A timeline of KM at McKinsey

McKinsey is one of the leading Knowledge Management organisations in the world. Here is how they got there.

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I have referred to McKinsey a few times on this blog, describing their approach to knowledge centers, and some of the KM roles they have in place. McKinsey are one of the leading firms in KM terms, and a many-time winner of the MAKE awards.

Below, from this case study, I have distilled a roadmap of how they got to their leading position. The case study was written in 2006, but seems to take the story up to the end of the millenium.

  • 1970s, period of slow growth and increased competition for McKinsey, decision to invest in Expertise and strategy. “One Firm” policy. Various informal networks but no attempt to reuse knowledge from one assignment to the next.
  • 1976 – new MD and increased focus on skill development, training and functional expertise. Creation of a standard classification of key tasks.
  • 1980 – Fred Gluck (later to become MD) starts a group focusing on knowledge building. Practice bulletins introduced.
  • 1982 – Creation of 15 “centres of competence” covering business areas such as finance, logistics, and strategic management. Experts appointed as practice leaders, each area with a full-time practice coordinator. 
  • 1980s – still no mechanism or process to capture knowledge. COnsultants encouraged to publish and share, but contributions are rare.
  • 1987 – formal KM project set up, with 3 objectives; a database of project details (Practice Information System – PIS), a knowledge base covering the main areas of practice (Practice Development Network – PDNet), an index of specialists and core documents (Knowledge Resource Directory – KRD).
  • late 1980s – KRD evolves into McKinsey yellow pages, PIS and PDNet populated
  • 1990 – Introduction of client service teams focused on working long term with clients and developing deep understanding of client issues. Staff encouraged to publish books and articles.
  • 1993 – McKinsey spending $50 million annually on knowledge building
  • 1994 – Rajat Gupta becomes MD, strong supporter of KM
  • 1995 – “Practice Olympics” created in order to promote development of practice knowledge. 
  • 1995 – establishment of first Knowledge Center in India, focused on provision of research and knowledge to client-facing consultants. 
  • Late 1990s – McKinsey develop a “personalisation” strategy for KM, with a focus on dialogue and knowledge sharing between individuals, and the development of knowledge haring networks.  Editors employed to convert client PowerPoint decks into reference documents with quality ratings.
That’s where the case study stops. However through this 20-year history we can see the genesis of the McKinsey KM organisation, with its 2000 knowledge professionals, its 6 global knowledge centers, and its practice-focused roles and networks. 

As the McKinsey website states:

“Our work is founded on a rigorous understanding of every client’s institutional context, sector dynamics, and macroeconomic environment. For this reason, we invest more than $600 million of our firm’s resources annually in knowledge development, learning and capability building. We study markets, trends, and emerging best practices, in every industry and region, locally and globally. Our investment in knowledge also helps advance the practice of management”. 

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