow to pressure or some atavistic urge and bear a child.
Wouldn’t you want her to have all the benefits of employment at McHarvard & Company?
Put another way: Is it reasonable to expect you can change the machinery of mastery, built up over decades of private meetings and secret snacks, and find for your offspring some back door to greatness? Of course not
You might do the practical thing and send your kid through the public school system you’re subsidizing out in Queens; after all, you believe in public education, and you’re happy to support it in any way you can. In theory
Statistics aren’t advertised, but informal polling indicates no more than 40 percent of McHarvard’s constituents soldiered their way through the U.S. public school system with their flak jackets and tutors
History is made by those who beat the odds, and the Rainmaker is certainly making history
Like all those men with real success, he found a backdoor to someplace special.
He turns up, of all places, at a party hosted by your top-tier firm for its media alumni. Consulting firms are most unlike other organizations in the way they treat departed colleagues
Consulting is dominated by two overwhelming realities. Reality 1 is that it is a locus of transients, bedouins, nomads, people just passin’ though
Ask any and all partners and they’ll tell you the same: “I planned to stay only two years. Every two years I said to myself, ‘This year I’m going to get out.’ ” They hate the travel; they hate the lack of security
Reality 2 is that a large proportion of any top-tier firm’s client base consists of that firm’s alumni. Ex-consultants tend to hire their own former firms as consultants. They like using consultants, in fact. It allows them to take revenge.
There are maybe a dozen people in this room with the Rainmaker’s fingerprints clearly visible on the shaft of the knife in their backs. He makes his way to every one
Why wouldn’t they be nice to him? He paid for the drinks.”
“He lost them their jobs.”
“It’s only consulting, for God’s sakes,” she says
Part II: Consulting Craft Skills for a Well-Stocked Tool Kit
*These are the basic craft skills required, in order of importance:
- Ability to give—and, more important, to receive—erroneous feedback from colleagues and partners*
5: The Gentle Art of Feeding Back—or, a New Way to Grow & Hate Yourself
It’s very difficult to tell if you’re serious or not,” says the woman, feeding back.
“I’m always serious,” you say.
“See what I mean?”
After a year you are sent to Feedback Camp
The title of this week is “Consulting Team Skills,”
It’s inculcated in the business school–bound that industry is all about “team work.” I
It sounds strange to you, the first time you hear it: “We.”
He means, of course, we, the client, the company that hired us. We are we. It’s routine by now—this convenient linguistic fiction that we are actually employees of the companies we serve
For that’s what you are now—a team player.
The problem is—it’s all a lie.
There are no teams. Teams accomplish nothing. Good work is done in a cone of real quiet. Truth comes from the silence alone. Is this true? We don’t know.
All we know is—right now—we hate other people.
They’re all so critical.
Feedback Camp starts with an online questionnaire. It asks you to rate yourself along a number of dimensions supposedly correlated with the skills you are thought to need to do your job well, and it’s sent to a dozen or so people who have worked with you. Your co-workers are asked the same questions
You’re sitting around a conference room table in a windowless hutch in New Jersey, hearing what people think of you. There are four of you, including the Mormon moderator. You have spent a week together already and there are strong opinions in the room. The comments are supposed to be structured as one good thing (capability area), one bad thing (room for improvement), but it all sounds the same. Very bad
You’re supposed to go through the prefeedback, looking for patterns, then come up with a goal for the week
You tell these previous strangers your major fault and what you’re going to do about it.
When you realize what you’re going to have to tell them, you want to cry. It’s just too perfect, as if you made it up. It turns this week in the woods into a magnificent postmodern business experiment.
Can you guess what your major fault turns out to be? Can you even imagine?
It’s this: You don’t like feedback
“What are you going to do with the feedback?”
Ah—that is the real question, isn’t it? What are you going to do with the feedback. You suspect the truth—ignore it—is not, in the circumstances, acceptable
“Can I say something,” interrupts the woman who talks too much, the one with the eating disorder and the terrible skin. She has been wanting to talk this whole time, and now she is going to talk.
You all turn to her.
“I feel that Marty is mocking us.”
