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Marvin Bower and management consulting

My Michael Moment is crystal clear. Before I applied to the program I sent him an email to get some advice on the best books to read about management consulting. I had bought the books The McKinsey Mind and The McKinsey Way. Boy, was I excited to read them.

Five minutes after sending my email I get a call from Michael! I did not know him and this was my first email to him. He told me the best use of those books would be to send them back and ask for a refund. His view was that McKinsey and BCG are special and lead their peers for a simple reason. They have a better value system. We had 20 or 25 minute discussion about values and Michael told me something I will never forget:

“Firms like Deloitte, Monitor, Booz, ATK etc all hire outstanding graduates from top schools and train them with similar material. So why do those firms not have the same cachet and prestige? It comes down to why they do things and that is driven by a firm’s value system. You can replicate a Harvard graduate but you cannot replicate the right value system.”

That call started my journey to learning about Marvin Bower, Michael’s idol, and my passion for management consulting. I returned the books and bought McKinsey’s Marvin Bower (paid link) which was the best book I ever read. In my final interview, the office director for Chicago asked me why I had selected that office and I recited one of the stories about values from Kevin Coyne’s Firmsconsulting video. We connected through that story and I knew I would get the offer – which I did!

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