McKinsey's internal mythology compares management consultants to "the Marine Corps, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Jesuits"

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Knowing how McKinsey operates in the real world, the better comparisons are to P.T. Barnum and Renfield from Dracula.

Obligatory reminder that Wall Street Pete Buttigieg comes out of this highly dysfunctional corporate culture.


I remember when Enron was collapsing and I read a Letter to the Editor in the Chicago Tribune. It was from an employee defending the company’s actions.
“You don’t understand” he wrote. "We’re fighting a WAR!"

never mentioned who they were fighting against or what side they were on.

All I could think was, WTF kind of screwed up Kool-Aid were they all drinking there?


McKinsey has helped with some bad shit, no doubt, and their inflated corporate ego is key to snagging overpriced contracts to do that bad shit.

But I don’t understand why Cory has adopted an ageist position in his recent string of McKinsey posts.

The core problem with McKinsey stems from the consultants’ misguided capitalist ideology, not the age of their new hires. It’s not like the entirety of McKinsey is 23 year-olds, so why focus so much on the young ones? Are there not Boomer and Gen X execs at McKinsey who also deserve scorn, if not more so?

If being a 23 year-old college graduate in itself disqualifies one from being listened to, then why do we on the left listen to 16 year-old Greta Thunberg? Well, the answer is obvious: youth does not in itself prevent someone from giving good advice.

So why does Cory insist on disparaging the age of some McKinsey consultants, when clearly it’s not their age that makes McKinsey problematic? I know he knows better…

Such irresponsible rhetoric can cause some 23 year-olds (or younger, with or without degrees), who are on the left, to doubt the power of their voices, effectively acting to silence many people who ought to be heard, especially since they’re the folks inheriting a most fucked up planet. And they might have good ideas that could help.

So if you’re a fresh-out-of-college 23 year-old reading this, please don’t apply for a job at McKinsey (and don’t let your friends), but also please know that you are capable of giving the world good ideas (despite some people implying your lack of “experience” prevents you from doing that).


…and the doctorow random-excerpt-generator strikes again.

So, they invade new territory, to spread a poisonous ideology to everyone, and are staffed with well-trained people to justify their actions.

Sounds legit.


You’ve been replied to before on this matter, but I’ll reiterate what others have said to make it clear: there’s nothing wrong with hiring 23 year old fresh college grads. But if anyone’s experience justifies a $3m/year bill for their services (this is a dubious proposition, but stipulate it for argument), that person is not someone with NO experience.

I trust this clarifies things for you.


Actually, if somebody compared my firm to either of those, I‘d say that we seriously fucked up.


I love how no one is caviling at the notion that the Roman Catholic Church and the Jesuits are separate institutions.


Young people and their ideas should be listened to, but not if they’re simply being presented as bright (and expensive) fresh young vessels for the supposed wisdom of old people who are really interested in maintaining the terrible status quo (i.e. the McKinsey model).

Worse, the McKiddsies are converted into arrogant and zealous advocates of said status quo, carrying the dysfunction out from their ruinous client engagements (for the two years between undergrad and business or law school) and then into executive suites or political office for yet another generation.


That‘s probably because nobody can be bothered to study details about old christian cults when there‘s so many more interesting things to know that actually make a positive difference in somebody‘s life.

That being said, they ARE different institutions, they‘re just closely related.


Thank you for your response and clarification. As far as I can tell, no reply to my previous comment on the matter (from last week[?]) addressed my concern about ageism, so I greatly appreciate you engaging with me about this.

Please know that I don’t actually believe you are ageist, so I apologize for the harsh tone of my comment. This issue is somewhat personal, as it was not that long ago when people assumed that my own age meant I had zero experience, yet that was not the case. Having gone through that, and having met many people who experienced quite a bit in their youth, I developed a belief that age is a terrible proxy for assessing experience.

So while I find it entirely reasonable to say that zero experience does not justify the $3m/year contact, I do find it unreasonable to say that a 23 year-old has zero experience simply because of their age. Lack of experience at McKinsey can be criticized without discussing age, imho.

I do find one thing puzzling, however, that your reply did not clarify for me: I believe there are plenty of older folks at McKinsey who deserve our ire, but (it seems to me) you have singled-out the young consultants as a focal point of contempt. I know you don’t hate young people, so that is why I’m confused by this rhetorical choice. If your next post on McKinsey points out that their employees over 40 also suck, I will be made exceedingly happy.

