On a plane yesterday I read a truly awful new article in The Atlantic. Called “The Management Myth”, it is nominally about how management theory is a waste, MBAs are dangerous, philosophy rules, and consultants are nasties.
Writer Matthew Stewart (an Oxford-educated philosopher, as he insists on reminding readers) accomplished the impossible. He made me like management theory, MBAs, and consultants more, while liking philosophy (and Oxford philosophers) less. The article was disjointed, dull, obvious, smug, poorly written, and full of falsely-elevated faux philosophy chatter.
It also relied heavily on the author’s supposed insider-y consulting chops — we are told repeatedly that he founded a major consulting firm, but not which one — only to find out that his firm was a failed bubble creation at which he had only worked for four years:
By a strange twist of fate, I owe the longevity of my consulting career [ed. Elsewhere he says seven years] to this circumstance. When I first announced my intention to withdraw from the firm in order to pursue my vocation as an unpublishable philosopher at large, my partners let me know that they would gladly regard my investment in the firm as a selfless contribution to their financial well-being. By the time I managed to extricate myself from their loving embrace, nearly three years later [ed., 7 – 3 = 4], the partnership had for other reasons descended into the kind of Hobbesian war of all against all from which only the lawyers emerge smiling. The firm was temporarily rescued by a dot-com company, but with a year both the savior and the saved collapsed in a richly deserved bankruptcy.
To summarize in English: Stewart started an unnamed firm, and tried to exit mid-bubble four years later; his partners didn’t want to buy his equity, so he sued them. By the time he got his shares bought three years later the firm had imploded. I may have some of the precise details wrong, but that’s seemingly the essence. Not to be unnecessarily harsh, but who the hell cares what someone like this has to say about management theory, especially if the article is disjointed, dull, obvious, smug, poorly written, and full of falsely-elevated faux philosophy chatter.
As an aside, Nick Carr likes it. He’s wrong, but it’s nice to know Stewart has a constituency among ex-consultants-turned writers out there.
[Update] Courtesy of some sleuthing by reader James, here is a snippet of a story detailing how consultant Stewart’s consultancy folded into the soon-defunct USWeb. So, the remaining question: When did Stewart really leave Mitchell Madison?
Mitchell Madison joins the computer age
Like AT Kearney, acquired by EDS, Mitchell Madison has been acquired by a company with a technological bent. In July 1999, USWeb/CKS, a Web services agency based in California, announced an agreement to acquire MMG for about $300 million. The deal has US Web/CKS issuing 14.4 million shares of MMG over the following two years. USWeb/CKS will employ MMG’s 550 consultants, and Tom Steiner, the managing partner of MMG, will become the COO and President of USWeb/CKS. In its press release regarding the acquisition, the firm said that MMG “capped USWeb/CKS’s dream of bringing capability in technology, marketing, and strategy to its clients.” New partner US Web/CKS is even younger than MMG – it was founded in 1997.
MMG was fully intergrated into USWeb/CKS in March, 2000. The three companies are now known as marchFIRST.