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We produce an extensive list of podcasts, books, videos, slides and other media. This content guide can help you navigate your way through and build your career development plan. It’s helpful to remember that a leader gets things done. Therefore, always think about how to implement your ideas.

We offer 6 services:

  1. Books—use in conjunction with video training programs to quickly grasp core skills.
    1. The Strategy Journal
    2. Succeeding as a Management Consultant
    3. The Strategy Engagement
    4. Marketing Saves the World
    5. Mavis
    6. Turquoise Eyes
  2. Slides—use our curated editable studies, tools, templates, proposals and letters to significantly reduce the time it takes to generate results, lower your costs and improve the quality of your work.
  3. Videos—gain mastery of core concepts to ensure that you solve the problem, implement the solution and bank the benefits.
  4. Coaching—to avoid roadblocks and trial-and-error, you can book 1-on-1 advice sessions in which a partner will evaluate your plan and help you develop a bespoke career strategy and solution. This is subject to availability and your admittance to the program.
  5. Coaching— Eligible to apply for 1-on-1 coaching only if referred by a prior coaching client. We do not accept applications without a referral. These are the longer coaching programs that Andrew, Amrit, Peter, Tatiana, Richard etc., participated in.
  6. Podcasts—Strategy Skills and Case Interviews & Management Consulting are routinely ranked among the top-5 career podcasts in most countries from Singapore, France to India.

While you are excited to learn please remember it is a great privilege being granted the permission – it is not your right – to advise a client on their most pressing issues. Be it external client if you are a consultant or internal clients if you work outside of consulting.

We trust that you understand and respect the great responsibility that comes with the skills you will learn and the access you will have. What you will find below is not a complete list of all our programs. We have far too many. This is simply a categorization of what we offer.

Given we have >6,300 videos, >400 podcast, books and editable slides, please visit the websites to see what is available at this time since we often make changes. Click To Tweet

You can find our video content streamed/available at the following locations:

  1. Apps
    1. StrategyTraining.com (FC Insiders)
      1. Android
      2. iOS
      3. Apple TV
      4. ROKU
    2. StrategyTV.com (Premium Members)
      1. Android
      2. iOS

Strategy, Operations, Implementation, Digital & Leadership

Strategy, Operations and Implementation studies and other advanced consulting and business skills training programs teach consultants and executives the skills of McKinsey, BCG et al partners to solve real business problems. Some programs teach you how to conduct actual studies in real situations while dealing with the messy and political nature of gaining acceptance for your recommendations from colleagues. Other programs focus on soft skills or career development.

Great care is taken to design highly realistic and detailed training programs which recreate a business environment as closely as possible. Each training program we curate takes between 1 to 2 years to plan and produce. Implementation. Building an Innovation Division was developed over 4 years as we mentored Andrew from Senior Manager to Senior Partner at one of the world’s largest professional services firms.

Descriptions of each program can be found on the StrategyTraining.com website.

As stated above, it is best to work through the step-by-step studies and other advanced programs once the core case interview program skills (especially within TCO I, III & II) are mastered, even for members who are not preparing for case interviews. This is important because TCO is designed to help develop foundational skills required to make the most of our more advanced FC programs.

As you progress further through the latest studies you will notice the concepts are more complex. You will need the foundational skills from earlier programs to understand them.

Guide to using the training

Our consulting and business skills training consists of the following sample programs. The full list of programs and episodes that are available can be found on StrategyTraining.com.

All programs teach the skills that McKinsey, BCG et al partners possess.

  1. Business Case Analysis
  2. M&A Strategy Study (The Tech Merger Study)
  3. First 90 Days in Consulting
  4. Market Entry Strategy Study
  5. Corporate Strategy & Transformation Study
  6. Building an Innovation Division
  7. Implementing an Operations Strategy
  8. Rebuilding a Consulting Practice
  9. The Start-Up. In 2 Years
  10. Partnership. Memoir
  11. McKinsey to Private Equity
  12. US/Canada/UK Immigration
  13. Life After Consulting: Daniel’s move from McKinsey to Banking
  14. Corporate Strategy & Transformation Study Partner Guide (iTunes)
  15. Big Data Study Partner Guide
  16. Implementation Study Partner Guide
  17. Turnaround Study Partner Guide
  18. IT & Digital Strategy Study Partner Guide
  19. FC Greatest Clients
  20. The Bill Matassoni Show, Season 1
  21. The Bill Matassoni Show, Season 2 (coming soon)
  22. The Bill Matassoni Show, Season 3 (coming soon)
  23. How to become a McKinsey Partner, 1st Time Revealed by Kevin P. Coyne
  24. How to be Influential & Make an Impact by Kevin P. Coyne
  25. Competitive Strategy by Kevin P. Coyne
  26. Advanced Competitive Strategy by Kevin P. Coyne
  27. Foundations of Problem Solving & Critical Thinking by Kevin P. Coyne
  28. The MasterPlan Program 21 Day Program
  29. Implementing the MasterPlan 21 Day Program
  30. US Immigration Best-Practices 21 Day Program
  31. How to Reboot a Stalled Career 21 Day Program
  32. How to Find Great Mentors 21 Day Program
  33. How to Sell Like a Partner 21 Day Program
  34. How to Develop Big Insights 21 Day Program
  35. Replacing Income with Online Freelance Consulting 21 Day Program
  36. How to Manage a Crisis 21 Day Program
  37. Getting Ahead of the Recession 21 Day Program
  38. How to Find a Job During The Recession 21 Day Program

The studies below will soon be coming to FC Insiders:

  1. Digital & IT FIG Strategy Study
  2. Wealth Management Strategy Study
  3. Operations Strategy Study
  4. Implementation Program
  5. Corporate Restructuring & Turnaround Study
  6. Infrastructure Strategy & Feasibility Study
  7. Market Entry Strategy Study
  8. Sales Force Optimization Strategy Study
  9. Investor Relations Strategy Study
  10. Risk & Pandemic Planning Strategy Study

To gain all the requisite skills of a partner you will need to focus on four areas:

  1. Hard problem-solving skills
  2. Communication skills
  3. The philosophy/values of management consulting
  4. Skills to implement all the above in your career

Implementing the skills is going to be the toughest part. For example, it is one thing to learn about value chain analyses and it is quite another to figure out the following:

  1. When should a value chain analysis be used?
  2. How do I adjust the analysis for my situation?
  3. What data do I need?
  4. How do I find the data?
  5. What must I do if a colleague will not supply the data?
  6. How do I convince peers to use the insights?
  7. How do I accomplish all steps above without alienating my co-workers?

