Sunday, March 27, 2011

The McKinsey Way: Book Review

McKinsey is a very big brand in both the consulting and non-consulting world. If someone has heard of just one management consulting company, it would be McKinsey & Company. In fact I have heard people leaving a better paying job for McKinsey. Such is a brand of McKinsey. And when I came across The McKinsey Way by Ethan M. Rasiel, I couldn't help but read it. The McKinsey Way appeared to be a self-help book. I don't generally read self-help books (especially after reading The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma). But the buzz around this book like anything else related to McKinsey drove me towards reading it.

The book is divided into five parts. The first part talks about how to think about business problems. It mentions a few frameworks to represent the problem. These frameworks helps in looking at different aspects of the problem and attribute importance to each factor. The second part of the book talks about what actually goes into solving a problem - gathering a team, brainstorming, conducting interviews, researching and managing hierarchy - and how to do them effectively. The third part of the book deals with selling the solution while the fourth and the fifth part touches upon 'how to survive at McKinsey' and 'life after McKinsey'.

If there is one centralized theme of the book and one take-away from the book, both explicit and implicit, it's STRUCTURE. Right from the anecdotes mentioned in the book to the way in which the book is written - everything is structured. Rasiel describes the importance of structuring anything and everything - thoughts, email, presentation. Another theme that I found through out the book is 'putting yourself in other person's shoe'. He talks about elevator pitches where a consultant has very short time to sell his idea. If he has structured his solution and thinks form the client's perspective - chances are high that he would be able to sell his idea.

Leafing through the less-than-200 pages, one also forms an idea about the life of a McKinsey-ite. Rasiel reinforces that generally held notion that consultants put in real long hours. He also mentions about the crazy travel one has to undertake and its impact on the family life. Another thing that can be inferred from the book is that the consulting world has really high attrition so much so that it has become 'normal'. To quote from the book - "As one former McKinsey-ite told me (Rasiel), leaving McKinsey is never a question of whether - it's a question of when. We used to say that the half-life of a class of new associates is about two years - by the end of that time, half will have left the Firm." Attrition in the consulting world is one thing i want to write on, but in due time.

The book is an easy read. Rasiel has used McKinsey jargon profusely throughout the book. However he has explained them before using them. For people who have not used 'frameworks' in their work, it's a good introduction to the usefulness of frameworks. The book is designed such that one can start from any chapter and still make sense out of it. One needn't go cover-to-cover. However, I would recommend reading it from cover-to-cover.

Overall, the book makes a good read for a three hour flight or drive. It reinforces a lot of commonsensical yet very important things - especially structuring ones thoughts and communication. For people mulling a career in consulting - this book could be your yet another source of information about the consulting world.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Aruna Shanbaug: It's my life

I am now qualified as a senior citizen. I would have got tax exemption on 2.5 lakh of my salary and concession in the railways as well. But then, things don't always work as planned. Like a lot of senior citizens, I don't earn anything to get any tax exemption. And I don't go anywhere. Nowhere. I have seen people living in the slums of Dharavi where each person gets about 20 sq ft of space to live. I live in almost equal space - the only difference is that I don't move. In fact, I can't move and haven't moved by myself for last 37 years. Some people call me soul. Some call me life. Some call me sub-conscious. A few techies these days even call me the software. I am the 'real person' within the body of the most popular living nurse in India, Aruna Shanbaug. I am the 'red' of the Aruna. I am the 'shaan' of the Shanbaug. I am the the real Aruna Shanbaug.

I was always amazed at the hegemony of the mankind. Man decides which animals to rear and which to kill. Man decides which plants to grow. Man not only decides the fate of plants and animals but also of other people. Today, it was my turn. My fate was to be decided. Whether I would live or die was to be decided by a few people. I didn't commit any crime. On the contrary, I am a victim. But still. They would decide whether I would live or die.

Through all these last 37 years, Pinki has been my best friend. She really cares for me. But one thing that hurts me the most is the pain Pinki is going through. Pinki is in pain because she can't see me suffering through the agony. She can't see me bearing the pain for 37 years. And she fights for a very noble cause - of giving me freedom from my sufferings. These days, while the children send their parents to old-age homes, Pinki has been by my side. I'll be indebted to her throughout my 'life' and beyond - if there's anything after life.

