Free interview prep material in your inbox


    Please enter valid email.

    You're subscribed!

    What Makes McKinsey Different: The Culture at McKinsey as Told by an Ex-Consultant

    One of the most powerful and unique things about McKinsey is its culture. In this article, a former McKinsey consultant shares her key insights into what it’s like to work with McKinsey colleagues.

    Key Takeaways:

    • Colleagues are collaborative and willing to help.
    • McKinsey is true to its one firm policy – there are often opportunities to work with colleagues and on projects from other locations. Expertise and knowledge are shared between offices.
    • Mckinsey has a strong feedback culture and encourages regular feedback between team members.
    • There is a high bar for excellence as seen its method of performance evaluation.
    • Mckinsey is highly committed to its values which guides the way colleagues work.

    McKinsey colleagues are incredibly collaborative and go out of their way to help each other

    Despite the competitive nature of the application process to get into McKinsey, the culture inside the Firm is the opposite. You genuinely feel that colleagues are there to support each other and collaborate rather than compete. This is supported by the fact that promotions are not limited in number, so if you meet the bar, you’re promoted, whether there are already enough people at the next level or not.

    An example of collaboration you may find inside McKinsey is a large number of replies and calls that can come from sending an email to your office/practice list/cohort about a client-related challenge or question you have. People are always willing to help and often take pride in being the most helpful person!

    There’s a real sense of people caring about each other. For example, decisions—such as which project you are staffed on—are often driven by what’s best for the individual and their development.

    McKinsey has a very international one-firm community

    The McKinsey culture is incredibly diverse and even though you may be part of one specific office, you have numerous opportunities to experience working alongside people from multiple countries. You can easily be working with a team of colleagues each with different nationalities.

    In addition, training events are attended by people across the world, which means you often walk away with new colleague-friends in multiple countries. You will often have opportunities to work on international projects in the short-term, and there is the option to relocate as a long-term transfer to a new office. Knowledge and expertise is shared openly across borders, so you may find yourself calling an industry expert on a different continent to get a fresh perspective on your client’s industry.

    If you love being among a melting pot of diverse nationalities then McKinsey is a fun place to learn from different people. Despite this diversity, it always astounded me how McKinsey colleagues from different countries still think, talk and communicate in similar ways. The McKinsey training and culture appears to transcend national borders and glue together a diverse range of people at the Firm.

    McKinsey colleagues are always giving each other feedback

    You may have heard about the feedback culture at McKinsey and it’s no joke.

    The feedback model is one of the first things you learn at the Firm and feedback is used as a tool to help colleagues constantly improve their work and raise their bar. But it’s not all downward feedback from manager to consultant. Upward feedback, even from a junior Consultant to a Partner is expected and encouraged.

    The minimum amount of feedback you can expect is a 20-minute chat with your manager every two weeks, but it’s also common to provide feedback to each other on an ongoing basis: after client meetings, on decks, and on your data modelling. The goal of the feedback is to help you learn and improve in the shortest time possible.

    Looking to secure interviews at top firms?
    CaseCoach’s Free Resume Course includes all the insider tips, templates, and examples to put together a successful application.

    Excellence is in the McKinsey DNA

    Given McKinsey’s enduring elite status in the consulting world, it’s no surprise that there are very high expectations put upon consultants.

    The client always comes first at McKinsey and often teams will bend over backwards to get the results the client needs.

    You are given a clear, comprehensive performance rating, based on feedback from all of the people you have worked with over the last six months. If your performance doesn’t meet the high bar you are encouraged to find an alternative route in your career.

    That being said, the McKinsey culture is an incredibly unique combination of diversity, collaboration and excellence that has a lasting impact on its consultants.

    McKinsey is committed to its Values

    McKinsey is a values driven organization and it is very committed to its values. A day is set out each year called “Values Day” to bring colleagues from the same office together to reflect on the value selected for the year.

    McKinsey’s core values are: Adhere to the highest professional standards, Improve our clients’ performance significantly, Create an unrivaled environment for exceptional people. These are further broken down into principles that are upheld in internal and client work and interactions across the firm.

    Examples of some closely adhered to values include:

    Uphold the obligation to engage and dissent: this value means that all team members down the analysts have a right to be heard on the team. If any team members believes the work is not being done in the best interest of the client or that firms values aren’t being upheld, they have a to duty to object.

    Preserve client’s confidences: McKinsey is committed to ensuring it keeps client information confidential, this means not sharing client data with anyone not on the client team as well as not discussing the details of the clients project with people outside the team.

    McKinsey has been embroiled in numerous ethics related scandals in recent years. While structural changes from the firm’s leadership e.g. creating a more rigorous client selection processes may help with it’s image, a focus on values is more important now than ever before.

    Explore other resources
    Search resources