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  • When McKinsey Comes to Town

  • The Hidden Influence of the World's Most Powerful Consulting Firm
  • By: Walt Bogdanich, Michael Forsythe
  • Narrated by: Ari Fliakos
  • Length: 10 hrs and 6 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (158 ratings)

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When McKinsey Comes to Town cover art

When McKinsey Comes to Town

By: Walt Bogdanich, Michael Forsythe
Narrated by: Ari Fliakos
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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

An explosive exposé of the world's most prestigious and successful management consultancy.

McKinsey earns billions advising almost every major corporation as well as countless governments, including Britain's, the USA's and China's. It boasts of its ability to maximise efficiency while making the world a better place. Its millionaire partners and network of alumni go on to top jobs in the world's most powerful organisations. And yet, shielded by non-disclosure agreements, its work remains largely secret—until now.

In this propulsive investigation, two prize-winning journalists reveal the reality. McKinsey's work includes incentivising the prescription of opioids; ruthless cost-cutting in the NHS; executing Trump's immigration policies (the ones that put children in cages). Meanwhile its vast profits derive from a client roster that has included the coal, tobacco and vaping industries, as well as some of the world's most unsavoury despots. And for the last six decades, McKinsey has been the brains behind many of the most loathed and controversial business practices: mass lay-offs, outsourcing overseas, soaring executive pay, as well as the key innovations that led to the financial crash.

McKinsey proudly insists it is a values-led organisation. When McKinsey Comes to Town is a parable of values betrayed: a devastating portrait of a firm whose work has often made the world more unequal, more corrupt and more dangerous.

©2022 Walt Bogdanich and Michael Forsythe (P)2022 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

"Panoramic, meticulously reported and ultimately devastating." (Patrick Radden Keefe, author of Empire of Pain)

"Every page made my blood boil." (Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel laureate, author of The Price of Inequality)

What listeners say about When McKinsey Comes to Town

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    4 out of 5 stars

Great insight although there are some almighty reaches

Fascinating account and there are clearly some skeletons in the closet. But it does seem a bit of a reach to blame McKinsey wherever data is used by a company for instance (see Houston Astros chapter).

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Great reporting

Great content. Lots of interesting facts. Thematically written rather than chronologically but works overall. But hard to have a sense of how McKinsey may have changed over time.

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    5 out of 5 stars

Evidential investigative journalism at its best

Evidence-based investigative journalism into the McKinsey cabal, exposing the breadth and depth of this one company's influence and impact on a global and local scale. Horrifying, but, sadly, not surprising. A hard truth of how corrupt our current business, government, and political systems are, not necessarily individuals, but the fundamental structure of how these aspects of society are setup and operate. Required reading to remind of the importance of having a skeptical thread in one's inquisitive mindset.

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Hilariously predictable

Every time America or a western government are mentioned, McKinsey is “infiltrating” and “taking advantage” of the government. Every time the same scenario is happening with the “wrong” type of government, McKinsey is “enticed by money” and “taken advantage of”

The authors also seem to choose when McKensey is wholly incompetent, and when they’re so effective they must not be allowed to work for non-Americans.

Even after spending the entire book telling us of the evils of executives and millionaires, it demonstrates the only event that gave payback to these millionaires as being inhumane because it wasn’t done by the right government

I don’t know who this book is written for, but it’s certainly not for the international audience.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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You’ll never look at a consultant in the same way ever again

A great narrative that builds a layer by layer image of McKinsey that leaves you wondering why on earth does this industry exist and why do people tolerate them

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting and Factual but repetitive

A very interesting exploration into the questionable behaviour of McKinsey but every chapter retells the same 40 minute story 14 times, McKinsey came, cuts costs and didn’t think too hard about the ethical part. Well researched, although, written with an obvious distaste for McKinsey, so not particularly objective

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

The Banality of Evil, Corporate Style

I was initially put off by the reviews here, but I've found the criticisms levelled at the book aren't particularly fair. This is an extremely good book.

The two main criticisms seem to be that this book is a derivative rehash of other works offering nothing new, and that the authors are accusing McKinsey of causing every calamity you've ever heard of since 1926.

There are references to other studies of McKinsey, but this is an original contribution. The authors have uniquely gained access to the highly confidential client list and this unlocks everything. We learn the exact companies the firm provided services to, often the exact nature of those services, when the contracts started and the dollar value of them. This detail is critical to fully exposing the nefarious dealings; more than just casting aspersions at the firm, it offers *rock solid proof* of rampant hypocrisy and greed.

The central question is whether the behaviour of McKinsey congruent with the firm's supposed values? Spoiler alert: the answer is no. This is the "banality of evil, corporate style".

The authors aren't accusing McKinsey of *causing* every incident mentioned, that's too simple. This is about *association*, about ideas and their consequences. This is a more subtle exploration of a moral question: after a negative event like the Disney rollercoaster tragedy caused by cuts to the maintenance budget, who is at fault when it is time to apportion blame? The advisors or the clients? The authors argue that we shouldn't forget the shadowy role of the advisers behind the scenes. People have died.

So, no, they didn't cause the global financial crisis, but they did vigourously promote the problematic securities products for years and advised clients on how to package their assets into the new financial structures. No, they didn't cause the opioid epidemic, but they did advise Perdue Pharma how to "turbo-charge" their sales. No, they didn't assassinate Jamal Khashoggi, but they did perform sentiment analysis and report on individuals critical to the Saudi state. The list goes on and on and on and on. The company is everywhere, like Goldman Sachs but without the honesty.

This is a tale of total moral bankruptcy.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Very informative!

A well researched, informative and eye opening book - whatever you think McKinsey have been involved in, you most likely underestimated by a long way! A recommended listen to expand your knowledge and understanding

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Extremely interesting and easy to understand

I really enjoyed this book. It covers a range of interesting topics. As a non-industry reader (i.e., I don't work in the field of "business consulting or other related professional areas), I thought some of the topics would be "above my head" but in fact it was so clearly written that I understood at least 80% of the items discussed, and learnt a great deal about some "historical current affairs" that had bypassed my attention.

I'm not particularly a conspiracy theorist and I prefer to seek truths for myself instead of being led by the nose, by my peers. This book is exactly the sort of eye-opening reading matter that I enjoy - one that leads me to think for myself and draw my own conclusions. It was excellently narrated and without too much jargon.

Highly recommended.

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    5 out of 5 stars

A detailed account of the modern world

Feel sorta naive writing that I’m shocked by this. This book arranges the jigsaw pieces, so we can see the detail more clearly, on how the global chumocracy goes about its business. I’m not a raging MAGA, or a crazed conspiracy theorist, just an average Joe hearing some of the pieces put in place.

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