Umbrex has developed this list of the best books on management consulting based on input from the consultants in our community, our clients, and other professionals.
This recommended reading list includes books on the history of top consultants and firms, as well as techniques and tools of top management consultants.
This list of books is a work in progress, not a final answer, and we invite you to submit your recommendations on our Contact page.
Elizabeth Haas Edersheim
“I had the privilege of working closely with Marvin and McKinsey for many years. This book makes Marvin come to life and perpetuates him as a role model.”
-Peter F. Drucker
“A wonderful book about a wonderful man. In many ways, Marvin’s McKinsey framed the hypotheses in our own search for excellence-for example, passion for values, belief in people as the prime resource, and willingness to let people experiment. As well as I thought I knew Marvin, however, this remarkable book, drawing on the collective memories of those who worked most closely with him, taught me a ton about how extraordinary the man really was and what made him that way. Many have called Drucker the man who invented management; I think history will conclude that both he and Marvin Bower share that pedestal.”
-Bob Waterman, coauthor of In Search of Excellence
“Marvin Bower became a legend, not just within McKinsey & Company, but within professional services and the business world more broadly. In everything he did and said, he embodied the professional approach and the importance of values. This book sheds remarkable insight on a remarkable man and on the power of constancy of purpose.”
-Ian Davis, Worldwide Managing Director, McKinsey & Co.
“It is as Marvin would have wanted it-simple, honest, fact-based, wonderful stories with a long-term perspective. An insightful read about the father of management consulting.”
-Lois Juliber, retired COO, Colgate-Palmolive
“This book provides fascinating insight into the early days of modern management consulting. It is an extremely enlightening look at the origin of one of America’s most important professions and one of America’s most innovative leaders.”
-Thomas H. Lee, founder, Chairman, and President, Thomas H. Lee Partners L.P.
Marvin Bower worked for and led McKinsey & Company for 45 years. He succeeded Jim McKinseys untimely death. He wrote Perspectives on McKinsey for McKinsey employees, and it is not available to the general public as it contains trade secrets. This account is his own unique view on the development of McKinsey & Company. Bower outlines the eleven key factors of success for McKinsey, the three needs for success in consulting, how to create better organizations, and how to ensure each client gets a 10-to-1 return on each consulting dollar spent with McKinsey. Chapters include: Years of Shaping Purpose; The Firm’s Early Years; Merging and Unmerging; Building a Distinctive National Firm; Becoming an International Firm; Building our Clientele; Professionalism – The Firm’s Secret Strength; Development of Our Consulting Staff Philosophy; Developing Our Managing Philosophy and System; Perspective from the Sidelines; and Gearing the Firm to a Successful Future.Read moreRead less
Many business leaders feel overwhelmed by the increasing complexities of our interconnected business world. If you are one of these leaders, this book is written for you. With the growth of data volumes accelerating constantly and an ever-growing number of new tools to manage this data, Simplicity is more important than ever.In this first volume of the Simplicity for Success series, Peter Eckart distills his experiences of over 25 years as McKinsey consultant, senior executive, corporate advisor, as well as start-up advisor and, yes, rocket scientist. Using anecdotes and case studies, he explains to you why Simplicity is essential and how you can apply it. In this volume, he introduces the Magic Tool of Simplicity – Problem Solving – which is based on The Three Pillars of Simplicity: (1) Problem Structuring, (2) Analysis, and (3) Story-lining & Decision-making. Peter takes you by the hand on a journey from understanding the power of Simplicity to leveraging Simplicity for Success – your success.Read moreRead less
David A. Fields
Though it’s a potentially lucrative enterprise, the reality of independent consulting seldom matches the dream. Most solo consultants and boutique consulting firms are perpetually within six months of bankruptcy due to the sputtering unreliability of their new business engines.
The problem, according to international consulting expert David A. Fields, is twofold: 1) lack of a consistent, proven plan, and 2) fundamental misunderstanding about what clients want in a consultant. Fields, who has helped hundreds of consultants and boutique firms worldwide build lucrative, sustainable practices, replaces the typical consultant’s mindset of emphasizing expertise and differentiated processes with a focus on building relationships, engendering trust, and solving clients’ existing problems.
In The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients: Six Steps to Unlimited Clients and Financial Freedom, Fields synthesizes his decades of experience into a step-by-step approach to winning more projects from more clients at higher fees.
From nuts-and-bolts business advice and tactics to a deeply insightful breakdown of the human side of a very human profession, Fields delivers a comprehensive guidebook that is at once highly approachable and satisfyingly detailed.Read moreRead less
Imagine, if you can, the world of business – without corporate strategy.
Remarkably, fifty years ago that’s the way it was. Businesses made plans, certainly, but without understanding the underlying dynamics of competition, costs, and customers. It was like trying to design a large-scale engineering project without knowing the laws of physics.
But in the 1960s, four mavericks and their posses instigated a profound shift in thinking that turbocharged business as never before, with implications far beyond what even they imagined. In The Lords of Strategy, renowned business journalist and editor Walter Kiechel tells, for the first time, the story of the four men who invented corporate strategy as we know it and set in motion the modern, multibillion-dollar consulting industry:
Providing a window into how to think about strategy today, Kiechel tells their story with novelistic flair. At times inspiring, at times nearly terrifying, this book is a revealing account of how these iconoclasts and the organizations they led revolutionized the way we think about business, changed the very soul of the corporation, and transformed the way we work.Read moreRead less
Ethan Rasiel and Paul N. Friga
The groundbreaking follow-up to the international bestseller — a hands-on guide to putting McKinsey techniques to work in your organization.
