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47 real mckinsey presentations, free to download.

Mats Stigzelius

Table of contents

Consulting firms like McKinsey, Bain, and BCG are notoriously secretive about both their clients and their slide decks.

Even so, there are a few publicly available McKinsey slides floating around the internet that can be fun to look at and get inspired by. For your convenience, we’ve rounded them up here and divided them into categories, along with short summaries of each deck.

But be warned: Many of the decks are older and for external purposes like presentations for industry conferences or extracts of McKinsey Global Institute reports. 

You can find similar lists of presentations for Bain here and BCG here .

If you want to see some recent real-life consulting slides used with corporate clients, go to our templates to get specific full-length case examples related to each topic.

Full list of available presentations:

Client projects:

  • McKinsey - Helping Global Health Partnerships to increase their impact: Stop TB Partnership (2009)
  • McKinsey - USPS Future Business Model (2010)
  • McKinsey - Capturing the full electricity efficiency potential of the U.K. (2012)
  • McKinsey - Modelling the potential of digitally-enabled processes, transparency and participation in the NHS (2014)
  • McKinsey - Refueling the innovation engine in vaccines (2016)
  • McKinsey - Lebanon Economic Vision - Full Report (2018)

Industry reports/market overviews:

  • McKinsey - The changed agenda in the global sourcing industry: perspectives and developments (2009)
  • McKinsey - What Makes Private Sector Partnership Works: some learnings from the field (2011)
  • McKinsey - The Internet of Things and Big Data: Opportunities for Value Creation (2013)
  • McKinsey - Laying the foundations for a financially sound industry (2013)
  • McKinsey - Manufacturing the Future: The Next Era of Global Growth and Innovation (2013)
  • McKinsey - Insurance trends and growth opportunities for Poland (2015)
  • McKinsey - Challenges in Mining: Scarcity or Opportunity? (2015)
  • McKinsey - Restoring Economic Health to the North Sea (2015)
  • McKinsey - How will Internet of Things, mobile internet, data analytics and cloud transform public services by 2030? (2015)
  • McKinsey - Overview of M&A, 2016 (2016)
  • McKinsey - Five keys to unlocking growth in marketing’s “new golden age” (2017)
  • McKinsey - Using Artificial Intelligence to prevent healthcare errors from occurring (2017)
  • McKinsey - Digital Luxury Experience (2017)
  • McKinsey - Technology’s role in mineral criticality (2017)
  • McKinsey - The future energy landscape: Global trends and a closer look at the Netherlands (2017)
  • McKinsey - European Banking Summit 2018 (2018)
  • McKinsey - Current perspectives on Medical Affairs in Japan (2018)
  • McKinsey - Investment and Industrial Policy: A Perspective on the Future (2018)
  • McKinsey - Moving Laggards to Early Adopters (Maybe even innovators) (2018)
  • McKinsey - Digital and Innovation Strategies for the Infrastructure Industry (2018)
  • McKinsey - The Future of the Finance Function –Experiences from the U.S. public sector (2019)
  • McKinsey - New horizons in transportation: mobility, innovation, economic development and funding implications (2020)
  • McKinsey - Accelerating hybrid cloud adoption in banking and securities (2020)
  • McKinsey - COVID-19 - Auto & Mobility Consumer Insights (2020)
  • McKinsey - Race in the workplace: The Black experience in the U.S. private sector (2021)
  • McKinsey - The top trends in tech - executive summary download (2021)
  • McKinsey - Women in the Workplace (2022)
  • McKinsey - Global Hydrogen Flows: Hydrogen trade as a key enabler for efficient decarbonization (2022)
  • McKinsey - McKinsey Technology Trends Outlook 2022 (2022)
  • McKinsey - Global Economics Intelligence; Global Summary Report (2023)
  • McKinsey - Fab automation - Artificial Intelligence (date unknown)

McKinsey Global Institute reports (McKinsey’s business and economics research arm):

  • McKinsey - Context for Global Growth and Development (2014)
  • McKinsey - Perspectives on manufacturing, disruptive technologies, and Industry 4.0 (2014)
  • McKinsey - From poverty to empowerment: India’s imperative for jobs, growth and effective basic services (2014)
  • McKinsey - Attracting Responsible Mining Investment in Fragile and Conflict Affected Settings (2014)
  • McKinsey - A blueprint for addressing the global affordable housing challenge (2015)
  • McKinsey - Jobs lost, jobs gained: Workforce transitions in a time of automation (2017)
  • McKinsey - Reinventing Construction: A Route To Higher Productivity (2017)
  • McKinsey - Outperformers: High-growth emerging economies and the companies that propel them (2018)

Miscellaneous projects:

  • McKinsey - How companies can capture the veteran opportunity (2012)
  • McKinsey - The Five Frames – A Guide to Transformational Change (date unknown)

Helping Global Health Partnerships to increase their impact: McKinsey (2009)

54 page pre-read deck for a board meeting during a longer project. Describes project overview, key findings from current phase, as well as next steps. Detailed and systematic walk-through. Good inspiration for : How to divide a project into relevant phases. Presenting detailed findings for different areas and summarizing these in suggested next steps for each area.

Download the presentation here.

McKinsey strategy presentation example pdf oil and gas market

USPS Future Business Model (2010)

39 page deck describing the recent context and base case going forward for USPS, as well as potential change levers and what is required to change course short term. Good inspiration for: Structuring a coherent strategy document with a clear storyline.

Download McKinsey strategy USPS Future Business Model presentation

Capturing the full electricity efficiency potential of the U.K. (2012)

61 page main deck + 68 page appendix covering a full analysis and recommendations for becoming more energy efficient. Appears to have been prepared for the UK government. Excellent deck with many good slide designs and the full end-to-end storyline from baseline calculation to potential efficiency measures to barriers to prioritization and recommendations of measures to take. Good inspiration for : Creating a full report of a project analysis and recommendations based on that analysis. Presenting data in clear slides. Presenting and analyzing potential measures systematically.

Mckinsey presentation - Capturing the full electricity efficiency potential of the U.K.

Modelling the potential of digitally-enabled processes, transparency and participation in the NHS (2014)

3 page deck + 13 page appendix describing the context, methodology, and outcome of a quantitative model to analyze the net benefits of various technology interventions for the NHS. Also includes an analysis of the net opportunities against the ease of implementation, and ends with a recommendation of the four most impactful actions to take. Good inspiration for: Structuring and explaining a quantitative model including drivers and expected impact.

McKinsey pdf presentation - Digitally-enabled processes in the NHS

Refueling the innovation engine in vaccines (2016)

40 page discussion document for NVAC as part of a longer project. The deck goes over the state of the industry, challenges to innovation and potential solutions, as well as what role NVAC can play. Good inspiration for: Creating a clear and structured storyline that balances data-heavy slides with verbal/abstract slides.

Refueling the innovation engine in vaccines presentation

Industry reports & market overviews:

The changed agenda in the global sourcing industry: perspectives and developments (2009) 35 page dense deck presented at a Global ICT services sourcing conference. Covers the development of the onshore-offshore industry, what it is expected to look like going forward, and the imperatives for management to successfully navigate the future. Good inspiration for: Creating a complete and comprehensive market picture, as well as framing recommendations.

global sourcing industry- perspectives and developments - slide deck

​​What Makes Private Sector Partnership Works: some learnings from the field (2011) 12 page deck describing public-private partnerships around agriculture in Africa. The deck identifies where in the value chain there could be partnership possibilities, as well as examples of successful partnerships and what is needed to succeed. Good inspiration for: Presenting a value chain. Visually representing different partnership models (or other types of models).

Mckinsey deck pdf - What Makes Private Sector Partnership Works

The Internet of Things and Big Data: Opportunities for Value Creation (2013) 18 page picture-heavy deck used in an oral presentation around the topic of IoT and big data. The deck first describes IoT’s growth in recent years before moving into how IoT works on a high level and what the possibilities and challenges are.

Good inspiration for: Using quotes to enhance a storyline.

IOT and and Big Data McKinsey pdf

Laying the foundations for a financially sound industry (2013) 17 page deck going over the current financial situation of the global steel industry before briefly touching on the outlook and then discussing possible measures to become more financially stable. Contains a fairly detailed and interesting EBITDA model with different drivers of EBITDA laid out. Presented at a Steel Committee meeting. Good inspiration for: Creating clear graph slides. Visually representing a quantitative model.

McKinsey global steel industry powerpoint

Manufacturing the Future: The Next Era of Global Growth and Innovation (2013) 38 page deck covering the current state of US manufacturing and five disruptive trends that are reshaping the industry. Good inspiration for: Summarizing trends and relating them to a specific value chain. Many good graphs and ways of presenting data (both quantitative and qualitative) visually.

McKinsey Global Growth and Innovation Powerpoint

Insurance trends and growth opportunities for Poland (2015) 25 page deck covering the status of the Polish insurance market and five main trends shaping the market, as well as a case of a different market and how that has changed. Presented in connection with the Polish Insurance Association. Good inspiration for: Systematically presenting various trends and their expected impact without becoming too monotonous visually.

Insurance trends and growth opportunities for Poland

Challenges in Mining: Scarcity or Opportunity? (2015) 10 page main deck + 30 page appendix describing the current status of mining and how the value chain will potentially change due to new innovations. Presented during World Materials Forum. Good inspiration for: Presenting a value chain in different ways, as well as which areas of the value chain will change/can be innovated.

Challenges in Mining- Scarcity or Opportunity - Mckinsey

Restoring Economic Health to the North Sea (2015) 28 page deck used for an oral presentation about the cost increases in the UK oil industry and potential ways to mitigate these. Good inspiration for: Creating a simple and clear storyline with a strong narrative arc that works well for a live presentation.

Restoring Economic Health to the North Sea

How will Internet of Things, mobile internet, data analytics and cloud transform public services by 2030? (2015) 15 page fairly high-level deck describing IoT and other digital trends and how they will potentially impact various industries and current ways of doing things. Good inspiration for: Presenting a trend and following with a good example/case study.

How will Internet of Things, mobile internet, data analytics and cloud transform public services by 2030

Five keys to unlocking growth in marketing’s “new golden age” (2017) 26 page deck going over five main levers to pull in marketing; science, substance, story, speed, and simplicity. Describes each lever in a few slides using mainly images, icons, and other graphics. Good inspiration for: Creating light, image-based slides that still tell a story and get the message across.

Five keys to unlocking growth in marketing’s “new golden age”

Using Artificial Intelligence to prevent healthcare errors from occurring (2017) 25 page dense deck describing how AI/ML (machine learning) is changing industries, the possible use cases in healthcare, and what barriers exists/which key things need to be in place to enable an advanced analytics implementation. Good inspiration for: Showing quantitative potentials for different use cases/levers and summarizing these in a visually clear way. Creating one-pagers on specific use cases.

Presentation - Using Artificial Intelligence to prevent healthcare errors from occurring

Digital Luxury Experience 2017 (2017) 24-page support deck for an oral presentation going over three areas of change for the luxury industry, hosted by a luxury goods umbrella organization. Good inspiration for: Using simple graphs and numbers to illustrate a point.

McKinsey slide deck - Digital Luxury Experience 2017

Technology’s role in mineral criticality (2017) 28 page deck first describing some overall technology trends and how they may impact the minerals industry including potential opportunities. Then going into productivity issues in mining and potential fixes, as well as a deep dive into two commodities. Presented at the World Materials Forum. Good inspiration for: Presenting complex data on relatively simple slides and making the message visually clear.

Technology’s role in mineral criticality

The future energy landscape: Global trends and a closer look at the Netherlands (2017) 38 page graph-heavy deck describing the current energy landscape and three major trends expected to impact it going forward, as well as how it specifically applies to the Netherlands. Presentation to the Dutch financial sector. Good inspiration for: Different ways of presenting numbers and graphs in clear, compelling visuals.

The future energy landscape - slide deck pdf

European Banking Summit 2018 (2018) 10-page deck going over the status of European capital markets, particularly concerning the US. Mainly focused on current numbers, not a lot on the path forward. Good inspiration for: Making classic consulting-style graph slides.

European Banking Summit 2018

Current perspectives on Medical Affairs in Japan (2018) 20 page deck covering the current status and trends impacting Medical Affairs in Japan, as well as four priorities for leadership going forward. Good inspiration for: Creating divider slides that also function as executive summaries.

Current perspectives on Medical Affairs in Japan

Investment and Industrial Policy: A Perspective on the Future (2018) 16-page main deck + 7-page appendix describing the rise of globalization, its impact on economic growth, and recommendations for policy-makers. Fairly high-level, although with some good data slides. Presented as part of a panel discussion at the UNCTAD Trade And Development Board. Good inspiration for: Creating visually clear data-heavy slides. Condensing a potentially long storyline into a few key slides.

Investment and Industrial Policy- A Perspective on the Future

Moving Laggards to Early Adopters (Maybe even innovators) (2018) 18 page word-heavy deck used in an oral presentation on the topic of digitalization in manufacturing. Covers the challenges of digital manufacturing, then goes over survey output from the industry, before ending with three recommendations for businesses. Good inspiration for: Presenting verbal findings and recommendations in simple slides with icons.

Moving Laggards to Early Adopters

The Future of the Finance Function –Experiences from the U.S. public sector (2019) 14 page deck used in an oral presentation for a government finance function conference. The deck goes over what challenges CFOs etc. face in the current environment and five ways to move from transaction to value management going forward. Good inspiration for: Presenting different levels of maturity of a given function and supporting this with data.

