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Ranjit's laptop: The day we hit 'reply all'

A missing Firm laptop took on mythic status after an inadvertent email glitch.
Ranjit's laptop: The day we hit 'reply all'
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If you were at the Firm in August 2006, you will, without a doubt, recall Ranjit's laptop. If you weren't, well – sit down and we'll tell you what happened when many Firm colleagues responded to an e-mail that circled the globe. The missive triggered a classic example of McKinsey satire.

On a Monday morning in August 2006, a request for "Ranjit’s missing laptop" was inadvertently sent to an enormous distribution list. And then it was resent, and resent, and resent, eliciting responses from around the world.

Firm members responded with varying degrees of commitment to the cause:

“Please take me off the list.”
“Owners are now aware of issue, let’s all stop replying to all to avoid further annoyance.”
“Is there anyone in the Firm who was not copied on this?”
“For better response, please include cc, deadline and specific colleague you wish to work on this. Thank you. P.S.: Sent from Ranjit’s BlackBerry.” 
“I saw an unattended laptop at the airport lounge."

So many notes arrived from people begging not to be "cc’ed" that two BAs decided to crunch the numbers. Their PowerPoint presentation, “(Not So) Targeted Approach to Finding Ranjit a Laptop,” {see link below) was completed in the early phase of the incident, and while it does not reflect the true scale of the hundreds of emails that would continue to follow, it does offer a bit of tongue-in-cheek analysis.

The two BAs noted that 45 percent of the messages were from Partners, who responded within 7 hours of the original note. Their work revealed that the opportunity cost of the e-mail campaign was equivalent to 486 days of BA time and 12 days of Senior Partner time, or 28 incremental client calls.

“Nice!” said one of the flurry of additional e-mails that followed the distribution of their presentation, “However, in keeping with our values . . . Lost client ‘impact’ is actually 10X lost billings... i.e. $1.25MM.”

Another memo writer offered to swim to Stockholm and deliver the missing laptop, if that’s what it took to stop the 'reply all' correspondence.

Delighted at the repartee, a Senior Partner in New York begged NOT to end the exchange. “I for one don't want to be removed from the list. This is an exciting group, like Facebook or MySpace [hey, it was 2006!]. Ranjit's laptop. Maybe we can create a "Snakes on a Plane"-type web event. "Laptop in Limbo." "The Stockholm Syndrome." Computers gone wild. We can do newsletters. T-shirts. Make it a core part of Values Day. Start an alumni laptop exchange. Let's use this as an opportunity to improve our humor and keystroke speed,” he suggested.

Recipients of the initial email never were informed exactly what happened to Ranjit’s laptop. We’ll never know, but it did lead to great speculation and conversation in offices and team rooms around the world, even to this day.

Perhaps we aren't quite as serious as the world assumes – at least, not all of the time.

Do you recall any examples of McKinsey humor from your time at the Firm? Tell us here.

(Not So) Targeted Approach to Finding Ranjit a Laptop