Our training teaches the technical skills, as well as soft skills, and covers these seven steps above. Implementation. Building an Innovation Division, The Start Up, First 90 Days in Consulting with Henri St-Pierre, Rebuilding a Consulting Division and Partnership. Memoir are wholly dedicated to helping you understand how to implement the thinking we teach.

  1. The M&A Strategy Study teaches the basics of problem solving and running a study within a real environment. All studies teach the basics but this study is wholly focused on foundational skills.
  2. Building an Innovation Division shows you how we helped a client use all the skills we teach to implement his own career strategy by helping him rebuild the innovation business at one of the world’s largest professional services firms. This program explains the detailed steps taken to implement the advice offered in all the other programs.
  3. Memoir will take you through the strategy and tactics used by a partner who rose all the way from business analyst to director. This focuses both on the unusual career strategies used and the tactics to implement the career strategy.
  4. Rebuilding a Consulting Practice covers just 12 months in a consultants’ career as they lead the turnaround of a failing strategy practice at one of the firm’s key emerging markets offices.

You can start anywhere you wish, but, assuming you have the time and want to play the long game to build the skills correctly, use the order above.

The Start Up is a big new program. We have admitted clients into our program and will help them build new multi-million-dollar revenue companies. Everything we do, including the templates used, meetings held, funding, e-commerce tools, website templates will be documented so you can replicate our approach.

  1. The 1st business is a digital luxury brands business. You can follow that program on StrategyTraining.com.
  2. The 2nd business is a digital miner. That will also be coming to StrategyTraining.com.
  3. The 3rd business is an electric car company being developed in China.

Titans of Strategy

Titans of Strategy is the marque program we launched in 2017 and it still going. We invited some of the most influential partners in the history of McKinsey, BCG et al to teach you concepts in strategy, leadership, marketing etc., that they have never taught before to a broad audience. If you want to know how a partner thinks through critical issues, and follow this approach, this is the series of programs to watch.

Each program is shot in HD and, in some cases, within some of the most iconic architectural landmarks. Every concept they teach is broken down into multiple steps so you may follow their thinking and ultimately replicate their approach. We hope you like it.

Slides

SLIDES is just as the name says. You can now edit, download and use all the advanced slides we have developed for our studies. This will significantly improve your capabilities. It is probably one of the greatest competitive advantages we have offered our clients. Member also have access to full CRM and project management online tools.

This is the biggest initiative we are launching in the history of FIRMSconsulting, to give our members an unassailable competitive advantage. Click To Tweet

This is a sample of the full editable material SLIDES will have within its first year of launch:

  1. Digital & IT FIG Strategy Study
  2. Wealth Management Strategy Study
  3. Operations Strategy Study
  4. Implementation Program
  5. Corporate Restructuring & Turnaround Study
  6. Corporate Strategy & Transformation Study
  7. Infrastructure Strategy & Feasibility Study
  8. Market Entry Strategy Study
  9. Market Entry Strategy Study (2)
  10. M&A Merger Strategy Study
  11. Sales Force Optimization Strategy Study
  12. Investor Relations Strategy Study
  13. Risk & Pandemic Planning Strategy Study

Case Interviews

Case Interview training programs, primarily The Consulting Offer (TCO), are the foundational programs. They teach core skills in communication, structuring, logical problem solving, calculations, estimations and decision making that will be very useful even to those not preparing for case interviews. The strategy, operations and implementation training programs assume a grasp of these foundational skills and all clients, even senior executives, find it useful to first go through at least the main parts of TCO before learning from the more complex training programs.

Think of our case training as a bridging program for someone in industry who wants to learn strategy. You don’t need to go through the material, but it will significantly improve your critical thinking skills.

  1. TCO I, Felix, joins MBB Europe
  2. TCO I, Sanjeev, joins BCG Asia
  3. TCO I, Rafik
  4. TCO I, Samantha
  5. TCO II, Alice Qinhua Zhou, joins McKinsey NYC
  6. TCO II, Michael Klein
  7. TCO III, Jennifer Nwankwo, joins Bain Boston
  8. TCO III, Zach Steinfeld
  9. TCO IV, Sizan, MSc
  10. TCO IV, Ritika Mohan, joins McKinsey NE USA
  11. TCO IV, Haris, Big 4 National Practice Leader (currently in development)
  12. TCO IV, Dylan, Booth MBA (currently in development)
  13. TCO IV, Francisco, Accenture Consultant (currently in development)
  14. TCO IV, Assel, joins McKinsey Europe
  15. EMBA / Experienced Hire Program with Tom
  16. TCO Solution Videos
  17. Case Studies of FC’s Greatest Clients

Given the depth of the videos, it is best to watch The Consulting Offer content over approximately 12 – 18 months. The sessions should be watched in the following order:

  1. Assel joins McKinsey Europe: Covers the main concepts quickly
  2. EMBA/Experienced Hire: Covers the main concepts quickly
  3. TCO I: At least watch the episodes on estimation and brainstorm
  4. TCO III: At least watch the episodes on breakeven analyses / cost-volume-profit curves / marginal cost curves
  5. TCO II: McKinsey unstructured final round interviews with partners