Consultants are not hired as experts. This is a misconception common among nonconsultants: that they are hired for their knowledge. They are not. They are hired to accomplish in very rapid order a daunting, discreet piece of fact-finding and analysis that they are then required to present in exceedingly clear and convincing form to their client
Your particular client contact is a woman you’ve been warned about—a rather squat little person with a puzzled look who is draped in gray sweaters. It is the middle of summer. Her name is Cate, with a C. She’s young, too, maybe twenty-eight or twenty-nine, and makes two times your salary for no reason at all. She used to work at McKinsey, but they fired her. Now she’s head of something to do with realigning the organization or whatever.
Ask any consultant—he’ll tell you. There is a moment in most client meetings when the client team starts to argue with itself, and those are the moments you dream about
Another irony of feedback is that, while to receive feedback requires good listening skills, the feedback itself is often about the quality of one’s listening skills
The second day of Feedback Camp you take a multiple-choice test of listening “styles
I don’t think the problem is you don’t want to get feedback at all. That’s like a—a smoke screen. I think you’re very clever, and you managed to construct this thing—this false problem.”
She’s right of course, completely right.
“Why would I do that?”
“Probably to show your contempt for this week. This whole camp thing.”
Anyway,” she whispers, “nobody likes to get feedback. And nobody likes to give it.”
“My group does.”
“No,” she says gently, “they don’t.
You—High in Analytical Listening, Low in Empathetic Listening
Question: Can you spot the nonconsultant in this group?
That’s correct—it is Talky Girl, who is actually an HR person who has come up from your firm’s headquarters and is auditing the Feedback Camp for the purpose of being able, at some point in the future, to be a group session facilitator. In other words, she’s in training to be a trainer, like the Mormon
This feedback was a good learning for you, it turns out. You realize you are in an environment where nobody has any feelings.
Feelings almost appear the next day, after you cross the Acid River and hurtle yourself through the Web of Pain
Debriefing phoniness requires phoniness in return.
Every year, either in March or in September depending upon when they started work, the members of your firm are appraised using a method called “360 Degrees.”
Once all “360 Degrees” of co-workers have been interviewed, the appraiser completes a six-page appraisal feedback form, which attempts to inject objectivity into what is essentially a binary process—she is/is not good—by forcing observations into various matrices and “skill areas” supposedly useful for executing the job. Strengths are called “core competencies.” Weaknesses are called “development areas.”
Now, some at the firm like this “360 Degree”/anonymous system and believe it is “as fair as it can be.”
You would disagree, based upon two facts:
Fact 1: The appraisal interviews are conducted off a list drawn up by the victim herself. The only people contacted to provide feedback are those the victim has named
The problem is peers—all those mini-Machiavellis gaming the system by doing body slams on as many hapless peers as they can
Fact 2: The appraisal is a charade
You are angry because you learned something, about four weeks after Feedback Camp ended, from which the only things you took away were eight pounds of ugly fat plastered to your sides and a bad case of low self-esteem.
You learned that, after her appraisal, they fired Shelagh.
Her feedback was she didn’t “know how to listen.”
6: The Complete Consultant’s Dictionary
Imagine you are listening.
It gets worse—now, imagine you are listening to a consultant
The one question you would have is: What did she say?
You look at the program. It says that her name is Meredith, she went to HBS and works at McKinsey for the Rainmaker. She studied speechwriting with Barbara Minto in England
learn that the only difference between these enthusiastic speech lovers and yourself is a slim pamphlet entitled The Complete Consultant’s Dictionary: Words & Phrases You Need to Know to Talk Like a Top-Tier Management Consultant. The pamphlet contains fewer than two hundred critical words and phrases and their English translations—words and phrases all consultants know, and use to distance themselves from the truth
7: The Good Partner
The Good Partner knows all the words—in fact, he invented a few of them.38 He never interviewed at McKinsey and did not attend HBS.
What makes the Good Partner good?
You are no expert in the art of leadership; most of your life has prepared you simply to be an expert in followership
In his 1960 classic The Human Side of Enterprise, Douglas McGregor outlined two well-known models of worker motivation, which he called Theories X and Y
you can tell bad partners from good partners by the answer to a simple question: “What do you think associates do when you’re not looking?” If they say, “Precious little”—well, they’re bad. (Theory X)
The Good Partner is a Theory Y person
The institutional leader, then,
Is primarily an expert
In the promotion and protection of values
as Peters and Waterman themselves comment, in a rare moment of levity: “We should pause briefly here, as we exalt values, to ask what values?