The Future of the Finance Function –Experiences from the U.S. public sector

Fab automation - Artificial Intelligence (date unknown) 17 page deck discussing the potential for AI in the semiconductor industry by first describing what AI is, then how it applies to fab, and finally what is required to unlock that potential. Good inspiration for: Creating different types of slide designs that balance text and numbers to avoid a monotonous or boring storyline.

Fab automation - Artificial Intelligence

McKinsey Global Institute reports:

Context for Global Growth and Development (2014) Sub-title: Extracts from McKinsey Global Institute research for UN Session on “Financing for global sustainable development”. 11-page deck focusing mainly on key findings from a longer research report put out by McKinsey Global Institute. Good inspiration for: Creating different slide designs for graphs and numbers.

Context for Global Growth and Development

Perspectives on manufacturing, disruptive technologies, and Industry 4.0 (2014) 17-page slightly ad hoc deck with extracts of a longer report put out by the McKinsey Global Institute on manufacturing. Goes over why manufacturing is important, how the boundaries of industry and services are blurring, how digital manufacturing is growing, and finally where governments can support from a policy perspective. Good inspiration for: Different slide designs and presenting data in a visually appealing and clear way.

Perspectives on manufacturing, disruptive technologies, and Industry 4.0

From poverty to empowerment: India’s imperative for jobs, growth and effective basic services (2014) 13-page deck + 8-page appendix going over India’s poverty issues and potential change levers. Extract of a longer report put out by the McKinsey Global Institute. Good inspiration for: Creating clear and compelling quantitative slides in different formats.

From poverty to empowerment- India’s imperative for jobs, growth and effective basic services

Attracting Responsible Mining Investment in Fragile and Conflict Affected Settings (2014) 8 page deck describing the development of resource-driven countries and six dimensions for governments to focus on to realize the full potential going forward. Extract from a longer report put out by the McKinsey Global Institute. Good inspiration for: Creating a short and to-the-point storyline following the SCQA framework (situation-complication-question-answer), although the “Q” is implied.

Attracting Responsible Mining Investment in Fragile and Conflict Affected Settings

A blueprint for addressing the global affordable housing challenge (2015) 49 page deck going into first what the affordable housing challenge looks like in numbers, followed by levers to narrow the affordability gap. The deck is a summation of a longer report put out by the McKinsey Global Institute. Good inspiration for: Illustrating change levers and their quantitative impact, both collectively and separately.

A blueprint for addressing the global affordable housing challenge

Jobs lost, jobs gained: Workforce transitions in a time of automation (2017) 16-page deck going over how automation and computers have historically affected jobs, and what potential impact it will have in the future. Summary of a longer report put out by the McKinsey Global Institute. Good inspiration for: Creating data-heavy slides. Keeping the storyline simple and to-the-point.

Jobs lost, jobs gained- Workforce transitions in a time of automation

​​Reinventing Construction: A Route To Higher Productivity (2017) 14-page deck describing the current state of construction, in particular productivity, before briefly going over seven potential improvement areas and how government intervention might help. Very high-level deck summarizing a longer report by the McKinsey Global Institute. Good inspiration for: Using an agenda or divider slide actively to both summarize and outline the storyline.

Reinventing Construction - McKinsey

Outperformers: High-growth emerging economies and the companies that propel them (2018) 16-page deck describing the main highlights of a research report by McKinsey Global Institute on high-growth emerging economies. The deck first goes over the data on how these economies are performing, followed by the proposed reasons why, and the outlook going forward. Good inspiration for: Creating different graph-heavy slide designs.

Outperformers- High-growth emerging economies and the companies that propel them

How companies can capture the veteran opportunity (2012)

34-page main deck + 12 page appendix going into how employers can leverage veteran talent. The document is divided into three main sections; 1) what is the business case for hiring veterans, 2) what are the best practices are for finding, hiring, onboarding, and retaining veterans, 3) what resources are available to assist employers’ veteran recruiting efforts. Good inspiration for: Systematically presenting an opportunity and how to best leverage that opportunity. Creating slides to show processes and decision trees.

How companies can capture the veteran opportunity

The Five Frames – A Guide to Transformational Change (date unknown)

33-page deck discussing organizational “health” and diving into a five-step approach to transformation. The deck is structured as a kind of simple playbook to use when undertaking e.g. a digital transformation. Good inspiration for: Directly applicable high-level playbook when embarking on a small or large transformation. Structuring a process.

The Five Frames

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3 Great Examples of Slide Structure from McKinsey, Bain, and BCG

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By Paul Moss

Consulting firms all around the world consistently rely on the pyramid principle to build high-quality presentations with proper slide structure..

Consulting firms like McKinsey, Bain, and BCG rely on proper slide structure to communicate insights to their clients. In this post, I’ll show you exactly how they use the Pyramid Principle to structure their slides, and why it makes such a big difference in the clarity of their presentations.  

If you’re new to this blog, make sure you check out our other  consulting slide breakdowns . And when you’re ready, take a look at our advanced PowerPoint and presentation building  courses  where you can learn to create presentations like a top-tier consultant. 

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Table of Contents

What is the Pyramid Principle?

Put simply, the Pyramid Principle is just a structured way of communicating your ideas where you  start with your main point and then work your way through the supporting details of that main point.  It is represented pretty well with a pyramid because you start right at the top of the Pyramid and then move down to the bottom with more supporting details and data.

pyramid principle in pyramid form

Let’s say I am trying to communicate the idea that LeBron James is my favorite player. I would first start with the main point, and then provide my three key arguments for why he is my favorite player. Then below that, I could provide supporting details for each key argument. 

In this visualization,  each idea is meant to summarize all the ideas below it.  For example, the idea that Lebron James scores a lot of points summarizes the two supporting details about his career average of 27 points per game, and him being the 3rd highest all-time scorer. 

3 layers of a logical pyramid

This style of top-down communication works really well in a variety of settings, including email, face-to-face communication, and of course, PowerPoint presentations — which is what I’m going to focus on here. 

BCG Example

The first example on our list is BCG . The slide is an excellent example of the Pyramid Principle because it is well-structured and clear. The slide title says “Melbourne seen as a cultural and creative city”, which is the main point the slide creator is trying to communicate (which is why it sits at the top of the slide in bold green letters).

Then they’ve split the main point into two key arguments: “Melbourne perceived by Australians as the country’s leading cultural city” and, “International travelers also perceive Melbourne as a creative city”. Then below each subtitle, there are four supporting points that are meant to provide support. 

BCG slide with proper slide structure

“Melbourne as a Global Cultural Destination” BCG

In this example the Pyramid Principle is quite easy to see. The title of the slide is the main point, the subtitles of the slide represent the key arguments, and the bullet points below that make up the supporting details and data. Each aspect of the slide fits into one of these three layers, and  everything on the slide has a purpose.

pyramid principle next to a BCG slide with good slide structure

By structuring the information in this way,  BCG makes it easy for the audience to process the contents of the slide quickly and easily.  There’s no question about what they’re trying to say, or why they’re trying to say it.

With data-heavy slides like this, it can be easy for the audience to get lost — especially if they’re trying to listen to a live speaker, read the words on the slide, and think critically about the slide’s message. Even for a smart person, this can be cognitive overload.  Organizing the slide into digestible bites significantly reduces the mental load on the audience. 

McKinsey Example 

The next slide from McKinsey is also reasonably straightforward. It’s from a deck about high-growth emerging economies, which they refer to as “outperforming economies”.

The title of the slide says “A pro growth agenda of productivity, income, and demand propelled the outperforming economies”, and the slide itself shows the three areas that have propelled the growth for these emerging economies: productivity, growth, and demand. 

McKinsey slide example with good slide structure

“Outperformers: High-growth emerging economies and the companies that propel them” McKinsey, October 2018

There’s a few data points on the slide and a nice visual in the middle to break down the three main categories, making it pretty easy to spot the different layers in the Pyramid. So obviously, just like in our last slide, the main point will be represented by the title. That is what they want us to understand and take away from the slide first.

Then next the key argument level is also pretty clear with “higher productivity”, “boosting demand”, and “strong and inclusive growth” shown in bold text within each bracket (and also mentioned in the title). Then lastly, the bottom layer of the pyramid is represented by the various bullet points within each bracket (below the key arguments).

Each layer of the pyramid highlighted in a McKinsey slide

Altogether, it makes for  a well structured slide with a clear message and clear supporting points.  Despite not be organized visually in the same way as the BCG slide, the slide is very well structured and easy to understand. 

Bain Example

Then lastly, we have a slide from Bain , and this one is slightly more complicated than the first two. The title says “Greater than 60% of growth in 2011 continues to come from new customers. However, share from existing customers improved.” The slide is all about the luxury goods market in China, and more specifically, they’re trying to show where the growth in the market is coming from.

Bain slide with proper slide structure

 “China Luxury Market Study” Bain & Company, December 2011

The BCG slide was organized neatly into the left and right sections of the slide, and in the McKinsey slide they were bolded with bullet points underneath. What’s tricky about this slide however, is that  the Pyramid Principle is not clearly visible at first glance. 

The title of the slide still represents the main point, and the key arguments are not emphasized visually, but logically they’re still present. The first key argument is that growth is coming from new customers, and the second key argument is that growth is coming from existing customers. Then if you look through the body of the slide,  you’ll notice that everything falls into one of these two categories. 

Pyramid highlighting Bain's use of proper slide structure

In the waterfall chart for example, notice how it is split into these two categories: new customers (as represented by the red columns), and then existing customers (as represented by the dark grey columns). Then on the right hand side of the slide, each of the bullet points can fit into one of the two categories. 

For example, the first bullet says “China market is still supply driven; new store openings create new demand.” This clearly fits into the key argument about growth coming (in part) from new customers. Combined with the key argument about growth coming from existing customers,  these two provide solid logical support for the main point. 

So despite not having an easy visual layout like the previous two examples, this slide is well organized logically, and provides a nice structure that helps the audience clearly understand the main message, as well as the support for that main message. 

You can watch a video version of this article on YouTube .

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Database of 34+ Downloadable McKinsey Presentations

Table of contents.

It’s great to learn the techniques that strategy consulting firms like McKinsey & Co use to build compelling slide decks (e.g. executive summaries , the Pyramid Principle ,  action titles , etc.)

But sometimes you just want to see McKinsey presentations to see how those techniques are applied in the real world.

The problem is that it’s quite hard to find good-quality McKinsey presentations. Most of them are commercial in confidence and, even if they’re not, they’re scattered all over the web.

You can download the full set of McKinsey presentations (plus an additional 100+ presentations from BCG, Bain & Co, Kearney, Oliver Wyman, L.E.K, and more) using this form:

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Download 120+ strategy consulting presentations for free

Looking for slide inspiration? Download 120+ consulting slide decks from top strategy consulting firms, such as McKinsey, BCG and Bain!

Or if you’d rather download the McKinsey presentations individually, you’ll find a list for you to download below:

Downloadable McKinsey Presentations & Slide Decks

  • McKinsey – USPS Future Business Model (2010)
  • McKinsey – Addressing the Global Affordable Housing Challenge (2016)
  • McKinsey – The Internet of Things and Big Data (2013)
  • McKinsey – Challenges in Mining: Scarcity or Opportunity? (2015)
  • McKinsey – Digital Luxury Experience (2017)
  • McKinsey – European Banking Summit (2018)
  • McKinsey – Context for Global Growth and Development (2014)
  • McKinsey – Outperformers: High Growth Emerging Economies (2018)
  • McKinsey – Insurance Trends and Growth Opportunities for Poland (2015)
  • McKinsey – Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained: Workforce Transitions (2017)
  • McKinsey – Current Perspectives on Medical Affairs in Japan (2018)
  • McKinsey – Digitally-Enabled Processes in the NHS (2014)
  • McKinsey – From Poverty to Empowerment (2014)
  • McKinsey – What Makes Private Sector Partnerships Work (2011)
  • McKinsey – Reinventing Construction (2017)
  • McKinsey – Laying the Foundations for a Financially Sound Industry (2013)
  • McKinsey – Technology’s Role in Mineral Criticality (2017)
  • McKinsey – Capturing the Full Electrical Efficiency Potential of the UK (2012)
  • McKinsey – How Companies can Capture the Veteran Opportunity (2012)
  • McKinsey – Investment and Industrial Policy (2018)
  • McKinsey – Moving Laggards to Early Adopters (2019)
  • McKinsey – Helping Global Health Partnerships to increase their impact (2009)
  • McKinsey – The changed agenda in the global sourcing industry (2009)
  • McKinsey – Attracting Responsible Mining Investment in Fragile and Conflict Affected Settings (2014)
  • McKinsey – Using Artificial Intelligence to prevent healthcare errors from occurring (2017)
  • McKinsey – Refueling the innovation engine in vaccines (2016)

If you’d like to download more consulting decks from BCG, Bain, L.E.K Consulting, Oliver Wyman, Kearney and more, then check out our free database of 71+ downloadable consulting presentations .

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McKinsey-style business presentations

Presentation skills are essential to success in any business. This article explains how to structure a McKinsey-style business presentation, step by step, from a single slide to a complete deck. We discuss how to prepare… ... read more Presentation skills are essential to success in any business. This article explains how to structure a McKinsey-style business presentation, step by step, from a single slide to a complete deck. We discuss how to prepare for a presentation, how to structure the material, and how to deliver the presentation. close

What can we learn about presentations from the most successful management consulting companies like McKinsey, BCG, or Bain?

