Management Consulting Firms & End-2-End Solutions

Anonymous A

Hi there! Do you know which top tier management consulting firms are exclusively committed to do strategy rather than both the conceptualisation and implementation in terms of an end-to-end-solution? As far as I know, consulting firms such as McKinsey, BCG or Bain do primarily work on conceptualising strategies whereas the actual implementation is due to others. Looking forward to hopefully helpful answers! Cheers.

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Dolf replied on 09/06/2016

Well - that was generally the case and still often is, but also things have changed a bit.

McKinsey, BCG and Bain have grown so large that they basically offer "everything" now, not just the strategy part, but in many cases also at least parts of the implementation. Clients have found that it also creates more value this way by keeping a small MBB team on the ground and not losing access to all the knowledge that was generated.

So quite honestly, the key difference between "strategy" consultancies and more implementation-focused firms is the daily rate they charge. (MBB would argue the value is different, too.) If clients are willing to pay MBB's high rates, they can get as many consultants for as long as they want :) Large, company-wide "transformation" projects with >50 MBB consultants are still the exception, but have grown far more common over the past years.

For young consultants and associates, this means they can get stuck in a PMO (project management office) in the middle of a 3-year-transformation case, where the main task is to check project progress and update traffic light slides. Consultants hate it, but actually, in terms of sleep and work-life-balance, those projects can be a bit of an oasis compared to the deserts of 3 months high-stakes strategy cases with a small team and competive consulting firms working next door, or a 2 week due diligence case with neither sleep nor weekend :)

Regarding other strategy firms, you have (among others) Oliver Wyman, AT Kearney, Roland Berger (in Europe) and the strategy shops of the big 4 accounting firms (strategy& - formerly Booz, DeloitteMonitor, etc.). Some lists here:

In addtition, there are tons of smaller top notch firms specialized in certain industries, regions, or topics.

Dolf replied on 09/10/2016

Thanks for the follow-up question :) (In case the order gets screwed up, I'm answering "what do you recommend young consultants to start with IF they have the option to choose? Is it - in terms of career path - more clever to hit the oasis first or is it rather the desert")

This is actually really hard to answer, it depends on so many factors. Basically, in consulting you can/should optimize for two things:

  • Learning - what skills do you want to acquire to personally grow?
  • Performing - what are you good at and helps you get good reviews, reach the next level, etc. Basically, where are you most helpful for the company.

As you know in consulting, it's up or out, so every project also bears the risk of going terrible and leaving a bad review in your track record which may ultimately leaves you being forced out.

To make it more concrete, here's what I would do over a typical career timeline:

  • First 4-6 months in consulting: You don't know anything yet, neither your colleagues, your office, your firm's processes, slide writing, storylining, excel modelling, how to organize client workshops or interviews, how to file expenses - short, you don't know sh**. So I would try to minimize risk as much as possible, shut up and learn. If you have done internships in banking, doing a banking project is not bad for you (even if you may want to do something else). If you're a chemist, do a project in that industry. Anything where you have at least some sort of connection is good for you.
  • 4-6 months - 2 years: Here's the time to try something out, but also shape your career a bit and generally move into the direction you want to go. Lots of deserts, some occasional oasis.
  • 2 years - Project Leader / Case Team Leader / Manager: Start building your platform. What industry and topic do you want to stand for? IT in Insurance? Restructuring in Industrial Goods? Doesn't have to be as specific at first, but building a history, becoming an internal "expert" and a "platform" early makes your life easier, and helps with a promotion. Try to focus on oases more.

This by far does not cover this topic in depth, but should give you a first indication.

Regarding new hires, sometimes they typically come in and have high demands and high aspirations, making a big fuss (I want to do this, I want that, I don't want this...). Generally, I would advise to not do that. Mainly, new hires don't know sh** :). They assume a market entry strategy for a luxury goods company to be super sexy, and IT for banking to be super boring. That can be true, but it can also be the opposite, or the learning opportunities can be completely different. Start "optimizing" from your second project, by then there is a ton of stuff that you know in order to make more educated decisions and thus "requests".

Hope it helps, congrats if you secured an offer!! :)

replied on 09/12/2016
Experienced consultant, now running own consulting business

Seconding on Dolf's last point: It has happened that the project team would make the especially cocky new hire eat some of the sh** he's so full of for a couple of weeks to put him (or her, but usually this is more a guy thing) in his place. ;-)

Anonymous A replied on 09/09/2016

Concerning your third passage Dolf,

what do you recommend young consultants to start with IF they have the option to choose? Is it - in terms of career path - more clever to hit the oasis first or is it rather the desert ;)


Anonymous A replied on 09/15/2016

Thank you for all the extensive and detailed answers! Really appreciate that!

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