MBB Implementation or 2nd Tier Generalist?

wheresthecash's picture
Rank: Monkey | banana points 36

I just finished my MBA at an MBB target b-school. have a Generalist offer from a 2nd tier (Strategy&/ATK/OW) and an Implementation offer from McK in a region of the world where that 2nd tier competes significantly with MBB for projects. My gut is telling me to accept the generalist offer since it's more aligned with the kind of work I want to be doing in consulting (strategy). I would also hope that my exit-opps are more "strategy" related with a role like this. On the other hand, I cannot get over the prestige factor of MBB. My biggest doubt is whether the Implementation practice would still give me the right exposure should I choose to exit in 3-4 years.

My questions are as follows:

  1. Any thoughts on McK's Implementation practice? I have friends there that say implementation consultants do as much strategy work as the generalists, and others that say most of their work tends to be implementation. Also when I check the credentials of the implementation consultants at the office I would join, there is a significant difference. The implementation guys have a lot more field experience, and their MBA schooling (if any) is increasingly done at non-targets, whereas the generalists have a more cliched past (mainly MBAs from target B-schools). Fundamentally this is not really important; just another data point in evaluating (in a very biased and probably unfair way) the "perceived" quality of the consultants and the practice.
  2. What would you do in my shoes, knowing that the 2nd tier competes shoulder-to-shoulder with the MBBs for strategy work in the region I am in? Does this alone justify joining a leading 2nd tier? Or does the prestige factor at MBB trump that even though it's an implementation role where most of my work could be executing stuff that my peers had developed?

Some genuine thoughts would be much appreciated. Thanks!

Comments (9)

Dec 29, 2018

Hey wheresthecash, what a lonely thread. I'm here since nobody responded ...so maybe one of these discussions will help:

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You're welcome.

Dec 31, 2018

If you want strategy, take the T2 offer. As you've surmised, implementation is not strategy. Your opportunities are molded by the service line you select, so don't choose based on reputation.

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Dec 31, 2018

The only upside to taking the MBB offer is cocktail party boasting. Unless you really want to do implementation work, the T2 offer is far and away the better option.

If you reapply to MBB strategy down the line, the t2 experience is probably a better resume fit as well; maybe a wash for the same firm opportunity.

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Jan 2, 2019

Agreed with above. Go with T2. Congrats!

Jan 3, 2019

Congrats on the offers!

I had to make a similar decision twice in my life thus far. Once for a strategy consulting position and once for a private equity position. I always chose the role vs. the brand name and I couldn't be happier with the decisions. Brand name does not matter much. You will spend 50-70 hours per week in your role and you want to make sure you like what you are doing. Can you envision yourself spending 50-70 hours/week for x-years in a role you don't enjoy/is not exactly what you wanted to do with your life? Also, think about the next job after this one. What activities/accomplishments will you put on your resume? You want to put strategy related activities on your resume so you can find your next cool role (Corp Dev, role at another consulting firm).

McK Implementation was created to compete against the Big4/Accenture, etc. of the world and as the name implies...you will execute/implement the strategies created by the generalist/strategy consultants. I bet McK Implementation has a different compensation structure and different rate card. As you found out from your research...the hiring model is different. A lot more focus is on people who worked in industry roles/C-level roles and who have done implementation work. Don't get me wrong...if you want to learn how to execute strategy, implement performance improvement programs, etc. then McK Implementation is a good place to be. If you want to do Strategy consulting go with your Generalist offer. You will not regret it.

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Jan 4, 2019

Implementation consultants are seen as 2nd tier consultants inside McK. But if prestige is really important for you, you could always go to MI and then push for an internal transfer after a couple of outstanding semi-annual reviews. If you have folks cheering for you, this is actually doable (not easy, but doable).

Most Helpful
Feb 8, 2019

Alright guys - I wanted to update you and hopefully provide some perspective for anyone in the same boat I was. It seems like most of the McK implementation information out there on the internet is a little dated, so makes learning about it a little frustrating.

So I went with McK. My decision process revolved around three parameters:

  1. Internal information about implementation from McK recruiter and interviewers
  2. Opinions of current/former consultants from my MBA program (MBA alumni opinions)
  3. Exit opportunities given geographic uncertainty

So lets start with the first parameter:

  1. Internal information: For me, my target was to understand how implementation was viewed internally within McK. I decided that the three data points would be the title of role and much money I got (and how it compared to a classical generalist role), what the progression looked like for implementation, and finally the kind of work that the consultants did in the office I was applying to.
    My role will be "Associate - Implementation", which is equivalent to the old terminology of "Senior Implementation Coach". Apparently the job titles changed about a month ago inside McK, and the idea was to lessen the confusion both inside and outside the firm. My salary would be the same as a classical generalist consultant, with an identical performance bonus target. For progression, I basically parsed through LinkedIn profiles of McK implementation folks to understand how long it took them to get promoted to EMs and APs from an Associate/SIC role. It's exactly the same as your classical generalists. In general around 2 years from AC to EM, and about the same from EM to AP. Finally for the type of work they do, I made it a point to ask all 5 of my interviewers examples of recent work they did. Interestingly, 3 of the 5 talked to me about a strategy development piece, and the remaining 2 talked about org design and PMO work. I then called up 2 of my contacts (one a generalist and the other in implementation) who work in the same McK office, and asked their opinions on McK implementation. The generalist told me he's often staffed on strategy projects with implementation folks, and the implementation guy told me in his 1.5 years at the firm he's not yet been staffed on an implementation project.
  2. Opinions of current/former consultants: My intent here was to factor in a more subjective factor into my decision making process. These contacts of mine were either ex-consultants (one McK and another BCG), or current/former industry heads (extended MBA network). I also called up a professor of mine from B-school, who worked at Bain back in the day and graduated from/taught at Harvard. I'll spare you the small details of our conversations, but McK was the winner. The biggest comment was how the brand name would give me the right career lift and leverage early on in my career. The 2nd tier was solid, but the the MBB stigma is real.
  3. Exit Opps: This one is tricky, since I don't know where I want to be in 5 years. I grew up in region X of the world, spent 12 years in region Y studying and working professionally, and now back to region X. I like both regions, but I am not ready to commit to one yet. This uncertainty was key; if I wasn't sure where I want to be in 5 years, the McK name is the way to go.

So there you have it; my decision making process down to three parameters that I think do a decent job of capturing some of the subjectivity of the choice. This was a very hard decision for me to take, and my main challenge/objective was to try and detach from the "strategy is more sexy than implementation" argument. Although the argument probably has a lot of truth to it, it does a poor job reflecting on how MBB consulting is changing and what the future holds for this "premium" industry. It seems that more and more MBB work is around OPS dev/execution, org/PMO and transformation work, some of which would fall under McK's implementation practice for example. A buddy of mine at BCG (consultant) recently finished up a PMO/coaching engagement for a large client. This would technically classify as an implementation project at McK.

Thanks for all your feedback, and hopefully this thread is another useful data point for whoever needs it.

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Feb 11, 2019

100%, there is a misconception that strategy is the by and far the best work in consulting among people recruiting, to the point where people think it's Strategy or bust.

Fact: MBB's now do more work in Operations than Strategy.
Also Fact: As a generalist, you aren't going to come in and specialize in Strategy. A good deal of your work will be operations, or implementation.

Honestly when you leave the firm you don't even need to say you were part of Implementation. Just say you were an Associate or EM.

Array

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Feb 11, 2019

fight for MBB

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