Summary of The Firm

The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence on American Business

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The Firm book summary
McKinsey’s business magic: strategic advantage or snake oil?


7 Overall

6 Importance

6 Innovation

7 Style


The 20th century saw the rise of American economic dominance and the birth of modern management. One firm – McKinsey & Company – did more to shape American business and influence global commerce than perhaps any other. From a handful of consultants in the 1920s to more than 10,000 at the turn of the 21st century, McKinsey is an undeniable success story. Organizations including Fortune 500 companies and national governments have sought its advice for almost 100 years. Yet behind the successes are guarded secrets involving catastrophic failures, disastrous recommendations, fraud and even jail time for its leaders. Journalist Duff McDonald’s balanced, penetrating account of McKinsey’s extraordinary achievements and spectacular failures can be repetitive, but still reads like a thriller. getAbstract recommends this century-long tale of ambition and hubris to business leaders interested in strategy, HR VPs seeking insights into talent management, and to all consultants.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How McKinsey led in the development of an industry and profession,
  • How it shaped American business in the 20th century, and
  • How the firm achieved remarkable success over a long period despite significant setbacks.


Since McKinsey & Company was founded in the 1920s, it has maintained its position as the most admired, envied, prestigious and highest-priced consulting firm in the world. Yet it remains an enigma, cloaked in mystique and secrecy. Though its public face displays self-confidence...
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About the Author

Duff McDonald is a business journalist, editor and biographer based in New York City.

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