You check the Web site—and there they are! The core values. Rather a lot of them, in fact. Your firm appears to have a number of cores—multitudes of souls Ping-ponging around through cyberspace shoring up the commitment, character, and aspirations of your cohorts, entirely unbeknownst to them. It is dismaying, in a way, just how many core values you have.
Why do you feel so empty inside?
What about all the other top-tier management consulting firms? What are their core values?
You look at other firms—AT Kearney, BearingPoint, Accenture—and notice not a single point of agreement among them, valuewise
With a tip of the briar to Lacan and Derrida, the wits at Dollywood decided that their core value was simply this: value
You didn’t know it at the time, but that phrase—“maximize shareholder value”—is a business cliché, a commercial mantra as overworked as “core value” and perhaps even more so.
Now—what sticks with you from this exchange is not the feedback you got from the group. You happen to think British people are funny. What sticks with you is the Mormon’s rather defensive inability to accept your feedback graciously—his low-key lashing out
The Good Partner is good because he knows exactly how to listen.
8: Basic Math for Regular Einsteins
Something else the Good Partner does very well is rough, rough math problems superfast!
“How much for tires?”
You have attended many, many brutal rounds—competitive speed math is the only sport enjoyed by your leadership cadre. It combines all those attributes consultants like to think they possess: all-around intelligence, numerical ability, problem-solving, and a lust for estimation
While associates are not allowed to estimate anything, the higher-ups are impatient with precision. Perhaps they have learned something
Perhaps they have learned that consulting math isn’t really math at all.
As business prose is prose for drool-bucket doofoids, so everyday business math is math for blistering bozos. It’s math that is an insult to math.
What follows is a brief guide to the quantitative skills required of a top-tier consultant
Orders of Magnitude
Addition & Multiplication
let’s list, in order, the industries that are the major consumers of strategy consulting services:
Industries that hire consultants are the ones who can afford them
No—the sad fact is, most companies who hire consultants (a) would do fine without them, and (b) have too much green in their sacks. There is a name for a very expensive, dubiously useful item purchased by people of superior means.
That name is: Luxury.
9: Welcome to the Working Weekend
These are the IT consultants, the implementers. They’re something less than you top-tier management consultants, of course; they actually know how to do something.
You find the fleet of crimson Tauri awaiting you—the mechanical bulls for the bullshit artists of the century
It is 10:27 a.m. and you have been en route for five hours already
The client is located in [Sadtown], Illinois, and is a large company involved in the manufacture, distribution, and selling of tires for cars and trucks.
you find yourself adrift in a crimson tide of Matador Red Ford Tauri. Dozens and dozens and dozens of them. Consulting chariots, awaiting instructions.
It is difficult to feel special, in business
You do not talk. This is entirely by design. There are subtle rules of client-site behavior, and you know them all as instinct now; they are simply what you do.
On-site Rule #2: Do Not Make Group Appearances
Optics dictate that on-site engagement pods never ever, ever:
Eat lunch together in the cafeteria.
This last one has destroyed careers. Now, let’s see why.
It’s a small team, says the partner—no more than three or four top-tier experts, plus herself
Meanwhile, the partner and his buddy have wandered down the hall, sweet-talked some other key executive
there’s twenty-six of them!
On-site Rule #3: Be Nice to Everyone.
the simplest categorical division is the Rule of Two. Take any mound of data. Divide it into two and only two different groups.
*The groups are
- Data dumps
- Marriott points
- Starwood points*
These categories follow the Barbara Minto/McKinsey framework they call MECE—Mutually Exclusive Collectively Exhaustive—which means, simply, the categories are totally different and together they include everybody
Of these two—and only two—possibilities, it is hard to say which is preferable. Day one you have either (1) nothing but information, or (2) nothing but questions. Neither gets you any closer to the truth.
There is no discussion of the client at the client site.
Unsolicited opinions are a one-way ticket to a counsel out. Sacking is the payment for clear points of view. Remember whole swaths of the U.S.A. are populated by right-wing extremists with pinheaded views on scientific principles such as evolution, global warming, and the Pac-10 conference; these people are your clients and are not open to persuasion.
What is to be the team’s reward for accomplishing nothing with great application?
Two words that shoot a hard shard of terror into the glands of anyone who has escaped their sentence in consulting…
These two words are: Team Dinner.
Team Dinners are held at good restaurants and charged to the client. But goodness in product and service varies widely from coast to coast, and in between. Your suspicion is that world-class comforts are about as endemic to [Sadtown] as are wide-open lesbians.
