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The Powell Doctrine

The Powell Doctrine

“When McKinsey arrives at a client’s office and wants to present a recommendation, it may get challenged at times. But most of the time, it will not be.

The same applies to BCG, Bain, and other top firms.

I will use a military analogy, but please do not treat your client as the enemy!

With McKinsey, in many ways, we see the firm’s intellectual army. It shows you its overwhelming intellectual superiority so that it will not be challenged by alums, publications, awards, or influence.

That is why these firms invest so much time in these things.

In military terms, this is called the Powell Doctrine.

It means deploying such overwhelming resources to a situation that the enemy capitulates just by looking at what they are up against.

The Powell Doctrine does not mean going to intellectual war, or any war for that matter.

It means showing the opposing side that they should not even consider attacking/resisting.

What happens when you are a boutique firm of ex-consultants from major firms? If no one knows you well, how can they know the advantage you have? How can they know the army you have behind you?

It is a little like a schoolyard.

You will be picked on until you show the bully you will not be picked on.”

This is an excerpt from Strategy. Part 1. I thought of sharing this piece from the Strategy. Part 1 with you because I was notified of this LinkedIn post. The post is by Ammar W. Mango, one of our amazing readers.

The Powell Doctrine, of course, can be adapted and applied in any industry and geography.Let’s say you are a manager at Microsoft. You were just moved to a new role. That role is different from your prior technical roles. In this new role, you need to manage a team of people to get a product ready for launch. While it is not explicitly stated by your superiors, this role is given to you to confirm if you are ready to move from being mostly an individual contributor to being on a path to take on an executive role down the road.How can you deploy the adapted version of the Powell Doctrine in this situation?You hit the ground running with such force that there is no doubt in your superiors’ minds that you are not only good enough to be given this current role, but they should already plan how to promote you soon so they don’t lose you.

Because you are THAT GOOD.

It becomes clear that they may have misjudged you, and that you seem to be FAR better than average.I used the Powell Doctrine in my corporate career very effectively. Why do you think I got promoted in such an accelerated manner?For example, I was promoted three times during my first two years in consulting. And I did it at a time when I did not have a recognized degree. Since that time I obtained a bachelor’s and MBA, both cum laude. But during my first two years in consulting all I had was my unrecognized in the West classical pianist training.The general time needed for the number of promotions I got in the space of 2 years is normally 6-9 years. And when I was leaving my counselor was already speaking about putting me up for promotion at the next performance review.Do you think I had any special talents? Maybe. But I had a lot going against me:

  • No recognized degree
  • Heavy accent (and not the kind that everyone admires, like a British accent)
  • I was studying while working so I was always exhausted since I had zero downtime, and I had less time than the people I competed with
  • I had and still have a very bad memory. Significantly worse than average so I had to work extra hard to remember everything I needed to remember
  • I was a female in a male-dominated industry
  • I had multiple people in the office who believed that my country of origin made me inferior to them
  • I didn’t have a mom, dad, uncle, aunt, or anyone to go to if things went wrong. When I had no money to buy food just a year before I got my big break to join consulting, I did not eat. When I had no money to buy new shoes, I walked in shoes with holes at the bottom
  • I did not have the same residence privileges as almost everyone within the firm. Anyone who is an immigrant knows the level of stress it adds to your life
  • Do I need to continue or do you get the picture?

The same pattern was repeated after my MBA. When I entered banking, I was promoted to director, responsible for managing a portfolio of over $1B, after only six months, and ahead of people who had been waiting for years and years for such a promotion.The Powell Doctrine in full deployment is what played an important role in getting these accelerated promotions.Think today about how you can adapt and deploy the Powell Doctrine in your career.

This week. Tomorrow. Success likes people with a sense of urgency. 

If you want to LISTEN to the full Strategy book, parts 1 and 2, along with some of our other premier books and second-to-none advanced strategy, problem-solving and leadership programs that will teach you the skills you can’t learn anywhere else and that can give you a unique competitive edge none of your competitors have and help you avoid some major career mistakes, you can find it within Insider and Legacy memberships.If you want to READ the both books, parts 1 and 2, along with other premier strategy books and top-tier strategy, problem solving, leadership and consulting materials, you can find them in the Strategy Control Room (Advanced Level).

Remember, if you want outsized results, you need to do what your competitors are NOT doing.

This includes taking actions your competitors are not willing to take,
not able to, or don’t know they should take.

But how do you know what actions you should take?You will know if you have access to not just ideas, insights, strategies, tactics, approaches, guidance, and mentoring your competitors don’t have access to, but training on how to develop your OWN ideas, insights, strategies, tactics, and approaches your competitors can’t, don’t have skills, don’t even understand they could develop. And that is the skills we help our clients and members develop via our memberships and executive coaching programs.Both memberships above (video and audio training membership on StrategyTraining.com (Insider and Legacy) and strategy materials reading membership (Strategy Control Room, Advanced Level) can become a joined secret weapon you can deploy to start getting some forward momentum.It’s not for everyone, though, in the same way that outsized success is not for everyone.

But there is one thing we both know:

You were NOT born to be average.

How do I know you are not average? If you were average, you would not stick around as part of the StrategyTraining.com community. We don’t have average people sticking around. They drop like hot potatoes because doing great things is not for everyone. The reason they are called great things is because you need to go above and beyond to do them. Ordinary people are not willing to allocate time on a weekly basis to strengthen their skills and adapt and apply what they learn.

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