Prezlab has had the privilege of working with some of the best management consulting firms in the region and has helped a slew of consultants and consulting companies with their presentations. We thought it would be a great idea to jot down what the most successful management consulting companies such as McKinsey, BCG, and Bain do in their presentations to make them such a success. Their presentations are elegant, articulate, well-organized, engaging, and pack a mighty punch.

Great consultants are problem-solvers. In our opinion, this is a must for consultants. When this ability is coupled with the ability to design a great presentation, that’s when the magic happens. Because with the power of effective communication and delivery, they can change minds and convince their audience that their solutions are the most effective. Unfortunately, a lot of management consultants lack this ability. This blog is meant to bring you a little closer to becoming an effective communicator of solutions via presentation design .

Think of a great presentation like a movie; storytelling is the most central aspect. The idea of your presentation as a management consultant is to present and unpack complex ideas in the most simplified and easy-to-understand manner. Apart from storytelling, the other aspects of your presentation would be data and analysis. All of these elements should work in unison and be coherent with each other to make one singular point, the solution. If you want to learn more about this aspect of a presentation then read our blog: Effective remedies to dull and boring presentations .

Before you start, ask yourself the following questions:

01 Who is my target audience and what is their level of understanding of the problems?

02 How long should your presentation be?

03 How much time would your audience like to spend on your presentation?

04 What do they care about?

05 What action would you like them to take after your presentation?

The typical elements of a management consulting presentation

1 – executive summary.

The executive summary is a situational summary of the problem at hand and the gist of your presentation. This is mostly written for top management who don’t have the time to go through the entire presentation and just want a powerful summary.

2 – Table of Content

A table of content helps spark interest and give your audience an idea of what is to come. This is usually shown right at the beginning before you begin presenting your material.

3 – Action Title

The action title is your single point or key idea that you will be proposing in the rest of the presentation. Every point you introduce should connect back to the action title.

4 – Chapters and Body of Slides

The chapters and body of slides are the slides that conform to the narrative. You can split the presentation into chapters to break it into more palatable sections. Use the slides to present your story backed by the data and analysis.

5 – Conclusion and recommendations

The conclusion reinforces and reiterates your final point or your solution. This section summarizes all your main ideas and condenses them into a central theme.

One aspect that makes sides from McKinsey and other top management consulting firms stand out is the use of engaging visuals that go side by side with the data being presented in the slides.

Another aspect of McKinsey slides is the constant and conscious attempt to keep the number of slides to as few as possible. This default instinct is to present as much data as possible. The false impression that most management consultants have is that if they say more, they have a better chance of winning their audience over.

Nothing can be further away from the truth. Once you start thinking this way you would be surprised how you can chop down 20 slides to 2 slides without losing any real impact. Presentation formats such as the PechaKucha or Guy Kawasaki methods limit their slides to a certain number and work within that specific parameter to tell a story.

McKinsey consultancy slides also do not use a lot of bullet points – it is a surefire way of losing your audience’s interest. Studies have shown that people are more likely to remember information presented as images and pictures rather than bullet points. Steve Jobs, one of the greatest presenters of all time, never used bullets in any of his presentations, and we wrote a blog on  5 Presentation Lessons You Can Learn from Steve Jobs  if you are interested in learning more .

Key features from McKinsey slides worth keeping in mind:

01 Choose a professional font like Arial or any other professional font

02 Keep colors to a minimum and keep the color scheme consistent across all the slides

03 Highlight the key points

04 Avoid clutter, give your slides enough breathing space

05 Ensure proper and correct alignment

06 Have a “source” section at the bottom of each slide

07 No fancy graphics or animations

And most importantly: make sure each side has an action title that encapsulates the key idea of that slide in a one-liner (maximum two sentences). The idea is that if someone reads just the action titles of each slide, they should get the gist of your presentation.

If you want to see some of McKinsey’s presentations in action then check out the links below:

Jobs lost, jobs gained: Workforce transitions in a time of automation

Reinventing Construction

Laying the foundations for a financially sound industry

If you would like to get your McKinsey-style slides designed by Prezlab, get in touch with us .

Let us design your presentation!

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Home Blog Business Business Presentation: The Ultimate Guide to Making Powerful Presentations (+ Examples)

Business Presentation: The Ultimate Guide to Making Powerful Presentations (+ Examples)

Business Presentation Ultimate Guide plus examples

A business presentation is a purpose-led summary of key information about your company’s plans, products, or practices, designed for either internal or external audiences. Project proposals, HR policy presentations, investors briefings are among the few common types of presentations. 

Compelling business presentations are key to communicating important ideas, persuading others, and introducing new offerings to the world. Hence, why business presentation design is one of the most universal skills for any professional. 

This guide teaches you how to design and deliver excellent business presentations. Plus, breaks down some best practices from business presentation examples by popular companies like Google, Pinterest, and Amazon among others! 

3 General Types of Business Presentations

A business presentation can be given for a number of reasons. Respectively, they differ a lot in terms of content and purpose. 

But overall, all types of business presentations can be classified as:

  • Informative
  • Persuasive 
  • Supporting 

Informative Business Presentation 

As the name suggests, the purpose of an informative presentation is to discern the knowledge you have — explain what you know. It’s the most common type of business presentation out there. So you have probably prepared such at least several times. 

Examples of informative presentations:

  • Team briefings presentation 
  • Annual stakeholder report 
  • Quarterly business reviews
  • Business portfolio presentation
  • Business plan presentation
  • Project presentation

Helpful templates from SlideModel:

  • Business plan PowerPoint template
  • Business review PowerPoint template
  • Project proposal PowerPoint template
  • Corporate annual report template

Persuasive Business Presentation 

The goal of this type of presentation is to persuade your audience of your point of view — convince them of what you believe is right. Developing business presentations of this caliber requires a bit more copywriting mastery, as well as expertise in public speaking . Unlike an informative business presentation, your goal here is to sway the audience’s opinions and prompt them towards the desired action. 

Examples of persuasive presentations:

  • Pitch deck/investor presentations
  • Sales presentation  
  • Business case presentation 
  • Free business proposal presentation
  • Business proposal PowerPoint template
  • Pitch deck PowerPoint template
  • Account Plan PowerPoint template

Supporting Business Presentation 

This category of business PowerPoint presentations is meant to facilitate decision-making — explain how we can get something done. The underlying purpose here is to communicate the general “action plan”. Then break down the necessary next steps for bringing it to life. 

Examples of supporting presentations:

  • Roadmap presentation
  • Project vision presentation 
  • After Action Review presentation 
  • Standard operating procedure (SOP) PowerPoint template 
  • Strategy map PowerPoint template 
  • After action review (ARR) PowerPoint template 

What Should Be Included in a Business Presentation?

Overall, the content of your business presentation will differ depending on its purpose and type. However, at the very minimum, all business presentations should include:

  • Introductory slide 
  • Agenda/purpose slide
  • Main information or Content slides
  • Key Takeaways slides
  • Call-to-action/next steps slides

We further distill business presentation design and writing best practices in the next section (plus, provide several actionable business PowerPoint presentation examples!). 

How to Make a Business Presentation: Actionable Tips

A business presentation consists of two parts — a slide deck and a verbal speech. In this section, we provide tips and strategies for nailing your deck design. 

1. Get Your Presentation Opening Right 

The first slides of your presentation make or break your success. Why? By failing to frame the narrative and set the scene for the audience from the very beginning, you will struggle to keep their interest throughout the presentation. 

You have several ways of how to start a business presentation:

  • Use a general informative opening — a summative slide, sharing the agenda and main points of the discussion. 
  • Go for a story opening — a more creative, personal opening, aimed at pulling the audience into your story. 
  • Try a dramatic opening — a less apparent and attention-grabbing opening technique, meant to pique the audience’s interest. 

Standard Informative Opening 

Most business presentation examples you see start with a general, informative slide such as an Agenda, Problem Statement, or Company Introduction. That’s the “classic” approach. 

To manage the audience’s expectations and prepare them for what’s coming next, you can open your presentation with one or two slides stating:

  • The topic of your presentation — a one-sentence overview is enough. 
  • Persuasive hook, suggesting what’s in it for the audience and why they should pay attention. 
  • Your authority — the best technique to establish your credibility in a business presentation is to share your qualifications and experience upfront to highlight why you are worth listening to. 

Opening best suited for: Formal business presentations such as annual reports and supporting presentations to your team/business stakeholders. 

Story Opening 

Did you ever notice that most TED talks start with a quick personal story? The benefit of this presenting technique is that it enables speakers to establish quick rapport and hold the listener’s attention. 

Here’s how Nancy Duarte, author of “Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations” book and TED presenter, recommends opening a presentation: 

You know, here’s the status quo, here’s what’s going on. And then you need to compare that to what could be. You need to make that gap as big as possible, because there is this commonplace of the status quo, and you need to contrast that with the loftiness of your idea. 

Storytelling , like no other tool, helps transpose the audience into the right mindset and get concentrated on the subject you are about to discuss. A story also elicits emotions, which can be a powerful ally when giving persuasive presentations. In the article how to start a presentation , we explore this in more detail.

Opening best suited for: Personal and business pitches, sales presentations, other types of persuasive presentations. 

Dramatic Opening 

Another common technique is opening your presentation with a major statement, sometimes of controversial nature. This can be a shocking statistic, complex rhetoric question, or even a provocative, contrarian statement, challenging the audience’s beliefs. 

Using a dramatic opening helps secure the people’s attention and capture their interest. You can then use storytelling to further drill down your main ideas. 

If you are an experienced public speaker, you can also strengthen your speech with some unexpected actions. That’s what Bill Gates does when giving presentations. In a now-iconic 2009 TED talk about malaria, mid-presentation Gates suddenly reveals that he actually brought a bunch of mosquitoes with him. He cracks open a jar with non-malaria-infected critters to the audience’s surprise. His dramatic actions, paired with a passionate speech made a mighty impression. 

Opening best suited for: Marketing presentations, customer demos, training presentations, public speeches. 

Further reading: How to start a presentation: tips and examples. 

2. Get Your PowerPoint Design Right

Surely, using professional business PowerPoint templates already helps immensely with presentation deck design since you don’t need to fuss over slide layout, font selection, or iconography. 

Even so, you’ll still need to customize your template(s) to make them on brand and better suited to the presentation you’re about to deliver. Below are our best presentation design tips to give your deck an extra oomph. 

Use Images, Instead of Bullet Points 

If you have ever watched Steve Jobs’s presentations, you may have noticed that he never used bullet-point lists. Weird right? Because using bullet points is the most universal advice in presentation design. 

business presentation mckinsey

But there’s a valid scientific reason why Jobs favored images over bullet-point texts. Researchers found that information delivered in visuals is better retained than words alone. This is called the “ pictorial superiority effect ”. As John Medina, a molecular biologist, further explains :

“Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65%.”

So if your goal is to improve the memorability of your presentation, always replace texts with images and visualizations when it makes sense. 

Fewer Slides is Better

No matter the value, a long PowerPoint presentation becomes tiring at some point. People lose focus and stop retaining the information. Thus, always take some extra time to trim the fluff and consolidate some repetitive ideas within your presentation. 

For instance, at McKinsey new management consultants are trained to cut down the number of slides in client presentations. In fact, one senior partner insists on replacing every 20 slides with only two slides . Doing so prompts you to focus on the gist — the main business presentation ideas you need to communicate and drop filler statements. 

Here are several quick tips to shorten your slides:

  • Use a three-arc structure featuring a clear beginning (setup), main narrative (confrontation), ending (resolution). Drop the ideas that don’t fit into either of these. 
  • Write as you tweet. Create short, on-point text blurbs of under 156 symbols, similar to what you’d share on Twitter. 
  • Contextualize your numbers. Present any relevant statistics in a context, relevant to the listeners. Turn longer stats into data visualizations for easier cognition. 

Consistency is Key 

In a solid business presentation, each slide feels like part of the connecting story. To achieve such consistency apply the same visual style and retain the same underlying message throughout your entire presentation.

Use the same typography, color scheme, and visual styles across the deck. But when you need to accentuate a transition to a new topic (e.g. move from a setup to articulating the main ideas), add some new visual element to signify the slight change in the narrative. 

Further reading: 23 PowerPoint Presentation Tips for Creating Engaging and Interactive Presentations

3. Make Your Closure Memorable 

We best remember the information shared last. So make those business presentation takeaways stick in the audience’s memory. We have three strategies for that. 

Use the Rule of Three 

The Rule of Three is a literary concept, suggesting that we best remember and like ideas and concepts when they are presented in threes. 

Many famous authors and speakers use this technique:

  • “Duty – Honor – Country. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, and what you will be” . Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
  • “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” are the unalienable rights of all humans that governments are meant to protect.” Thomas Jefferson 

The Rule of Three works because three is the maximum number of items most people can remember on their first attempt. Likewise, such pairings create a short, familiar structure that is easy to remember for our brains. 

Try the Title Close Technique

Another popular presentation closing technique is “Title Close” — going back to the beginning of your narrative and reiterating your main idea (title) in a form of a takeaway. Doing so helps the audience better retain your core message since it’s repeated at least two times. Plus, it brings a sense of closure — a feel-good state our brains love. Also, a brief one-line closure is more memorable than a lengthy summary and thus better retained. 

Ask a Question 

If you want to keep the conversation going once you are done presenting, you can conclude your presentation with a general question you’d like the audience to answer.