You are right
Inside, the restaurant is a combination of a Denny’s and a welfare office
But what is team dinner if not a form of pointless meeting? It has all the characteristics of the bureaucratic mechanism: It is (1) meaningless, (2) demoralizing, and (3) mandatory
And the so-called flat-form meritocracy so belabored by McKinsey—this in reality masks a rigid, pitiless system of caste unseen outside Delhi since 1951
10: Things to Do in Cleveland When You’re Dead
Hometel life consists of a series of strategies for managing torpor. The body cannot be trusted. Ritual is salvation, autopilot redemption
The snake of a smile emerges from the cool depths of Geraldo’s self.
“I imagine,” he says, “you guys might like to take a look at my table?”
I mean, everybody loves those points.”
“That’s why they’re worth nothing—because everybody loves them.”
Geraldo is still staring at your pen, the one you’ve been using to illustrate your insight. He’s not staring but staring—glaring. Then he looks up, and something has changed, changed utterly.
It is a blue ballpoint pen with a gold tip and it says: RITZ-CARLTON.
These expenses, more than the fees, are what rile clients. They do not like to subsidize a lifestyle they perceive to be lavish.
You’re always taking notes that you will never look at again. It is a method of distancing yourself from the unpleasantness around you, and it’s common
And she goes on… it’s not offensive so much as it is incredibly boring; she doesn’t want an answer, she wants an audience; she wants to ventilate. You let her.
The tradition of total secrecy has been endemic to the top-tier consulting business since the beginning
When you worked briefly at Forbes in the early 1990s you realized there is nothing less truthful than the public face of management. Except, perhaps, the public utterances of management consultants.
It is this collision of puffery with puffery that makes consulting for the U.S. government so entertaining
About a year after you joined the firm, you were sent to work for a division of the U.S. intelligence services known as the MPO, for Maryland Procurement Office
It turned out MPO is the old-style alias for the National Security Agency, or the NSA.
Do you have clearance?”
You were afraid of this question. “Well—no. But I was told it was okay for this meeting.”
“Not even secret?”
What is the purpose of this meeting?”
“You’re right,” said someone, “it’s to schedule the next meetings.”
“I don’t think schedules can be classified.”
“Depends what the schedule’s about,” said someone.
And then they’re off—discussing their absolute favorite topic: secrecy.
As your wife pointed out once, consulting is a job where you work very hard for three and one-half days. And then—not work. Travel, talking in the office, sitting at your desk looking wistfully out the window at the MetLife Building
He says, “You can’t help this company, can you?”
“Nobody can. Nobody can.”
11: Strategy Is a Contact Sport
take the most famous consulting book there is—the book that is credited with legitimizing academic consulting, giving top-tier management advice-mongering a patina of Harvardesque credibility. That book is, of course, Michael Porter’s Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors. Porter was, and remains, a professor at Harvard Business School, and he published his landmark framework in 1980, two years before In Search of Excellence. It was to be a grand decade for McHarvard…
Companies lacking either were said to be “stuck in the middle” and, implicitly, doomed.
Unless they called in the consultants to (a) cut their costs, or (b) jack their differentiation
No consultant uses the forces in her daily work, of course; and no consultant applies them to any actual analysis. You’ve never encountered a situation where they helped you to understand anything, even during business school
One-word summary of Competitive Strategy: “Differentiation.”
Ten-word summary of Competitive Strategy: “Power of buyers and sellers. Entry barriers. Substitutes. Industry rationality.”
12: Tinybizbooks—A $48.99 Value ($68.44 Canadian)
With some exceptions. These are the so-called classics
You decide to read them. There are only three; it’s not a large chore. The three titles are, of course, In Search of Excellence, Reengineering the Corporation, and Built to Last. And it turns out the first and third of them are actually the same book—far-ranging studies of “excellent/visionary” U.S. companies and what it is they do differently.
In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies
Small is almost beautiful
Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution
10-word summary: “If… re-creating this company today… what would it look like?”
Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies
10-word summary: “Big hairy audacious goals, cultlike cultures, more demanding home-grown management.
The Ultimate Business Book or, Why In Search of Excellence and Built to Last Are Actually the Same Work, Plus a Preview of the Best-selling B-book of 2006—In Search of Last!
13: Case Study—Reengineering for Nonengineers
She will all but end your career, though you don’t know it yet