But I am brave. I am full of life. I believe in miracles, science and the divine power. I believe that I will see the light of the day. I'll eat the best of fish and listen to Aamir Khan's 'O palan hare' composed by A R Rahman and written by Javed Akhtar. I believe that the medical science will make enough progress that I would be treated. If not tomorrow, next year. If not next year - after ten years. I want to live.

We consider committing suicide a crime. A person cannot even attempt to take his own life even though he is suffering from insurmountable mental stress. But when it comes to my case - no one even bothered to know what I want - whether I want to live or die. But I can't blame them. How would they know what I want? I have no way to communicate to them that I want to live, that i want to go through this pain and hope that someday I can move by myself. After all, it's the hope that keeps everyone alive and motivates people to persevere. Didn't the "mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams" boy who was expelled form school grow up to become Albert Einstein? It is hope. Hope - that made they kept going. I believe that medical science would make enough progress in the next few years that I'll recover. And despite what the doctors say - I have hope and faith that I shall be back. And my wish is that I want to live - live till I can possibly live.

Today a few supreme people on the bench decided my future. I shall live. I don't know if I need to thank them to give me something that is as much mine as anything can get - my life.  But, nevertheless, I'll thank them for not taking away what they could have. It's my life and let me and only me decide what's enough for me and how much I can bear. If I am not able to communicate it to you, please leave me to myself.

Please don't show mercy on me.

Monday, March 14, 2011

From pictures of pets and ousting Mubarak to ...?

In 2005, very few people knew social media. They then slowly started using it to share their lives with their friends. And by 2011, they have an integral role in ousting Ben Ali and Mubarak. The thought of where the social media would be in 2015 is overwhelming. I asked a few friends of mine for their views on the state of social media 5 years down the line and here's what they have to say:

"What do you think is the future of social media? Where do you see it 5 years down the line?"

Maliha Mariyam: Social media is a communication platform. As the world economy is changing the way ppl use it will change. It will revolutionize a few more industries - like it has already revolutionized - books, retail, travel. Banking is on the way. It's going to be interesting 5 years.

Olivia Mukhopadhyay: The social media is getting better everyday so 5 years down the line it is going to still remain a great mode of communication and it will play a bigger role in advertisement and brand building. We can see emergence of corporate networks for people to direct their questions and grievances and social media will form a bigger role in opinion formation. It will eventually affect politics and maybe open up better policy discussions the same thing normal media should do but cant because they have got to run a business social forum is more open less personal and hence provides a good platform for people to speak up.

Harshika Nahar: It's future still seems to be gloomy. Today the youth have the intelligence to judge,and react, comment but that's it. Given the impact social media may have, most governments would ban it - as is seen in China. Just commenting on a national issue would not matter unless there's someone who would really take action on it. it's just written, "liked", commented and forgotten.

Mithun Karmakar: FBI is going to use it to screw you. Keeping an eye on what you post or share. They might use that information to form your profile; A matter of privacy, I mean. Social media is making the world know about you more - a bit too much. Remember the blackberry case in US? Common people don't always care about what others might use this information for.

It might start voicing people's opinion in a structured manner. Like govt polls on important issues, election polls, etc.

We can already see blogs, mails etc are already integrated into one Google account. This integration is going to be even widespread in simpler words one networks for all your internet needs.

Facebook started with hot chicks pics but now has taken the shape of what we see it now.. if it had stuck to that i don't think it would have crossed the great oceans. While Twitter has become more of a shouting tool than social network.

Pallav Jhawar: Social media is replacing traditional advertising, replacing traditional ways of reading and sharing news, replacing traditional ways in which NGOs raise funds, putting something like RTI on the web. i can go on and on. Five years down the line, it would be possible to take a video of yourself saying something like had a great lunch pointing to your lunch and upload it as a status on Facebook.

I ask the same question to my readers - what do you think is the future of social network is? Where do you see it heading five years down the line? For a change, I'll reserve my comments for a later post

Disclaimer: The comments mentioned above are the sole responsibility of their writers. The accuracy, completeness, veracity, honesty, exactitude, factuality and politeness of comments are not guaranteed.

PS: The interviewees were not given any time to prepare for the interview. In fact they didn't have any clue that I would conduct an interview. The question was asked to them at 1:30 am and they are required to give answers off the top of their head. The answers published are uncensored and picked from chat window - so please pardon the grammatical errors!

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