Alternatively, you can also encourage the members to pose questions to you. The latter is better suited for informational presentations where you’d like to further discuss some of the matters and secure immediate feedback. 

Try adding an interactive element like a QR code closing your presentation with a QR code and having a clear CTA helps you leverage the power of sharing anything you would like to share with your clients. QR codes can be customized to look alike your brand.

If you are looking for a smoother experience creating presentations on the fly, check out the AI PowerPoint maker —it offers everything you can ask forfrom presentation design in a couple of clicks.

12 Business Presentation Examples and What Makes Them Great 

Now that we equipped you with the general knowledge on how to make a presentation for business, let’s take a look at how other presenters are coping with this job and what lessons you can take away from them. 

1. N26 Digital Bank Pitch Deck 

The Future of Banking by N26. An example of a Business Presentation with a nice cover image.

This is a fine business pitch presentation example, hitting all the best practices. The deck opens with a big shocking statement that most Millennials would rather go to the dentist than step into a bank branch. 

Then it proceeds to discuss the company’s solution to the above — a fully digital bank with a paperless account opening process, done in 8 minutes. After communicating the main product features and value proposition, the deck further conceptualizes what traction the product got so far using data visualizations. The only thing it lacks is a solid call-to-action for closing slides as the current ending feels a bit abrupt. 

2. WeWork Pitch Deck

Business Presentation Example by WeWork

For a Series D round, WeWork went with a more formal business presentation. It starts with laying down the general company information and then transitions to explaining their business model, current market conditions, and the company’s position on the market.

The good thing about this deck is that they quantify their business growth prospects and value proposition. The likely gains for investors are shown in concrete numbers. However, those charts go one after another in a row, so it gets a bit challenging to retain all data points. 

The last part of their presentation is focused on a new offering, “We Live”. It explains why the team seeks funds to bring it to life. Likewise, they back their reasoning with market size statistics, sample projects, and a five-year revenue forecast. 

3. Redfin Investor Presentation 

Redfin Investor Presentation for Business. A Technology-Powered Real Estate Company.

If you are looking for a “text-light” business presentation example, Redfin’s investor deck is up to your alley. This simple deck expertly uses iconography, charts, and graphs to break down the company’s business model, value proposition, market share, and competitive advantages over similar startups. For number-oriented investors, this is a great deck design to use. 

4. Google Ready Together Presentation 

This isn’t quite the standard business presentation example per se. But rather an innovative way to create engaging, interactive presentations of customer case studies .

Interactive Online Presentation example by Google, from Customer Insights.  Google Ready Together Presentation.

The short deck features a short video clip from a Google client, 7-11, explaining how they used the company’s marketing technology to digitally transform their operations and introduce a greater degree of marketing automation . The narrated video parts are interrupted by slides featuring catchy stats, contextualizing issues other businesses are facing. Then transitions to explaining through the words of 7-11 CMO, how Google’s technology is helping them overcome the stated shortcomings.

5. Salesforce Business Presentation Example 

This is a great example of an informational presentation, made by the Salesforce team to share their research on customer experience (CX) with prospects and existing customers.

Business Presentation Example by Service Salesforce on How to Know Your Customer. A look into the Future of Customer Experience.

The slide deck errs on the lengthier side with 58 slides total. But bigger topics are broken down and reinforced through bite-sized statistics and quotes from the company leadership. They are also packaging the main tips into memorable formulas, itemized lists, and tables. Overall, this deck is a great example of how you can build a compelling narrative using different statistics. 

6. Mastercard Business Presentation

This slide deck from Mastercard instantly captures the audience’s attention with unusual background images and major data points on the growth of populations, POS systems, and payment methods used in the upcoming decade.

Business Presentation by MasterCard on Technology and Payment solutions. The Unfinished Revolution.

Perhaps to offset the complexity of the subject, Mastercard chose to sprinkle in some humor in presentation texts and used comic-style visuals to supplement that. However, all their animations are made in a similar style, creating a good sense of continuity in design. They are also using colors to signify the transition from one part of the presentation to another. 

In the second part, the slide deck focuses on distilling the core message of what businesses need to do to remain competitive in the new payments landscape. The team presents what they have been working on to expand the payment ecosystem. Then concludes with a “title close” styled call-to-action, mirroring the presentation title.

7. McKinsey Diversity & Inclusion Presentation 

This fresh business slide deck from McKinsey is a great reference point for making persuasive business presentations on complex topics such as D&I. First, it recaps the main definitions of the discussed concepts — diversity, equity, and inclusion — to ensure alignment with the audience members. 

Business Presentation Example by McKinsey Company on Diversity Wins: How inclusion matters.

Next, the business presentation deck focuses on the severity and importance of the issue for businesses, represented through a series of graphs and charts. After articulating the “why”, the narrative switches to “how” — how leaders can benefit from investment in D&I. The main points are further backed with data and illustrated via examples. 

8. Accenture Presentation for the Energy Sector

Similar to McKinsey, Accenture keeps its slide deck on a short. Yet the team packs a punch within each slide through using a mix of fonts, graphical elements, and color for highlighting the core information. The presentation copy is on a longer side, prompting the audience to dwell on reading the slides. But perhaps this was meant by design as the presentation was also distributed online — via the company blog and social media. 

Business Presentation Example by Accenture on Accelerating Innovation in Energy.

The last several slides of the presentation deck focus on articulating the value Accenture can deliver for their clients in the Energy sector. They expertly break down their main value proposition and key service lines, plus quantify the benefits. 

9. Amazon Web Services (AWS) Technical Presentation 

Giving an engaging technical presentation isn’t an easy task. You have to balance the number of details you reveal on your slides to prevent overwhelm, while also making sure that you don’t leave out any crucial deets. This technical presentation from AWS does great in both departments. 

Business Presentation created by AWS explaining how to build forecasting using ML/DL algorithms.

First, you get entertained with a quick overview of Amazon’s progress in machine learning (ML) forecasting capabilities over the last decade. Then introduced to the main tech offering. The deck further explains what you need to get started with Amazon Forecast — e.g. dataset requirements, supported forecasting scenarios, available forecasting models, etc. 

The second half of the presentation provides a quick training snippet on configuring Amazon SageMaker to start your first project. The step-by-step instructions are coherent and well-organized, making the reader excited to test-drive the product. 

10. Snapchat Company Presentation

Snapchat’s business model presentation is on a funkier, more casual side, reflective of the company’s overall brand and positioning. After briefly recapping what they do, the slide deck switches to discussing the company’s financials and revenue streams.

business presentation mckinsey

This business slide deck by Snap Inc. itself is rather simplistic and lacks fancy design elements. But it has a strong unified theme of showing the audience Snapchat’s position on the market and projected vector of business development. 

11. Visa Business Acquisition Presentation 

VISA Acquisition of Plaid Business presentation.

If you are working on a business plan or M&A presentation for stakeholders of your own, this example from Visa will be helpful. The presentation deck expertly breaks down the company’s rationale for purchasing Plaid and subsequent plans for integrating the startup into their business ecosystem. 

The business deck recaps why the Plaid acquisition is a solid strategic decision by highlighting the total addressable market they could dive into post-deal. Then it details Plaid’s competitive strengths. The slide deck then sums up all the monetary and indirect gains Visa could reap as an acquirer. 

12. Pinterest Earnings Report Presentation 

Pinterest Business Presentation Example with Annual Report

Annual reports and especially earnings presentations might not be the most exciting types of documents to work on, but they have immense strategic value. Hence, there’s little room for ambiguities or mistakes. 

In twelve slides, this business presentation from Pinterest clearly communicates the big picture of the company’s finance in 2021. All the key numbers are represented as featured quotes in the sidebar with diagrams further showcasing the earning and spending dynamics. Overall, the data is easy to interpret even for non-finance folks. 

To Conclude 

With these business presentation design tips, presentation templates , and examples, you can go from overwhelmed to confident about your next presentation design in a matter of hours. Focus on creating a rough draft first using a template. Then work on nailing your opening slide sequence and shortening the texts in the main part of your presentation when needed. Make sure that each slide serves a clear purpose and communicates important details. To make your business presentation deck more concise, remove anything that does not pertain to the topic. 

Finally, once you are done, share your business presentation with other team members to get their feedback and reiterate the final design.

business presentation mckinsey

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The Advanced Guide to McKinsey-style Business Presentations

Introduction to business presentations, why we wrote this guide.

350 PowerPoint presentations are given per second. The vast majority of them suck.

They are too long, too dull, too full of useless detail, too generic. And these bad powerpoint presentations matter a lot.

They are how we represent ourselves and our work to the world, they are the culmination of our analysis and our thinking. They are our value-add.

And they are terrible.

business presentation mckinsey

FREE  eBook

Receive a pdf copy of this 10,000-word ' Advanced Guide to McKinsey-style Business Presentations' as part of our Accelerator Kit .

The disturbing challenge for many of us is that 'terrible' simply isn't good enough. Our careers depend on our business presentations not being terrible.

We wrote this guide in the hopes that, in our own way, we can have a disproportionate impact on your success - your success in presenting yourself, your ideas, and your value add. We hope you find this guide useful.

Our goal was to create the most comprehensive online guide to writing McKinsey-style business presentations on the web. At over 10,000 words, we think it is safe to say - job done!

Who is this guide for?

If you need to write a business report, update a team, complete a consulting assignment, or develop an investor pitch deck, and you are not sure where to start, this guide is for you.

If you need to write a senior executive presentation and are struggling to collect your thoughts, then this guide is for you.

If you are looking for tips, tools and resources to create your presentations faster and make them better, you are going to love this guide.

From PowerPoint newbie to strategy consulting veteran, you'll definitely learn something new that you can use to make your presentations sing.

How to use this Guide

Use The Advanced Guide to Writing McKinsey-Style Presentations in the way that works best for you. We have formatted and structured the Guide to take advantage of the web. You can use it for reference, inspiration, or as a how-to-guide. Be sure to bookmark the guide so that you can reference it in the future.

If you feel that you have a handle on writing business presentations - and just want to learn a new tip or two - then jump to the relevant section of the guide and dive in! We’re sure you'll find some new tricks and tips to add to your arsenal.

If you have a basic grasp of writing business presentations, but are looking to add a layer of depth to your knowledge - then you should read the guide in order.

Here is an overview of each of the chapters in this Advanced Guide to Writing McKinsey-Style Presentations.

Chapter 1: One of the Most Valuable Business Skills You Can Master

Presentation writing skills are under-rated. They have, in fact, a profound effect on your career success. 

In Chapter 1, we will layout the reasons why developing presentation skills can accelerate career advancement and explore why writing presentations is such a deceptively challenging task. 

We'll also introduce a framework for thinking about the skills one must master to become truly proficient at writing business presentations.

Chapter 2: The Many Schools of Business Presentation Design

There is a lot of conflicting advice out there. And a lot of fantastic presentation styles which one can emulate. In the end, as with much in life, the answer to 'which style should I copy?' or 'which advice should I follow?' is 'it depends'.

In this chapter we expand on the general 'horses for courses' answer. We'll introduce you to a number of alternate schools of presentation design and layout the precise circumstances under which each is powerful. We’ll explain how you select the presentation style and approach that matches your purpose.

This is your one stop shop for understanding the various presentation ‘schools-of-thought’ and for determining which high-level presentation approach you should adopt.

Chapter 3: The Consulting School of Presentation Design

The dirty little secret of presentation writing is that the vast majority of presentations that we write are not presented! At least not in a formal, auditorium kind of way.

This has profound implications on the style of presentation which you should adopt.

In this section we will explore the characteristics of the McKinsey (or consulting in general) style presentation and identify the things it does well and why this style is so useful.

Chapter 4: The Five Disciplines

There are five disciplines one must master to become great at writing killer business presentations. This is the heart of our process and of the SlideHeroes course:

  •   The Power of Logical Structure
  •   The Art of Storytelling
  •   The Science of Fact-based Persuasion
  •   The Harmony of Design
  •   The Drama of Performance

Chapter 5: The Power of Logical Structure

Your job is to communicate an answer to a question. When the audience cannot follow your answer, when they cannot follow the logical steps that flow through your argument, they become frustrated.

Logical structure helps comprehension.

But sometimes it can be difficult.

In this chapter we will dive deep into several business writing techniques you can use to help structure your presentation.

  •   How to group your ideas (the right number and nature; the right level of abstraction)
  •   Inductive and deductive arguments
  •   The special role your Introduction plays in establishing context and framing the question you will ultimately answer

Chapter 6: The Art of Storytelling

At their heart, all presentations are stories.

Our brains are wired to learn from and remember stories. Presentations that effectively make use of storytelling techniques are easier to understand and remember.

In this chapter we explore the hows and whys of storytelling within business presentations.

Chapter 7: The Science of Fact-based Persuasion

The focus of this chapter is on the need for facts and data, and how to present them.

To better understand how to present facts in the form of data we will start with Edward Tufte and a theory for the visual display of quantitative information.

We will also explore the differences between tables and graphs, and how to know when to use each.

The chapter will conclude with an overview of the standard graphs that are most commonly found in business presentations.

Chapter 8: The Harmony of Design

 How do I make my slides look good?

We get this question a lot. Usually the implicit assumption underlying that question is that it is a PowerPoint (or Keynote) question.

I don’t know how to use this stupid tool to make my slides look good.

In fact, creating good looking slides is, in the main, not a question of PowerPoint skills (it is a basic tool, pretty easy to learn). It is a design question, not an IT question.