Keep in mind the following:

  1. The EMBA and Assel programs cover all the concepts quickly but give you enough to understand everything very well.
  2. TCO I is the foundational program. If you really struggle with the basics and need to be taught everything slowly, start here.
  3. You could start TCO I (Felix followed by Sanjeev), then TCO III (Jen followed by Zach) and finally TCO II. It is still advised to go through the EMBA and Assel programs first.
  4. Not moving on to a subsequent session until all concepts and techniques are mastered in the previous session.
  5. It is best not to watch numerous videos back-to-back. Watching 4 to 5 videos per hour is generally not recommended. Nor is trying to watch all of TCO in one month. We rigorously track and analyze member viewing data and have determined that binge-watching does not work. We use data to make all decisions governing our programs and our advice is based on both our subscription members and having mentored over 1,000 candidates via 1-on-1 coaching.
  6. Each video teaches new skills and requires time to understand. Make careful notes and revise them regularly to ensure key techniques/concepts are internalized. Carefully follow all advice, including advice on developing/improving business judgment, communication etc.
  7. We do not teach frameworks. We teach you how to develop bespoke structures for any problem. This means you will never ever need to memorize a framework. Skipping towards frameworks in the videos is not the best way to learn and is discouraged. Moreover, you will miss the communication skills training within an episode.
  8. Distinguish between learning and practicing. They are different. Be wary of practicing when you do not understand the concepts taught or practicing with members whom have poor case interview techniques. If you do not understand a concept, it will be difficult for you to explain why you are doing it. Practicing the wrong skills reinforces the wrong skills. First learn the correct techniques and only then practice.

This is how we recommend using TCO:

  1. Resumes:
    1. Always complete your resume first despite the urge to jump into cases. Resume editing is a difficult process requiring numerous iterations done in small bursts.
    2. Only begin networking once the resume editing process is completed.
    3. The cover letter should be written after the networking process commences and is about midway done.
  2. If you can, go through all of the EMBA program and Assel programs.
  3. With TCO I, pick two candidates as your base and use these candidates’ files to prepare. Ideally, focus on Felix and then Sanjeev.
  4. Review your notes from past practice sessions and from before you joined this program, and focus on just the top 3-4 areas for improvement.
  5. While watching each session in TCO I it is useful to review additional solution videos. These were the videos used by the TCO I participants to prepare for their coaching sessions.
  6. Per session: Always start with the session where the participant is being trained by the partner. These are vital sessions and should not be skipped. They are more important than the solution videos.
  7. Per session: Watch the candidates’ case session videos and pause videos to do the cases alongside them.
  8. Per session: Watch the “perfect answer” video.
  9. Per session: Take the time to review the material, practice and ensure you can explain the main concepts from the session.
  10. Test your knowledge of each TCO I session with our quizzes.
  11. Per session: Create a new list of top 3-4 development priorities. Do not list all development areas.
  12. If you have time, review the perfect answers from TCO I for Samantha and Rafik.
  13. Never begin with TCO II. And never watch each TCO II episodes just once. They should be watched at least 3 times. In TCO II we teach partner final-round cases that cannot be solved with frameworks and they assume an understanding of the strategy approach to break-even curve analyses as taught in TCO III.
  14. While working through TCO I, simultaneously follow our iTunes podcasts series, Case Interviews & Management Consulting, by listening to useful episodes. We do not duplicate content across our programs so do not ignore the iTunes channel. This program is the #1 ranked iTunes channel for case interviews with over 350 podcasts.

When watching all the videos ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I understand the underlying principle taught?
  2. Could I explain the principle to a colleague?
  3. Could I apply the principle to a case?
  4. Do I recognize the interview pattern?

All members, but especially EMBAs & Experienced hires, should listen to our dedicated program for EMBAs & Experienced Hires while working through TCO I. This has turned out to be one of the most useful programs we have. Every client finds that it helps them quickly and effectively.

Enjoy learning and let us know if you will have any questions by writing to us at [email protected]

Best regards.

Kris Safarova

Presiding Partner

 

Victoria, who wrote this blog piece and a few others, is a subscriber of The Consulting Offer (TCO). In this post, she elaborates the problem solving skills and other knowledge learned from TCO.

Why I decided to write this blog? I though this is a great opportunity to share my journey of enhancing my strategy and problem solving skills with like minded aspiring management consultants or business professionals.

I subscribed for The Consulting Offer, which is a joy as a learning tool and a wealth of information, and this blog will start from me going through session 7. As I was going through the training I realized that most people I worked with during my time in consulting, even very senior people, did not had the problem solving skills that one can acquire by going through such a detailed program.

I also would like to mention that my motivation is primarily to develop strategy skills. This is my end goal. If this will lead to rejoining a great consulting firm, that will be a wonderful byproduct of my efforts. However, I want to develop strategy skills regardless of where my career will take me, because I believe that having these skills, being able to think and speak in a very structured and logical way, gives one a tremendous competitive advantage.

I hope this blog can also be a conversation starter for the Firmsconsulting community so we can help each other succeed in entering management consulting or strategy related roles, and in succeeding in those roles and careers. I also hope any feedback and advice from readers will help enhance my own learning.

Session 7

Time spent for this session: 6 hours

Preparation before the session:

• I read news and business articles (mostly www.nytimes.com, www.economist.com and www.washingtonpost.com) every day to build my general knowledge (4-5 articles per day, mostly from the business section). Specifically, I try to select articles that pose a question that I can brainstorm prior to reading the article.

• I watched the videos on estimation, brainstorming and networking.

• I am reading “The mind of the strategist” by Kenichi Ohmae, recommended by Firmsconsulting.

