You need to solve a critical business problem.
What if you had one tool that you could carry into meetings and write inside that guided you step-by-step to understand the problem, develop a structure, develop hypotheses, design the tests for the hypotheses, track your daily and weekly tasks, plan the message for your team and manager, manage the project, guide you through critical update meetings, calculate the benefits case to convince your colleagues and start the pilot implementation of your recommendations?
Now you do. The Strategy Journal is the field guide to our popular book Succeeding as a Management Consultant.
This Journal helps readers walk into any situation in any organization anywhere in the world and solve their most pressing business problems via to-do list prompts, self-assessments and strategy calendars. All based on the combined best-practices of the author and the ex-McKinsey, BCG et al. partners who produce all the strategy training programs on StrategyTraining.com.
On StrategyTraining.com / FIRMSconsulting.com you have seen us over the last 10 years help numerous clients solve complex business problems: restructure a utility, merge tech giants, help a bank enter the US Market, rebuild an innovation division, build an electric car business, build a luxury brands business, build a mining company and more.
The Strategy Journal was used by many of our very successful clients and summarizes the approach we used to help them increase their productivity, transform their careers, set daunting career goals, outperform peers and measure the value they create.
Through daily and weekly prompts, to-do list guides, client reminders, end-of-day scorecards, templates, completed examples, checklists and reminders, the Journal takes the best practices from ex-McKinsey, BCG et al., partners and our most successful clients, to help you solve mankind’s most pressing problems.
The Journal helps you learn the routine to solve strategy and business problems like a partner. As you follow the guide, you will learn the habits of the highest-performing strategy thinkers. The Journal teaches you how to be a balanced and successful professional with a strong ethical compass.
The heart of this Journal revolves around the pages to plan your study: from clarifying the problem statement all the way to developing the presentation and quantifying the benefits case in $.
The Journal is divided into 3 parts: Overview, Guided Example, and Your Study.
The OVERVIEW offers you a 1-page guide to the entire process we will use to create a highly customized solution for your client.
In the GUIDED EXAMPLE, we will work together through a study/project to show you how each page will be used.
Thereafter, we create blank templates and guides for you to use on YOUR STUDY.
The Daily Pages are split into 8 weeks with a page for Monday to Friday. The pages help you understand your goals each day with a timeline reminder of the deliverables before each client update. Reminders for the client updates are built into the sheets for you to complete.
The Journal helps identify, measure, and bank the dollar value for your client, employer or your own business through prompts, templates, and steps to follow. If you are unsure of the process, we have built-in checks and balances so that you can go back and make corrections to any gaps in your earlier thinking. There are explicit steps and milestones to validate each of your assumptions.
As the study begins to wrap up, we move to implementation. We show you what needs to be done to begin discussing implementation, what to implement, and how to measure and track the implementation benefits, including the sale of the implementation program.
The Journal can replace your primary planning and project management tools. By moving everything to one document that you can use every day and all the time, it allows you to better track and manage the engagement. Slides and updates can be prepared in the Journal and shared with your team and clients. By moving from laptop and slide-based discussions with clients, the Journal increases the level of professional intimacy with a client. The Journal is designed to be stored forever. This will contain your best thinking and should serve as a library for future studies.
The goal of this book is to help you think and develop an insight like a strategy partner.
Follow a partner on an 8-week engagement as he leads a team to develop a unique insight for the client.
Almost every management or strategy book is written after the fact. They are written years or months after the situation described. They are written after the authors have had time to sift through their extensive work and piece together a cohesive story. Hindsight is 20/20.
Those types of books are valuable because they eliminate the noise; the authors sift out the dead ends they encountered, and the wasteful tasks and unproductive administrative nightmares they had to endure to, for example, obtain a key piece of data.
You will not see the numerous iterations before the authors arrived at their final framework. You will not know the piece of data, off-hand comment, article or client quote that sparked the evolution of the second, third, fourth and final iteration of the framework.
You will not see how the hypotheses evolve as vital information and clues are unearthed in conversations with the client, from analyses and team discussions.
You will not observe the choppy nature of how an insight develops.
You will not see how an early version of an insight is discussed, dismissed, and sometimes forgotten until a key piece of new data makes it relevant again.
You will not see the numerous discussions to tweak and adjust hypotheses, insights, and the final messaging to the client.
What you get in those books is the final answer. You see the final framework that was developed. The final analyses. Neatly packaged and presented.
You end up thinking strategy is a simple linear process where a few analyses offer an unambiguous answer.
This is the equivalent of reading President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s biography to understand the mechanics of how to win a war and lead a nation to victory. You will understand the key principles, but you will not be able to go into battle. You will be ill-equipped to actually do the work. A military leader has to lead a unit to become a leader. They have to get their hands dirty. They need the experience. They need to make mistakes. They need to know how to recover from mistakes.
These books provide valuable lessons and observations.