And design is a little trickier.

The good news is that the basics of slide design are not difficult to master because, in general, less is more.

This chapter focuses on straight-forward design strategies you can employ to create amazing looking slides. We will also discuss tips and techniques that you can apply to improve the delivery of your presentation.

Chapter 9: The Drama of Performance

One of the things we emphasize strongly at SlideHeroes is the need to focus on the creation of the presentation material - the content, the structure, the story and the data.

But you better believe a presentation is a performance. Delivery matters, even if you are sitting down.

This chapter focuses on the kind of preparation and practice that is required to take a well written deck and deliver a great public speaking performance.

Chapter 10: The Process

At SlideHeroes we have a step-by-step process for applying each of these five disciplines, in the right order, so you can quickly go from a blank sheet of paper to ‘congratulations!’ on a job well done.

This chapter lays out that process for you.

Chapter 11: The Tools

We list a set of recommended tools that you can use to help create a great business presentation.

Chapter 12: Final Thoughts & Next Steps

In the final chapter of the Advanced Guide to Writing McKinsey-Style Presentations we provide some thoughts on where to go for more help and how the SlideHeroes course builds on the material contained in this Advanced Guide.

Who are we?

This post is the most popular on our site and, as a consequence, a lot of readers discover SlideHeroes for the first time via this Advanced Guide.

So who are we and what do we do?

SlideHeroes provides online, video-based business presentation training .

We help students become top-tier consultants, top performing sales people, superstar analysts and highly successful business professionals.

We help teams improve their corporate communication skills.

In our free course trial, we offer free video lessons that teach:

  •   Our full Who, Why, What and How process for creating killer presentations
  •   How to identify the key question your presentation must focus on answering
  •   How to structure the introduction of your presentation to plant this question in the mind of your audience

FREE  Course Trial

Start improving your presentations skills immediately with our free trail of the Decks for Decision Makers course.

business presentation mckinsey

Chapter 1: One of the Most Valuable Business Skills you can Master

The ability to write clear and impactful PowerPoint-based McKinsey presentations is, for young and mid-level professionals, one of the most valuable skills you can master.

Here’s why:

  •   PowerPoint (Keynote) is the de facto paradigm for internal corporate communication today
  •   The ability to present ideas and results in an understandable and compelling way can be a key differentiator (frankly many people are simply not very good at it)
  •   Strong communication skills make professionals more effective - being understood the first time, saves time

The problem many young professionals face is that unless they luck out early in their career and learn the craft of creating business presentations from someone pretty exceptional – they probably suck at it.

Becoming awesome is harder than most people realize

Becoming exceptional at crafting board-level presentations (presentations that kick ass) is tough. Much harder than most people realize.

Most of us initially dismiss the challenge as a PowerPoint formatting challenge - a time consuming technical challenge that should be delegated.

In fact, crafting successful presentations is a multi-disciplinary challenge that requires the mastery of a broad SET of distinct skills:

  •   The ability to order ideas in a logical and structured way
  •   The skill to utilize words succinctly, powerfully, accurately
  •   Numeracy, and the ability to communicate data effectively
  •   Taste - the appreciation for and ability to create aesthetically pleasing design
  •   Charisma and executive presence

Only some of these 'presentation skills' are taught in schools or formally in organizations. Many from this list are either very challenging to master, or are seen (by many) as simply innate.

‘How to use PowerPoint’ courses do not teach these skills either.

And to master all of them? Well, that is the challenge.

Chapter 2: The Many Schools of Business Presentation Design

There are many, many different 'schools' of presentation style. Different approaches to crafting and delivering a business presentation.

Here are a few to give you a flavor:

The ‘Pecha Kucha’ School

Pecha Kucha is a presentation style in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each (six minutes and 40 seconds in total). It is a format designed to keep presentations concise and fast-paced and is often adopted for multiple-speaker events (PechaKucha Nights). PechaKucha Night was devised in Tokyo in February 2003 as an event for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public.

Here is an example from the author Dan Pink of a Pecha Kucha presentation. Dan briefly explains the format and then goes on to give a Pecha Kucha about a favorite topic of his. It is a pretty good example. Unfortunately Dan messes up the pronunciation of Pecha Kucha (lots of people do). If you are curious as to how to pronounce Pecha Kucha, have a look at this video .

When to use Pecha Kucha

  •   Oral ‘stand-up’ presentations only, good for conference presentations
  •   When you only have 6 minutes and 40 seconds
  •   When a focus on fast-pace, conciseness and entertainment are paramount

The ‘TED Talk’ School

TED Talks are, quite simply, some of the most fascinating talks you will ever hear. The power of the ideas, and the skill of many of the presenters in the delivery of these ideas, has popularized an 18 minute presentation format that emphasizes story and big ideas.

Listen to Andrew Stanton from Pixar talk about what makes a great story:

business presentation mckinsey

When to use the ‘TED Talk’ style

  •   Oral ‘stand-up’ presentations only
  •   When you want to tell a story
  •   When the focus is on big ideas
  •   When you are presenting at TED (of course!)

The Lessig School

Larry Lessig is a Harvard Law Professor, founding board member of the Creative Commons, and strong proponent of reduced legal restrictions on copyright, trademark, and radio frequency spectrum.

He is also an amazing speaker. Lessig has, over the years, developed a very unique style that he has continued to refine. Have a look:

business presentation mckinsey

Interesting characteristics of Lessig’s unique style include:

  •   Many, many slides; sometimes pausing for only a moment between each
  •   Slides contain either a single, compelling image or simple text
  •   Talks built around compelling stories or anecdotes
  •   Variable speaking pace, with an almost preacher like cadence
  •   Passion (righteousness even)
  •   Strong narrative core (don’t be distracted by the novelty of the slides). These are very, very well written talks

When to use the ‘Lessig’ style

  •   When story plays a major role in communicating your message
  •   When the focus is on big ideas and themes
  •   When your narrative is where the power is coming from

Guy Kawasaki School

Guy Kawasaki, former Chief Evangelist at Apple and a silicon valley venture capitalist, evangelizes the 10/20/30 rule of PowerPoint presentations. The rule states that a presentation should have no more than 10 slides, take no longer than 20 minutes, a contain no font smaller than 30pt.

When to use the ‘Guy Kawasaki’ style

  •   When you are pitching to Guy Kawasaki (or other VCs)
  •   When your audience already has a good understanding of the content and likely structure of what you will say (as Kawasaki's VC-pitch examples illustrate in the video above)

Sit-down style presentations

There are many other styles. You may have noticed that these approaches to presentations have one thing in common; these Schools are all oriented towards the ‘stand-up in front of a crowd and give a speech’ type of presentation.

When we say presentation, we often mentally picture ourselves standing in front of a crowd. And this is a problem.

The majority of business ‘presentations’ are not made standing-up in front of a crowd. Instead, they are made sitting down, around a table, updating a project team, or presenting our thinking/ideas/suggestions to our boss.

The context of these types of ‘sit-down’ meetings has a profound effect on the style of the presentation we need to give.

These types of meetings and presentations:

  •   Will be more detail oriented (performance to-date, operational reviews, financial reviews, project-plan updates, etc.)
  •   Consist of small groups, in a more intimate setting
  •   Are more likely to result in discussion, going off on tangents or drilling-deeper
  •   Likely have the participants holding a hard-copy of the presentation in their hand, inches from their nose
  •   Can cause similar levels of public speaking anxiety as speeches

Speeches, in this context, are, shall we say… inappropriate.

Yet the vast majority of the 'presentation training' literature is focused on teaching what we should do when we are standing up in front of our audience (to give a speech). Some of it focuses on the creation of the presentation, but for presentations in a forum type setting.

Learning to give a presentation is not the same as learning to create a presentation

Our focus here is on what to do when you are sitting down. Our focus is on the creation of content for the presentations we give everyday. The project update / status report / executive board business presentation.

These types of business presentations require a specific presentation approach that the consulting school of presentation design is tailor made for.

McKinsey & Co. are universally regarded as the gold standard in strategy consulting. McKinsey's multi-million dollar advice is delivered in a very specific way.

There are a number of factors that make the McKinsey presentation, or Consulting style of presentation, unique and powerful:

  •   Clear, logical structure: The presentation takes you step by step through an argument
  •   The logic is sound (bullet proof!), the argument is complete
  •   Strict, consistent slide format - minimalist in design
  •   Data intensive: Assertions are proven with facts; and facts are data-driven whenever possible
  •   Quantitative data and other evidence is displayed and structured in simple and clean charts
  •   The key messages are contained on the slides of the presentation
  •   Can be read in advance, forwarded to others without losing meaning

This is not an exhaustive list of the characteristics of this style of presentation, but these are perhaps the most material. Hopefully you can see how they distinguish the consulting business presentation style from other approaches.

Zen-style presentations popularized by Garr Reynolds, for example, stand in stark contrast (reliance on imagery; focus on conference-style presentations).

Below is a BCG presentation, which is a good example of this type of presentation. We have annotated it with comments on how it could be even better, but, in general, it is a good example.

Slide Image

Fine, but does this approach work outside of consulting?

This approach to business presentation design applies across a range of different business situations:

  •   Board meetings, senior executive meetings
  •   Solution selling
  •   Project updates / status meetings
  •   Start-up investment pitches
  •   Financial performance reviews etc. etc. etc.

If you are still in doubt as to when to use this style of business presentation, here are a few tests to apply:

  •   Is it a business situation?
  •   Do you need to communicate information in some depth?
  •   Is it a ‘sit-down’ type setting (almost intimate)?

Have a look at the following presentation for an example of why the first test above is important ;-)

To create great presentations requires skills across a wide range of areas.

There are 5 disciplines one must master to effectively write and present impactful business presentations:

  •   The Power of Logical Structure

The rest of this Advanced Guide to McKinsey-Style Presentations will dive deep into each of these disciplines.

Structure is a beautiful thing.

It brings order, clarity. It enables understanding. We know it when we see it (even if it is just subconsciously) because comprehension immediately becomes easier. Our mind is automatically sorting information into distinctive groups and establishing hierarchies of relationships between these groups (semantic network model) all the time.

Effective structure is the first commandment of presentation creation.

But what is logical structure? How do you create a presentation that has logical structure?

There are half a dozen or so tricks, which when employed obsessively, can allow you to quickly cut through most of the pitfalls (and fairly unhelpful theory of logic) to produce a structure that works.

Group your ideas together to form an argument

Your mind is automatically imposing order on everything around you, all the time. You are grouping, classifying and imposing relationships on all the information your brain processes.

The goal in crafting a presentation is to facilitate the mental processing that is going on in the mind of your audience. To make this processing as easy as possible.

We can do this in two ways:

1. Rule of 7 Updated: Limit the Number of Your Groups to 4

George Miller, a Harvard psychologist, published a famous study in 1957 entitled ' The Magic Number Seven, Plus Or Minus Two '. This led to a well know rule of thumb that stated people only had the capacity to process 7 chunks of information at a time. Further research has enabled us to refine our understanding of how this rule changes depending on our definition of 'chunks' of information. More recent conclusions state that people can really only process 4-5 concepts - and only one at a time.

As a consequence, we should seek to structure our ideas into groups of 4-5 or less.

Put simply - there is no such thing as 7 or 9 of anything. If you have a list of 9 things, then you need to go up a level of abstraction and group them into 3-4 buckets.

It is easy to take this insight too far. There is no magical number of bullets per slide. Edward Tufte has some interesting things to say about this here . At its core, this is about a relatively self evident truth: Your audience will struggle to process information. Help them out by being aware of the number of discrete ideas you are sharing at any one time.

2. MECE: Ensure your Groups are Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive

MECE stands for mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive. It is terminology that today is synonymous with McKinsey and other top-tier consultancies.

The term refers to the idea of structuring lists of ideas in ways where the list is:

  •   Collectively Exhaustive (collectively, the ideas in the list cover all possible components of the idea)
  •   Mutually Exclusive (individually, each idea in the list is distinct from each of the other ideas, there is no overlap between ideas)

business presentation mckinsey

The easiest way to get your head around these ideas is with an example.

The following list of the 7 dwarves is not collectively exhaustive:

We are missing Doc!

The following list of options for where to go for dinner is not mutually exclusive:

  •   Restaurants East of our current location
  •   Italian restaurants
  •   Restaurants with music
  •   Restaurants South of our current location

There is overlap within this list. There could be Italian restaurants east of us. Some restaurants south of us could have music.

This 'test' (is this list MECE?) is extremely powerful technique in ensuring logical structure and improving the clarity of your presentation.

You will be surprised at how many groups of ideas you will create which will fail this test - and result in you thinking about additional, great points and ideas that make you argument even more powerful.

Inductive vs deductive arguments

Deductive reasoning.

Deductive reasoning starts out with a general statement, or hypothesis, and examines the possibilities to reach a specific, logical conclusion.

The scientific method uses deduction to test hypotheses and theories. The deductive argument presents ideas in successive steps. An example of this type of argument is:

  •   John is ill
  •   If John is ill, he will be unable to attend work
  •   Therefore, John will be unable to attend work

Inductive Reasoning

Inductive reasoning (know also as induction or 'bottom-up' logic), is a kind of reasoning that constructs general arguments that are derived from specific examples. Inductive arguments can take very wide ranging forms. Inductive arguments might conclude with a claim that is only based on a sample of information.

Here is an example of an inductive argument.