What was accomplished:

(1) Revision – I reviewed my notes from the previous few weeks of preparation to keep key ideas and knowledge fresh in my mind. I have 2 notebooks; one is for key concepts, ideas, and anything else I need to know to succeed in my preparation. Another one is for practicing cases, so I can see how much I have practiced over time.

Some key items that I want to remember are as follows:

General:

• It is important to be confident. Never wait for the interviewer’s approval. Move through the case at a steady pace.

• Watch your body language.

• 80/20 rule. 20% of what you analyze will give you 80% of the answer.

• Pass accountability to the interviewer.

• When the interviewer looks at you, they think about how will you look in front of the client. Say things that, if you said it in front of the client, you would make the firm look good.

• Don’t go ahead with the case if you don’t understand it. Take time to understand it. A good example is how Felix could not understand the case in session 7 and she did not move forward until she understood it.

• Focus on technique, and speed and accuracy will eventually improve.

• Quality of your preparation is more important than quantity. You have to understand the underlying technique.

Estimation cases:

• The more steps in the equation, the greater the probability to get a good answer.

• The assumptions you make indicate the level of your general knowledge.

• When deciding if you should start from supply or demand side, select the approach that you feel will result in the best answer.

Brainstorming:

• Start with a definition and make sure your definition is aligned with the definition used by the interviewer.

• Make sure you understand the business process (how the business actually operates).

• Prioritize – if you don’t you are wasting valuable time. Always start with the most important driver.

• Drivers should be MECE.

• Eventually you will need to be able to build decision trees in your head, and speak out aloud without pausing.

• Determining the key question is extremely important and it must be specific and numeric.

• Brainstorming is the most important skill in solving cases.

• Convert % to numbers.

• Ask for actual data and for trends, if you can, before prioritizing.

• When breaking down an item into drivers, offer options first and than ask the interviewer to fill in the gaps.

• You should not go further than level 4/5 and, if you do, develop an hypothesis.

What I found to be difficult is the length of the full case (30 minutes) and how many various analyses it involved (e.g. brainstorming how to get contractors to pass the audit without giving them 20% of production, brainstorming benefits of consolidating production, brainstorming how to reduce labor costs etc.).

Networking:

• Have 1-2 great questions and the rest of the conversation should be built from there. Use what the interviewer says and build on it.

• As you speak, find a way to deliver your key message. This means, try adding key points about your profile into the normal conversation flow. This way you don’t self-promote yourself directly. However, the person you are talking to learns key points about your profile that make you an attractive candidate.

• The primary objective is to get people to like you.

• Do not over-think, just do it and go broad.

(2) Felix Session 7 – I worked through session 7 with Felix, from The Consulting Offer Season 1.

Some observations:

Payphones estimation case:

• The major point of this case is to realize that money from each day remains in the phone booth for different amount of time and, therefore, it is important to account for this when calculating potential interest that could be generated.

• I thought the way Felix moved from a demand to supply side approach was a good example of how in the case interview you should move fast and confidently. If you feel you started with the wrong approach, do not hesitate to move to the right approach.

• I liked the alternative approach shown in the perfect answer. This would be useful if we did not know the number of payphones in the city.

Ice cream brainstorming case:

a. I thought the question was clearly about volume. I was surprised Felix converted it to sales. My decision tree started with what volume/consumption was driven by and I think it was a more effective approach. In Felix’s decision tree volume was only broken down to the second level. I think she could have taken this further and struggled a bit.

b. I forgot to include other, which is not MECE. I also did not analyze who are the consumer major groups who eat ice cream and why their consumption pattern may have changed.

c. I thought Firmsconsulting’s perfect answer for this case was a great learning tool on how to break down direct drivers and how to prioritize them.

Cost reduction case:

• I was surprised that Felix found this case to be so difficult to understand. The challenge for me with this case was to build decision tree after level 3.

• Firmsconsulting’s perfect solution video for this video was the most challenging part of session 7 for me. The actual analysis is manageable. What I found to be difficult is the length of the full case (30 minutes) and how many various analyses it involved (e.g. brainstorming how to get contractors to pass the audit without giving them 20% of production, brainstorming benefits of consolidating production, brainstorming how to reduce labor costs etc.). It is important to keep in mind that during the real case interview most of brainstorming has to be done without writing out the decision tree. It drove home Felix’s question about how do you get through the full case while maintaining the highest level of concentration and energy. I think the length of the full case, and various sections of analysis that are necessary to arrive at the logical answer are what make it challenging.

• I really liked the idea of stopping the perfect answer video every time the interviewer gives you more information and trying to take the case forward yourself. I would thereafter play the response in the perfect case solution video. This will ensure I am even more engaged and gain a deeper understanding of the case. I will use this approach going forward.

• Another approach I found useful is to watch perfect solution videos while I am watching the coaching session with the candidate. For example, when Felix finished the payphone estimation case, I stopped the video and worked through the perfect solution video for that case and only thereafter went back to the session with Felix. Again after she finished the ice cream brainstorming case I worked through the perfect solution video prior to moving back to session with Felix.

Score out of 10: 6

Strengths: I worked diligently through the material and my analyses were logical.

Opportunities: My decision trees were not always MECE. I made a mistake in the estimation case by not accounting for how long money remains in the phone booth throughout the week.

My brainstorming solution was not creative/insightful enough and I found the full case to be tiring which means I need to increase my stamina.

I am going to discuss my experiences of working through Felix’s session 8 videos. I spent 8 hours in total going through in great detail mainly because I did all the reading Firmsconsulting recommended.

Preparation before the session:

• I read news and business articles (mostly NewYorkTimesEconomist and Washington Post) every day to build my general knowledge (4-5 articles per day, mostly from the business section). Specifically, I try to select articles that pose a question that I can brainstorm prior to reading the article.