Yet, the experience is what shapes a leader.
This book attempts to give you that experience. A blow-by-blow and day-by-day account of developing an insight in a complex study. To see the messy steps involved. It was written in real time. The notes were written hours before an event happened or hours afterward, usually on the same day.
If you want to be a strategy consultant and be able to produce the analyses in this book, solve complex problems, and influence senior executives, we believe you need to know how messy it usually is.
There is rarely an objectively correct answer that stands out from all the options available to a client. It is very difficult to know if a strategy will work. A very good strategy often looks exactly like a very bad strategy. The results from a set of correctly structured analyses often tell us little by themselves.
A new strategy for a client is about creating a new reality for a sector. We often don’t know how competitors, suppliers, and customers will react. We have to predict those reactions when we offer a recommendation.
That is certainly exciting. And it is a powerful skill to have.
But you need to know how many dead ends you will face and how we manage them, how much data is unused and how or why we decided to ignore this data, how we had to work with clients, how we collected data, and how we had to work with employees and stakeholders who oftentimes don’t really want to help external advisors.
If you know that every consultant faces these problems, even those at the best firms, and understand how we navigate these problems, then you should feel better going in and not feel overwhelmed when you face such problems. You will not feel like a failure, and you will not feel that consulting is not for you.
Analysis is messy. Data is flawed. It has holes. Data is misleading. Best practices fail. Consultants uncover new information every single day of an engagement that slightly nudges the original hypotheses. The ability to remain flexible and adapt is what matters.
You will see that strategy is not a function of simply finding and plugging in a framework. Although there is a clear logic to the thought process. If you want to learn how to think like a strategy partner and create original solutions that solve complex problems, this book could be a good companion guide.
Strategy consulting is an art. There are core analytic approaches we use, but we encourage creativity when using them. We want to unveil this process. And we hope this book gives you an appreciation of how we do that work and an appreciation of the important role strategy consultants play in society.
The work we do changes lives. The work we do helps families, cities, regions, and entire countries thrive. What we do is important. You should be proud to be a strategy consultant, and you should always try to be the best strategy consultant that only you can be.
Written for business leaders and consultants who are trying to solve significant problems and create measurable value. Readers can view the templates in consulting studies and understand how they are used. All the foundational strategy and business analyses tools are taught along with the soft skills and practical tools to solve any business problem. This is the only book of its kind walking the reader step-by-step through a complete consulting study.
This book follows an engagement team as they assist a large company in diagnosing and fixing deep and persistent organizational issues over an 8-week assignment. Readers will learn how they successfully navigate a challenging client environment, frame the problem and limit the scope, develop hypotheses, build the analyses and provide the final recommendations.
We have placed the explanation of management consulting techniques within a lively and engaging storyline, which allows the reader to truly understand the challenges faced on consulting engagements, connect with the characters, and understand both how and why they debated elements of the study.
It is written so that the reader may follow, understand, and replicate a strategic engagement using the same techniques used by the leading firms, such as McKinsey, Bain, and BCG. To make the story realistic and useful, we have worked with one client engagement throughout the book. Using different examples and different clients to explain concepts would have made it difficult for readers to see the data linkages and development of the final recommendations. The client and engagement are fictitious. The data presented are also fictitious, but they are based on actual consulting engagements and the experiences of the author and the contributing McKinsey, BCG, et. al. partners at FIRMSconsulting.com & StrategyTraining.com.
The sequel to Turquoise Eyes by Kris Safarova.
MAVIS is a dystopian novel inspired by historical events. The technology at the heart of the novel is a real commercial process used around the world. Everything discussed about the process from the pipelines to the reactors to the mining process is based on the actual operations of these facilities. This novel is about raising the productivity of a chemical plant.
In Mavis’s dystopian world, starvation, sacrifice and poverty haunt a country trying to recover from The Great Patriotic War. Protected by a peacekeeping force, the nation struggles to coax profits out of a sprawling industrial complex to pay wartime reparations. In this world, the future of every citizen is decided on their sixteenth birthday during a single exam, The Selection. They either join Defense, Productivity or Leadership.
Mavis is assigned to a chemical plant to solve a productivity paradox and struggles with her colleagues as they race to meet the reparations deadline. Thrown into her new role, with little support, Mavis assembles a team and tries to understand why productivity is falling. Mavis must figure out who her friends are, and how does Truman, a soldier who seems interested in her, fit into her life. Yet Mavis is burdened by having left her ill little sister behind. As Mavis investigates the problem, she discovers a conspiracy that threatens the nation just as unexplained sightings spike in the surrounding forest.
This young adult (YA) dystopian novel combines the teaching of science, critical thinking and problem-solving skills with wrenching decisions, betrayal, heartbreak, love and the bond between two sisters that will change the future of mankind.
Q&A with Author Kris Safarova
Q: Why did you write this book?
