About the Quarterly
Since 1964, global executives have counted on the Quarterly to shed fresh light on their biggest challenges. We continue to shape the senior-management agenda today—and we're just getting started.
The Quarterly combines powerful insights from McKinsey with ideas from other world-leading experts and practitioners to help readers stay at the cutting edge of management thought, become more effective leaders, and boost the performance of their organizations. Our content is relevant for senior executives regardless of industry, functional role, or geography. All of our articles, multimedia, and other content are available free of charge at this site, where you can explore our latest thinking, review recent issues, and survey enduring insights on topics ranging from innovation and growth to change management. The Quarterly also is available in a print edition for McKinsey clients, who receive early access to our content.
Fifty years of impact
Explore our impact on the senior-management agenda—past, present, and future. McKinsey Quarterly has contributed to the advance of management thought since 1964. Review Quarterly articles and ideas that have helped shape the senior-management agenda over the past five decades.
The first issue of McKinsey Quarterly was published in 1964. In the beginning, it was primarily a vehicle for reprints of management articles—some by McKinsey consultants, and some by external thought leaders—that the firm’s partners thought their clients would like to receive as a bundle. Soon, though, the Quarterly began publishing original management content.
In 1966, just two years after the Quarterly got started, then–managing director Marvin Bower wrote The Will to Manage. Management thinkers had been writing books for decades, dating back at least to Frederick Winslow Taylor’s The Principles of Scientific Management in 1911. But Bower’s book, like Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive, which appeared a year later, was unusual at the time for taking a rigorously top-management approach that spoke directly to CEOs and other senior corporate leaders. Two chapters of The Will to Manage—“Company philosophy: The way we do things around here” and “Helping people pull together”—subsequently appeared in the Quarterly, as did a third article, “Developing leaders in a business,” which was excerpted from one of Bower’s later books, The Will to Lead.
Drucker also contributed content to the Quarterly, such as his 1967 article, “The manager and the moron,” which described the early computer as “the dumbest tool we have ever had”—and therefore invaluable for forcing us “to think through what we are doing.”
The decade of the 1970s was a period of great ferment in the field of strategy. Former managing director Fred Gluck’s 1978 staff paper, “The evolution of strategic management,” written for McKinsey consultants and later published in abridged form in the Quarterly, sought to shed light on the true nature of strategy, on what constitutes high-quality strategic thinking, and on the then-popular but ill-defined term “strategic management.”
The 1970s also saw the emergence of several seminal frameworks, such as the 7-S model of organizational effectiveness, the business-system approach to describing a company’s core functions, and the nine-box matrix for reviewing a portfolio of businesses.
Management thinkers during the 1980s turned their attention toward Japan, whose leading companies had by that time revolutionized manufacturing through lean-assembly processes and were competing effectively against once-dominant Western players. In the 1982 book The Mind of the Strategist and in this excerpt, which appeared in the Quarterly, McKinsey’s Kenichi Ohmae suggested that Western managers might be taking the wrong approach by trying to compete head to head.
Leading thinkers at McKinsey also honed the application of microeconomics to management and strategy during the 1980s. For example, the cost-curve framework became a powerful tool for analyzing pricing, capacity, and strategy trade-offs in commodity industries.
Similarly, the SCP framework generated practical insights for senior executives about the relationship between industry structure, conduct, and performance. These insights had previously been studied by academic industrial economists, notably Harvard University’s Richard Caves.
In Quarterly articles such as “MACS: The market-activated corporate strategy framework,” McKinsey consultants also continued to refine the strategic concepts they had pioneered during the 1970s.
The first edition of Valuation: Measuring and Managing the Value of Companies appeared in 1990. Now in its sixth edition, it has become a core reference book in the offices of senior executives and business-school professors around the world. This excerpt on value-based management appeared in the Quarterly in 1994. We present it along with a more recent video and article about the valuation principles that are most important for executives across the C-suite.
