Saturday, August 20, 2011

Marvin Bower

Actually, I didn't know much about Marvin Bower, a legendary figure of McKinsey. Having read the book "McKinsey's Marvin Bower", I now think that all those who work for professional firms can learn a lot from him.

Marvin joined McKinsey in 1933, and in 1947 he and three partners bought exclusive and full rights to the name McKinsey & Co. from McKinsey & Kearney. (After selling the rights, McKinsey & Kearney became A. T. Kearney) The purpose of this buyout was to focus on management consulting business, which he believes is incompatible with accounting service business which was conducted by McKinsey & Kearney. Marvin thought that there is a potential conflict of interests if one firm conducts both of those businesses. While other management consulting firms went public, McKinsey didn't, because if McKinsey becomes a listed company, the firm should work for the shareholders interests, not those of clients.

Until stepping down as managing director of the firm in 1967 and formally retiring in 1992, he brought about significant influence on the business society. Client members of Marvin's teams were 20 times more likely to rise to a senior management level (president or CEO) than were their peers. During Marvin's 17 years as manning director of McKinsey, more than 50 of the consultants evolved into CEOs of leading global companies. Even in Japan, there are many McK alumni who assume the role of senior executive of big companies.

Those accomplishments are done by Marvin's professionalism and leadership.

His professionalism was intensive. The following remark well shows his professionalism:

"We are what we speak - it defines us - it is our image. We don't have customers, we have clients. We don't serve within an industry, we are a profession We are not a company, we are not a business. We are a firm. We don't have employees, we have firm members and colleagues who have individual dignity. We don't have business plans, we have aspirations. We don't have rules, we have values. We are management consultants only. We are not managers, promoters, or constructors." (P30)

Through his action, he emphasized and taught his peers what professionalism is.

He didn't like people saying "Well, I did this job for General Motors.", because he thought it diminished the quality of the professional relationship.

He sticked to dress code, saying

"If your job is to help a client have the courage to follow the trail indicated by facts, you need to do everything you can to minimize the distractions and deviations the client is likely to take. If you have revolutionary ideas, they are much more likely to be listened to if you do not have revolutionary dress - the CEOs must have confidence in us. … Basically, the dress code all has to do with what you want to do." (P71)

Marvin was also concerned with the appearance of written communications. McKinsey had formal reports, informal reports, memorandum reports, letters of proposal, memoranda of proposal, and so on, all of which had a full and logically sufficient set of rules. Everyone in the firm used the exactly same typeface.

Marvin Bower was not only the professional management consultant, but also the leader of the firm. Though his leadership, he made the world's best consultancy and let his clients make courageous decisions.

According to Marvin, there are six value-based leadership qualities:

1. Put the client's interest first and separate yourself from the job: Always take your job seriously, not yourself. Mavin never held back the truth from a client, as that would not have been client's best interest.

2. Be consistent yet open minded:eery one met the same Marvin Bower during his long life. Strict in principle and open-minded.

3. Center problem-solving on the facts and on the front line: Marvin always insisted on gathering essential facts.

4. View problems and Decisions in the context of the whole and in terms of the immediate actions to be taken: Marvin believed that isolated facts do not lead to solutions. Having imagination and context to see where the facts lead creates solutions and paths.

5. Inspire and require people to be the best: Marvin challenged his peers and require they to perform as best professionals. He didn't allow the associates to have lunch with friends in weekdays.

6. Communicate the values of the company over and over again to ensure that the firm will understand them, embrace them, and translate them into actions

The author, who worked together with Marvin, said his leadership is distilled six attributes:

1. Integrity/Trustworthiness

2. Fact-based visioning and a pragmatic "Monday Morning" path to turn vision into reality

3. Adherence to principles/values

4. Humility and unassuming respect for others

5. Strong Communications / personal persuasiveness

6. Personal involvement / demonstrated commitment

The final test of a leader is whether he can leave behind in other man the conviction and the will to carry on. Even in this sense, Marvin was the great leader. Founder tends to be stick to the position he established, but he stepped down as managing director of the firm, saying "If you are going to have a dynamic economy, don't let the elderly run the enterprises of the economy.". Even after he left, there were plenty of successors, and even now McKinsey is the factory of world's managers.

I truly appreciate his great life, inspiring me a lot and giving me the chance to think about my job as a professional.

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