McKinsey & Company is the most respected and most secretive consulting firm in the world, and business readers just can’t seem to get enough of all things McKinsey. Now, hot on the heels of his acclaimed international bestseller The McKinsey Way, Ethan Rasiel brings readers a powerful new guide to putting McKinsey concepts and skills into actionThe McKinsey Mind. While the first book used case studies and anecdotes from former and current McKinseyites to describe how “the firm” solves the thorniest business problems of their A-list clients, The McKinsey Mind goes a giant step further. It explains, step-by-step, how to use McKinsey tools, techniques and strategies to solve an array of core business problems and to make any business venture more successful.
Designed to work as a stand-alone guide or together with The McKinsey Way, The McKinsey Mind follows the same critically acclaimed style and format as its predecessor. In this book authors Rasiel and Friga expand upon the lessons found in The McKinsey Way with real-world examples, parables, and easy-to-do exercises designed to get readers up and running.Read moreRead less
It’s been called “a breeding ground for gurus.” McKinsey & Company is the gold-standard consulting firm whose alumni include titans such as “In Search of Excellence” author Tom Peters, Harvey Golub of American Express, and Japan’s Kenichi Ohmae.
When Fortune 100 corporations are stymied, it’s the “McKinsey-ites” whom they call for help. In THE MCKINSEY WAY, former McKinsey associate Ethan Rasiel lifts the veil to show you how the secretive McKinsey works its magic, and helps you emulate the firm’s well-honed practices in problem solving, communication, and management.
He shows you how McKinsey-ites think about business problems and how they work at solving them, explaining the way McKinsey approaches every aspect of a task:
Both a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most admired and secretive companies in the business world and a toolkit of problem-solving techniques without peer, THE MCKINSEY WAY is fascinating reading that empowers every business decision maker to become a better strategic player in any organization.
“If more business books were as useful, concise, and just plain fun to read as THE MCKINSEY WAY, the business world would be a better place.” –Julie Bick, best-selling author of ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW IN BUSINESS I LEARNED AT MICROSOFT.
“Enlivened by witty anecdotes, THE MCKINSEY WAY contains valuable lessons on widely diverse topics such as marketing, interviewing, team-building, and brainstorming.” –Paul H. Zipkin, Vice-Dean, The Fuqua School of BusinessRead moreRead less
The Pyramid Principle is the international best-seller on how to think creatively, reason lucidly and produce crisp, clear, compelling business writing.
Join the tens of thousands of people worldwide who have benefited from Barbara Minto’s technique, to present your thinking so clearly that the ideas jump off the page and into the mind of the reader.
Can your writing do without it?Read moreRead less
Consulting may be defined as the art of influencing people at their request. The Secrets of Consulting takes you behind the scenes of that art, explaining in detail why the world of consulting seems so irrational, and some very practical steps you can take to make it more rational. Topics include: Gaining control of change, marketing and pricing your services, what to do when they resist your ideas, and more.
The Secrets of Consulting has been used in dozens of different fields. If you are a consultant, or ever use a consultant, this book is for you. The author draws on his 50+ years of consulting experience to share his secrets about the often irrational world of consulting. “This is a great book. Period! …this advice is clearly applicable to more than just consulting; it is applicable to life in general.” “The book is truly wonderful. A must have!” – Amazon reviewsRead moreRead less
David H. Maister, Robert Galford, and Charles Green
The 20th anniversary edition of the “brilliant and practical” (Tom Peters, author of The Professional Service 50) business classic—now updated to reflect the digital world—provides essential tools and wisdom for all consultants, negotiators, and advisors.
In today’s fast-paced networked economy, professionals must work harder than ever to maintain and improve their business skills and knowledge. But technical mastery of one’s discipline is not enough, assert professional advisors David H. Maister, Charles H. Green, and Robert M. Galford. The key to professional success, they argue, is the ability to earn the trust and confidence of clients.
In this 20th anniversary edition, Maister, Green, and Galford enrich our understanding of today’s society and illustrate how to be effective communicators in a digital world. Using their model of “the trust equation” they dissect the rational and emotional components of trustworthiness. With precision and clarity, they detail five distinct steps you must take to create a trust-based relationship. Each step—engage, listen, frame, envision, and commit—is richly described in distinct chapters.
This immensely accessible book offers “an invaluable road map to all those who seek to develop truly special relationships with their clients” (Carl Stern, CEO, Boston Consulting Group). The authors weave together anecdotes, experience, and examples of both their own and others’ successes and mistakes to great effect. The Trusted Advisor is essential reading for anyone who must advise, negotiate, or manage complex relationships with others.Read moreRead less
Christopher D. McKenna
In The World’s Newest Profession, Christopher McKenna offers a history of management consulting in the twentieth century. While management consulting may not yet be a recognized profession, the leading consulting firms have been advising and reshaping the largest organizations in the world since the 1920s. This groundbreaking study details how the elite consulting firms, including McKinsey and Booz Allen, expanded after U.S. regulatory changes during the 1930s, how they changed giant corporations, nonprofits, and the state during the 1950s, and why consultants became so influential in the global economy after 1960. As they grew in numbers, consultants would introduce organizations to “corporate culture” and “decentralization” but they faced vilification for their role in the Enron crisis and for legitimating corporate blunders. Through detailed case studies based on unprecedented access to internal files and personal interviews, The World’s Newest Profession explores how management consultants came to be so influential within our culture and explains exactly what consultants really do in the global economy.Read moreRead less