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The Strategy Skills Podcast: Management Consulting | Strategy, Operations & Implementation | Critical Thinking

The Strategy Skills Podcast is the channel where strategy partners teach you the tools and techniques to solve mankind’s greatest problems. Learn all the skills of McKinsey and BCG consultants without having to work at a consulting firm. Our podcasts have been downloaded over 2 million times worldwide and we rank in the Top 10 career podcasts in most countries. Opt-in to our newsletter at to receive free sample Insider content that we share nowhere else.

Each year we pick one consulting study and narrate the analyses, client interactions and recommendations so you can understand how the strategy is developed. Detailed videos and power-points to accompany the podcasts can be found on our website.

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Jul 21, 2015

One of the great privileges of our unique network is that we have access to some of the most eminent former partners like Kevin Coyne and Bill Matassoni. We adopt their insights when designing our case training and strategy training programs. Our goal at Firmsconsulting is to allow our members access to the partners from whom we seek advise. 

This is an exclusive interview that Bill Matassoni recently had with Firmsconsulting where he shared some counter-intuitive concepts you will not hear anywhere else.

Bill Matassoni was the partner who was involved in developing and implementing the McKinsey philosophy that helped the firm pull ahead of BCG in the 1980s and 1990s. He was thereafter the partner who led BCG's efforts to overtake McKinsey.

This insightful, inspiring and counter intuitive podcast explains the steps McKinsey took in the 1980s to reposition the firm.

Planning is meaningless unless you know what to plan. You need a point of differentiation and you need to consistently drive that difference.

Competitive advantage is wrong to pursue. You need to look for comparative advantage. 

See if you can extract those lessons from this podcast.

Bill Matassoni started his career in management consulting in 1980 when he joined McKinsey & Company. He was a partner there for almost 20 years, focusing on the branding of professional services. He was responsible for building McKinsey’s reputation and protecting its brand, which included publishing the McKinsey Quarterly. In doing so he worked closely with many of his colleagues worldwide including Tom Peters, Jon Katzenbach, Kenichi Ohmai, John Sawhill, John Stucky, and John Hagel.

He was also responsible for much of McKinsey’s internal communications. This included the creation of McKinsey’s systems to manage and disseminate its practice knowledge. These efforts are described in an HBR case study.

He left McKinsey to join Mitchell Madison Group, a strategy consulting firm he helped to take public through its sale to USWeb/CKS in 1999. He then joined The Boston Consulting Group, where he headed for over five years a group responsible for innovation, marketing and communications.

As at McKinsey, Bill Matassoni worked closely with several of BCG’s thought leaders — George Stalk, Michael Silverstein, Philip Evans, Yves Morieux, Hal Sirkin and others — to develop their ideas and turn them into consulting assignments. Bill Matassoni retired from BCG a few years ago and founded The Glass House Group, a consulting firm that helps professional service firms with branding and marketing issues. At one of his clients, Tapestry Networks, Bill has become a senior advisor. 

Bill Matassoni is a graduate of Phillips Andover (1964), Harvard College (B.A. Literature, 1968) and Harvard Business School (M.B.A., 1975).

For many years Bill Matassoni was on the board of trustees of United Way of America and United Way International. He is now on the board of trustees of First Book and a senior advisor to Ashoka, an organization that invests in social entrepreneurs. He is also on the Board of Advisors of The Demand Institute, a non-profit funded by The Conference Board and Nielsen. He remains interested in the management and marketing of professional services firms, social marketing and healthcare reform.

If you have never had the opportunity to meet Marvin Bower, and that would apply to most of McKinsey's current partners, Bill's thinking is the second best thing to have access to.

In this wide ranging interview, Bill Matassoni and I discuss the following about the strategy, culture, values, mistakes and problems of McKinsey and BCG: 

McKinsey & Co.

  • How a partner's background shapes his or her viewpoint
  • The old influence of HBR on a consulting brand's position
  • Bill's unconventional path into McKinsey and BCG
  • Managing versus inspiring other senior partners
  • Working with senior partners from McKinsey like Ron Daniels, Fred Gluck, Herb Ensinger, Kenichi Ohmae, Tom Peters, Bob Waterman, Lowell Bryan, Tom Steiner and Marvin Bower
  • Insightful new anecdotes and stories not published before
  • How to get partners to build a firm's position and knowledge
  • Competitive advantage in management consulting
  • The problem with trying to position a firm as a consulting firm
  • McKinsey problems in recent times and lack of differentiation
  • Why strategy is less analytic than it seems
  • WSJ vs. The Economist vs. HBR for eminence
  • The Fortune Magazine story that changed McKinsey's profile
  • What is McKinsey's point of differentiation - it is not analytics or strategy
  • How to build a leadership factory
  • Why all the books about McKinsey, like "The Firm", completely miss the mark
  • Anecdotes about Marvin Bower
  • Using actions to build principles versus using principles to build actions
  • The problem with marketing in consulting
  • How McKinsey really makes decisions and tests them aka how to know when you are junior
  • How to bring about change in traditional businesses with deep histories


  • The difference between BCG and McKinsey
  • BCG's strengths and weaknesses
  • What is BCG's culture
  • How positioning drives operational decisions
  • Managing practice meetings

And much, much more.

If you found this piece interesting, please post comments and questions. We will be interviewing other very senior ex-partners of McKinsey and BCG, and will use these comments as an input for future interviews.

We also use comments and social shares to determine if a series should be pursued. If you would like us to interview another BCG or McKinsey ex-partner, corporate executive or renowned athlete please let us know.

Hope you enjoyed it.