Welcoming Aberkyn, a firm of change facilitators, to McKinsey

Expanding consciousness. Discovering blind spots. Above-the-line and below-the-line behavior. These are a few of the concepts we’ll be hearing more about as we welcome Aberkyn—a newly acquired firm of 120-plus experts in leadership development and cultural transformation—to McKinsey. They will work side by side with our consultants, helping clients with transformations, including culture change, digital reinventions, mergers and acquisitions, and turnarounds.

“Aberkyn will help with the human side of the equation—changing ways of working, mind-sets, and behaviors. This is critical to the success of any transformation. We have always known this and now can scale these capabilities,” says Michiel Kruyt, the Organization Practice partner who co-leads the integration. Aberkyn will retain its unique culture as it becomes part of our global Organization Practice and will work closely with the McKinsey Academy, which offers extensive programs on leadership and team development. Aberkyn will serve clients both independently and in collaboration with McKinsey.

We work in tandem with McKinsey consultants. They will frame the conversation on performance…while Aberkyn counselors draw out the insights on what it will take to change. It’s a very complementary approach…

Many of Aberkyn’s facilitators have had ‘hybrid’ careers combining business performance and organizational health. They include entrepreneurs, psychologists, lawyers, and brand executives, as well as McKinsey alumni. All have extensive training in facilitating and coaching transformations.

“Helping senior executives become ‘servant’ leaders. Inspiring employees for greater engagement. Leading difficult conversations. Shifting unproductive beliefs. These are the ways Aberkyn practitioners can help inspire change and improve performance,” Michiel explains. “Strategy and analytical thinking are essential—but you cannot analyze your way out of a dysfunctional team or ineffective culture.”

Aberkyn runs wilderness-based learning experiences.

Michiel had his own personal experience with transformation. Twenty years ago, as a senior executive, he faced a stress-induced illness. He credits meditation and group therapy with his recovery and with eventually inspiring a career change. “I thought I was pretty self-aware as a leader, but in group therapy I began to learn about my blind spots. With each insight, I felt tremendous relief, and the better I felt, the more effective and influential I became. I got my energy back, and I wanted to help other people find the blind spots that were hindering their performance,” he says.

He left corporate life, trained as a group facilitator, and in 2005 joined McKinsey in New York, working with the Organization Practice’s mind-set and behavior group, where he developed a consulting approach that blended the hard and soft sides of business. In 2008, he moved to McKinsey’s Amsterdam office. He and fellow partner Arne Gast worked together with many of the practitioners who in 2012 went on to found Aberkyn in partnership with McKinsey.

… you cannot analyze your way out of a dysfunctional team or ineffective culture

“What started as an experiment in Amsterdam has grown to a global community of change-leadership practitioners, trained in a common way, who can offer a seamless approach across the US, UK, Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. And we are expanding rapidly in India and China,” says Arne, who is now based in Kuala Lumpur. “For Michiel and me, Aberkyn joining the firm is like coming in a full circle.”

Erik Mandersloot, Aberkyn’s managing partner, is leading the integration with Michiel. “One of our strengths is that we meet clients on their ground and don’t come in with a fixed way of thinking,” Erik explains. “We focus on the inside-out transformation of the individual person—often the leaders—as part of the business transformation.

“We work in tandem with McKinsey consultants. They will frame the conversation on performance using a fact base, while Aberkyn counselors draw out the insights from participants on what it will take to change. It’s a very complementary approach—one that allows us to get to results more quickly,” he says.

Erik walks through a typical engagement. Using tools such as the Organizational Health Index (OHI), the Team Effectiveness Survey (TTE), and Leadership 360 surveys, Aberkyn facilitators help people understand where they are at the moment—point A—and how they got there. “This can be a difficult conversation because the company is often in transition, sometimes distress,” he points out. “Then we help them imagine the future and identify and model the thinking and behaviors they will need to get to point B. How big is the gap? What needs to change? Then, once there, how do they sustain the change, for both the individual and the organization?”

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