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The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence on American Businessby Duff McDonald
Synopses & Reviews
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.
FOUNDED IN 1926, McKINSEY CAN LAY CLAIM to the following partial list of accomplishments: its consultants have ushered in waves of structural, financial, and technological change to the nation's best organizations; they remapped the power structure within the White House; they even revolutionized business schools. In this book, star financial journalist Duff McDonald shows just 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.
But 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 were Kmart's advisers when the retailer tumbled into disarray. 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. They feel so strongly about themselves that they have insisted on a proper noun where one need not exist. To an outsider, they are a consulting firm. To themselves, simply, The Firm. This revealing book uncovers the inner workings of what just might be the most influential private organization in America.
"The celebrated management consulting company exerts an influence that varies from benign to malign, according to this revealing, if conflicted, history. Financial journalist McDonald (Last Man Standing) traces McKinsey's rise to the pinnacle of corporate advice peddling and its unique pretensions and privileges: its elitism, decades-long engagements and lucrative open-ended contracts; its symbiosis with the Harvard Business School, whose newly minted grads dole out wisdom to experienced executives under its auspices; its aura of intellectualism, which sometimes amounts to vague buzz phrases and invocations of 'change'; its reliance on alumni who helm other companies and steer business its way. McDonald, a contributing editor at Fortune, can't quite decide whether this is all good or bad, or whether he's indifferent. He credits McKinsey with rationalizing business practices and forestalling corporate mistakes, but charges it with standing behind blunders and bankruptcies from Enron to GM; he wonders if the firm is less about helping companies make better products more efficiently than giving doctrinal cover to CEOs' impulses to slash payrolls. McDonald combines a lucid chronicle of McKinsey's growth and boardroom melodramas with a serviceable, if sometimes cursory analysis of evolving — or at least retreaded — management theories. But the larger import remains, like that of the corporate world it symbolizes, a contradictory muddle. Agent: David Kuhn, Kuhn Projects. (Sept. 10)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Timely....A fast-paced account of a key business institution, its deeds and misdeeds." Kirkus Reviews
A behind-the-scenes, revelatory history of McKinsey & Co., America's most influential and controversial business consulting firm, told by one of the nation's leading financial journalists.
Founded in 1926, McKinsey & Company has become one of the world's leading management consulting firms, helping to invent American business and shaping its course for decades. Ushering in the age of American industrial dominance, McKinsey remapped the power structure in the White House, helped create the bar code, revolutionized business schools, and introduced the idea of budgeting as a management tool. McKinsey consultants have created the corporate behaviors that shaped our world — reinventing our idea of American capitalism and exporting it across the globe.
At the same time, however, McKinsey can also be associated with a list 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. Yet they are rarely blamed for the failures — at least not publicly.
McKinsey employees are trusted and distrusted, loved and despised. And far from prying eyes, they are doing behind-the-scenes work for the most powerful people in the world.
In The Firm, star financial journalist Duff McDonald uncovers how these high-powered, high-priced business savants have ushered in waves of structural, financial, and technological shifts to the biggest and best American organizations.
About the Author
Duff McDonald is a contributing editor at Fortune and a regular contributor to Vanity Fair, New York, and other magazines. A dual citizen of Canada and the United States, he lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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