• I worked through the first chapter of The mind of the strategist by Kenichi Ohmae, recommended by Firmsconsulting. The chapter is called “Analysis: the starting point”. Some key points to remember:

o A strategic thinker should identify a critical issue, dissect the problem/situation into parts, get a clear understanding of each part, discover the significance of each part, and restructure parts into a new pattern to maximize the advantage.

o The key question should be framed in a way that points towards the solution. This reminds me that Firmsconsulting seems to be the only firm teaching this clever way to structure problems.

o The author presented a sample issue diagram, which was in a Yes/No decision tree format. I think there was a mistake in how this diagram was structured (figure 1-4 for those who have this book). The issue diagram’s question is “Can product A’s cost be lowered?”. Fixed cost is examined only if the answer to the question “is the design specification too expensive?” is “No”. Variable cost is only examined in the diagram if the answer to the question “are the fixed costs too high?” is “No”. What if the design specification is too expensive and both fixed and variable costs are too high? I think all 3 variables must be given equal weight during initial stage of analysis. Consequently, I think Yes/No type of the decision tree in this particular case does not allow in examining important parts. This makes me think that Yes/No decision trees are very limiting and in most cases should not be used in brainstorming or full case analysis.

A strategic thinker should identify a critical issue, dissect the problem/situation into parts, get a clear understanding of each part, discover the significance of each part, and restructure parts into a new pattern to maximize the advantage.

o One observation I have is that although the information in the book is useful, it is not presented in a way that is interactive and easy to remember. For example, when I watch Firmsconsulting’s videos such as sessions with Felix, brainstorming videos, estimation videos, perfect answers etc, information that was presented is actually easy to remember and the learning process is interesting and enjoyable. Reading this book is less interesting, although the content is valuable. I think this is because it is not interactive.

• I watched/listened to the following Firmsconsulting’s training videos/podcasts: Brainstorming with decision trees during full cases, NYC concierge total market size per annum in US dollars (estimation case) and Networking mistakes.

What was accomplished:

Resume and Cover Letter – I completed yet another revision of my resume and cover letter. I removed work experience prior to consulting from the experience section and moved some of it to the personal section. I expanded on my experience in consulting and industry, as these two sections should be allocated the most real estate. I went through cover letter a few times to make sure there is a good story and not too much details. The cover letter still requires more work.

LinkedIn – I updated my LinkedIn profile by deleting experience that did not add value to my profile and including more details on experience which are key to my profile. I finalized my resume first and used the same wording for LinkedIn. The only outstanding item for LinkedIn that remains is to find a better photo, which I will do within the next 2 weeks.

Felix Session 8 – I worked through session 8.

Some of my observations follow:

Mascara estimation case:

• The challenging part was to estimate how many planes are in the fleet and how many flights there are per day/month etc. I was not sure if it was ok to just provide a guess for this or if I should have done a separate estimation for that part of the equation. After watching the training it was clear that I had to do calculations/separate estimation to determine the number of planes/number of flights. I think Felix’s way to estimate number of flights made sense, it was better than just guessing the number of planes/flights.

• Felix assumed that only mascara applied during the flight should count. My understanding was that it does not matter when mascara was applied, as long as it was on during the flight. This seems logical since flight attendants need to also look good prior to the flight and not only during the flight, so most of them probably apply make up at home/in a hotel.

• I think it is not likely that all flight attendants will be using the same bottles of mascara. Mascara is a personal item and is usually not shared with others. So my equation assumed that each flight attendant would be using her own mascara. I also assumed that regardless of whether or not the mascara is used by flight attendant between flights, it will dry out, so I assumed that each flight attendant will have to purchase 4 mascaras bottles per year (that each mascara will be used on average over 3 months) to be able to apply mascara for flights.

Emirates airlines growth brainstorming:

• I also broke revenue into price x volume, but it is now clear that it would make much more sense to break it down into revenue streams. It is also very important to include category called “other” to ensure that this level of decision tree is MECE.

• One minor mistake I noticed in Felix’s performance is that she was saying that to increase capacity Emirates could have promotions. This will not increase capacity. This will increase capacity utilization. The only way to increase capacity is for Emirates to move more people.

• I actually did not know how important cargo revenue is, which was concerning. I should have known this.

• I think one key thing I learned from this brainstorming session, specifically from the perfect answer training video, is the blind navigator technique. That is a very useful technique I can use in my current role.

SkyChefs full case:

• Because the interviewer did not wanted to provide information on the amount of sales/volume in airports, I assumed this should be estimated and completed a mini-estimation case. My strategy would be to offer the interviewer my estimated amount and see if the interviewer will confirm it or correct it. I also planned to ask about revenue breakdown between the two streams of revenue, which would give me more data to more accurately estimate volume within the airports.

• Similar to Felix, I assumed number of meals meant how many times people are served during the flight (e.g. dinner and breakfast). Now, looking back, the actual definition should have been obvious to me.

Score out of 10: 7.5

Communication 7.5

Technical 8

Confidence 7

Strengths: I moved through cases rapidly and my analyses were logical. I feel my level of general knowledge is sufficient to allow me to make reasonable assumptions during cases.

Opportunities: I should have estimated number of flights for the Mascara estimation case. I knew how to do it, I just decided not to do it because I felt that it was not necessary or I just was lazy. I am still not consistent in ensuring my decision trees are MECE, I should watch this carefully. Although my general business knowledge is high, I should continue enhancing it as there are some obvious things that I should have known, that I find I do not know as I progress through The Consulting Offer training. I think my thinking is still very unstructured. I need to work on this.

Questions to Firmsconsulting:

• I still build decision trees on paper. I wonder at which point I should start building it in my head? I think there is value in firstly learning to build it on paper, so I learn the right technique, and thereafter when it will become second nature I can do it in my head.

• In the book “The Mind of the strategist” the author presented a sample issue diagram, which was in the Yes/No decision tree format. Is there a mistake in how this diagram was structured (figure 1-4 in chapter 1)?

