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The World's Newest Profession
Management Consulting in the Twentieth Century


Part of Cambridge Studies in the Emergence of Global Enterprise

  • Date Published: April 2010
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521757591

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About the Authors
  • In The World's Newest Profession Christopher McKenna offers a history of management consulting in the twentieth century. Although 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 & Company and Booz Allen & Hamilton, expanded after US 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 number, 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.

    • Offers unprecedented access to internal files and prominent individuals, providing a rich history of management consulting in the twentieth century
    • Shows influence of management consultants on organizations such as NASA, Yale University, IBM, Presbyterian Church, and the Bank of England
    • Innovative explanation of Enron/Andersen crisis through historical, regulatory, and legal analysis
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'If you use consultants, or claim to be a consultant, you should read this book.' Charles Wilson, CEO, Booker Ltd.

    'This book should be required reading for everyone who teaches at a business school, as well as for all MBA students. I recommend it to anyone interested in the upheavals around corporate governance and professional ethics that marked the turn of the 21st century.' JoAnne Yates, MIT Sloan School of Management

    'McKenna has unearthed the distinctly American origins of modern consulting in the evolution of financial market regulation - surprisingly and convincingly.' John Clarkeson, co-Chairman of the Board, The Boston Consulting Group

    'Witch doctors or miracle workers? Whatever your view of management consultants, it pays to understand how the world's leading consulting firms have become so influential. McKenna's superb history reveals how one crucial piece of US legislation - the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act - and one vibrant American city - Chicago - spawned an industry that has transformed the face of global business and national government in the 20th century.' Martin Giles, The Economist Group, North America

    'Fascinating, frightening, and perfectly timed - McKenna's sweeping survey shines a brilliant light on a profession that has always preferred to keep outsiders in the dark.' Martin Kihn, author of House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time

    'McKenna opens the private world of management consulting to his keen analytical eye, providing a rich, absorbing accounting of the rise and expansion of this profession, and a sharp critique of consulting's role in shaping the strategies of the world's largest corporations. This is a fascinating, revealing book about a profession that has received little serious, sustained scholarly attention.' Walter W. Powell, Stanford University

    'This history of management consulting analyses an important stream of the history of modern business itself. Today's managers can put its insights to practical use when engaging - or deciding not to engage - consultants.' Tony Tyler, Chief Operating Office, Cathay Pacific Airways

    'McKenna's book does a superb job of exploring the role that this industry played in transforming (not always for the better) a variety of different types of organizations - from businesses to religious and charitable associations to government agencies - and through them much of the fabric of modern life.' Naomi Lamoreaux, University of California, Los Angeles

    'History is not bunk. With Glass-Steagall repealed and the aftershocks of the Enron scandal by no means over, the timing of The World's Newest Profession could hardly be more fortuitous. McKenna's breadth of scholarship and clarity of argument will undoubtedly sit, like Banquo's ghost, at the consulting banquet for years to come.' Fiona Czerniawska, Consulting to Management

    'McKenna offers a lively look at a profession that has often been shrouded in secrecy, and shows how it has become enormously lucrative - although not always as a result of the quality of advice being doled out. Interesting and provocative, McKenna's book offers a lens to understand the development of the modern corporation.' Jon Housman, Managing Director of The Wall Street Journal Europe

    'Intriguing revelations are contained in Chris McKenna's important new book. His timing is perfect. … Although academic thoroughness is one of its chief merits, the book remains readable and entertaining throughout. … It is a sober and truthful antidote to all the glossy consultancy brochures that promise 'strategic solutions' and 'value-added' analysis.' Financial Times

    'A highly readable account of the rise of the management-consultancy phenomenon. McKenna is admirably balanced: not starry-eyed about the serious men in suits, but neither is he sneeringly cynical. Explains a lot about how businesses are run today.' Financial Times Magazine

    '… the author has … done [one] of the most important things that he sets out to do which is to bring to the attention of current and future management consultants a knowledge of the development of their profession.' The Business Economist

    'The World's Newest Profession documents the rise of management consulting in the United States. … It is a novel study that deserves the attention of business historians, management professors, and organizational scholars.' Neil Fligstein, Business History Review

    '[The World's Newest Profession] is a compelling, well-told story that goes a long way toward explaining the ubiquity, intentions, and limitations of modern management consultants. The book makes an important contribution to the literatures on professionalization, on twentieth-century business history in the United States, and on corporate culture.' Christopher Tassava, Enterprise and Society

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2010
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521757591
    • length: 394 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 155 x 23 mm
    • weight: 0.58kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: making a career of consulting
    1. Economies of knowledge: a theory of management consulting
    2. Accounting for a new profession: consultants' struggle for jurisdictional power
    3. How have consultants mattered? The case of Lukens Steel
    4. Creating the contractor state: consultants in the American Federal Government
    5. Finding profit in nonprofits: the influence of consultants on the third sector
    6. The gilded age of consulting: a snapshot of consultants circa 1960
    7. The American challenge: exporting the American model
    8. Selling corporate culture: codifying and commodifying professionalism
    9. Watchdogs, lapdogs, or retrievers? Liability and the rebirth of the management audit
    Conclusion: the world's newest profession?

  • Author

    Christopher D. McKenna, University of Oxford
    Christopher D. McKenna is Reader in Business History and Strategy at the Said Business School, University of Oxford.

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