Blue Chip McKinsey Stomped, Criticized, and Misunderstood by Silicon Valley Experts

November 29, 2021

I remember the good, old days. Books like “Other People’s Business: A Primer on Management Consultants” and the interesting newsletter “Consultants News.” The big dogs were McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Booz, Allen & Hamilton, and maybe SRI and Kearney. The world was ordered, secretive, elite, and lucrative. What has happened since the 1970s?

Well, discount consulting has boomed. The sector has many manifestations from the Colemans to the GLG Group, from online dog psychologists to 24×7 psycho-business experts. Because there are no government agencies paying attention to consultants, the sector remains wonderfully unregulated. Anyone can become a consultant. LinkedIn promotions are either free or low cost. Search systems like Google make it possible for anyone to know anything with a single search. Don’t believe me? Just think about how much you know as long as you have a smartphone and an Internet connection.

Enter the new breed of real news. What’s this sort of news like? The easiest way to answer the question is to check out “McKinsey Taught Big Pharma How to Price Gouge.” The “key words” in the article’s url provide some insight into the mindset of this approach to information. Forget the history when the blue chip consultants were untouchable. Forget the overt words in the title. Here’s the lingo of the url:

strikesgiving/#cool-story-pharma-bro

The agenda is a bit more clear because Big Pharma may be a “pharma bro”, or Big Pharma could be McKinsey consultants.

I think there are four points which the article and the alleged actions of McKinsey illustrate:

  1. The idea that firms and individuals conduct themselves in an ethical and appropriate manner when discussing business methods has evolved. Now it is anything goes. Blue chip, overpaid blue chip consultant? Now we have you? Journalistic methods which are more than links? Hey, this recycled information is gold, and it’s solid information gold, right? Both “sides” are guilty.
  2. Blue chip consultants do work for hire. That means that if a client pays and agrees to a proposal, the bright employees will figure out angles. Clever is not confined to the virtual cubes and imaginary Foosball games of Big Tech employees. Clever is king today. In the 1970s, as I recall my experiences at the Boozer, societal norms, common sense, and decorum were important. Today, maybe not so much.
  3. Certain types of information — like confidential client reports and internal memoranda — were tough to get. Today one can download several hundred hot new open source intelligence links and have a go at finding sensitive information. Finding factual dirt is wonderfully easy today. Ease facilitates clever and greases the skids for what I call Silicon Valley journalism or “real” journalism as I term it.
  4. There is a great deal of glee. Now the glee is public and broadcast, pushed, and discovered quickly and possibly globally if one knows where to look. The glee, however, is not the wry observations of a William Penn Adair Rogers; it’s the jokes of a high school science club member who knows how to get a laugh from the people who count in a comparatively small, hermetically sealed room.

Did McKinsey do a bad thing? I don’t know. Smart people do “smart.” Less smart people, who do not understand the context of work in a blue chip consulting firm, may not understand why projects evolve a certain way. That’s what happens when universities foul up in cultivating ethical and socially appropriate behavior. Who believes a professor at MIT who talks about ethics when the institution itself was Jeffrey Epstein’s best bud for years?

Did the “real” journalist do a bad thing? I am not sure. Recycling links and suggesting via a misleading title and a skewed url that there is an agenda at work lights up my suspicion radar. Can “real” Silicon Valley reporting take down McKinsey? I doubt it. But, who knows, maybe some day.

To sum up, it is a very, very short step from McKinsey to another high paying job. And it is almost stupid easy for a “real” Silicon Valley journalist to proclaim oneself an expert, hang out a shingle, and collect money solving problems.

What’s different is that we have one nickel and it has two sides. Both are on display in this write up about Big Pharma, bros, agendas, and incentives.

Stephen E Arnold, November 29, 2021

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