This is the next podcast for the power sector corporate strategy study we will soon release as part of our Executive Program.

In just the last week we have had several issues erupt on the study.

(1) A rival (?) firm has been appointed at the parent to potentially have oversight of the study.

(2) The power outages are escalating while EI wants to double-down on investments which are not core to its likely future.

(3) The unions are challenging the management skills analyses.

(4) A budding romance has left our strategy team down one person with some liabilities to manage.

All of these issues suck up a lot of management and partner time. They take time away from the study itself and can quickly derail the team, or slow down the momentum.

In this podcast I discuss the process I use to manage all these issues while also keeping the team fully focused on the task at hand. This is one of those important podcasts where we discuss the critical soft skills to use when things never go according to plan.

Pay careful attention to how ethical decisions are made. A common myth is that being ethical implies being too easy or showing too much empathy. They are not the same things.

If you would like to learn more about the core issues and analytic approach in this study, read this summary of “Profit from the Core” by Chris Zook who leads Bain’s strategy practice.

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11 responses to Managing the big picture vs. details

  1. Thanks Jen.

    Maybe it is more correct to say Bain has never really focused on ADCs. They could certainly hire many more if they wanted to.


  2. Congrats on the 325th milestone, Michael! Interesting decision you had to make to release the Associate.

    Thanks for recommending Profit from the Core. Isn’t it ironic that the author, Chris Zook, who also heads Bain’s strategy practice is a PhD, yet, Bain struggles to recruit PhDs?


  3. Hi AB,

    Yes, most firms pay a premium for transferring consultants to volatile economies.


  4. Hi Michael,
    Do consultants usually get any sort of premium when working in places like Nigeria that are supposedly “dangerous”? I know for instance people in the oil industry that get a significant “dangerous area allowance” when they travel to Nigeria for business.
    Many thanks

  5. Great. Many thanks.

  6. Hi AB,

    I am going to address this point in a longer post on the website. A post that is already scheduled. The rational cannot be easily explained here and it will be misunderstood if I offer the shorter version.


  7. Hi Michael,

    I believe you mention that the associates are ex-BCG or ex-Mckinsey. I am curious about how the group was put together. The three associates in LAB were MBA students if I remember correctly. Are most team members in this study experienced consultants? If so, what was the rationale for this change? how do they manage to put aside their jobs for just a couple of months to join the project?


  8. Hi Scott,

    Great questions.

    1 – We do not do a big formal announcement with a long discussion. Well before I mentioned anything at the team meeting, the team was aware what happened and why it happened. It sends a quick message when one of the very best consultants is removed for a breach of trust/values.

    I did briefly discuss it at the team meeting, but I believe the discussion lasted no more than 5 minutes since there where no questions. It is well known we do not condone such behaviour so it was not a surprise to the team. They expected we would manage the situation as we did.

    We handled the situation with the consultant professionally. We explained it was not personal, but we have to respond in this way. We have no other options. So, she understood.

    2 – Relative to the overall engagement fee, $6,500 is very small. That said, we do watch our costs very carefully. The $6,500 is part of engagement expenses and not part of the engagement fee. Part of the $6,500 will be covered by the client and the delays driven by our internal changes will be covered by Firmsconsulting. I believe the split is roughly even.

    Yes, we charge a fixed-value based fee for the value we deliver and not the consultants needed to deliver that value. So the fee will not change. However, our expenses billed to the client will come down by about 5% to 7%. Since expenses are about 20% of the study, that is 5% of 20% which is about 1% of the overall study costs after expenses.

    We tend to have very high expenses due to the heavy training commitments, bringing teams almost entirely from Toronto and heavy staffing of senior partners. We learned our lesson from the LAB study where we only had 1 senior partner assigned. That almost killed me!

    Hope that answers your questions.


  9. Hi Michael,

    Some really interesting podcasts this week. I appreciate you being so open with everything that is going on. Two questions:

    1. Do you use these events (namely the issue with the management skills team and the woman with a personal relationship) as teaching moments for the team by addressing them with everyone, or do you just manage the issue and move on?

    2. You mentioned at the very end that it costs the client an extra $6500 from all of the cancellations and delays this week. In the event of crises that are caused by Firmsconsulting, does the client always take the hit? Does the client still pay the same amount now that there is one less consultant working on the study? It was my impression that many of the top firms charge a fixed fee for a study which is negotiated ahead of time that more or less encompasses everything. Does Firmsconsulting have a different billing model?


  10. Thanks Aylwin.

  11. Enjoyed the podcast. Please continue with the weekly updates. I also look forward to the full study when it is published in the future.

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