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Trends & Global Forces

We help clients understand, anticipate, and act decisively to align their businesses with the trends and forces shaping the global economy.
No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends

It's no secret that we live in an age of extraordinary change. But to stay ahead of the geopolitical, political, and macroeconomic forces constantly reshaping the business environment, companies need more than the ability to extract signals from the noise—they must move from analysis to action.

McKinsey supports clients with unique insights on trends, risks, and opportunities. Our global reach and depth across industries uniquely positions us to connect our unparalleled expertise and tools with external expert networks.

Crucially, we help clients take decisive action by linking these insights directly to the strategic agenda of senior management. We then help them embed the capacity to withstand and exploit geostrategic forces within their core business processes.

Here's how we do it:

Identifying trends and disruptions

From the destabilizing effects of the migration crisis to questions about China's continued growth, executives worldwide point to geostrategic factors as the top risk to global economic growth. Yet few executives believe their organizations fully understand and evaluate the impact of these changes on their businesses.

Executives' concerns

We help clients identify the trends and discontinuities that will affect their businesses in the immediate future and over the long term. We systematically identify the varying scope of trends operating in the spheres of corporate finance, policy and governance, demographics, technology, business economics, and the environment.

Scenario planning

Changes in the world economy are increasingly rapid, complex, and global in their implications. Our ability to deal with this volatility and develop strategic foresight is diminished by the innate limitations of the human brain. That's why McKinsey takes a disciplined approach to articulating possible futures for our clients, eliminating their biases and defining their strategic options in the face of uncertainty.

Scenario planning supports our clients' efforts to uncover new opportunities and threats, and it helps them look from the outside in at the external forces shaping the business environment. This involves bringing deep industry knowledge from more than 15 sectors in more than 90 regions to assist our clients in their management and strategic-planning processes.

5 steps of scenario planning

From analysis to action

Analysis is only part of the strategy story. To stay ahead of geostrategic forces, businesses must act. We help clients act on their convictions by selecting and prioritizing initiatives, aligning their teams, preparing action plans, and training for contingencies. We then support clients by embedding geostrategic foresight within the planning processes and regular decision-making structures of their businesses. In this way, organizations can continuously monitor the trends and trigger points that require a strategy refresh.

Recent client work

  • The board of a global real-estate player wanted to identify and prepare for potential "company killer" risks.

    Before the global financial crisis, the board wanted to develop strategic options to protect the company, but they did not have a path forward.

    McKinsey carried out a deep assessment of global markets, trends, and risk factors; developed global macro scenarios to capture risks; quantified the economic impact on the company; and established warning systems and mitigating strategies.

    Outcomes: the board and senior management developed a fact-based consensus on the most critical risks and priorities for the company. The company retained a cash-rich business, renegotiated bond covenants from a position of strength, and, through a scenario planning exercise, established a monitoring system to assess risks.

  • The United States’ National Intelligence Council was building global scenarios to assess geopolitical, political, and macroeconomic risks and guide security planning.

    McKinsey partnered with the council to develop and model a comprehensive suite of scenarios presented in Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds. We used our proprietary Global Growth Model to quantify and describe the growth trajectories of major world economies, identify implicit assumptions, test for economic inconsistencies, and facilitate workshops to stress test and refine each scenario.

    Outcomes: our work added rigorous macroeconomic modeling to the planning process, clarified assumptions, and provided consistency to the scenarios of this public report that has been downloaded millions of times.

Featured capabilities

  • Global Growth Model. A comprehensive economic database covering more than 100 countries, as well as an advanced macroeconomic tool that provides outlooks for different economic scenarios. Using historical data, McKinsey insights, and the latest econometrics, it enables clients to track trends, test the effect of change in specific markets, and look as far ahead as 2025.
  • CityScope. CityScope enables analysis of growth at a granular and global level to identify gaps and opportunities in a company's current geographic footprint. This capability draws upon McKinsey's unique database of demographic and economic insights of more than 2,500 metropolitan areas around the world. This capability can be used to develop granular views of market size and growth rates for a company, creating a comprehensive growth map by product, sector, country, and city. These insights, in turn, enable companies to determine the best markets for a business to enter and the markets that are no longer worthwhile.
  • Global Economics Intelligence Reports. Established in response to the global economic crisis in 2008, McKinsey has developed a proprietary capability to monitor current economic conditions globally and across key markets. Our Global Economics Intelligence reports track major indicators of growth, credit and capital markets, and geopolitical and sovereign risk. McKinsey also conducts quarterly surveys of executives from around the world, across every industry sector, to monitor their perspectives on the future risks and opportunities for the global economy and for their companies.
  • MacroMonitor. In an increasingly volatile world, companies need to stay on top of what affects them the most—while filtering out the economic noise. This tool enables companies to track the macroeconomic environment in a targeted manner, with the most appropriate drivers combined to create an accurate portrait of the business operating environment. These insights enable companies to understand the economic motion and risks that affect their business most.
  • Macroeconomics insights. Our macroeconomic research center staffs more than 15 economists from around the world. This team combines top-tier academic training, practical experience analyzing business challenges and opportunities, and an ability to communicate distinctive insights to different audiences.

See all capabilities

Featured experts

Andrew Erdmann

Partner, Washington, D.C.

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