McKinsey’s new CEO (Global Managing Partner) is Bob Sternfels. Sternfels was McKinsey’s North America Operations Lead and most recently, the head of Client Capabilities (Analytics). Former CEO Kevin Sneader had lost the support of a significant portion of the partner base, primarily as a result of changes he had pushed aimed at keeping McKinsey free of scandal. But some partners chafed at how these changes limited their autonomy to execute consulting contracts and generate new business as they saw fit. Sneader was voted out of the Global Managing Partner role in February 2021.
Who is McKinsey’s New CEO?
Sternfels is a California native who received his education from Stanford and the University of Oxford. He has been with McKinsey since 1994. In addition, Sternfels has been a past candidate for the Global Managing Partner role and is currently a member of the Board of Directors. Most recently, he ran the Client Capabilities group at McKinsey.
This group is not a part of the typical team of McKinsey consultants a client might hire. It is a 2,500-person team of professionals who help and enable the more traditional consulting teams. This is done through the rigorous use of complex analytical tools, data management, and manipulation. Deliverables for this group can include in-depth primary and secondary research, modeling, and data analyses involving advanced statistics, econometric modeling, and optimization.
What Does this Mean for McKinsey?
On a basic level, this change in leadership is a reaction to former CEO Kevin Sneader’s attempt to affect a McKinsey culture change. In 2019, spearheaded by Sneader, the firm adopted what it called “more rigorous” client selection policies, which required analyzing whether its work would hurt people, particularly vulnerable populations. Some partners felt these policies went too far. The election of Sternfels as McKinsey’s new CEO is no doubt, in part, a reaction to Sneader’s policies.
But this change in leadership also seems to be symbolic of McKinsey’s diversification away from pure strategy work and towards a broader service offering. It is indicative of a culture change that goes beyond the former McKinsey CEO’s restrictions. Elevating an individual of Sternfel’s background should naturally lead to increased importance placed on novel, analytical, and digitally enabled services (in addition to pure strategy work).
The election of new McKinsey CEO Bob Sternfels indicates that changes are afoot at what many consider to be the most elite consulting firm in the world. McKinsey seems to be committed to operating in ways that benefit its clients, the bottom line, and society as a whole. But this election also indicates that the partner base values its autonomy above all else. Will a new Managing Partner really change all that much for McKinsey? Only time will tell.
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