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Consulting Demons: Inside the Unscrupulous World of Global Corporate Consultingby Lewis Pinault
Synopses & Reviews
Chapter OneConsulting and Me
Like many of the industry's top achievers, I did not set out to become a management consultant, or even consider a business career, until well after college. Consulting recruiters value diversity and esoterica, founded on strong educational pedigrees, knowing that this is the stuff of staying a step ahead of one's clients, of engaging, entertaining, and when need be, duping them into a paying belief in new and unique perspectives.
Diversity and esoterica I had in spades. I grew up in Rhode Island in the boom years of the 1960's, when everything interesting seemed to be happening all at once, but somewhere else. The youngest of six children, I benefited from parents with a staunchly liberal, New Deal view of the world and social justice, and brothers and sisters engaged in every part of the causes of the time. Several of them would embark on academic careers, and all would at least try to live out of state if not overseas. Though working-class poor, my parents encouraged the gathering of new experiences and a high investment in education.
While most were caught up in one way or another with Vietnam, however, I developed an early and obsessive interest in the space program. More than anything else, I wanted to be a scientist astronaut, or perhaps an astrophysicist, and explore other worlds and solar systems. The moon landings seemed but a small first achievement, and between Arthur C. Clarke's "2001" and "Star Trek," I had all the fuel I needed to imagine humanity's future role in space. A little weirdly, but telling for my interests in international space development then and today, my personal hero of "2001" was space-bureaucrat Heywood Floyd, notthe odyssey-making astronauts, and the concept of "Star Trek's" United Federation of Planets intrigued me as much as any alien slug-fest featuring Captain Kirk.
In ocean engineering I hoped to find the excitement and experience of exploration-driven technology development, something I planned to use when prospects for space development turned around. I loved the oceans, and inspired in part by Arthur C. Clarke's own celebration of both the oceans and outer space, I took up scuba diving and fully embraced my new medium. In Japan, I expected to learn something about large-scale project finance for civil engineering projects and hoped to tap that country's competitive strengths for application to space development, once the treaty law barring Japan's own space launches expired.
These were towering ambitions for a poor, struggling student, but I had blundered into the right time and place for combining engineering and Japaneseskills. Harvard's Ezra Vogel, with "Japan As No. 1," had just hit the best-seller lists, and study of Japanese management techniques would soon become an institutionalized fad. After Chicago I returned for two more years at MIT and cross-registered at Harvard in Japanese language, business, and government, finally finishing inpolitical Science at MIT so that I could combine credits in both disciplines and still manage to graduate, in 1982.
My three years with Nippon Kokan were a key formative experience for me both personally and professionally, molding much of what would drive and sustain my later, largely unexpected commitment to consulting. Combining some of Japan's most challenging living conditions with exposure to one of the world's most stimulating urban cultures, all the while propelling me through extraordinary new responsibilities, in these years I became at once professionally confident and alive to Tokyo's many attractions, and desperately eager to find a means to enjoy them.
Like many of the traditional Japanese industrial giants, Nippon Kokan firmly believed in isolating its new male employees inbachelor dormitories, where conditions were spartan at best. The idea was to build a certain sense of equality and camaraderie, reduce any last pretensions to a private life, and encourage early marriage to company-approved spouses.
By and large this approach worked quite well. The pre World War II Itanaka-ryo where I was assigned was infamous for dilapidated facilities, complete lack of heat or air conditioning through freezing winters and stultifying summers, and truly horrible food. We had one six-man "o-furo bath for two hundred grimy shipyard workers, filled with hot water only every other day. I quickly learned to tolerate the blistering heat of a fresh fill of the bath, to avoid dealing with the floating scum that would quickly collect with the first few uses. Creatures of all kinds shared our quarters, from bats...
In this gripping and colorful account of the American dream gone astray, Lewis Pinault provides the essential guidelines on how to get ahead and an enlightening perspective on the brutal infighting that can engulf even the most civilized consulting firm. This stunning exposé of some of the most prestigious and respected names in the business leads you into a world where a client's interests are skillfully subordinated to those of the consultants, where money rules the day, and where principles and morals are unwelcome baggage.
Humorous and insightful, this no-holds-barred account takes you behind the scenes of the dehumanizing indoctrination of an academic intellectual into an exploitative — and exploited — "global transformation contractor." Featuring new material dealing with the e-consulting industry's boom, bust, and its future, Consulting Demons offers the most complete look at an industry that exacts the highest prices for the most questionable standards of success.
About the Author
Lewis Pinault spent more than a decade rising through the ranks of management consulting's most esteemed players, including the Boston Consulting Group in the U.S. and Japan, Gemini Consulting throughout Europe and Asia, and Coopers &Lybrand, where he became a Financial Institutions partner in Hong Kong, before leaving it all behind to pursue his first passion — International Space Law and Planetary Geosciences — at the University of Hawaii where he now works with both NASA and the UN Office of Outer Space Affairs.
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