A spotter’s guide to the men and women of finance.
A former McKinsey employee has described the company as “capital’s willing executioners”: if you want something done but don’t want to get your hands dirty, McKinsey will do it for you. That escape from accountability is one of the most valuable services that management consultancies provide.
- Will A.I. become the New McKinsey? Ted Chiang, New Yorker, May 2023
A “good” management consultant approaches her task the same way a bad teacher approaches a parent-teacher evening: by begging questions. Her first step will be to make her client outline all the opportunities that exist for synergy, optimisation and automation. She will refrain from recommending anything herself: your user acceptance factor is exponentially higher if you fix the problems the middle management tier which commissioned you thinks it has (viz., an expensive and under-performing “service line”), rather than the one it actually has (viz., an expensive, pointless and profoundly dim middle management layer).
Indeed, the art of management consultancy is to carry out countless chargeable hours precisely without doing that: the key is to elicit ideas from the client as to what to do, responsibility for which, when inevitably they fail, can safely be laid at the client’s own door.
In ordinary Euclidian space-time, there is a simple formula — not quite as elegant as E = MC2, but close — which sets an immutable bound on the minimum time (t) required for a management consultant’s “output” (∞) to be implemented, which must be longer than the maximum theoretical length (L) of the management consultant’s engagement (e').
- T∞ >Le'
A management consultant will necessarily be long gone and onto his next job well before it becomes clear that the changes that were implemented as a result of his consultancy are a disaster (again, be careful never to describe these as “recommendations”: A management consultant can ask open questions by which a firm can navigate its own way to “water”, but it cannot make it drink).
When the enormity of the situation has finally descended upon all stakeholders you will not see the management consultant for dust. Someone’s posterior will be required for kicking, and most likely it will be the head of the documentation unit.
- Service level agreement
- Management consultant
- Subject matter expert
- ClauseHub: theory
- See, for example, Head of the documentation unit
- Sample exchange:
Teacher: So, how do you think junior is getting along?
Parent (affecting baffled look): Um, isn’t that the question I’ve come here to ask you?
- Careful: a management consultant’s output is never called a “recommendation”.