Sunday, November 30, 2008

The McKinsey Mind

The McKinsey Mind
By Ethan M. Rasiel
and Paul N. Friga (Author's Website)
Publisher: McGraw Hill
Published: 2001
ISBN-13: 9780071374293
272 pages

The McKinsey Mind is researched based on "interviews with and questionnaires from more than 75 McKinsey alumni who have successfully implemented the Firm's techniques and strategies in their post-McKinsey organizations." Why read this book? Because you will discover a problem-solving and decision-making process; management techniques needed to implement that process in your own career; plus presentation (and communication) strategies that will ensure all your hardwork in that earlier process pays off.

The authors, Ethan M. Rasiel and Paul N. Frida, were both consultants in McKinsey & Company. If you do not already know, McKinsey which is founded in 1923, is the world's most successful strategic consulting firm. The McKinsey Mind reveals the ways in which McKinsey consultants deliver exceptional results to their clients. The book offers implementation lessons by McKinsey’s tried-and-tested problem-solving methodology when dealing with organizational problems. I think these methodologies can be used even in our personal lives. After all, life is full of problems that require solving, and that’s what’s making life so interesting and worth living.

The book offers good insight into the consulting process and as a former assistant to a partner in a similar US-based consulting firm, I can relate to the ideas presented by the authors. Those consultants, although not from McKinsey, behaved much the same way. They have clear, structured thinking when framing problems; analytical when designing analysis, gathering and interpreting data for solving complex problems; effective when presenting ideas to the client; and possess good management skills in handling teams, client and themselves.

The book highlighted that intuition and data are two important pieces to the problem solving puzzle. It is almost impossible to have all the relevant facts before making a decision. Therefore, a lot of times, decisions are made based on partly facts and partly on intuition (gut instinct and experience).

One of the good thoughts that strikes me in relation to performing analysis is “don’t boil the ocean.” In other words, don’t waste time analysing every aspect of a problem which does not add significantly to the problem-solving process. Work smarter and not harder. Quality over quantity. James G. Whelan at L, G, & E Energy said that focused analysis is more important than volume, and this stems from good initial problem framing.

Another one is this: Don’t accept “I have no idea.” This is applicable when we are researching for information and obtaining the same from people. Probe on (the book has details on how to go about it). This not only applies to other people, but also us.

Since I am a personal assistant, I would also like to highlight this. In the chapter “Managing Yourself,” the authors talk about the McKinsey way of making climbing the pole of success, and one of the things mentioned is “a good assistant is a lifeline.” This group of people should be treated well and be given opportunities to grow in their responsibilities and careers. How I agree to that. Too often support staff is not given enough recognition and appreciation.

The book before this one i.e. The McKinsey Way is more descriptive and talks about what McKinsey does. In The McKinsey Mind, it shows you how but it really does not go into too much detail so I would like to suggest that readers refer to other resources to dig deeper into specific topics such as presentation, communication, managing teams, data analysis, and many more. Now that we know the methodology offered by the experts, it is only right that we hone them further. Scratching the surface is insufficient.