Change how you learn, change how you work

McKinsey is widely known for the quality of its training and professional development—it’s part of what motivates accomplished individuals to join our firm. But what if McKinsey-style training could be shared more widely? What if we could offer clients the same courses that help our consultants develop their skills? Welcome to McKinsey Academy.

Over the years, clients had frequently requested access to McKinsey training, says André Dua, the McKinsey director who helped create McKinsey Academy. The rise of online learning made it feasible to respond in a systematic way. André assembled a multidisciplinary team—including designers, technologists, and adult-learning specialists—to create our very own digital education platform.

McKinsey Academy courses blend video, gaming techniques, and social-media-style collaboration with real-life project assignments. Titles such as “Mastering challenging conversations,” and “Team management, mentoring, and coaching,” indicate that the curriculum is more than academic. “At the end of a program, people should do their jobs differently,” says André. “This is a ‘change how you work’ platform.”

To test the market, the team started by offering a digital-marketing course, without using McKinsey’s name in their promotional materials. The response was strong: 1,200 participants signed up. Following further research, two main programs were developed: the McKinsey Management Program, targeted at rising executives, and the McKinsey Leadership Program, aimed at senior-level executives. McKinsey Academy officially launched with its first group of clients in the fourth quarter of last year.

“Participants work in small cohorts on assignments and discussions,” says Jennifer Gormley, director of product design. “They offer feedback on and grade each other’s work while getting guidance from McKinsey teaching assistants—motivated colleagues from relevant practices who volunteer their time. It’s like real life, working in teams.” In one exercise, the supply chain of a fictional fast-growing supermarket is contaminated. The team has a week to identify the source of contamination, problem solve, and come up with a plan.

Course participants may come from a single company, or they may come from multiple organizations. Many fast-growing companies have a pressing need to develop their next generation of leaders but don’t have the time or resources to invest in traditional executive education, observes André. This is especially true in developing economies where qualified managers are harder to find.

What does 2015 hold? “We are seeing very encouraging early results,” says André. “In 2015 we plan to scale the McKinsey Academy platform dramatically and explore new digital learning techniques.”

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