UPDATE: New allegations of unethical practices emerged in 2022, relating to conflict of interest arising amid McKinsey’s simultaneous business with pharmaceutical companies and regulatory agencies.
McKinsey & Co. is a premier management consultancy, serving many of the world’s greatest corporations, as well as government agencies and other enterprises.
In recent years, long simmering controversies about McKinsey’s ethical compass have begun to boil over into public view. As summarized in Fortune, critics have alleged “conflicts of interest in McKinsey’s bankruptcy practice; raise[d] questions about its role in advising politically repressive regimes; and prob[ed] its ties to South African business leaders who were subsequently accused of corruption.”
Who Is McKinsey Serving?
For an enterprise with a legendary history, this has been an unaccustomed and challenging moment. In the heat of the involuntary transparency imposed by 21st-century, the general public worldwide becomes aware of issues that previously could be ring-fenced from general awareness. As McKinsey would surely advise one of its large corporate clients, such sentiment is not a “soft” issue in any sense; it goes straight to the value proposition of the enterprise.
McKinsey’s global managing partner Kevin Sneader penned a public letter to the company’s employees, with an eye toward a much larger audience.
Notably, Sneader’s first and perhaps most important example of how the firm is responding is “determining who we serve and what we do.” This question is the foundation of subsequent commitments undertaken and recited.
This, in turn, will point to the second question among the Four Questions of Serve to Lead: How Can We Best Serve?
21st Century Leadership in Action
It took a crisis to prompt McKinsey to publicly and internally pose the question of its ultimate service. Its next steps will be instructive.
The rest of us need not wait. We should ask Who Are We Serving? Whether for our enterprises or solely for ourselves as individuals, this powerful question can be the first step toward exceptional performance and value creation.
UPDATE: Managing Partner Kevin Sneader was denied a second term. Sneader apparently remains a member of the partnership.
Who is McKinsey Serving?