  •   Two independent witnesses claimed John committed the murder.
  •   John’s fingerprints are the only ones on the murder weapon.
  •   John confessed to the crime.
  •   So, John committed the murder.

Generally, our advice is to construct inductive-based arguments. They are easier for an audience to absorb because they require less effort to understand.

The challenge is that our instinct when writing a presentation is to present our thinking in the order we did the work, which is usually a deductive process.

DON"T DO THIS. No one cares what you did. How hard you worked. They want an answer to a question, not a tour of what you were up to for the last month!

Pay special attention to the Introduction

The start of a presentation requires special attention from a structural point of view.

It contains many traps which can lead unsuspecting authors astray. The purpose of the presentation is to address a question in the mind of the audience. The objective of the introduction is to establish the groundwork to plant this question, so that the rest of our presentation can focus on answering it.

The best approach for achieving this is Barbara Minto's SCQA framework. Buy Barbara's exceptional book The Pyramid Principle .

Context (or starting point): Where are we now?

Financial performance last year was fantastic, but growth has stalled in the first quarter…

Begin at the beginning. The Situation/Context or Starting Point is the background or baseline that anchors the rest of the story that will subsequently unfold. It is comprised of facts that the audience would be aware of and agree with in advance of reading the presentation. This helps to ground the presentation and establish a common starting point.

Typical situations are “we took an action”, "performance was good", "we have a problem".

Soon the audience will be asking themselves “I know this – why are you telling me?”. This is where the complication comes in.

Catalyst (or Complication): Something has changed...

A strategy for returning to growth has been proposed...

What happened next? The Complication creates tension in the story you’re telling. The key objective of the complication is to trigger the Question that your audience will ask in their mind.

Typical complications: “something is stopping us performing the task”, “we know the solution to the problem”, “a solution to the problem has been suggested” and “the action we took did not work”.

Question: The Question in the Mind of the Audience

Is this the right strategy?

The Question arises logically from the Complication and leads into the Answer. It is not explicitly stated in the introduction, it is implicit.

Typical questions: “what should we do?”, “how do we implement the solution?”, “is it the right solution?” and “why didn’t the action work?”

Answer (or Solution): Your answer to the Question

Yes, it will drive growth because…

The Answer to the Question is the substance of presentation and your main point. It is your recommendation. Summarize it first – completing your introduction – then break it down into details and write the main body of your presentations. This is where we develop our inductive argument, deploying groups of MECE ideas on the way to proving our point.

Call to Action (or Next Steps): What you want the Audience to do

We need to do this next

The call to action is the list of next steps that you want your audience to do.

You need next steps.

In fact, the next steps are the objective of your entire presentation. You want to identify these next steps early in the process of developing your presentation so that you can be sure to design a presentation that drives your audience to the action you desire.

Don’t leave the thinking around what the next steps are until the end.

Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact. Robert McKee, Author and Screenwriter

Storytelling is a timeless human tradition. Before the written word, people would memorize stories that shaped cultures for generations. We are wired for communicating through and learning from stories.

All presentations are, at their heart, a story.

Via storytelling techniques we can elevate our presentations to something that moves people. Sometimes, it is obvious that this is our goal. We are presenting at TED. We are making a speech to our employees about our new strategy. We are delivering our first State of the Union address...

Often, it is not.

Our topic may feel mundane - lacking the grand themes that great stories seem to require. When this happens, often our mistake is in framing the objective of our presentation as an exercise in conveying information - to update.

Rather, the objective of our presentations should be to persuade. To, in-fact, establish in the minds of the audience an important question, and persuade that audience of the validity of our answer.

When we need to update - we need to identify the question the audience should have in their minds as a consequence of the update. In many case it will be ‘what do I need to do next’.

As a rule of thumb:

If you don't have something to say, why are you presenting? If you are presenting, know what you have to say.

Why stories are effective.

There are a couple of reasons why stories can be more effective than fact-based arguments at persuading audiences.

1. While some opinions people hold are rational and thought-out, many others are emotional

What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? Your favorite sports team?

You cannot change an emotionally charged opinion with a rational argument, but you can get your audience to empathize with a hero in a story and thereby affect the emotions they have connected to that subject.

Presenting a rational argument immediately activates the audience's critical mind, inviting him or her to analyze and counter-argue. By immersing your audience in a story, you bypass that resistance.

2. Stories are memorable and, as a consequence, are easier to repeat

As we have discussed, our brains think in terms of stories. We find it easier and more efficient to process stories. In fact, we have a pronounced bias towards stories.

As a consequence your audience is much more likely to remember the stories you tell them (and the messages those stories contain) and more likely to repeat them to others.

What makes a great story?

As a primer, have a listen to Academy award nominated documentary film maker Ken Burns (The Civil War, Jazz) talk about story (especially the fist half). In the video Burns explores what makes a great story. The '3' Burns references is what we are seeking to capture in any great presentation.

Nancy Duarte does a fantastic job of exploring how story is critical to the creation of a great presentation.

In this video, Nancy makes the point that stories and reports occupy opposite ends of a spectrum.

She makes the case that in order to convey the meaning behind your report, you need to introduce elements of story, in order to engage with your audience on a more human level. The appropriate balance you need to strike between story and reporting will be entirely driven by the context of your own presentation.

We can have facts without thinking but we cannot have thinking without facts. John Dewey, Pragmatist philosopher (1859 - -1952)

The Bare Assertion

CEO: So you are saying that I need to invest $100 million now or we will go out of business?

Presenter: Yes.

CEO: And why is that again?

Presenter: Because I said so…?

To convince and persuade in today’s corporate world business people must construct evidence-based arguments. They must demonstrate, not simply assert.

Edward Tufte makes a great case for what he calls informational depth.

Executives are not dumb. When you are presenting to them they need informational depth. When people are presenting to you, you need to figure out what their story is, but also need to decide whether you can believe them. Are they competent? … Detail helps credibility. Edward Tufte, Author, statistician & professor

This, unfortunately, requires significant effort, work, and thinking to pull-off.

The effort required to do this is also a key reason why so many poor presentations lack a fact-based approach to persuasion. There are no short cuts. This is where real effort pays off with discriminating audiences.

Often discriminating audiences (senior executives, investors, advisers, challenging customers) will see their role being a ‘stress-tester’. They will test your assertions. Challenge your data. Poke, probe and dissect your analysis.

Your audience does this because they suspect what you are saying is important. And if they act on what you are saying, and it turns out you were wrong… well this would reflect negatively on them. So, in a way, receiving the third-degree in a presentation can be a good sign.

If you pass the test.

It is for situations like this that you need data, facts and proof. You will be eaten alive if you simply assert.

But your data, facts and proof should be in support of your structure, your story. The goal is not to squeeze in all the analysis you have done. Inevitably much of your analysis will not be required to make your central argument. Be equally ruthless in sorting and prioritizing what analysis is required to make your point.

Tables and Graphs

They are fundamentally different.

When you have data that you would like to present, resist the urge to throw it into the sexiest 3D pie chart you can create.

Instead, think first about how you intend to use the data and what point you are trying to make with the data.

Graphs and tables excel at different things and depending on your purpose, one will be a better choice than another.

The primary benefit of a table is that it makes it easy to look up individual values. There are four uses of data for which a table is a good option:

  •   Look-up individual values
  •   Compare individual values (but not entire series of values)
  •   Present precise values, and
  •   Present both summary and detail values

business presentation mckinsey

Business Charts, on the other hand, present the overall shape of the data. Graphs are used to display relationships among and between sets of quantitative values by giving them shape.

Use charts and graphs when:

  •   The message or story is contained in the shape of the data
  •   The display will be used to reveal relationships among whole sets of values

business presentation mckinsey

Common Graphs

Quantitative values can be represented in graphs using the following:

  • Shapes with varying 2D areas
  • Shapes with varying color intensity

business presentation mckinsey

When determining what type of graph to select, it is absolutely critical that you first consider what you are trying to say with the data.

When you are in the diagnostic phase of your work, you may not know what the data has to say, so you will try a few different approaches. But once it comes time to creating your presentation, the data on the page exists to support the message you have in your headline. You will have a very specific message you will want the data to convey. You will have a specific relationship that you will want to represent.

business presentation mckinsey

And here are what graphs are best to illustrate each type of data relationship:

business presentation mckinsey

Design is thinking made visual. Saul Bass, Graphic Designer and Academy Award-winning filmmaker

Some people don't see the same way you do

Some people's visual processing thought routines are more word oriented, others are more visually oriented.

Visual thinking is the phenomenon of thinking through visual processing - it has been described as seeing words as a series of pictures.

Research by child development theorist Linda Kreger Silverman suggests that about 30% of the population strongly uses visual/spatial thinking, another 45% uses both visual/spatial thinking and thinking in the form of words, and 25% thinks exclusively in words.

This research has a profound impact on how we need to think about communicating our ideas. It is the principle reason (although most people don't really recognize it) why there has been a shift from the vertical memorandum (written in word, exclusively text), to the horizontal PowerPoint presentation (written in PowerPoint, containing text and visuals) - modern presentations are easier to understand!

It demands of us as presentation creators to continually think about how our ideas and concepts can be represented both verbally, but also visually.

Design is important, but can be challenging

Design, for many, is a challenge. Many attempt to solve this problem by hiring an agency to design a PowerPoint template for them. Or outsourcing the entire presentation design.

We recommend a different approach, one rooted in investing a bit of effort and in applying a good understanding of the type of design that works best for presentations.

Invest the time to make the presentation look decent

Many people believe (or use an excuse) that 'it's the content that counts'.

Spend the effort to make the presentation look good (it isn’t that hard).

Sign-up for our free trial and download our free template to get you started:

Practice a simplicity design ethos - not simple thinking

The very basics of slide design are not difficult to master because, in general, less is always more.

The very best presentation design eliminates the excess. It is a minimalist strategy to focus on only what matters, and to avoid distracting the reader away from the central point.

This minimalist design approach is not an aesthetic preference. It is a design strategy to support our presentation goal - the communication of our message. The design of our presentation, of each slide, should be solely focused on supporting that goal.

Focus on what your point is, and the key evidence required to prove that point - design around this.

You do not need to be a graphics designer to create very effectively designed presentation slides.

Here are some basic design rules of thumb to get you started:

Rules of Thumb (applied aggressively, obsessively)

1. adopt a message-driven slide layout.

  •   Have a single, primary idea per slide
  •   Put this main idea in your headline that spans the top of the page
  •   Make your headline no more than two lines long
  •   Put content in the main body of the slide that contains the proof of the main assertion / idea that is in the headline

2. Align all elements on each page neatly

  •   Make sure the position of the headline on each slide is in the exact same spot on every slide
  •   When you flip through your slides (like with those old picture books that created moving images when you flipped through them) the position of the headline should not move, the font size should not change
  •   This also goes for other common design elements on each slide (logo, copyright notice, page number etc.)

3. In many instances, a picture is worth significantly more that 1,000 words

  •   Use powerful, relevant images
  •   Do NOT use stock photography
  •   Do NOT use clip art
  •   Use images judiciously, don’t go over board

4. Colors should be muted; Brighter colors used for emphasis

  •   Don't use bright colors like red, orange or yellow, except to highlight an important point
  •   Use a tool like Adobe Kuler to design an attractive color scheme that won't give your audience a headache

5. Use whitespace, use contrast

  •   Be careful to use enough spacing – whitespace between lines and paragraphs is good
  •   Whitespace improves legibility, increases comprehension, increases emphasis, and creates the right one
  •   Use contrast to emphasize difference
  •   Ways to create contrast include using contrasting colors, sizes, shapes, locations, or relationships

6. Don't use crazy animations, 3D, or random special effects

  •   Just don't. Emulate modern 'flat' design style (think Metro interface, google design refresh etc.)
  •   The wow of your presentation comes from the power of your ideas. Spiral animation entrances are not going to help

7. Don't use pie charts

  •   This is a pet peeve of mine, but pie charts are visually difficult to interpret - other chart types (bar charts) are significantly more effective
  •   Serious presenters know this and don't use them - when you do it makes you look like an amateur

8. Use typography

  •   Custom fonts give your presentation a nice distinctive look that allows it to stand out in a sea of Arial
  •   Many great custom fonts are now available for free - check out Google Fonts, they can be downloaded and used on your desktop within PowerPoint
The passions are the only orators that always persuade. Francois de La Rochefoucauld, Author, moralist (1613 - 1680)
Before you can inspire with emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you must yourself believe. Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1874 - 1965)

The presentation has been written. The work has been put in. It is time to start thinking about the act of delivering the presentation.

Our view is that ‘winging it’ tends to not be a good strategy.

Preparation

Preparation, once the deck has been written, means practice.

We suggest the following approach:

1. Develop a script

Write down a formal voice-over script of what you will say. Write this down in advance.

Adopt simplified language. You want to be interpreting the content on the slide, not reading it!

2. Memorize the script

Rehearse until you have memorized your script. We know this is boring. Try speaking the script out loud. In our experience it is very difficult to memorize a script simply reading it to yourself.

3. Finally, abandon the script

Once you have spent enough time memorizing the script you will start to feel comfortable deviating and embellishing.

Use your script as a road-map during delivery, rather than a crutch. It is your safety net.

This robust approach takes time and, to be honest, may only be appropriate for the most important of meetings. But it works.

Deliver with Conviction, Passion and Drama

You must believe in your material for others to believe in you.

A fact-based approach to persuasion, and logical structure are techniques that, when applied, position you to have a very high degree of confidence in your material.

