Goal for the week
I was working for a consumer electronics client in Asia that needed help with one of its core business units. Our study was split into two separate but related sets of work: revenue growth and cost-cutting. We spent a week working as a team to integrate the U.S.-based team’s revenue growth analyses with the Asia-based team’s cost-cutting analysis.
I think we all underestimated the amount of resistance the client would have to our recommendations. At the same time, it was great to see the leaders of the firm stick to their guns and really defend our work. I think the initial resistance made us more patient, and helped us better articulate our final recommendations.
Impact on the client study
We had extremely good discussions with the client during this week. The client organization had some poor incentives in place, and was attached to a certain way of doing things because they needed to be large at any cost. This was the action week: very fast-paced with a lot of discussions to challenge the client’s assumptions and incentives.
Drive to client site
Our team got up early and drove to the client’s office. We spent the taxi ride talking about analyses and problem solving.
Meet with client executive
My engagement manager, Josh, and I met with the manager in charge of one of the client’s product lines to syndicate our strategy with him. Part of that strategy involved discontinuing some of the unprofitable product lines and exiting some markets. We knew the conversation was going to be tense and it was no surprise that the client manager registered his disagreement. The session was both an attempt to listen and understand, but ultimately, its purpose was to communicate our recommendations.
Team working session
We spent time bringing together the findings from the revenue growth work and the cost-cutting work. Understanding which products the client should be selling is dependent upon how profitable they are, which is dependent upon what the client can do operationally. We had to reconcile the two strategies and put together an integrated perspective. We were syndicating our strategy with business unit heads, and at the same time evaluating the financial impact, how quickly the client could grow, and where that growth would come from.
Check numbers with client analysis
I met with an analyst in one the client’s business units to do some fact checking. It was important for us to reconcile the data that we had gotten externally with the numbers the client had about the market. The meeting went pretty well: there weren’t too many issues or differences at all. It was important that we verified our facts by talking with as many people from the client organization as possible.
Lunch with client and McKinsey team
The client had a huge cafeteria. It was a place with a long line where you picked up your tray and just marched through the different sections and had food put on your plate. It was very different from the typical U.S. lunch, but it was an important daily time for us. We wanted to build a good relationship with the client team members who would be managing the work on a daily basis so we could really understand their concerns and issues. During this particular Tuesday lunch, we discussed the Korean vs. U.S. educational systems.
Meet with client managers
My engagement manager, the associates on the team, and I met with client managers in charge of downstream sales and the marketing organization. Our team was communicating a big gap in performance. We were working with a message that seemed inconsistent to the client on the surface: They needed to reduce cost, but at the same time spend more on marketing. That message was tough for the organization, so we needed to clearly describe the facts of our case in order to gain the client’s support.
Work planning with team
This was a day before a big client meeting to present our recommendations. Our entire team spent the day in a team room, making sure the presentation was solid, and then getting it translated into the local language. We had to be very precise with our language and invest time in making the wording right so our message would be understood. We spent the first part of the day making sure our English words were coordinated across the different pieces of analyses before giving it to the translator.
Wrap up analyses
I cross-checked several pieces of the analyses and put together a set of back-up research for those analyses. I burned that on a CD for the client.
Help associate check facts
I was working with the revenue growth strategy of one of the client’s consumer products. At the beginning of this study, we all started out having pure product responsibilities. During that process we each got to understand a certain market–I was responsible for marketing channels and advertising in the U.S. I spent time helping one of the associates on my team work with one of the client’s consumer electronics products to check facts and ensure the wording in his recommendations was correct.
Drove to client site
We were all quite tired from having worked late the previous night, so we dozed during the long car ride to the client site.
Client review meeting
We got to the client meeting and found a packed room of client executives and managers. This was a very formal meeting. We started out with an introduction to thank everyone for attending. The person hosting the meeting asked the most senior person in the room to share a few words. It was an interesting experience because the meeting was conducted entirely in the local language. My role was to contribute when needed and to answer questions. We walked through our document, which we thought was pretty good work. We knew the bold recommendations would meet with quite a bit of resistance, and they did, but we had a very good outcome.
We discussed the client meeting and finalized the analyses that the client had more detailed questions about. We burned our final presentation on a CD to hand over to the client.
Barbeque with client
We had a huge dinner with about 25 client and McKinsey team members sitting around long tables, eating beef barbecue and having drinks. It was a very social dinner, with everyone talking about work and non-work things. After we finished eating, we went to a karaoke bar. The clients and the consultants from the Seoul office sang first, and while we Americans were more timid about it, we eventually got around to rapping. Our French associate principal and U.S. partner put the rest of us to shame with a pretty good version of an Eminem song.
The team leadership gave us a day off given the hard work we had put in throughout the week, particularly on Wednesday. I traveled to the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea and toured the mineshaft, museums, and train station.
Flight to the U.S.
We were a bit delayed taking off, so the pilot came out and talked to everybody in our cabin before we taxied out. I was wearing a Texas shirt, and the pilot asked if I as a big Texas fan. I told him I was and he said, “Well they’re playing Iowa State today and we’ll make sure we get you some scores.” Mid-flight he had the flight attendant print out some score reports for me.