A look into the insular and highly confidential world of consulting firms like Bain & Co., Andersen Consulting, McKinsey & Co., and Deloitte & Touche. OShea (The Daisy Chain, 1991) and Madigan, both of the Chicago Tribune, offer an insiders guide to the companies that hired big-gun consultants and now bitterly regret it. Consulting firms generally send in swarms of youthful MBAs who speak in an arcane language and often argue for sweeping changes at the companies they study. The authors survey several once-thriving companies that hired consultants, spent millions on changes, then found themselves bankrupt as a result. At Figgie International, for example, efforts by the consultants to make the Cincinnati-based conglomerate “world-class proved laughable: The company moved key plants, chock-full of new equipment, down South and soon was hemorrhaging money. When a Figgie rep investigated, he discovered that the new foreman and most of the plant workers were illiterate. The partnership of Monitor Company and Sears was also ill-fated; Monitor had little understanding of the typical Sears shopper and advised the retailer to end its famed deep-discount sales in favor of a lower everyday price. When sales plummeted, the board brought in Arthur Martinez, who killed the catalog and hired the Andrew Thomas Kearney firm to consult. This partnership was a hit, which the authors attribute to both Kearneys hard-working approach and the willingness of Martinez to leave the boardroom. The authors also write something of a love letter to Boston Consulting Group, which transformed a health-care plan into a scarily efficient corporation. Practical and intriguing, if occasionally stolid and lacking in investigative finesse. While optimistic about many consultants, however, the authors warn companies to be wary of too much good advice. (Author tour)

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