Again, thanks for talking with me about this.


That assumption is a natural response. I say this as someone who was fast-tracked in my first career at about age 23-24, not on the basis of experience but (frankly and immodestly) due to talent and education. I never experienced any resentment from older and more experienced people in my workplace – even ones I was suddenly supervising – because my respect for their experience was never in doubt.

That differs from the mindset of typical young McKinsey employees, which is trained into them. In order to play their part successfully in this racket, they have to really believe that a bright college grad with a one-size-fits-all “solution” always knows better than a manager with 20 years’ industry experience. The most effective way for them to do that is to drink the McKinsey Kool Aid that they’re the “best and the brightest”, which is one hell of a powerful drug with lifelong after-effects.

The arrogant McKiddsies are the public face of the typical McKinsey engagement and are supposedly the reason all that money is being paid out to the firm. The McKinsey lifers (those who come back after getting their MBAs or JDs) are another brand of suckiness, and so are the clients who pay the firm a premium to cover their arses or hide their incompetence.


In general, I would say that, if something requires so little experience and domain knowledge that someone right out of college can do it, it’s probably not worth billing millions a year for it. There is specialized knowledge that might be worth that much, but getting that knowledge requires years of experience in the relevant field, so it’s not about age, it’s about experience.


A teensy mod is in order:



I think gracchus states it very well:

Yes, the firm grabs them before they have much life experience, and then the firm indoctrinates them. It reminds me of descriptions of converting idealistic young men into cannon fodder (except here, the harm is perhaps more broad).


In the sense of indoctrination, the comparisons to the USMC and the Jesuits are on-point.



“The military has the Marines; the Catholic Church has the Jesuits. Consulting,” writes McDonald, “has McKinsey.”

It makes sense as internalized propaganda if you admire the marines and the jesuits as “shock troops”. If you don’t-- well you’re one, two, three steps closer to the truths of this world.


The key issue for me is that the 23-year-olds are told to follow the McKinsey manual. Apply the McKinsey methodologies. Not use any relevant industry experience they probably have not got, anyway.

Reminds me of a very old (30 years?) story about when a friend worked at IBM, which had to move from pure hardware/software to services (early 1990s?). Friend was sent on a ‘selling services’ course 'cos IBM sales people knew how to sell h/w and s/w but services had largely been ‘free’/priced in. They needed to be trained how to demonstrate value in IBM services and get people to by them. The key message this guy took from the course was that he could credibly develop a sales pitch that went like this:

  • when the client looks at the IBM sales person they are seeing the least impressive IBMer. That sales person is a generalist relationship manager, not an industry or services specialist. They will have access to many more skilled and experienced people - everyone who comes through the door after them will be better and infinitely more impressive, if they buy from IBM.
  • when the client looks at the McKinsey sales person (= Senior Consultant / Partner) they will be looking at the best they will ever see from McKinsey - the most experienced and skilled person they will ever see from that company. Everyone who comes through the door after them, if they win the contract, will be a fresh-faced graduate in nappies (diapers) reading intensely from a highly prescriptive manual, one page ahead of the client. And they get carpeted by their bosses for departing from the methodology or the manual.

IBM is a distraction for the purposes of this thread. The key point is that the McKinsey youth are merely drones applying a methodology and it is highly unlikely anybody will be bringing any actual industry experience or insight. Unlike actual skilled and experienced, more senior personnel, with actual grey hairs and battle scars, from elsewhere.

Most consultancies work on this model. Develop / adopt some methodologies. Write some manuals. Train fresh graduates in how to apply these things in clients. Invoice accordingly but always make sure a senior consultant / partner is on the timesheets.

Who actually does the work, and what that work is based on, is the key question. 23-year-olds following a prescriptive methodology/manual does not provide a credible response to that question. Bringing in people - irrespective of age - with actual and demonstrable applied skills and sufficient real life experience to adapt to the client’s situation is a credible response.

Sorry for rattling on, but I think a lot of Cory’s comments concerning 23-year-olds are really just shorthand for the above issues.


I’d hate to get a severe reprimand.