Ranking McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Monitor, Deloitte, Accenture: Monitor Company…should you steer clear?
You worked hard to get your MBA, graduate degree or undergraduate degree. It was not easy. You made sacrifices. Your family made sacrifices. You spent tens of thousands of dollars. You need to make sure the firm you join is as committed to your development as you are to succeeding. In today’s post, we will discuss Monitor Company. Monitor Company was a firm founded with great promise. No less a person than Michael Porter gave his blessing (but not his complete time and attention) to this firm as a founding partner. In the late 80’s and early 90’s Monitor was so full of promise. It was mentioned in the same breath as McKinsey, Bain and BCG. To say Monitor has fallen would be to mislead you. It never rose very far for it to fall much. Although, we can say it never lived up to its potential.
Today we are going to peer behind the image Monitor chooses to cast and see what lies beneath. This is not an exhaustive analysis. Yet, it’s more than enough to see that all that glitters is not gold.
Many of you have read our previous reviews. We tell it like it is. We also support all our assertions with facts. When firms do great work, we applaud them and when things are wrong, we call out the industry. This is no different.
The logical place to start: Monitor’s Website
Monitor’s websites (yes, there are so many of them and they are so confusing) look like they were designed in 2003 and never upgraded since then. Literally.
This page lists an impressive 13 different companies which belong to the Monitor Group of Companies. Wow! That looks seriously impressive. There is so much specialization and depth. How can you not be impressed? But it’s misleading.
Four of these links take you back one site and the same page on the same site: the Monitor Company site. Today when websites cost next to nothing to develop and host, Monitor basically decided to allow 4 of their sites to go down. Then, they also did not update the page to indicate the sites no longer exist. What is the point of calling these 4 links “group companies” when they cannot even merit their own websites? I would hate to see the resources dedicated to a division.
But it gets worse. Two of these links do not even go anywhere. At least in the case of the other 4 someone redirected them back to generic pages. It’s not good, but some effort was made. In the screen shots below, no effort was made. Monitor Strategic Oxygen seems to have run out of oxygen and Monitor Networks seems to have lost its network connection. At least one of the missing pages has a missing page link. The other one just goes nowhere.
Summary: Before you think this is just a website review, think for a moment about that this means.
- Monitor is not monitoring their websites. They do not care about their reputation. If they do not care about something so fundamental, how do they manage things not under public scrutiny? Like your career development.
- Monitor just does not care. Surely someone has noticed these pages do not work. There are three reasons why nothing was done; 1 – No one is looking after their web presence, 2 – Someone is responsible but that person is not interested or 3 – These sites are never visited, because they are unpopular.
- Monitor is not getting much traffic. The first thing MBA students do is visit consulting websites. I am guessing not many people visit Monitors website. Otherwise we would not be the first people to notice these obvious mistakes.
Monitor lists an impressive list of thought leaders who are full-time employees of the firm. They go to great lengths to distinguish between those employed by the firm and those who are external. They have a separate section for external experts called the “Talent Network”:
“In addition to the thought leaders within Monitor, we maintain a network of external talent linked to our firm. These people are prominent thought leaders in their fields, with provocative ideas about the future of business, science and society.
We provide our clients with integrated resources for growth, from both our staff and these external experts. We act as an “intelligent switch”, putting our clients in touch with relevant leading edge thinking and resources outside of Monitor as needed.”
Via this enormous effort to distinguish between the external thinkers (The Talent Network) and the Thought Leaders, you would think all these Thought Leaders are one hundred percent dedicated and employed by Monitor, the same way McKinsey senior partners are, well, McKinsey employees. Not so. Here’s the list and what these people actually do:
- Chris Argyris -
- Bruce Chew
- Tom Copeland – Seems to be full-time but who knows. When he was at McKinsey there was evidence of him engaging clients and working on client issues. He was all over the McKinsey Quarterly and Harvard Business Review. There is not much evidence of him doing any client work or thought leadership at Monitor.
- Joe Fuller
- Mark Fuller
- Katherine Fulton
- Bernie Jaworski
- Michael Jensen – Same as Michael Porter. Great guy but he is not even close to 100% dedicated to Monitor.
- David Kantor
- Larry Keeley
- Eamonn Kelly
- Diana McLain Smith
- Chris Meyer
- Tom Nagle
- Michael Porter - Definitely not full-time. He is spending maybe 5% of his time on Monitor initiatives. When we called the head-office and asked to speak to Michael Porter, we were told he “rarely if ever comes in.” Now I understand Monitor may be using his research. But there is a world of difference between someone full-time employed and funneling non-exclusive research to Monitor. Does Bain, McKinsey or the BCG have their core team of most senior partners, the face of the firm, spending just 5% on McKinsey activities and 95% of the time on other things? Maybe Monitor should refer to many of these thought-leaders as 100% salaried at 5% of the time? That’s more accurate.