Also in 1990, the firm founded the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) to generate fresh insights for business leaders by conducting serious research that integrated the disciplines of economies and management. One of MGI’s early, influential reports, excerpted in the Quarterly, focused on service sector productivity in the United States, Japan, and Germany.
Another area of significant intellectual development during the 1990s was pricing. In a series of Quarterly and Harvard Business Review articles, McKinsey’s Mike Marn and his colleagues laid out several core frameworks that continue to exert a strong influence on the discipline. A Quarterly article published in 2003, when the first edition of McKinsey’s pricing book, The Price Advantage, appeared, summarizes several of those core ideas.
As the decade progressed, the Internet began challenging established business models and shaking up management thinking. A hallmark of the era’s best Quarterly articles, such as “Unbundling the corporation” and “Valuing dot-coms after the fall,” was their discipline and rigor in exploring the implications of the new medium. In doing so, they followed in the tradition of foundational articles from earlier in the decade, such as “When and when not to vertically integrate,” and sidestepped the pitfalls of managing by fad instead of fact.
In 2001, as the business world was reeling from the collapse of the dot-com bubble, the McKinsey Global Institute published its landmark report on what had gone right in the 1990s—more specifically, what had caused US productivity growth to accelerate during those years. “What’s right with the US economy,” a Quarterly summary of that report, introduced C-suite executives to the “Wal-Mart effect”: the statistically demonstrable impact that Wal-Mart’s supply-chain efficiency had on aggregate US productivity performance.
In 2004, the Quarterly began a two-way conversation with its readers by surveying global executives on a wide range of management topics. Over the years, Quarterly surveys have provided valuable insights on the state of the global economy, yielded rich management perspectives on topics such as the organizational implications of Web 2.0 technologies, and supported the development of major pieces of content, such as “The case for behavioral strategy” and “Making time management the organization’s priority.”
The growing prominence of emerging markets on the top-management agenda made them a natural area of focus for the Quarterly. Underscoring the depth of that focus were two special issues—“China today,” in 2004, and “Fulfilling India’s promise,” in 2005. Quarterly articles such as “Getting sourcing right in China” and “What executives are asking about India” provided a road map for CEOs eyeing opportunities. Another 2005 article, “Innovation blowback: Disruptive management practices from Asia,” predicted vigorous competition between emerging-market players and established multinationals.
When the global financial crisis hit, in 2008, the Quarterly responded with a special issue, “The crisis: A new era in management.” McKinsey’s Lowell Bryan and Diana Farrell provided a blueprint for CEOs who were “Leading through uncertainty,” and Richard Rumelt (from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management) described what it would mean to create “Strategy in a ‘structural break.’”
As digitization continued reshaping industries and business approaches, the Quarterly focused on a wide range of critical management implications ranging from operations to strategy and organizational effectiveness.
The marketing function has been on the vanguard of digitization in many companies, as described in articles such as, “We’re all marketers now,” “The coming era of ‘on-demand’ marketing,” and “The dawn of marketing’s new golden age.”
Similarly, the growing importance of big data and advanced analytics prompted a series of articles, first asking, “Are you ready for the era of ‘big data’?” and then exploring how companies could build big data plans, create the management capacity to cope with data analytics challenges, and ensure impact from big data initiatives.
Digitization wasn’t the sole focus, of course. Major Quarterly articles also explored the complex challenges facing multinationals as they pursue the “$30 trillion decathlon” in emerging markets, the need posed by those markets’ growth for a Resource revolution to ensure sustainable global growth, and the critical importance of reallocating corporate resources so that companies can “put their money where their strategy is.”
This fast-changing environment placed a premium on effective leadership. The Quarterly sought to help time-pressed leaders with articles such as “Leading in the 21st century,” “Recovering from information overload,” and “Making time management the organization’s priority.”
In 2014, the Quarterly celebrated its 50th anniversary with a year-long publishing effort focused on the future of management. Given the degree and pace of change underway in the business environment, the Quarterly will have no shortage of issues to address as it seeks to help senior leaders set the agenda for their organizations and themselves over the next 50 years.