The Key to Success at McKinsey & Company: The 2024 Truth Is Out!

June 21, 2024

dinosaur30a_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dinobaby. Unlike some folks, no smart software improved my native ineptness.

When I was working at a “real” company, I wanted to labor in the vineyards of a big-time, blue-chip consulting firm. I achieved that goal and, after a suitable period of time in the penal colony, I escaped to a client. I made it out, unscathed, and entered a more interesting, less nutso working life. When the “truth” about big-time, blue-chip consulting firms appears in public sources, I scan the information. Most of it is baloney; for example, the yip yap about McKinsey and its advice pertaining to addictive synthetics. Hey, stuff happens when one is objective. “McKinsey Exec Tells Summer Interns That Learning to Ask AI the Right Questions Is the Key to Success” contains some information which I find quite surprising. First, I don’t know if the factoids in the write up are accurate or if they are the off-the-cuff baloney recruiters regularly present to potential 60-hour-a-week knowledge worker serfs or if the person has a streaming video connection to the McKinsey managing partner’s work-from-the-resort office.

Let’s assume the information is correct and consider some of its implications. An intern is a no-pay or low-pay job for students from the right institutions, the right background, or the right connections. The idea is that associates (one step above the no-pay serf) and partners (the set for life if you don’t die of heart failure crowd) can observe, mentor, and judge these field laborers. The write up states:

Standing out in a summer internship these days boils down to one thing — learning to talk to AI. At least, that’s the advice McKinsey’s chief client officer, Liz Hilton Segel, gave one eager intern at the firm. “My advice to her was to be an outstanding prompt engineer,” Hilton Segel told The Wall Street Journal.

But what about grades? What about my family’s connections to industry, elected officials, and a supreme court judge? What about my background scented with old money, sheepskin from prestigious universities, and a Nobel Prize awarded a relative 50 years ago? These questions, its seems, may no longer be relevant. AI is coming to the blue-chip consulting game, and the old-school markers of building big revenues may not longer matter.

AI matters. Despite McKinsey’s 11-month effort, the firm has produced Lilli. The smart systems, despite fits and starts, has delivered results; that is, a payoff, cash money, engagement opportunities. The write up says:

Lilli’s purpose is to aggregate the firm’s knowledge and capabilities so that employees can spend more time engaging with clients, Erik Roth, a senior partner at McKinsey who oversaw Lili’s development, said last year in a press release announcing the tool.

And the proof? I learned:

“We’ve [McKinsey humanoids] answered over 3 million prompts and add about 120,000 prompts per week,” he [Erik Roth] said. “We are saving on average up to 30% of a consultants’ time that they can reallocate to spend more time with their clients instead of spending more time analyzing things.”

Thus, the future of success is to learn to use Lilli. I am surprised that McKinsey does not sell internships, possibly using a Ticketmaster-type system.

Several observations:

  1. As Lilli gets better or is replaced by a more cost efficient system, interns and newly hired professionals will be replaced by smart software.
  2. McKinsey and other blue-chip outfits will embrace smart software because it can sell what the firm learns to its clients. AI becomes a Petri dish for finding marketable information.
  3. The hallucinative functions of smart software just create an opportunity for McKinsey and other blue-chip firms to sell their surviving professionals at a more inflated fee. Why fail and lose money? Just pay the consulting firm, sidestep the stupidity tax, and crush those competitors to whom the consulting firms sell the cookie cutter knowledge.

Net net: Blue-chip firms survived the threat from gig consultants and the Gerson Lehrman-type challenge. Now McKinsey is positioning itself to create a no-expectation environment for new hires, cut costs, and increase billing rates for the consultants at the top of the pyramid. Forget opioids. Go AI.

Stephen E Arnold, June 21, 2024


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