Do you want to discover how to navigate the up or out policy in management consulting? When I started my journey in consulting, my answer to this question would have been, “Yes, a million times yes!”.

Michael asked me to write about my experiences at consulting firms, how I navigated the up or out policy and managed to get promoted so quickly, well ahead of the normal schedule in both consulting and banking.

Up or out policy in management consulting

As I was embarking on my management consulting journey, I was quite concerned hearing so many stories of my acquaintances getting managed out after less than 2 years in consulting. I was determined to go up, not out. After all, I did my second undegraduate degree just so I could get into consulting. I studied like crazy to get all As, while working multiple jobs, and there were rivers of blood and sweat leading to that very desired consulting offer.

So there was no chance in hell I was going to be one of those people to be labeled a “hiring mistake”. Not on my watch!

up or out_p1

If you are not very familiar with consulting jargon you may be wondering, “what is exactly up or out policy?”. It is an HR policy consulting firms have which refers to predetermined time frames within which consultants either get promoted or managed out. You cannot stay at the same level for too long.

The implementation of the up or out policy is simple. If you are perceived as good enough to one day make partner, you will progress to the next level. If you are not perceived as good enough, they will ask you to leave.

I actually found the consulting environment to be similar to that of my MBA program. Although, in consulting people pretend to be a little less competitive, since everyone is required to act in a collegial way toward their coworkers.

You have to be friendly and helpful towards peer consultants on your engagement team. However, at the end of each engagement and at the end of each year you will be ranked against them to see who is more valuable to the consulting firm.

People compete with their colleagues in many other jobs outside of management consulting, of course. However, in most other jobs there is no up or out policy, so people are less competitive.

For example, in manufacturing there is generally no up or out policy in place. In fact, people rarely get managed out. You typically work with 5-6 people on a daily basis and none of them will be at your level. So there is less competition.

Comparatively, in management consulting you are often staffed on an engagement with another 2-3 people at your level. During the engagement you will need to be a good team player, helping each of them to succeed. At the end of the engagement and at the end of the year, you and your peers will be ranked to see who is more valuable to the firm.

You may even be counseled to leave. It happens very often.

Navigating up or out policy: 6 insights

My determination to figure out how to manage the up or out policy paid off. Although, to be frank, I almost killed myself in the process of figuring out what it took to stand out in the consulting environment.

I was promoted repeatedly, each time well ahead of schedule. The same happened when I did my stint in banking, so the ideas I am about to share with you are applicable beyond management consulting.

Implementing these ideas does not guarantee a promotion, of course. But it certainly will take you a step closer to it.

As promised, below are 6 insights which helped me the most in navigating the up or out policy:

1. Craft your personal brand by actively managing what you say and do
I leaned that you have to really filter what you say. Don’t say things that can hurt your profile if repeated by others. For example, don’t say that you realized consulting is not for you or that a particular partner is incompetent, even if those things are true beyond any reasonable doubt. Instead, say things that will raise your profile and worth to the firm.

You have to present to the world a very smart, organized, healthy, credible, committed and collegial person. A strong personal brand really matters in management consulting. If you are a disorganized, unprepared, uncommitted and sloppy mess people will not want to be associated with you.

Management consulting career is a unique beast. While in other jobs people are forced to work with you, in consulting you have to prove your worth every day to stay wanted for projects, and to keep your job at the next performance evaluation when up or out decisions will be made.

The trick I used to train myself to say things that helped me progress in my management consulting career was to pretend everything I say will be published on the cover of the New York Times, and everyone will read it. My friend recommended it to me when I was just a business analyst and it worked very well when I made an effort to apply it. It puts you in the right mindset as you engage with your colleagues.

Also, as much as you can, ensure your actions don’t leave room for any negative interpretation. Always observe yourself from the third person perspective. Consider what negative assumptions people may make about your behavior and adjust accordingly.

For example, lets say you are attending a weekend getaway, one of the perks of management consulting career. You are expected to play games and bond with your colleagues. Instead, you have to vigilantly work on unexpected deliverable a client requested that morning, out of the blue. Your first impulse may be to go and work in the dining hall so you can at least be close to all the fun and games. Don’t do it.

You obviously cannot announce to all leaders at the getaway event why you are not participating in team activities. Therefore, to avoid people making assumptions that you are not a team player, get permission to prioritize client work from the most senior person at the event or from your project leader, and go work in your room far away from anyone else.

By working while everyone else is bonding you are doing something against the group norm. If you have to do this, make sure as few people as possible have an opportunity to notice it.

This is important because, unfortunately, some people will make negative assumptions about why you are not participating in team activities. I am actually describing to you a real life example from my own career.

I was almost rejected to be a part of an important engagement because a principal leading the project was convinced I was not a team player. I asked why he thought I was not a team player, given we never worked together. His reply was, “Well, yes we never worked together but I observed you during our getaway weekend few months ago and you were the only person checking emails while everyone else were involved in team activities”.

This is an example of how you have to really protect your reputation at all times because by the time you can correct someone’s incorrect perception of you, if you are lucky enough to get a chance to correct it at all, they may already take away some opportunities from you.

It is important to remember that everything we say to the client and to the team members, and every action we take, enhances or damages our personal brand and can be used to evaluate us during formal or informal performance evaluations and in other situations. I know that managing your personal brand is a lot of work, but it is what it takes to get promoted.

2. Consulting is harsh for friendships
It is important to give some thought to how you will manage relationship with your colleagues. In consulting, more so than in most other careers, you are directly compared to your peers. The same peers you work with on a daily basis. So becoming friends with your colleagues may make your work life quite challenging and distracting since, during performance evaluations, you and your friends will be competing for the same promotion spot.

If you ever have been an MBA student, you will be better prepared for what you are getting yourself into with management consulting. MBA schools expect people to work in teams and build relationship with classmates and yet, while there is no up or out policy, you are ranked on a curve for each course.

