Book Summary: The McKinsey Way by Ethan M. Rasiel

Quick Summary: Ethan M. Rasiel’s The McKinsey Way (1999) provides insight into what makes McKinsey & Co. such a successful enterprise. It’s a combination of a refined problem-solving process, extensive brainstorming, highly selective hiring, and exceptional teamwork and communication.

Rasiel extracts a guide from his time at McKinsey & Co. that can be used as a reference by anyone in the business world.

You do not have to read the entire book if you don’t have time. This book summary provides an overview of everything you can learn from it.

Let’s get started without further ado.

The McKinsey Way Book Summary

The Problem-Solving Methodology

Since its inception in 1923, McKinsey & Co. has grown to become the world’s most successful and respected strategic consulting firm. McKinsey’s problem-solving methodology has three key characteristics: solutions are always fact-based, tightly structured, and hypothesis driven.

The first characteristic, fact-based, is critical because facts compensate for a lack of gut feeling and make a worker and a company credible. Second, McKinsey employs a mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive (MECE) framework to solve problems. This framework enables the generation of distinct problem-solving ideas that include all possible solutions. Finally, it is critical to define the initial hypothesis of the solution early on, as it emerges as a result of facts and structure. Then it must be tested before being used.

It’s also possible that the problem you’re given isn’t the real one that needs to be solved. Before you take any action, make sure you’re dealing with the right problem. Furthermore, because most business challenges are more similar than different, you can solve a wide range of problems using a limited number of problem-solving approaches.

Refrain from viewing your first hypothesis as the solution and the problem-solving procedure as an experiment to confirm the initial hypothesis. Keep an open and adaptable mindset. Don’t use a strong first hypothesis to justify mental rigidity.

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Rules for Business

Many rules and principles govern businesses. The 80/20 rule is one of the most important marketing principles. It states that in most cases, 20% of the causes cause 80% of the consequences. For example, 20% of your sales team will generate 80% of your revenue. Observing 80/20 patterns allows you to identify problems and opportunities in your own or a client’s business.

Another rule to follow is to work smarter, not harder. There is a lot of data about your problems out there, and you could do a lot of analysis with it. Concentrate solely on what matters.

How to Successfully Sell Products

There are times when barging into your customer’s office with a load of free samples is not the best way to sell your product or service. Simply be present at the appropriate time and make certain that the appropriate people are aware of your presence.

In addition, when planning your task, set specific goals that you can achieve. You’ll have goals you can achieve, and your clients will be pleased.

How to Build a Productive Team

Firms rely on teams because they are the most effective way to deal with customer issues. Due to the complexities of such issues, they cannot be resolved by a single person.

Consider what types of abilities and attitudes would be most beneficial to your project when assembling a team. Then, choose your teammates carefully. Your position as a leader is critical in this situation. As a team captain, you must make an effort to foster group cohesion because a cohesive team will work more efficiently and effectively. It is also critical to maintain your team’s energy levels.

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How to Navigate Hierarchy

Each company’s approach to hierarchy is distinct. There are, however, a few methods for managing hierarchy. For example, if you make your boss appear nice, your boss will reciprocate. That is the reciprocity of the hierarchy.

You can also take a more proactive approach: if you are brave enough, you can assert your equality within the organization. Continue doing so until you are told otherwise. Unfortunately, this does not work for everyone.

How to Conduct Interviews and Research

The first step in the McKinsey problem-solving process is research. Even before forming an initial hypothesis, breaking down a problem into its constituent parts, or identifying the major drivers, a team must first gather information.

Someone has probably worked on a similar problem to yours. Get to know them and learn about them. Do your research and ask questions; this will save you a lot of time and effort.

Interviews are an important part of the McKinsey problem-solving process. Interviewing is a skill unto itself. Work in pairs when conducting interviews so that you and your partner can share the tasks of asking questions and taking notes.

Prepare your questions before going into an interview. You only have a few minutes to question someone you’ve never met before. More importantly, pose questions and then allow others to respond. Maintain the flow of the interview by interjecting as needed.

How to Brainstorm Successfully

Brainstorming is the foundation of strategic consulting. It is what the customers actually purchase. Contrary to popular belief, brainstorming is not entirely spontaneous and necessitates some preliminary preparation. Employees should come to brainstorming sessions prepared.

The purpose of brainstorming is to generate new ideas. When you arrive at your team meeting, leave your assumptions at the door. Bring information you already know but look at it in new ways. Good preparation and a positive attitude are required for successful brainstorming.

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Communication Tools

Presentations are excellent tools for communicating with customers. Depending on the audience and the subject, they can be formal or informal. To be successful, your presentation must guide the audience through your rationale in clear, easy-to-follow phases. Furthermore, a successful presentation should not introduce anything new to the audience. Explain your findings to all of your clients before gathering them all in one place.