- Doug Randall
- Peter Schwartz
We could go through the entire list, but the headline is the same, they are heavily involved in other activities and spend some time at Monitor. This list is misleading. They are not full-time. It is further striking how the majority are also by far US-based. In this day of rampant emerging markets growth you would think several would be focused on the emerging markets or at least be based in the emerging markets.
It would seem Monitor brings in these stars and “keeps” them by offering them to do whatever other work they need provided they can help Monitor’s image and positioning with clients. That’s not how you build a management consulting firm.
Back in 2007, it was cool to be focused on Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The twin miracles of the desert wereshattering conventional wisdom and everyone who was anyone wanted to be there. Every consulting firm and investment bank played up they were already alreaqy there or in the process of setting up major offices. Even the Beckhams went.
Unlike the Beckhams, it seems the Monitor website has not been updated since 2007. See this screen shot below on the left:
Out of every region in the world which could be highlighted, Monitor picks MENA (Middle East North Africa). Why? What possible reason can there be for this? Why highlight MENA over China, India, Latin America or Eastern Europe? This is just another example of why Monitor is either indifferent or not with the times.
Even when you go through the geographic links in their website, there is not much depth there. Here we show you the Africa page. There is just one article which is vaguely relevant to Africa.
Monitor seems to be a network of companies. Each office within the management consulting group seems to be independent. Everyone is fending for themselves. Although the firm lists a roster of high-flying alumni, it’s nowhere close to McKinsey, Bain or the BCG, and most of these alumni originate from the same office. This idea of having super-star scholars giving their name and research to bolster the brand eminence has no legs. Many have tried it and many have failed. Monitor offers no real training to its employees. They would argue otherwise, but recycling training packs from 1996 is not training. Training is ensuring all employees are equipped to handle core problem solving and operate as a global team. The best person for the job irrespective of the location.
Where it counts
When we called Monitor they refused to comment. They did say “Monitor is a global consulting firm serving and exceeding our client’s expectations”. Well, naturally we had to find these clients. So we searched. We found a few who were willing to speak to us. We found a healthcare company in the US, a pharmaceutical company in the US, manufacturer in Germany, mining company in Botswana and Insurer in the UK.
This was our criteria for picking the project to highlight:
- We wanted to show a project where the impact was significant (negative or positive).
- It had to be something outside the US. Monitor clusters all its thinkers in the US and only markets them. They are all you see. It’s hard to see anything from offices outside the US and London. We wanted to see what is was like outside the (poor) marketing.
- The client was willing to speak to us.
We eventually chose the Botswana project:
- Debswana is the lynchpin of the Botswana economy. If it is damaged, the entire country suffers.
- The project was probably staffed from Morocco, Dubai and Johannesburg – with consultants outside London and New York.
- The client was willing to speak to us off the record and share material.
You can see for yourself:
- The report is complex and convoluted.
- There is no executive summary and it takes lots of time and effort to figure out the recommendations.
- Someone went crazy with the analyses. There is a lot of it and it is painful to read and understand.
- There is no story, storyboard or kickers.
- The slides are complicated and seem to have no branding. They look differen,t like they were rushed and put together.
What did the client say?
- “We could not use the report. It did not help address our key problems.”
- “The report was too much! Death by power point”
- “Monitor seemed obsessed with analyzing everything, but the analyses never went anywhere”
- “The report is like the Alice and Wonderland story. It’s got all this unnecessary information. If you read something, it could take you down the wrong path”
- “Waste of time and money”
- “What they said was obvious, but how do we do it?”
I am sure Monitor does good work for some clients. I know the thought leaders and firm leaders are people of great integrity who are highly respected in their fields. In fact, some are the foremost experts in their fields. So what we see here just does not make sense. How can such methodical people allow such basic lapses of judgement?
It creates further evidence that the people who are the face of Monitor are not at involved in the running of the company. A proper management consulting firm cannot be run by part-timers. It just does not work. It needs committed people. The company is like a federation of franchises who run themselves and rely on the Cambridge office to build the marketing material.
I am sure they are working on fixing some of these issues. But is that enough? I don’t think so. What excuse is there for having such a terrible website? What excuse is there for presumably misrepresenting some of their thought leaders? What excuse is there for not even updating their website to show reality? The Debswana report and project was a mess. How could that have been approved as the final report? How insightful is the report if the client releases the copy?
We were management consultants and believe in the value of the industry – when done right. Being a management consultant is a privilege. It is not a right. The privilege to practice should be approached with the same intent as the Hippocratic oath. However, sometimes it is not done right and it pains us to watch this add ammunition to those who say management consultants add no value.
Despite all those problems, here is the biggest issue for us. We work with many students and consultants who spend lots of money to prepare their resumes and learn the case method in the hope of appealing to the consulting recruiters. In one example, similar to many, we are coaching a student who has invested her life and entire family savings into her studies. She is spending her last few hundred dollars to update her resume and prepare for the case interviews. She deserves to work at a firm who cares just as much about her career. It is hard to see Monitor doing that when basic things are not done right. That is why it is upsetting and inexcusable when firms like Monitor cannot do their part.