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Four of the best management consulting books

If you’re keen to learn about the world of management consulting and you’re looking for your next thrilling novel, then sadly there is no consulting equivalent to Liar Poker for trading or Barbarians at the Gate for investment banking. However, if you’re curious about how consultants at top firms like McKinsey, BCG and Bain operate, these management consulting books will help you develop your understanding of the industry.

The Pyramid Principle: Logic in Writing and Thinking, Barbara Minto

First published in 1987, this management consulting book is an international bestseller. The Pyramid Principle teaches readers how to communicate like a consultant: clearly and succinctly, using ‘top-down language’. Put simply, this means starting with an outcome or high-level takeaway and then explaining it in two to four points.

In the book, former McKinsey consultant Barbara Minto reveals that our mind sorts information into distinctive pyramidal groupings. This naturally makes communicating in a ‘top-down’ way easier for our brains to understand, and allows us to save time and effort when communicating. Minto calls this ‘the Pyramid Principle’ but over the years it has also been coined ‘the Minto Principle’ or ‘the Minto Pyramid Principle’.

Minto argues that applying the Pyramid Principle in our communication allows us to present our ideas so clearly that they land with minimum effort and maximum effect.

As well as authoring The Pyramid Principle, Minto is responsible for creating the ‘MECE’ framework for case structuring, a technique that candidates are required to use today in order to ace their case interviews at top consulting firms.

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When McKinsey Comes to Town: The Hidden Influence of the World’s Most Powerful Consulting Firm, Walt Bogdanich and Michael Forsythe

Described by its publisher as ‘a landmark work of investigative reporting’, When McKinsey Comes to Town seeks to lift the lid on some of the scandals that have dogged McKinsey’s reputation over the years.

The book covers a wide range of controversies in which McKinsey has been implicated or involved, including its role in the opioid crisis in the United States and its work with authoritarian governments.

The authors also seek to draw an indirect relationship between McKinsey and the negative impact that some of its clients have had in the business world and beyond. As a result, they sometimes present McKinsey as being ‘guilty by association’.

For readers who want to learn about the very worst aspects of the industry, this management consulting book certainly makes for an interesting read. As the biggest and most prestigious consulting firm in the world, McKinsey is subject to far more scrutiny than other firms. It’s important to note that some of the criticism leveled at it in this book could equally be made about other firms, and that McKinsey undertakes a far broader range of work than the authors suggest. The firm has defended itself against some of the claims made about it in the book.

The Firm: The Inside Story of McKinsey, The World’s Most Controversial Management Consultancy, Duff McDonald

The Firm is another management consulting book that seeks to expose some of the lesser-known – and occasionally controversial – aspects of life at McKinsey (or ‘the Firm’ as it is known internally). Based on interviews with both clients and employees, the book explores why McKinsey attracts the world’s largest companies as clients. It also examines the mystique surrounding the firm’s methods, the envy it inspires and the anger it sometimes incites.

The author, Duff McDonald, is a New York-based journalist and a contributing editor at The New York Observer. His other books include Last Man Standing: The Ascent of Jamie Dimon at JPMorgan Chase and The Golden Passport: Harvard Business School, the Limits of Capitalism, and the Moral Failure of the MBA Elite.

On publication, The Firm received highly favorable reviews from titles such as The Economist, The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Perspective on McKinsey, Marvin Bower

Perspective on McKinsey is an internal publication written by the firm’s seminal Managing Partner, Marvin Bower. According to Harvard Business School, Bower – who led McKinsey between 1950 and 1967 – “is considered the father of modern management consulting”.

The book, which is given to all new joiners at McKinsey, details the methods and principles used by consultants at the firm. It also includes the history of McKinsey, the underlying principles of its structure, key processes, and the firm’s approach to people management.

Due to the limited distribution of the book, it’s not typically available to buy online unless a former McKinsey consultant is selling their gifted copy. If you’re lucky enough to read it, you’ll gain a fascinating inside look at the practices taught by McKinsey across a wide range of consulting disciplines, including client engagement, problem-solving, and hiring and managing consultants.

If you’re curious about the world of consulting, you can learn more in our complete guide to the management consulting industry. And if you’re preparing to apply to a top consulting firm, the resume and cover letter templates and specialized advice in our Free Resume Course will help you get your application into great shape.

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