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Carolyn Dewar

Senior Partner, San Francisco
Delivers large-scale performance-improvement programs that foster culture change and counsels senior executives making leadership transitions

About Carolyn

Carolyn leads the culture, change, and executive-transition work in our global Organization Practice. An expert on culture dynamics, she helps organizations design and implement major change programs that improve performance, build capabilities, and shift behavior.

Given the importance of leadership, Carolyn also addresses the role that leaders play in fostering performance. She delivers performance coaching to Fortune 100 companies’ CEOs and their teams and helps executives hone their abilities to align and mobilize organizations on the point of transformational change.

Keenly interested in taking a data-driven approach to addressing culture issues, Carolyn has led several research efforts that have resulted in articles and publications, including a book on fostering a performance culture. She created McKinsey’s CEO Portal, a resource that offers insight on effectiveness in the CEO role.

Examples of her recent client work include the following:

  • managing a multiyear partnership with the CEO and leadership team of a Fortune 20 firm to design and manage a three-year merger-integration process
  • working with an incoming CEO and the senior team at a leading US financial institution to pursue a company-wide customer-experience transformation, including shaping the strategic agenda and tactical cross-company initiatives
  • partnering with the chief information officer of a multibillion-dollar technology and operations company to transform effectiveness in business-partner delivery, customer delivery, financial efficiency, risk tolerance, and employee experience
  • counseling the new CEO of an insurance business with the goal of dramatically turning around performance, including reshaping the leadership team and fostering accountability and engagement
  • redefining the operating model for a leading global beverage company through working with the leadership team to engineer company-wide initiatives to achieve rapid, sustainable growth

Beyond her advisory work, Carolyn serves as faculty for McKinsey’s leadership-development program, which accelerates leadership growth and trajectory for thousands of top executives every year.


What sets the world’s best CEOs apart,” McKinsey & Company, May 2020

How new CEOs can manage for the future,” McKinsey & Company, March 2020

Published work

What sets the world’s best CEOs apart,” McKinsey & Company, May 2020

The mindsets and practices of excellent CEOs,” McKinsey & Company, October 2019

Continuous improvement: the realities of making the shift,” blog entry, McKinsey & Company, June 2019

How continuous improvement can build a competitive edge,” blog entry, McKinsey & Company, May 2019

Closing the gender gap: A missed opportunity for new CEOs,” McKinsey Quarterly, October 2018

New leaders: Tap your team ASAP,” blog entry, McKinsey & Company, October 2018

Agility: mindset makeovers are critical,” blog entry, McKinsey & Company, April 2018

6 elements to create a high-performing culture,” blog entry, McKinsey & Company, April 2018

Culture: 4 keys to why it matters,” blog entry, McKinsey & Company, March 2018

It really isn’t about 100 days,” blog entry, McKinsey & Company, November 2017

The POTUS as CEO-TUS,” First Year Project, Miller Center at the University of Virginia, July 2016

What CEOs can teach the next US president,” McKinsey & Company, July 2016

Ascending to the C-suite,” McKinsey & Company, April 2015

Three Steps to a High-Performance Culture,” The Conference Board, January 2012

Four Motivation Mistakes Most Leaders Make,” Harvard Business Review, October 2011

The irrational side of change management,” McKinsey Quarterly, McKinsey & Company, April 2009

The Performance Culture Imperative: A Hard-Nosed Approach to The Soft Stuff, McKinsey & Company, 2007

Past experience

MaRS Discovery District
Director, business development and strategy


University of St Andrews
MA, economics and international relations