A history of the McKinsey consulting business and an evaluation of whether it is a “net increaser of ‘value’ or merely the most capable mercenary force in the corporate world.”
In a timely book, Fortune and New York Observer contributor McDonald (Last Man Standing: The Ascent of Jamie Dimon and JPMorgan Chase, 2010) probes the leading business consulting company in the country, considering McKinsey's role in the functioning of America’s corporations and their leadership. The author leaves no doubt about his own critical views as he discusses such questions as whether the firm's advice is worth what its customer pay. He discusses the extent to which it has been “preying on the insecurity of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ ” by feeding on the tendency of one organization to imitate another or simply providing corporate leadership with cover stories from the outside “disinterested expert” who recommends what corporations want to do anyway. McDonald asserts that McKinsey “made the bulk of its money helping its clients slash costs” and suggests the company may have been the impetus for more job losses than any entity in U.S. corporate history. Originally, business consulting provided a way for corporations to maneuver around antitrust laws and a vehicle for swapping intelligence and business practices. Marvin Bower, successor of the founder, made McKinsey into the force it became as top companies like General Motors were recruited as clients in the 1930s. Contracts to reorganize national security and defense during the Eisenhower administration gave the company new leverage and clients. McDonald discusses whether the advice the company gave during the 1990s to clients like Enron and Citibank may have contributed to subsequent economic crises. He also emphasizes the firm's defense that they only provide advice; others choose whether to implement it.
A fast-paced account of a key business institution, its deeds and misdeeds.