McKinsey & Company is a global management consultancy that is a launch pad for some of the top executives in transnational firms around the world. It claims to have 20,000 former employees in leadership positions globally.
The secretive firm has been the go-to strategy consigliere for the globe's top companies - from Procter & Gamble to American Express - as well as governments for more than a half century. Its influence is staggering. Consider this: More current and former Fortune 500 CEO's are alumni of McKinsey than of any other company.
James O'Shea and Charles Madigan noted this trend in their 1997 book Dangerous Company:
McKinsey business missionaries not only whisper and advise at the highest levels, they have a propensity for moving from the consulting world into the executive suite. IBM, Sears, AT&T, American Express, the list could stretch for pages, all huge companies that first bought McKinsey's top dollar advice, and then saw McKinsey veterans shift loyalties and join executive ranks, frequently turning back to their old employer to buy consulting services. It is one of the world's greatest old-boy networks. Job placement is only part of the point. When a Fred Gluck moves from directing McKinsey to running Bechtel Corp., in San Francisco, he takes along McKinsey values, experience, and most important, contacts. There are signs of these connections almost everywhere now, the legacy of decades of consulting and executive contacts.
Yet there is nothing magical about the management advice that McKinsey consultants bestow. In fact it is sometimes bad advice:
It is often goes unmentioned, but McKinsey has indeed offered some of the worst advice in the annals of business. Enron? Check. Time Warner's merger with AOL? Check. General Motors' poor strategy against the Japanese automakers? Check. It told AT&T in 1980 that it expected the market for mobile phones in the United States in 2000 would amount to only 900,000 subscribers. It turned out to be 109 million. The list goes on.
Examples of McKinsey employees who went on to bigger and better positions in business and government include:
These people are also board directors of other companies and members of influential business coalitions and policy groups.
McKinsey & Co fosters an alumni network of former employees, maintaining a database of them, an alumni centre on its website, and organising an annual reception for them. It states on its website:
Our alumni number nearly 23,000 and work in virtually every business sector in 120 countries. Through formal events and informal networking, former McKinsey consultants make and sustain professional relationships. This dynamic network is a lasting benefit of a McKinsey career.Reference: ‘About Us’, McKinsey & Company, 2011.
We go to extraordinary lengths to support the people we hire to succeed. We provide them with unrivaled opportunities for growth and global impact. This passion to help continues in our alumni, who remain connected to and engaged with our firm and its people.