Business Book Review: Lords of Strategy

We’re starting a series of guest posts offered by staff, readers and interns that are reviews of books we think are helpful for those interested in consulting (specifically) and business (in general).

This week’s post is on Lords of Strategy – written by Walter Kiechel III, a journalist for 30 years, serving as an editor of Fortune and editorial director of Harvard Business Publishing. He also authored Office Hours: A Guide to the Managerial Life.

Our guest writer is Michelle, an MC intern who is focused on curating the Consulting Bootcamp program.

If you want to submit a review on a book you’ve been reading, follow the same format, target ~800 words and send it over by email!



Why read it?

If you are pondering how management consulting got this far, Lords of Strategy is for you. This book takes you behind the scenes of what we know as consulting today and reveals the good, bad and the groundbreaking. This book covers the consulting industry from the 1930s through 2009. This book can be viewed as a warning, an encouragement, or both to a prospective consultant. New ideas aren’t initially welcomed in any space, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be any. 

Quick overview

You will be introduced to the founders of the consulting industry (Bruce Doolin Henderson, Bill Bain, James McKinsey, Marvin Bower, Michael Porter, Tom Peters, etc.) and key consulting companies (BCG, Bain & Co, McKinsey, A.T. Kearney, and Oliver Wyman – just to name a few) The book also offers an in-depth view of the frameworks and ideology that continued to be built upon and restructured throughout the years.

As the industry continues to change and broaden, it’s important for present day consultants, or those in pursuit of a job in the industry, to have a good understanding of the industry’s history, different perspectives on consulting, how they managed global economic and technological changes, and how they remain cutting edge in strategies. This understanding will help to perpetuate the momentum of the next generation of great advisers by building on the understanding and experience of the past. You can only generate something groundbreaking if you know and understand what was been done and been successful before you.

3 interesting book insights

It was interesting to know that private equity firms are among the largest clients of the strategy consulting giants. Many top strategy consultants end up as a partner in a large private equity firm.

As another fun fact, 3K MBA degrees were granted in the U.S.A. in 1948. By 2006, 146K MBA degrees were granted. This reflects a growth of 1,430% over roughly 60 years. As with the increased numbers, so came the increased understanding at how valuable these business graduates can be to corporate society. It used to be that only Ph.D.s were considered the intellectuals of business and MBAs weren’t sought after as much – whereas MBAs form the core of every major consulting firm’s recruiting efforts today.

Finally, some of the interesting business structure, culture and profitability challenges birthed out of the introduction of the Internet include  intellectual property ownership issues, introduction/acceptance of new marketing strategies, customer definition, and how to make a profit. Advancements in technology most definitely affect every aspect of business in any industry. As a business owner who previously worked in the tech industry and lived in a tech-loving city, I know first-hand the aggressive nature of new technology advancements, consumer demands and the absolute necessity to understand, acquire and implement quickly into your business model. I believe this is one of the top on-going discussions/challenges for much older and larger product-based businesses as they try to navigate new ways of advertising and staying connected with their customer base.

Overall summary/conclusion of Lords of Strategy

This definitely would be a read for when you are fully awake and ready for your brain to be engaged! It would also be important for you to already have a value for the consulting world. While it is intriguing to find out how some of the top consulting firms of today were birthed, you can easily get lost in the variety of consulting ideology if you are simply someone who is just curious. This book goes into great depth on the people, businesses and business schools who tackled and built upon business strategy frameworks, and how to apply the answers in effective and efficient ways.

One major idea confronted is that business is common sense. There is nothing common nor basic about business. Common sense is simply basic life skills everyone has that are consistently true. The need for advice is unnecessary. In the case of business, it is ever-changing with culture, climate, politics, technology, trends, etc. It is not for everyone to lead a business and be able to sustain it. It is complex consistently and in need of advisement.

Will that adviser be you?

Interesting in reading The Lords of Strategy? Pick up your copy here!

More interesting reads from MC

BCG’s Legacy of Creativity

9 Factors to Consider When Comparing McKinsey – Bain – BCG

Filed Under: Business Books