What are some of the most important work principles you learnt at top tier consulting firms?

consulting learning principles
Edited on Sep 05, 2021
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Anonymous A asked on Sep 13, 2019

I would like to know what are some of the work principles that you learnt in top tier consulting firms that you can apply to work life anywhere else as well.

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Paul
Expert
updated an answer on Sep 15, 2019
  • How to write: At McKinsey, you learn to write before you go to the PowerPoint (or at least it used to be this way). This helped you understand how to structure your thinking in a persuasive way.
  • Feedback: Feedback is different at the top consulting firms. Instead of feedback about font and formatting, you get "yes, and..." feedback trying to add or build on what you have already created. Ignore the small mistakes and give feedback in the direction of great work.
  • High Standards: This is hard for someone to understand who hasn't worked at one of the top firms. The standards are really high - often when you are iterating for the 30th time on a document you want to run away, but when you look back, you miss those times where everyone on the team was aiming to do great work, not just get it done.
  • Synthesis: Getting tons of reps of taking 15 data points and turning that into a story is more art than science, but seeing others do it and trying to do it myself gave me a feel for quickly cutting to the takeaway whenever I read anything to this day
  • MECE: MECE is gold for quickly organizing your thoughts and cutting out confusing structure or organization. It's not perfect, but is a quick hack to level up your thinking.
  • Iteration: Great work comes from psychological safety, good feedback + lots of iterations. Too many other workplaces don't grok how to get the reps in.
  • Delusional Curiosity: Some of the problems we worked on were beyond everyone's comfort zone, but there was a delusional level of belief that we could figure it out. This is helpful when you are knee-deep in research and the self-doubt creeps in. Now when I'm experiencing this, I know I can dig myself out.
  • Empirical Skepticism: Consultants are guilty of plenty of BS, but helping create some of that and seeing other lazy business thinking helps you develop a quick reflext for identifying crappy claims. "Oh fancy news program, chocolate doubles your disease risk? whats your nominal value? effect size?" You get the point.

I now help teach some of these skills as part of my strategy consulting skills course. I don't really like teaching case prep, but if people want to go deeper hit me up!

(edited)

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Marco-Alexander
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Content Creator
updated an answer on Sep 05, 2021
Former BCG | Case author for efellows book | Experience in 6 consultancies (Stern Stewart, Capgemini, KPMG, VW Con., Hor

(edited)

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Anonymous replied on Jun 11, 2020

Dear A,

Here is some ideas regarding to your question:

- Learn to work better,more effecient and more effectively. This is the time when 80-20 principle will come to your life.

- Problem solving. No matter what field are there. You just have to solve it.

- Communication skills.With consulting job you will improve them a lot. It's not just about connecting and networking, but also about communicating result of your work clearly

- How to make desicions and delegate.

Best,

André

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Francesco
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replied on Sep 14, 2019
#1 Expert for Coaching Sessions (3.700+) | 1.300+ Reviews with 100% Recommendation Rate | Ex BCG | 8+ Years of Coaching

Hi Anonymous,

here is a list of the main things you may learn as a consultant:

  1. Solve complex problems. You will learn how to find appropriate solutions for complex issues, even in areas you are not familiar with, using a defined structured approach.
  2. Develop great communication skills. You will learn how to communicate properly with everyone in a company from new hires to C-levels.
  3. Acquire knowledge of multiple industries. You will learn insider aspects of several industries in a very short period of time.
  4. Reach challenging goals with a set time frame. You will learn how to respect apparently impossible deadlines and achieve the objectives required.
  5. Become a team player. You will learn how to have a team-based mentality, as your job as a consultant will be strongly influenced by your team performance.
  6. Master productivity tools. You will learn how to become a lot faster and proficient with Excel and Power Point than the average user.
  7. Prioritize activities. You will learn how to become 80-20...or alternatively how to sleep very few hours ;). As a consultant, you will always have more things to do than the ones achievable in a certain time frame, hence you will have to constantly decide what to give priority to.

Best,

Francesco

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