Case Study Review on McKinsey & Company: Managing Knowledge and Learning. Harvard Business School. Article 9-396-357. Rev. January 4, 2000 -------------------------------------------------
Knowledge is fundamentally a cognitive phenomenon (Geisler, 2007.p. 467) which is embedded in the intellectual capital: the human and structural capital (Bercerra-Fernandez, Gonzales and Rajiv Sabherwal, 2002, p.3) of organizations. The acquisition or to be more precise to capture, preserve and to share knowledge has thus become the growing knowledge management trends of this century. Moreover, rapid advancement of technology has made knowledge easily accessible and transferable in an alarming fast rate. Thus, swift responses to address issues are demanded. Knowledge is treated as a broad and abstract notion as well as a significant organizational resource (Alavi, Cook & Cook, and Leidner, 2001, p.107). Thus, this has sparked the epistemological debate on knowledge management, more specifically the epistermetrics of measuring what we know- the nature of knowledge; how we know - the processes of transacting knowledge between individuals, and other individuals, and organisations; and why we know - the value chain and value proposition of knowledge (Geisler, 2007, p.469). In review, this article articulates the challenges and solutions of McKinsey & Company, a worldwide consultancy firm over a period of eight decades as they evolved from a specific expertise provider: “efficiency experts” or “business doctors”, advocating client service and profit sharing amongst members to a firm which anchors knowledge building and building individual and team capabilities as part of the firm’s revival and renewal process. They strongly believed that, “… knowledge development had to be a core, not a peripheral firm activity; that it needed to be ongoing and institutionalized, not temporary and project based; and that it had to be the responsibility of everyone, not just a few.” - (Gluck in McKinsey & Company, 2000.p.4). Moreover, Gluck also believed in changing the internal hierarchy based of planning and doing by both the internal consultants and the clients - client’s based to more of sharing in planning and doing which was reflected in “merging” the ideals of “snowball making” and “ snowball throwing” rather than looking upon these two as different hierarchical entities. In the span of 74 years in conception, Mc Kinsey and Company operating on the one Firm Policy which focus on the “the importance of top level management “ and a consultants recruited on a firm-wide basis base on geographical locations has realised the neglect in “development of our technical and professional skills”. Secondly, their ardent willingness to accept routine assignments from marginal clients has resulted in the following,
“… while its consultants were excellent generalist problem solvers, they often lacked the deep industry knowledge of the substantive specialised expertise that clients were demanding.” Thirdly, taking into account the model of ‘client relationship’ and ‘thought leadership” used by their rival firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Mc Kinsey and Company realised the need to change their practices which are skewed towards the traditional Weber and Taylor influence of product based outcomes rather than the current value based practices. These social capital values which drive on the bandwidth of knowledge transfer are trust, informal networks, culture, common context and vocabulary amongst their consultants and clients (Mark, 2009). Last but not least, the firm also realised the lack of a legitimised documentation system and a knowledge management infrastructure for its reservoir of knowledge. This has resulted in knowledge dilution, and inefficient knowledge preservation, transfer and sharing within their management systems. To counter these issues and realising the need to...
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