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Extended-form Case Study

Consultancy, power and management ideas - the case of McKinsey & Co.

Published on July 1, 2015   29 min

Other Talks in the Series: Management Consultancy

Hi, my name is Andrew Sturdy from the University of Bristol. And today we're going to be looking at consultancy in the context of power and take the special, extreme case of McKinsey & Company. Very well known management consulting firm, one of the most successful consulting firms in the world.
So why look at management ideas? Why look at power? Firstly, consultants main role is to spread management ideas. Nigel Thrift called them, "Capitalism's commissars." They have very important agents in spreading new management practices throughout the world, throughout organizations. There are lots of other people who are involved in that, lots of other ways in which management's ideas are spread. But consultants are very important in the United States, Northern Europe, in particular, and, increasingly, in Asia and throughout the rest of the world. They're involved in generating, packaging, disseminating, and, also, giving legitimacy, or rubber stamping management ideas. And so historically, they've been involved in the multidivisional form of an organization, an organization structure that's very common throughout the world, the development and promotion of strategy and lots of ideas often with three letter acronyms like BPR, Business Process Reengineering, or HRM. And at a broader level, they've been involved in promoting things like privatization and other general ideas about how to organize societies and organizations. Most of their influence is typically seen as being within projects with clients. But we are going to look more broadly than this. They're involved in publicizing ideas, what's called thought leadership. An example of that would be writing books and articles, and, increasingly, internet blogs and use of social media to promote ideas. And, also, spreading consultancy through working for organizations, not just as consultants, but taking on jobs when they've left consultancy, what we call the consulting diaspora. Finally, they're influential as a model in themselves of best practices, role models, if you like. And so consultancy firms have been seen as excellent and innovative in knowledge management, management of culture, and up or out process, which it means that you only stay in the firm if you progress. If not, you're encouraged to leave. And, also, they've been very influential in showing what it is to be a professional manager, to be an innovative, forward thinking, exemplary manager. And this is one of the examples that we're going to look at shortly. That's why we're looking at ideas and why we're looking at consultancy as the heart of spreading management ideas. But why look at power? Well, power is needed to move ideas and to get them to take root somewhere. Ideas don't just work on their own. Just because you've got a good idea, it doesn't mean to say that it's going to spread. As Rogers, a leading figure on the innovation field says, "Ideas do not sell themselves, but require opinion leadership from those in the system who possess power, status or technical expertise." But who is influential in selling ideas is different, according to context. It's directly in terms of different countries, and, also, different situations. So if you wanted to persuade someone to adopt a particular idea in your family, you wouldn't be the same sort of person as trying to sell an idea to a chief executive of a business organization. So who is significant? Who has power and expertise in different contexts will vary. So we've established that consulting's important in terms of management ideas, and that power is needed for ideas to flow. What we will be doing is taking the case of McKinsey & Company, one of the most well known companies of consulting.

Consultancy, power and management ideas - the case of McKinsey & Co.

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