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consulting

12

Aug

Labor vs. Capital, when technology’s involved

For a recent project, I spent some time talking to executives in an industry about what new technologies they would like to see. Labor-savings were a priority for (1) safety (some  jobs were dangerous or injury-prone) (20 labor availability (varying degree of  mechanization / labor shortages) and (30 cost savings. [1]  The problem wasn’t unions, but that no one made the kind of new equipment these companies wanted.

Management Consultants are agents of Capital. We are generally hired by, and work for, senior management and other corporate stakeholders. But that doesn’t mean that we are in constant opposition to Labor: all situations are more productive if management  puts down their copy of  The Expropriator’s Handbook for a bit and focuses on improving the company as a whole. But it does further emphasize the socioeconomic and demographic divide that alienates many from labor forces and unions. I was thinking about this recently when reading commentary online about the transit strikes in the SF Bay area. [#]

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22

Oct

Case Interviews & How to Think (Weird) Like a Consultant

Case interviews are the preferred way to identify promising candidates for jobs in management consulting. They are a core part of the interview process at Oliver Wyman, McKinsey, BCG, Bain – everywhere. I think they are interesting because they reveal what consulting is like and highlight the fact that consultants think (are?) weird. I find them fun.

While case interviews are ‘coachable’ and not always a perfect predictor of success in consulting, if you don’t like thinking through a case, you probably wouldn’t like being a consultant. To succeed at both requires you to look at the world a bit differently. Read more…

02

Oct

The Tangled Social Webs We Weave (Network & Relationship Visualizations)

Last week I wrote about people and networks in business at a high, abstract level. Today I want to zoom in. The lead picture here is a snapshot of my LinkedIn network from the InMaps tool. It’s awesome and it’s powered by magic. But it’s more than just a cute visualization – it tells us interesting things, too. (I’d love to see what the LinkedIn data teams have done with the information, e.g., how different segments of network users vary in terms of how their networks look.)

For me, my map of ~300 links clearly shows distinct networks of which I am a part.

I’ve labeled these in the image below. The interesting thing is that each is a different shape. Read more…

24

Sep

People and Networks Matter (So the liberal arts do, too)

If I was to distill down my time as a consultant, the key finding might be this: “People and networks are the essential fabric of the business world.” This fact is constantly discounted – by me as much as anyone else. People, for better or worse, make the world go round. [1]

The clients I’ve worked for have had many different kinds of business and corporate problems – insufficient personnel to throw at a problem, specialized analytical challenges, lack of domain expertise, change management, etc. – but no matter what the issue was facing the company, it was impossible to separate the challenge from its human dimension.

This can be extremely frustrating, because in a hypothetical ‘ideal world ‘ consultants and companies could just crunch numbers and solve all their problems. CEO thinks they need to optimize pricing? No problem, run some numbers, come up with the correct approach, rinse and repeat. Trying to identify new business lines? Same thing. Ad infinitum.

But what happens is that, in even the most cut-and-dried of engagements, there are human or political factors to contend with. Does the organization have the capacity to manage two business models at once while it tries to transform itself? Are its leaders able to convince the board to try a risky strategy? Can they see the inherent risks of the status quo?

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16

Sep

Consultants Travel A Lot. (Myself Included). Should We?

I have been a consultant for 439 days, since I started working at Oliver Wyman in July 2011. Of that time (~300 business days, less vacation &c) the majority of them have been spent away from home, traveling or working somewhere for clients. This is a little bit strange. I have a nice New York life; why do I watch it shrink into the horizon on Monday mornings, as wind and metal carry me off?

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