Mckinsey & Co. Managing Knowledge and Learning

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Michelle Abbott Professor Jon Down December 10, 2002 Written Case Analysis

McKinsey & Company: Managing Knowledge and Learning Evaluating Gupta’s Four Pronged Plan

Rajat Gupta has recently inherited a fast-growing consulting firm with a strong knowledge base and a competitive market position. In order to ensure the future success of McKinsey & Company, however, Gupta faces a number of challenges: he must provide outstanding services to an increasingly sophisticated clientele, offer his employees ongoing education and upwardly mobile career paths, continually enhance McKinsey’s reputation as a leader in the consulting field, and, perhaps most significantly, continue to leverage his company’s knowledge base across divisions while still maintaining the unity and cohesive corporate culture that have always been important to McKinsey. Gupta seems determined to pursue knowledge as the company’s key business driver. Accordingly, his four-pronged plan includes an emphasis on practice development and organizational learning, an annual program called the Practice Olympics, six special initiatives focused on emerging issues, and the expansion of McKinsey’s research institute. But can Gupta successfully tend to all of these initiatives at once without fragmenting the company? And are there critical business areas that he overlooks with this approach?

Source: The St. Martin's Handbook, 5th edition, by Andrea A. Lunsford (Bedford/St. Martin's, 2003)

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Information Sharing & Corporate Unity vs. Cost-Effectiveness Despite its rapid growth, McKinsey & Company is attempting to maintain its “One Firm” policy in which responsibilities and profits are shared throughout the company rather than solely within offices. Though the company is divided into clientele sectors, centers of competence, and generalists and specialists, the philosophy of unity ensures that knowledge resources are continually distributed across these sectors. Considerable effort has been invested in an information infrastucture intended to optimize this sharing of resources. Gupta’s four-pronged plan is designed to further emphasize knowledge sharing in a variety of forums. Gupta should not pursue knowledge sharing without a thorough evaluation of its costs and benefits, however, as well as careful discussion about how knowledge sharing can be implemented most efficiently. While information sharing in an industry such as consulting is of utmost importance, it is an expensive practice. Each time information is documented and shared throughout the company – through whatever medium – costs are incurred, both in labor hours and material resources. There must be a comparable, tangible benefit to sharing information: namely, the knowledge must be usable to the recipient. If the knowledge is not useable to the recipient, sharing it is probably not costeffective. Additionally, Gupta might also reexamine McKinsey’s commitment to unity in terms of cost-effectiveness. Is it efficient, in other words, to insist on continually sharing knowledge and information resources throughout the firm, or would it be wiser to simply allow some of the fragmentation that is occurring naturally as the company grows and diversifies? As the centers of competence and clientele sectors develop, perhaps some Source: The St. Martin's Handbook, 5th edition, by Andrea A. Lunsford (Bedford/St. Martin's, 2003)

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would be more efficiently run as autonomous sub-units or even spin-off companies. With good strategy, these sub-units and spin-off companies might even still be able to optimize the parent company’s resources, including McKinsey’s impressive reputation and clientele base. Customer and Other Stakeholder Focus Gupta’s four-pronged plan may also be overlooking customer and market focus. Though benefit to the customer is implicit in his plan for the advancement and sharing of McKinsey’s information resources (i.e., better knowledge ultimately benefits the client), the customer is not...
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