Charts, in addition to presentations, are effective visual communication tools that can be used with clients. The more complex a chart, the less effective it is at explaining things. Use charts to clearly communicate your point.

A team-based organization’s effectiveness is dependent on clear communication from the top down as well as from the bottom up. Concision, thoroughness, and structure are three characteristics of effective business communication. If you include all three in every communication you send, your message will be received. The most important rule of clear dialogue is to keep the information flowing. The fuel for your team is information. Stopping the flow will cause you to freeze. Meetings are the most efficient way of communicating with your team. Another option is to walk around the office and talk with your coworkers.

When working with a client team, you must collaborate or you will be unable to work. Make sure the client team understands why their contributions are important to you and beneficial to them.

Mentors and Travel

Choose a senior member of your company to be your mentor. Use the experience of others if possible. Having a mentor on whom you can rely can help you navigate your own business challenges. If at all possible, collaborate with your mentor to learn everything you can. But don’t go to them too often; you don’t want to become a liability.

Your job may require you to travel across multiple countries or continents. Traveling may sap your energy. Proper preparation, a positive attitude, and adequate planning will all help. Plan your time with the client so that you are home on Fridays and Mondays, if possible. Furthermore, limit your travel necessities to only a few items that you must bring with you.

Traveling as an adventure will reduce your stress. When you arrive at your destination, act like a tourist. Make the most of your circumstances. Explore new places, participate in local activities, and get to know your surroundings.

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The Value of Good Secretaries

Any major business would fall apart if it did not have an efficient team of secretaries to handle administrative tasks. A good secretary will do a variety of things to make a consultant’s life easier. They are also useful when you are on a business trip and require someone to work in the office.

Take excellent care of your secretaries. Declare your requirements clearly and give them room to grow. Spend the time necessary to properly train them. Addressing their concerns can also benefit you.

McKinsey’s Recruitment Process

McKinsey hires only the most qualified candidates. It also goes out of its way to attract unconventional candidates who are not business academics, such as physicians, scientists, and politicians. Above all, the company values analytical abilities. It necessitates analytical thinkers who can disassemble problems into their constituent parts. The interviewer is most concerned with how well the interviewee can think through a problem.

To be successful in such case interviews, it is critical to break down the problem into its component parts, ask appropriate questions, and reach fair conclusions when necessary.

Work and Life Balance

You don’t have much time to do anything else if you work too many hours per week. You must put in some effort ahead of time if you want to have a life. Every week, set aside one day for yourself. Choose a day and notify your boss and yourself that you will never work on that day unless absolutely necessary. Additionally, keep your work and personal lives separate. It is preferable to stay at the office for another hour rather than come home and ignore your family because you still have work to do. Home should be a place where you can be yourself.

If you need to travel during the week, plan ahead of time. Expect to find nothing to do on a Friday night after arriving at the airport.

Final Lessons

Maintain your integrity at all times. There will be many gray areas in business; always take the moral high ground. Another important lesson is that putting the customer first is the key to providing excellent customer service; to do so, you must maintain professional objectivity.

Finally, implementation and execution are the most important aspects of business. The most important factor is to complete tasks.

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The McKinsey Way Review

Ethan M. Rasiel’s writing style is straightforward and approachable. He provides a clear and well-structured overview of how McKinsey & Co. operates, and extracts generalized lessons that are phrased in simple terms. For clarity, business jargon is defined, and professional processes are dissected.

About The Author

Ethan M. Rasiel earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton and an MBA from Wharton. He began his professional career in 1989 with McKinsey & Co. in New York and stayed there until 1992. Among his clients were major corporations in the financial, telecommunications, technology, and consumer goods industries.

The McKinsey Way Quotes

“When a doctor thinks that a patient’s minor symptoms mask something more serious, she will tell her patient, ‘Mr. Jones, I can treat your headache, but I think it’s a symptom of something more serious and I’d like to do further tests.”

 

“The techniques allow McKinsey consultants very rapidly to fit the raw data that lands on their desks into a coherent framework and give them insights into the nature of the client’s problem.”

 

“Most executives will miss a few things because they don’t take the time—they usually don’t have the time.”

 

“If they do, adjust to the facts. Don’t try to pound them into your framework like square pegs into round holes.”

 

“An initial hypothesis is not a pre-requisite for successful problem solving. Having one will help organize and forward your thinking, but if you can’t come up with one, don’t despair. Any McKinsey-ite will tell you that no business problem is immune to the power of fact-based analysis.”

View our larger collection of the best The McKinsey Way Quotes.

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