A while back I started using McKinsey’s Top 10 articles as a way seeing what is on the minds of senior business people, their clients and their readers one assumes. The boys in blue publish a lot of work but they give a summary every quarter of which 10 articles were most popular. Last year this was dominated by stuff about the crisis – cutting costs, leadership in turbulent times, how to plan when all your numbers are going south – that sort of thing. So I was interested to see what the hot topics were for the first quarter 2010 and relieved to discover that some sort of normality has returned.
Among the 10 most read articles by McKinsey clients are ones about:-
• Building organizational capabilities
• Strategic decision-making
• Better innovation
• Change management
In other words all the normal themes that McKinsey punt because it’s what they do. There are then a range of articles on such things as:-
• Marketers’ use of behavioural sciences (I posted on this)
• Family businesses
• New use of Game theory in decision-making
Call me cynical but this is the normal McKinsey new business tool. They take the output of some recent projects and package it up as a “thought piece” to tout for some more projects (good idea if you already know the answers). Or they take the output of a new piece of research so that some partners can make a name for themselves. These new business articles have hit the top 10 so there must be some fees to be had.
Finally there are a couple of topical articles on the internet and water conservation. Never let it be said that world’s biggest and best management consultancy do not have their finger on the pulse – digital and green – two things every CEO wants to look as if they understand and care about but probably don’t. Hot, hip and happening – that’s McKinsey.
Despite the cynicism I do actually have the highest regard for McKinsey based on my dealings with them. Their people are very smart and they have the most disciplined and coherent company culture I have ever seen.
But back to the point. Judging by their top 10 Articles so far this year, things seem to be getting back on to an even keel. As we slowly emerge from the biggest slump in living memory CEO’s can get back to figuring out the best way to make strategic decisions, structure or change their business accordingly and develop new products. The enduring themes that have kept McKinsey in business for many years. Phew – that’s alright then!
PS I have often wondered why it is that with all the thousands of articles and books on strategy, decision-making, innovation and leadership most businesses are pretty poor at all of them. They succeed, most often, because they are good operationally not because they put any of this best practice into practice. In fact, as I have commented before, if all business books aim to give us competitive advantage and we can all read them how can there be any competative advantage? Again as I have said before, I suspect most business people read business books and articles for the same reason that we read romance or adventure novels.
It’s an escape from real life.