The standards are high (and sometimes unforgiving). By meeting them in advance, you can enter the room with a high level of confidence in your material.

Enthusiasm is contagious.

Show your passion for the material. If the topic is as dull as dishwater, show passion for the elegance of your thinking and the power of your recommendations. This is killer.

A little drama (mixed in with some storytelling) can really elevate a presentation.

This drama can be inherent in the complication/catalyst. It is also embedded in the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). Play this up and occasionally reference the implications of what you are saying to this.

Chapter 10: The Process to Write a Killer Presentation

What follows are a set of presentation tips in the form of a step-by-step list of what you need to do to create a killer presentation. The SlideHeroes course includes an interactive checklist that allows you to keep track of each step as you progress.

Before you start, determine where in the thinking process you are.

Ask yourself the following key questions:

  •   Have you finished your analysis, and are now embarking on the final phase of summarizing your findings? 
  •   Or are you still trying to figure out the question you should be answering?

Often people will turn to PowerPoint long before they have completed their thinking – try to resist this urge, use paper instead.

Once you are finally ready to write your presentation - stop.

Consider crafting your elevator pitch instead.

Imagine: your meeting has been cancelled, but you manage to catch your audience in the elevator on the way out of the building. You have 1 minute – what do you want to say?

Often we are better at ‘getting to the point’ orally. As soon as we start thinking in terms of a presentation, we can sometimes lose the plot. This exercise will help you capture the main thrust of what your presentation is meant to convey early on in the process.

Apply our 'Who, Why, What, How' process

Begin the process of writing a business presentation by reviewing our 4-step process. This process is your roadmap of what you need to do. Briefly review what you need to do at each step:

  •   Identify WHO your audience is
  •   Determine WHY you are speaking with them
  •   Determine WHAT your answer is to your audience's question
  •   Decide HOW to best communicate that answer

Once you have taken stock, determined where you are in your thought process, and are ready to proceed.

The first major step is to identify WHO our audience is.

This sounds easy. But there are critical nuances that you need to be aware of which we will explore.

A. Identify Who your Audience is

Determine who the hero of your presentation is (hint it is not you - it is your audience).

A nuance to be aware of is that sometimes the true target of your presentation may not be obvious. You may be speaking to a group you don’t know well and, as a consequence, may not have a full understanding of the political dynamics at play. Who are the true decision makers? Who can truly help you progress to the next step?

During this step you need to take the time to identify who within your audience you are truly speaking to – who matters.

B. Profile your Audience

Once you have identified your Audience, spend some time profiling them.

Ask yourself the following questions about your audience:

  •   How much will the audience know about the situation/topic before we start the presentation?
  •   How do they prefer to consume information?
  •   Visual bias? Numerical bias?
  •   Pre-read in advance?
  •   What is the best timing of messages?

The second major step in our process is determining WHY you are presenting and your goal for the meeting.

A. Determine the Context of the Presentation

The next three tasks in our process are focused on building our Introduction and isolating the question we are answering for our Audience.

The reason we are creating a presentation, is always to answer a question that is in the mind of our audience.

The context is the background to the presentation. It contains information the audience already knows.

B. Identify the Catalyst of the Presentation or meeting

The Catalyst is the complication in the story that has resulted in the problem we are here to answer.

What happened, changed or was realized that is causing us to meet today? What led us to do the analysis or work to answer your question?

C. Determine the Question

Determine the question you are there to answer.

Most questions will fall into one of these 4 types:

  • I have a problem: Why did it happen? or,
  • I have a problem: What should we do?
  • I have a problem, someone has suggested a solution: Should we adopt that solution?
  • I have a problem, someone has suggested a solution: How should we implement this solution?

D. Determine the Objective / Next Step for the Meeting

You need next steps. You need a call to action. The objective of your presentation should be for your audience to DO SOMETHING as a result of you presenting your material.

What do you want your audience to do?

What do you need your audience to understand to achieve the meeting’s goal?

The third major step is to determine and write WHAT your answer is to your audience’s question.

The Power of Logical Structure

A. gather existing work; develop new thinking.

Do the work.

This is where your own domain expertise comes in. Suffice it to say, you need to do the work, the analysis, the thinking to answer the question.

  •   Gather existing content (improve on it)
  •   Conduct new analysis

Create ideas first, slides second.

B. summarize and organize your ideas.

  •   Organise your argument into logical groups
  •   Bucket arguments into MECE groups
  •   Use visual thinking tools to capture and organize your ideas

The Art of Storytelling

A. storyboard the presentation.

Storyboarding is a technique for writing that was first developed by Walt Disney for use in the creation of animated movies.

Have a listen to Pixar describe how they use storyboarding in film:

Storyboarding is a fantastic technique for developing presentations because it allows you to work on text, visuals and structure simultaneously.

The Harmony of Design

B. develop a slide template, c. develop content for each slide.

  •   Write out each heading for each slide
  •   Write out each sub-heading for each supporting piece of evidence/chart
  •   Design charts and supporting visuals
  •   Open PowerPoint!
  •   Populate slides with supporting evidence

The Science of Fact-based Persuasion

D. develop graphs and tables for your data.

  •   Determine what tables or chart types are best for the data you wish to show
  •   Create the tables or charts
  •   Reduce and eliminate chart-junk
  •   Design tables and graphs to emphasize the key data elements that support your story

The Drama of Performance

A. practice.

Practice makes perfect. So practice.

  •   Do an initial run through of the presentation. Speak the presentation out loud and improvise
  •   Write this version down as a formal script
  •   Run through the presentation two or three more times working on length, simplifying language
  •   If the length needs editing, revise the presentation, eliminating or combining slide ideas
  •   Present to someone else to solicit feedback and simulate a ‘live’ presentation
  •   Run through the script a few more times and then park it
  •   Get a good night’s sleep; review the script once or twice just before the presentation
  •   Conduct a pre-presentation flight-check to ensure you have everything you need
  •   Deliver with conviction, passion and drama
  •   Focus on just a few things to ensure a great delivery:
  • Manage your stress - quite your mind, breathe, relax
  • Adopting the right ‘tone’ and approach
  • Being yourself. Relax!
  • Communicating both verbally and physically (kinetically)
  • Answer your Audience’s questions

Below are the set of presentation tools we recommend to create fantastic business presentations.

Presentation Creation

I know everyone rags on PowerPoint. It just isn’t PowerPoints fault.

It is still the best we have got.

Pretty cool 'zoom' transition effects. Kind of hard to use, places huge emphasis on design skills.

Chart Design

We can do so much better than PowerPoint and Excel…

Plotly charts look great. The interface is easy to use and there is a good variety of chart types to select from.

RAW (open source)

Similar to Plotly, RAW produces great looking charts. There is a wide selection of chart types (you can also create your own). Powerful.

Image Design

Web apps that help create fantastic graphics, easily.

Image design tool. Very, very easy and quick. Pretty Awesome.

Poor man's Photoshop. Particularly good at retouching photos.

Productivity

PowerPoint plugins that can turbo charge your productivity

Plugin that enables you to quickly create complex Waterfalls, Marimekkos, Gantts and Agendas within PowerPoint. A favorite.

PowerPoint Add-In to improve visual quality and help with proofing.

Presentation Distribution

The YouTube for presentations.

If you have made it this far, well done! ;-)

If you are still hungry for more here are some great books, blogs and courses(!) that may pique your interest.

I recommend the following great books:

  •    The Pyramid Principle , Barbara Minto
  •    Slideology , Nancy Duarte
  •   The Visual Display of Quantitative Information , Edward Tufte
  •   Show Me the Numbers , Stephen Few

The following blogs are among my favorites:

  •   Storytelling with Data , Cole Nussbaumer
  •   Presentation Zen , Garr Reynolds
  •   SlideMagic , Jan Schultink

Our course (Decks for Decision Makers)

The Decks for Decision Makers course takes the concepts covered in this Advanced Guide to Writing McKinsey-Style Presentations and drills deeper into each. In the course, video lessons and PowerPoint slide examples allow you to fully explore all of the many concepts discussed in this Guide.

Try our Free Trial to get a flavor of the course.

TechBullion

TechBullion

Creating impactful presentations: tips from mckinsey experts.

business presentation mckinsey

In the world of business, presentations can make or break your success. Whether you’re pitching a new idea, presenting a project update, or seeking stakeholder approval, your ability to create and deliver a powerful presentation can be the deciding factor. McKinsey, one of the world’s leading management consulting firms, is renowned for its expertise in crafting high-impact presentations. In this article, we’ll delve into the secrets behind McKinsey’s success and reveal how you can apply their strategies, including McKinsey slide templates, to elevate your presentations and captivate your audience.

The Importance of a Compelling Presentation

Presentations are an essential communication tool in the business world, serving to inform, persuade, and inspire your audience. An impactful presentation can:

Engage your audience, capturing their attention and maintaining their interest throughout.

Clearly and concisely convey complex ideas and data.

Persuade stakeholders to support your proposal or project.

Foster collaboration and generate momentum for new initiatives.

By mastering the art of presentation, you can enhance your professional reputation and improve your overall effectiveness as a business professional.

The McKinsey Approach to Presentation Design

McKinsey is renowned for its ability to create visually appealing and persuasive presentations. At the core of their approach are several key principles:

Prioritize clarity and simplicity: Focus on conveying your main points in a clear and concise manner, avoiding unnecessary details and jargon.

Leverage a consistent visual style: Establish a uniform visual language, using consistent colors, fonts, and design elements throughout your presentation.

Use visuals to support your message: Incorporate charts, graphs, and images to illustrate your points and enhance your presentation’s visual appeal.

By following these principles, you can create presentations that are both visually engaging and highly effective at communicating your message.

McKinsey Slide Templates: A Secret Weapon for Impactful Presentations

One of the keys to McKinsey’s success in presentation design is its use of slide templates. Mckinsey slide templates provide a standardized format for presenting information, ensuring that your presentation remains consistent and polished. By leveraging McKinsey slide templates, you can:

Save time and effort: With a pre-designed format, you can focus on crafting a compelling narrative rather than grappling with design elements.

Maintain consistency: A standardized template ensures that your presentation remains visually cohesive, enhancing its overall professionalism and impact.

Adapt to your needs: Many McKinsey slide templates are customizable, allowing you to tailor them to your specific requirements and preferences.

Subheading 4: Tips for Effective Storytelling in Presentations

A powerful presentation is built on a foundation of compelling storytelling. To create a persuasive narrative, consider these tips from McKinsey experts:

Start with a strong opening: Capture your audience’s attention from the outset with a bold statement, a provocative question, or an intriguing fact.

Establish a clear structure: Organize your presentation into a logical sequence, with a clear beginning, middle, and end.

Focus on the “so what”: Emphasize the relevance and implications of your message, making it clear why your audience should care.

Use anecdotes and examples: Illustrate your points with real-life stories and case studies to make them more relatable and memorable.

By incorporating these storytelling techniques, you can create a presentation that resonates with your audience and leaves a lasting impression.

Mastering Data Visualization

Presenting data effectively is a crucial skill for business professionals. To create impactful data visualizations, follow these tips from McKinsey experts:

Choose the right chart type: Select a chart format that best communicates your message, considering options such as bar charts, line charts, pie charts, or scatter plots.

Simplify your visuals: Focus on the most important data points, eliminating extraneous information that may detract from your message.

Use color strategically: Employ color to highlight key points, trends, or comparisons, guiding your audience’s attention to what matters most.

Provide context: Offer context for your data, including timeframes, units, and benchmarks, to help your audience fully understand the significance of your findings.

By mastering data visualization techniques, you can present complex information in a clear and engaging manner, enhancing the overall impact of your presentation.

Delivering Your Presentation with Confidence

The delivery of your presentation is just as important as its content and design. To ensure a confident and engaging delivery, consider these tips from McKinsey experts:

Practice, practice, practice: Rehearse your presentation multiple times, refining your delivery and familiarizing yourself with the content.

Know your audience: Tailor your delivery to the needs and interests of your audience, emphasizing the aspects of your presentation that are most relevant to them.

Maintain eye contact: Engage with your audience by looking at them directly, demonstrating confidence and sincerity.

Use body language effectively: Employ gestures, posture, and facial expressions to reinforce your message and convey enthusiasm.

By focusing on your delivery, you can further enhance the impact of your presentation and create a lasting impression on your audience.

Continuous Improvement: Learning from the Best

To continually hone your presentation skills, seek out high-quality resources and examples from industry leaders like McKinsey. By studying their strategies and techniques, you can gain valuable insights and inspiration to elevate your own presentations. Some resources to consider include:

McKinsey Quarterly: An online publication featuring in-depth articles and presentations on a wide range of business topics.

TED Talks: A collection of inspiring and informative talks from experts across various fields, offering valuable lessons in presentation design and delivery.

SlideShare: A platform for sharing professional presentations, including many examples from McKinsey and other leading firms.

By leveraging these resources, you can stay informed about best practices in presentation design and continually refine your skills.

Conclusion:

Creating impactful presentations is a critical skill for business professionals seeking to persuade, inform, and inspire their audience. By applying the strategies and techniques used by McKinsey experts, including leveraging McKinsey slide templates, focusing on effective storytelling, mastering data visualization, and delivering your presentation with confidence, you can elevate your presentations to new heights. Remember, a powerful presentation can be the key to unlocking opportunities, securing stakeholder support, and driving business success. So, invest in developing your presentation skills and watch your impact soar. 

business presentation mckinsey

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More From Forbes

The next stage of the mentorship makeover.