For you to succeed and be above average, many of your classmates will have to “fail” by ranking below average. Given the importance of grades for recruitment and options after your first job post-MBA, it is not surprising it is hard to be too helpful to your classmates since aiding their success will mean taking away from yours.

In management consulting we have to deal with a similar situation. Helping our peers to succeed will often mean taking away from our own success. Not only in a direct sense in terms of an opportunity cost of time and effort, but also in an indirect sense. If your colleagues will be rated higher, you, quite possibly, will be rated lower. And those that are rated lower are often casualties of the up or out policy.

After much consideration and many disappointing experiences, I decided to stay away from friendships at work. Of course, there is no right or wrong way to manage this. You will have to make this decision for yourself.

In my opinion, the management consulting environment is not very different from boxing. You engage in a contest of mental strength, speed, endurance and creativity. The goal is to get one of the coveted promotion spots, which will mean knocking down the opponents (getting you promoted which means getting some of your peers managed out of the firm). If you befriend your opponents, it will make it harder for you to compete with them since you will have conflicting incentives. The friend in you will want them to succeed while the ambitious up and coming professional in you will want you to knock them down (get the promotion spot).

up or out v6

Also, if your colleague does something that takes credit away from you or deliberately makes you look bad, you need to stop trusting this person and never give this person a second chance. Good people tend to expect the best from people around them, and that is a wonderful quality to have. However, if someone signals to you that they are a jerk, believe them the first time. They are once and for all in a “don’t trust” category. You, of course, have to continue to play a role of a great team member but watch your back and don’t let this person hurt you again.

I usually have given people too many chances. That is my weakness. Someone will do something bad towards me, and then will become very nice towards me and I would give him or her a 2nd, 3rd or even 4th chance, only to be used and disappointed again. Learn from my mistakes, not from yours.

There are a lot more people on this earth than we will ever meet. Over 7 Billion of them! Why invest in relationships with people who already showed us that they likely not worth the effort? There are so many other people out there who are considerably more worthy of our time and friendship.

I must stress that I am a great team member. I have been consistently cited for this. I always help team members, even late at night. I merely aware of what can go wrong and strive to avoid be taken advantage of.

3. Strategically select key deliverables
It is important to exercise control over which pieces of work you will take responsibility for, when you can. This gives you a greater chance to develop a reputation for doing high quality work and obtain a higher performance rating on engagements.

In the beginning of each consulting engagement I look through the project plan and decide in advance which deliverables or work streams I want to volunteer for. I pick work items which are important and which I know I can do well. I wait for the opportunity to volunteer and, more often than not, I am able to get the piece of work I want to take responsibility for.

One of the key criteria I use when I pick the deliverables or work streams I want to be responsible for is whether I am able to find exceptional examples of similar work that I could learn from. Within consulting firms we have access to prior deliverables. We cannot use the content, of course. However, we often can use design, use prior work to brainstorm for ideas and model the structure of past deliverables. This saves a considerable amount of time and helps you stay on the right path.

In other words, I use past work as a template to determine the benchmark for “excellent”. If I did not have this benchmark, I would be flying blind and not sure how well I was doing.

Another important criteria I always use is selecting deliverables or work streams which are most crucial for success of the engagement. Firstly, this ensures that my effort is worthwhile since the work really matters to the team. Secondly, this makes certain that senior leaders will be spending a lot of time reviewing my work and, therefore, will be familiar with the tremendous effort, creativity and attention to detail I tend to display in my work.

4. Ensure you are perceived as a great team player
It is important to always be on the look out for opportunities to help your engagement team to excel. However, try to ensure that what you do in this regard is noticeable to your superiors. This is not about making others look bad or showing off. It is about transparency and fairness.

Also, try to get on engagements with good leaders who are known for giving credit where it is due. This will allow you to focus 100% on your work and not on ensuring that your work will be recognized.

We also need to remember that anything we do has an opportunity cost. As you probably know, the opportunity cost is the best alternative thing we could use our time and other resources for, instead of what we are doing. Therefore, we just cannot afford to do things for which we will not get credit.

5. Perform at the next level
I think it is important to try to play a role of one level up as well as your own role. For example, if you are an engagement manager, try to play a role of a senior engagement manager but also of an associate principal.

Obviously, it is important to do so in a respectful manner. Don’t step on toes of your colleagues who are one level up. However, you need to display qualities that show that you are ready for a promotion, so when your performance is discussed and an up or out decision is made, you are concluded to be the “up” material.

6. Use information to your advantage
Some information is not required to be shared and should be kept for one’s own advantage. We all dealt different cards in life. Those cards are assets that we need to leverage to achieve what we want. Some people have good looks, others parents’ with good connections and family money, or extraordinary intelligence. Information you become aware of is part of your cards in life, so keep it close to your chest.

There are only few promotion spots available for each level and all your peers want your spot. It’s a competition for talent and not a game where everyone gets a medal for participation.

Why the up or out policy is good news

Don’t be disappointed that the environment is so competitive in management consulting. There are more pluses than minuses in this situation.

You get to work with ambitious, strong and like-minded individuals. Some say, you are an average of 5 people you spend the most time with. You spend a lot of time with your colleagues so it is great you get to work with people who will challenge you so you will develop further and faster.

Moreover, because of the up or out policy, if you play your cards right you will be promoted within, on average, 2 years after joining the firm. If you are very good, it can happen in 6 months. Whereas in many other careers it is easy to get stuck in certain level for several years, in consulting the options are up or out. So if you are good, the up or out policy is actually good news.

Final remarks

In conclusion, even though management consulting firms have an up or out policy, I think overall we should be friendly to peer consultants, be good team members and bring to the team as much value as we can. After all, we have to always try to be our best self – the most amazing person we can be. Most my advice about being careful applies if you have a weak team. If you have a great team, you can simply focus on the work and that is the best part.