Safarova: I write what I know and what I wish people had written for me when I was starting out in life. The way strategy consultants solve problems is very different. Yet, this skill is not widely taught. Imagine if we taught these skills to everyone and at an earlier age? I know more people will find these topics interesting and learn these skills if I could find a way to weave them into an engaging story.
Q: What do you hope to achieve?
Safarova: I want to get more people interested in business and teach them to solve problems in a better way. Readers who don’t have an interest in critical thinking, problem solving, and business may realize they learned a lot, and also enjoyed the journey. And readers who are intentionally building these skills will find this series helped them become better at solving problems.
Q: What inspired the story?
Safarova: I lived in the former USSR and I adapted events from my own life. When I was 3 my parents were evicted on less than 12-hours notice, in the middle of Russian winter. I remember lifting my legs high enough to make each step because the snow was so deep that night, as we tried to find a place to stay. That is the first memory I have of physically suffering.
Mavis’s cappuccino scene is based on my own experience. I was 21 when I first tasted cappuccino and I was blown away by how tasty it was. At the time I barely had money to pay rent, so I was skipping lunch and dinner on most days.
Leaving my 12-year old sister in Russia was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. Yet, it was the right thing because I am now fortunately able to help my family. My little sister and I now work together, and I could not be prouder of her. The bond between Mavis and Corolla is autobiographical.
Q: Was the strong female characters and themes of class segregation and climate change intentional?
Safarova: I wrote what I knew, and it was easier to channel my emotions and ideas through the eyes of a sixteen-year-old girl because I had been one. Strip away the dystopian elements and everything in the story is happening today.
Q: What’s next for Mavis?
Safarova: The story of Mavis and her sister, Corolla, will continue. I am working on a prequel to explain the events that led to The Great Patriotic War. Societies change slowly before we reach a tipping point. I want to explore that while retaining the books’ focus on teaching critical thinking and problem-solving skills in an entertaining way.
Turquoise Eyes started off the groundbreaking new genre developed by FIRMSconsulting that combines compelling narrative while teaching critical problem-solving skills.
Set after a bank begins implementing a new retail banking strategy, we follow Teresa García Ramírez de Arroyo, a director general in the Mexican government, who has received some disturbing news.
A whistleblower has emailed Teresa with troubling news about a mistake in the loan default calculations and reserve ratios. The numbers do not add up.
The book loosely uses the logic and financial analyses in A Typical McKinsey Engagement.
Our business books are different.
Most people learn business because they are forced to, for their careers or to earn a larger salary. Most business books are, consequently, boring and dense. They have little incentive to be interesting because they have a captive market. Many avoid a business career because the books are presented as a hurdle to be overcome. We wondered what would happen if we made business books interesting, so people chose to read them? Would we draw more people into business? Would we generate more enthusiasm and excitement for business at a younger age?
This book teaches advanced business concepts through a compelling storyline. This new genre of our books is written not only for people already interested in business but also for people who may not realize they have an interest or talent for business. Clients always request gift ideas for their children, spouses, friends, and families to get them interested in business and critical thinking. In part, this is our response to those requests.
We want you to learn advanced critical thinking without realizing you are learning. We hope you will enjoy it, too.
We believe the more people who find business interesting and choose to learn business, the better it is for everyone. Businesses will have a larger pool of employees from whom to select and more of the right people will be choosing the discipline to improve humanity versus simply to make more money.
Imagine the advantage your children will have if they learned critical thinking in high school, or even before high school? Imagine if you had that advantage? Imagine if you had learned strategy alongside science and math in high school? The possibilities would be endless. It all starts with the right books. And it’s never too late to start.
If learning is engaging, it will stop being a chore.
Every now and then someone comes along whose treatment of the subject of management is both entertaining and insightful. That’s what Bill Matassoni has accomplished in his memoir, which covers his forty-year career selling what he calls “ephemeral things.” Bill, a former McKinsey and BCG partner, distills his life, loves, and lessons in this unique story of the evolution of the modern marketer. He presents an entirely new way to think about unlocking value in market-spaces, not places. He recounts his adventures—and they are adventures—working for The United Way of America, McKinsey, BCG, Ashoka, and other organizations. In all of them, ideas were the product, and emotion was as important as reason. We learn about how Victoria’s Secret “democratized” luxury, why beer might become a nutritional product, how BCG tried to compete with McKinsey, and the growing impact of social entrepreneurs. Marketing Saves the World teaches us how to find new dimensions of value that make the world better by enabling multiple stakeholders to win. It is about capitalism with a capital C. Says Bill, “Forget about sharing the pie. Make it bigger.
Each Summer / Winter we will pick one of our books above and analyze a critical concept over twelve weeks in June – August and eight weeks in Dec – Jan using the 21-day format.
Topics will be announced in advance.
Only FIRMSconsulting Insiders will have access to the episodes.