What is a McKinsey office in the most basic strategy terms? There is a military term to describe this.

… It is a forward operating base.

If you think about it, that is exactly what a McKinsey office is. For example, assume McKinsey needs to set up an office in Santiago. This means the firm wants to do work for clients in that region. In a manner of speaking McKinsey wants to bring new ideas to a chaotic situation. The front line is now shifted to Santiago. To protect the firm’s troops and to protect the firm’s lines of supply they need a forward operating base.

In the simplest of terms, any McKinsey office or any consulting office for that matter is a forward operating base.

How important is a forward operating base?

It is critical. If you want to fight a war you need a forward operating base. A forward operating base takes all of the best practices into a real combat situation.

Any McKinsey office is dealing with a lot of stress and challenges. Even if it is an established office you are fighting against other firms who may not have your values and teaching clients the wrong habits. It is a struggle to get clients to see things your way and to do what is good for them.

You have got to fly in specialized teams the same way the military flies in specialized teams. You have to set up a safe environment where consultants can come in to “rest.” You have to “defend the base”. You have to make sure you can pay people. You have to make sure that when you send consultants out there they don’t get harmed or suffer from fatigue.

This is not an exaggeration. Like in any business, there are cases when consultants get harmed.

The analogy to military works very well here.

So keeping the importance of any McKinsey office in mind, Michael and Tom discuss the new policy change introduced by the firm related to the selection of McKinsey office leaders. We discuss this policy change, dive into why it could have been introduced and how it may impact McKinsey.

mckinsey office forward operating base


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2 responses to McKinsey Office Leaders: Concerning Policy Change

  1. Hi Jojo,

    You are probably right – I know that for a fact – but the rationale does not change the perception in the market and in an industry where perception is reality, this matters.

    We rarely disagree among my colleagues and friends so I do not think that format will work, but I take note of sharing more of Kevin, Bill and other partners’ views on FC.


  2. Here’s what I am wondering. Is there a monetary component to this? So for example, let’s say a certain year there are x people who have checked all the boxes required to become a Director. Now, I don’t know what those boxes are or if there even is a box system. But whatever the criteria, let’s say x number of people fulfill it. Would the firms typically promote all of them even if they didn’t plan to “dilute” the partnership to that extent that particular year? Does leadership, in practice, factor individual earnings into that kind of a decision?

    Even if we ignore the money component, I’m sure there are other implications to having a certain number of directors beyond what was planned. In that case, would you suggest the firms let the people walk, if it came to that? I am certain there are other options between those two extremes and maybe letting someone run an office is one of them.

    Finally, if the people running these offices were actually good enough to become directors but weren’t promoted because of certain “logistical” reasons, would you still be opposed to them heading these offices based on the symbolism issue?

    On a separate note, I really enjoyed the chats with Bill Matassoni and Kevin Coyne. It is indeed a privilege to have access to their thoughts through your network. I was wondering if we could maybe have a former partner who disagrees with you on a particular issue, the broader strategic ones perhaps, on one of these podcasts.


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