However, we should remember that we need to do visible and important pieces of work, don’t say things that can take us down if repeated, always think how can we make an engagement more successful, and ensure our actions and efforts are well known to the directors.

Most importantly, we should not allow our job to define our identity.

You know you are one of a kind and have a lot to offer to the world, and if as a result of some very unfortunate chain of events you will be pushed out of the firm, don’t let it take you down.

You were born to matter, to make a huge difference and make this world a better place. I know this because you are part of the Firmsconsulting community – a community of people who are hungry and bold, and strive for more. And if the firm could not recognize it, it is their loss and your gain. It means you were knocking on the wrong door, in which case it is best to leave the firm before you invested years of your life. It will allow you to find the right path while you still have plenty of time on this earth. Find something that brings you joy and where you can make a real difference.

As Steve Jobs once said, “We don’t get a chance to do that many things and every one should be excellent. Life is brief and then you die… And we have all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it”.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What is your advice on navigating up or out policy in management consulting firms? Please share in the comments.

SPREAD THE WORD! Like this? Please share it. This is very important and keep us going.

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Image from Anirudh Koul under cc.
Image from Matthew Faltz under cc, cropped with added text.
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At the end of December 2014 we published a post recapping our year at Firmsconsulting and providing a brief overview of our plans for 2015. We want to provide an update on our plans for 2015 so you know what to expect and how we are keeping to that schedule.

More importantly, if you want us to change the schedule or our priorities, you can comment and let us know. We are going to focus this update on just one area where we need some guidance from readers.

Implementation Executive Program

Executive programs refer to the full studies we undertake and publish on our website: all the power points, videos, tool kits etc. like the merger study and LAB market entry study.

We are planning to work on 4 studies this year.

  1. The market entry study is done and will be released shortly.
  2. The power sector corporate strategy transformation study has started and will be released shortly.
  3. In all likelihood, the power sector study will lead to a major implementation phase so that will be the next study.
  4. Finally, we are debating whether or not to do the BTO strategy study, operations or another study as the 4th study of the year.

Do you want an implementation study and toolkit?

We need to know which should be the next two studies. If you look at our header and footer, under executive programs, we have listed all the studies we have negotiated with clients. The start dates for some of those studies have not been set and we can move them based on reader popularity.

Every time someone subscribes for updates on a study, we view that as a vote for the study.

We try to do the studies with the most votes first.

We need you to vote.

As it stands, this is the top 4 studies based on your votes:

  1. Market entry strategy study
  2. Power Sector strategy study
  3. Operations study
  4. CPG pricing, marketing and strategy study.

Based on this voting, the operations study is the next study we will release. That outcome was a little surprising. We suspect it is the most popular because most readers have not taken the time to vote.

So, by default operations moved to the top of the list. We also think many readers are confusing operations with implementation. This post will provide some details on implementation studies so you can understand the differences better and decide if you really do prefer the operations study over the implementation study.

We feel implementation skills are more important than operations skills. Every executive in every organization needs implementations skills. This involves setting goals, change management, embedding new cultures, overhauling systems and processes. In essence, it means helping your company/client generate the $xM benefits that was promised.

Every single executive client we have will understand their biggest obstacle is implementing recommendations. In a corporate environment, you get promoted for getting results. You do not get promoted for strategy analyses and recommendations which you fail to implement.

We are working on creating the most comprehensive implementation toolkit in the world, which we will roll out for the power sector implementation study.

We are working with Bain and McKinsey Implementation Group coaching clients to ensure the toolkit exceeds the quality of the material available in those firms. Therefore, we remain excited about this study and toolkit.

The implementation study will contain over 350 videos and power point guides. The accompanying toolkit will contain well over 100 videos and power point guides. That is >450 videos in total. That is a deeply comprehensive program. To give you a sense of some of the differences between implementation and operations, we have attached some screenshots from the videos.

Once you review these implementation slides and believe it will be useful, please vote by subscribing to this study and comment below. We use the comments to help us think of missing elements in the studies and tool kits.

In this exhibit we explain the fundamental difference between operations and implementation. They are frequently confused but are not the same in any way.

McKinsey Implementation Group 1

This exhibit explains the overall, high-level implementation approach. There is a lot of details that sit behind each block. In fact, the block on “Design Implementation” contains well over 100 power point slides since there are so many different implementation techniques and tools to overcome resistance from employees.

McKinsey Implementation Group 2

This exhibit pretty much sums up the main chart the client is interested in. At the start of an implementation, the client tracks adherence to the activities. The client does this since it is too early to track the banked benefits. However, as the study progresses the implementation will focus more on the banked benefits versus the activities initially outlined for the implementation.

This is because things always change throughout the implementation and sticking to initial activities makes little sense when the situation on the ground is fluid. Sticking to the financial targets, however, is the primary goal of the client.

McKinsey Implementation Group 3

The exhibit below is a simplified version of a more detailed map. We list every single type of resistance a client could display over the course of the study, along with the toolkit to overcome that resistance. This is probably the most important part of the toolkit. There is a significant amount of material walking subscribers through use of the tools.

McKinsey Implementation Group 4

This final exhibit highlights just one of the five possible roll out options for implementation. The “Big Bang” approach works very well during crises where there is no choice but to execute the roll-out across the entire country at one time.

McKinsey Implementation Group 5

As you can see, this is a very comprehensive study and toolkit.

However, if we release the studies based on the votes alone, it would seem the implementation study is not as popular and will not be released anytime this year. So please vote to help us know which studies to release.

So, to recap: 4 studies are planned for 2015 but we need you to tell us which one’s should be released first by registering for the implementation study or any other study you prefer.

If the implementation study and toolkit is not what our readers find useful, we will likely decline the opportunity to run the power sector implementation study. This would be a pity because we believe implementation is a core skill to learn and is a priority of every major consulting firm today.

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