How McKinsey Partners Solve "Cases"

There's a joke within McKinsey on how to solve a case.

Here's the case:

A client is considering entering XYZ market segment because their core market is shrinking. What do you do?

Candidate / 1st Year Consultant:

"My hypothesis is they should enter the market. For that to be true, four key factors must be considered. These include..."


"That sounds like 1 engagement manager and 2 associates for 5 months." End of case.

Job applicants and new consultants think of solving cases in terms of frameworks. Partners think TOTALLY differently about solving cases. They think of solving cases in terms of staffing... in terms of PEOPLE.

The solution to the market entry dilemma the client faces is in fact: "1 engagement manager and 2 associates for 5 months."

At the upper echelons of any career field, work is done less through technical competence and more through relationships.

In your first year of your career, technical competence is vital to success. Very quickly thereafter, your network of relationships begins to matter more and more.

This is why the more technically competent often end up working for the less technically competent.

It isn't so much that technical competence isn't valued at the upper echelons. It's that relationships and relationship skills are valued morethan technical competence as you move up the corporate hierarchy.

It doesn't matter that you personally have technical competence; it matters more that you know people with technical competence.

Your relationships matter.

They are an asset.

If you are not regularly investing in deepening your existing relationships while establishing new ones, you will be at a significant disadvantage in your career.

Is this fair?

Probably not.

Is it true?


In my class How to Network Effectively for Career Opportunities and Advancement.  I explain how to build a network of relationships, without feeling sleazy or manipulative about it. Classical networking has a well-deserved negative connotation. That's because classical networking is one-sided. You win, I lose. Or I win, and you lose.

However, building relationships to form a network of people who help one another is another matter entirely. The premise is that we all succeed together in a MUTUALLY beneficial way. The relationship-building approach to creating a network of contacts works. It is this approach and philosophy that forms the basis of how I've built and my own network of contacts.

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