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McKinsey's Marvin Bower

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McKinsey's Marvin Bower

Vision, Leadership, and the Creation of Management Consulting


15 min read
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What's inside?

Discover the personal values of the visionary businessman who gave the world management consulting.

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Marvin Bower may be the most influential businessman you’ve never heard of. The firm he shaped into an international powerhouse, McKinsey & Company, doesn’t bear his name, and he never made splashy public gifts. Yet the company that spawned the management consulting industry would not exist today without this remarkable man’s clear, compelling vision. Bower or his consultants transformed countless companies and executives for the better. Here, author Elizabeth Haas Edersheim assembles dozens of testimonials to Marvin Bower’s integrity, honesty and drive to excel. Her book contains the story of his life, but it reads less like a biography and more like a Harvard Business School case study - a bit dry, and chock-full of interview transcripts rather than compelling narrative. However, its similarity to a case study is oddly appropriate, since Bower was one of the first graduates of the Harvard Business School and remained connected with it for many years, even defending its case study method of teaching when it came under attack in the late 1970s. getAbstract recommends this book to leaders, to those who aspire to lead and to consultants who want to study the best of their profession in action.


The Bower Family

Marvin Bower was born into a middle-class Cleveland, Ohio, family in 1903. Early in his life, he learned the values of integrity, honesty, humility and respect for others. For example, throughout his professional career he expected everyone, even his employees, to call him "Marvin" instead of "Mr. Bower." He attended Brown University and Harvard Law School, working in the summers for the law firm of Thompson, Hine and Flory. In 1927, he married Helen McLaughlin, his sweetheart since high school. They had three sons (Peter, Richard and James), six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. Helen died in 1985. In 1989, Marvin married Cleo Stewart, a neighbor and friend. She died in 2001 and he died in 2003 at age 99.

A Brief Career History

After finishing law school - which he paid for with money he earned in the stock market - Marvin attended Harvard Business School, then an unusual step for a law school grad. He graduated in 1930 and joined Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, an esteemed Cleveland law firm. Because he was one of the first people with a degree in both business and law, some of his initial assignments involved reorganizing bankrupt...

About the Author

Elizabeth Haas Edersheim founded New York Consulting Partners, Inc., and was the managing director for 13 years until the firm was bought. She is now a strategic advisor to a number of companies. Edersheim spent nearly a year working with Marvin Bower on this book and completed the manuscript shortly before his death.

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