Forbes Human Resources Council

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Clarissa Windham-Bradstock is CEO/Chief People Officer of Any Lab Test Now , a leading national retail healthcare and lab testing franchise.

What is a mentor? Depending on your generation, the answer to this question will vary. For Boomers, mentors are those older, more-experienced folks who could guide your career path by providing direction, sound advice and networking connections. But as Gen-Xers advanced in the workplace during the onset of the digital age, mentoring took on a whole new feel. It became a shared exchange of knowledge among workers to understand the nuances of new technology. There were blurred lines between mentors and mentees because digital natives possessed a sought-after skill set that filled a much-needed gap.

Fast forward to mentoring today. It remains a relevant part of professional life, but the traditional mentoring roles have given way to a symbiotic relationship. The playing field has equalized, spotlighting skill sets and positive organizational culture. Mentoring now has a new look that encompasses personal and professional growth .

The Valuable Role Of Mentoring

Mentorship programs are vital because, with five generations in the workplace, tapping into the strengths of your organization’s talent pool achieves two goals: embracing personal talents and improving your bottom line. Let's face it—we're still dealing with lingering effects of the pandemic and the mess that came with it, like the Great Resignation and quiet quitting. Data from McKinsey and Company shows that 32% of workers are mildly disengaged , and as most leaders know, that attitude can spread like wildfire.

Reengaging your team is a deliberate effort. It won’t happen in a vacuum. Developing a mentorship plan can yield greater productivity, motivation and culture, as well as better hiring and retention rates. This is likely why " 84% of U.S. Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs."

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In fact, strategically developing mentoring programs is a way to combat issues like employee burnout, retention and talent acquisition. And it appears to be working. According to recent figures from Wisdom Share, 91% of employees with mentors are happy at work. That speaks volumes.

Creating A Foundation For Your Mentorship Program

When it comes to creating your own mentorship program, you'll find that the conventional rules no longer apply. Because mentoring is seen as more of an equal exchange, rather than tenured employees leading the newer ones, the process can be as formal or informal as you choose. For example, mentorship programs can center on voluntary participation, where mentors and mentees can be intentionally matched. Or they can happen organically, with results being monitored with feedback. Here are some tangible ideas that have worked for me and generated results.

Make Space For Employees To Communicate

Have conversations with people inside and outside of professional confines. Company happy hours and fun work activities are so important because they take down walls, making team members less guarded. You may have some employees who can easily strike up a conversation with you and share their ideas and concerns, while others may not feel comfortable taking the initiative to talk to the boss.

I've seen firsthand how team members who loosen up outside the office begin to feel more relaxed and form stronger relationships with me or their colleagues. It fosters a safer space, allowing them to better express themselves and share novel ideas.

But once team members start sharing, you can't leave it there. You must do something. Encourage those ideas, and share them with the team. Give innovative employees the chance to mentor others by delivering a training, which simultaneously helps them feel valued and creates value for the organization.

Encourage, But Don't Mandate, Participation

As a more structured plan of action, invite team members to voluntarily participate in the company’s mentorship program. Make it clear that this isn't meant to just be onboarding for new hires; it's an exchange of skills that will benefit all parties. Once there's a solid number of volunteers, pair them up intentionally based on who can best support each other.

More than likely, you'll find younger workers looking to more experienced team members for career advice and assistance with soft skills. But you’ll also see reverse mentorship, where younger, tech-savvy employees share their skills with colleagues in more-senior positions. This mutual learning allows participants to set and reach personal and professional career goals.

For employees, knowing your organization cares enough to invest in them will help boost confidence and morale. It’s an internal motivator to work harder and grow, setting a track for future positions. By intentionally partnering people who want to grow, you'll foster a positive culture.

Build A Culture Of Belonging And Knowledge Sharing

Mentorship programs are vital, perhaps more so now than ever before, because they provide a sense of belonging that can become an economic driver. As a recent article from Gartner points out, it's becoming increasingly important to professionals that they can be authentic in the workplace. When people feel connected—especially through purposeful, meaningful work—their jobs stop being just the thing they do to earn a paycheck.

Creating a knowledge-sharing culture is not simply about partnering with someone who will help an employee climb the ladder. Having a mentor or a pool of mentors to discuss holistic issues creates a safe space. Employees will feel accepted and part of something, providing personal and professional satisfaction.

The Bottom Line

Understand that mentoring is no longer the older worker showing the ropes to the new kid. It has transformed into a shared exchange of talent and skill sets that improves everyone on the team, no matter their age or level of experience. Seasoned veterans have wisdom, experience and an uncompromised skill set, while the digital natives among us have indispensable talents that need to be embraced. Combining these skills through a shared mentorship program can motivate and inspire, bringing out the best in everyone and providing invaluable growth opportunities.

Forbes Human Resources Council is an invitation-only organization for HR executives across all industries. Do I qualify?

Clarissa Windham-Bradstock

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What happened to agility and new business models? Cloud benefits have all gone to IT

Orgs are missing a trick when it comes to the white fluffy stuff, survey says.

The migration of IT workloads to the cloud is benefiting tech departments rather than the wider business, according to a McKinsey survey.

The interviews with around 50 European cloud leaders found that only one in three European companies monitors non-IT outcomes of cloud migration, such as cost savings outside IT (37 percent) or new revenue generation (32 percent).

The figures might concern those who have seen the move to the remote distributed architecture as a means to achieve nebulous concepts like business agility rather than IT savings.

"A stunning 95 percent of European companies in our recent survey say they're capturing value from cloud, and more than one in three say they intend to have more than half of their workloads on cloud," the report said. "But scratch below the surface, and the story is a little less rosy. The vast majority of the value companies have captured, for example, remains in isolated pockets and at subscale.

business presentation mckinsey

"The focus of their cloud efforts, for example, has been disproportionately on improvements to IT, which generate lower rates of value than improvements to business operations. A shift to higher-value cloud use cases in business operations would create significantly more value."

The report found that 71 percent of companies measure cloud impact in terms of IT operational improvements, while 66 percent measure in IT cost savings, and 63 percent measure the number of applications on the cloud.

It makes the argument that the cloud would help create fleet-footed business units seeking new markets and commercial models seem less of a reality for some.

  • Lambda borrows half a billion bucks to grow its GPU cloud
  • OpenStack pushes its first easy-to-upgrade release out the door
  • AWS severs connection with several hundred staff

French lawmakers take a swing at cloud monopolies

However, the global consultancy argues that businesses' success in adopting new technical trends will depend on them measuring cloud migrations in different ways.

"The ability to take advantage of new technologies, particularly generative AI, will depend on how well companies can establish and scale their cloud programs," the report said.

"It is not much of an exaggeration to say that Europe's growth ambitions will hinge on its success in the cloud. Companies that effectively integrate gen AI in their transformations may achieve up to seven times the ROI of their peers for each migrated business domain. Such potential makes incorporating gen AI into cloud adoption a 'must-explore' action for successful cloud journeys."

The view that "AI plus cloud equals growth" is not shared by everyone. Earlier this year, John-David Lovelock, distinguished VP analyst at Gartner, told The Register : "In terms of productivity, that doesn't necessarily translate to GDP. If I make another email, another slide, improve quality, drop error rates ... none of that is GDP producing."

Both Microsoft and Dell said recently they are still at an early stage of trying to convince customers to pay for these new services.

Nonetheless, European companies polled by McKinsey claim they are already getting value from the cloud. While 13 percent say returns have been insufficient, 55 percent report satisfaction with their cloud investments. Nineteen out of 20 companies say they have improved operations – in terms of security and quality, for example – while 75 percent have saved money on IT or improved productivity within the tech department. ®

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McKinsey’s Diversity Fog

The consulting giant touts its studies purporting to show that race- and gender-conscious hiring leads to greater profits—but it likely has the causation backward.

Last year, McKinsey & Company released a study purporting to demonstrate that corporations with more diverse leadership—more women and racial minorities in executive positions—were also more profitable. The consulting behemoth’s findings were consistent with those of its previous three diversity studies, in 2015, 2018, and 2020, each of which had been cited across industries and government institutions as proof of the supposed financial benefits of race- and gender-conscious hiring policies. Now, a new paper raises questions about McKinsey’s methodology and suggests that its advertised findings may have gotten the causation backward: financial success may lead corporations to embrace diversity efforts, rather than the other way around.

Earlier this week, journalist Christopher Brunet flagged a paper in the March 2024 issue of Econ Journal Watch , a biannual publication edited by George Mason economist Daniel Klein that publishes article-length responses to other economists’ errors. The paper , written by accounting professors Jeremiah Green, of Texas A&M, and John R. M. Hand, of the University of North Carolina, addressed the first three of McKinsey’s four-installment series of diversity studies.

Green and Hand sought to test the replicability of McKinsey’s findings. Could another set of researchers, using the same data, come to the same conclusions? Since McKinsey refused to turn over its numbers, Green and Hand had to reverse-engineer the firm’s 2015, 2018, and 2020 datasets. The results were startling: Green and Hand couldn’t replicate the results of McKinsey’s first three studies, which monitored the profitability and executive demographics of an undisclosed group of S&P 500 firms and claimed to have found a positive correlation between diverse leadership and firms’ performance. “We do not find a statistically significant positive correlation between McKinsey’s measures of the racial/ethnic diversity of the executive teams of firms” as measured in December 2019, Green and Hand reported, “and either the likelihood of financial outperformance over 2015–2019 or financial outperformance per se over 2015–2019.”

Green and Hand not only were unable to replicate the studies’ findings; they also found that each of the three studies had analyzed the data backward. Instead of looking at a firm’s diversity policies in the years leading up to a given year’s financial performance, McKinsey had reviewed each firm’s financial performance in the four or five years leading up to the year in which its researchers snapshotted their executive demographics. In other words, according to Green and Hand, the positive correlations that McKinsey researchers observed may have reflected “better firm financial performance causing companies to diversify the racial/ethnic composition of their executives, not the reverse.”

Wouldn’t this methodological problem have been obvious to McKinsey researchers? Apparently, it was. Buried in the firm’s 2018 study, its researchers concede the possibility that “better financial outperformance enables companies to achieve greater levels of diversity”—in other words, that more profitable firms may pursue diversity-hiring policies as a result of their profitability. McKinsey’s public presentation of its results, however, has not been so nuanced. As Green and Hand record, Dame Vivian Hunt, a McKinsey managing partner and a coauthor on each of the firm’s diversity studies, claimed in 2018 that “the leading companies in our datasets are pursuing diversity because it’s a business imperative and driving real business results” (emphasis added).

Despite these methodological concerns, major corporations and government entities have cited the McKinsey studies to justify antimeritocratic hiring practices. A series of posts from the think tank America2100 lists several entities, including Raytheon, JP Morgan, and even the U.S. Navy, that referenced the studies in their DEI materials. Intel Corporation executive Jackie Sturn, for example, cited McKinsey’s research as evidence that “diversity is pivotal for long-term economic growth.”

The hyping of these McKinsey studies reflects progressives’ inability to grapple with or even admit the existence of tradeoffs. They do not consider their preferred programs to be the best of a set of imperfect options; rather, their policies represent definitive advances that come with no corresponding downsides. They don’t see the debate over diversity-hiring programs, for instance, as being between inclusion, on the one hand, and meritocracy, on the other. They think that firms can hire candidates at least partially for reasons having nothing to do with those candidates’ qualifications and not suffer any corresponding drag in performance. It can’t be that diversity-hiring programs correct for past injustices and are worth their inherent costs—a straightforward and honest (if misguided) argument—it has to be that diversity programs actually make corporations richer .

Progressive proponents of decarceration do the same thing. They may want to make the normative case that America’s legal system is wholly unjust and ought totally to be torn down, but they feel compelled to make an instrumental case as well, one that denies the most obvious tradeoffs of their preferred policy—that it would free murderers and other dangerous criminals. So they insist instead that arresting and incarcerating criminals actually “ makes us less safe .”

It’s entirely possible that McKinsey will address Green and Hand’s methodological objections and claim vindication for the firm’s original findings. It’s also possible that Green and Hand’s objections are sound, and that McKinsey’s studies are bunk. But if firms are hiring people for important positions at least partially based on irrelevant criteria like race and sex, it doesn’t take a social scientist to deduce that some corresponding decline in performance will result. You don’t need a multimillion-dollar study to tell you what common sense makes obvious.

John Hirschauer  is an associate editor at  City Journal .

Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images

City Journal is a publication of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research (MI), a leading free-market think tank. Are you interested in supporting the magazine? As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, donations in support of MI and City Journal are fully tax-deductible as provided by law (EIN #13-2912529).

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McKinsey is offering some staff 9 months of pay and career-coaching services to leave the firm: report

  • McKinsey is offering some managers money and career-coaching services to leave, The Times reported.
  • Managers could spend up to nine months searching for a job while being on payroll, the report said.
  • Staffers would also have access to McKinsey's resources and career-coaching services.

Insider Today

The management-consulting giant McKinsey is dangling career-coaching services and nine months' worth of pay to staffers keen on leaving the firm, the British newspaper The Times reported on Saturday.

The Times reported that managers for McKinsey's UK offices could spend up to nine months searching for a job instead of working on client projects.

Besides continuing to receive their salary, managers would have access to McKinsey's resources and career-coaching services, per The Times. But staffers would still have to leave McKinsey even if their job hunt proved unsuccessful.

Related stories

The offer has been extended to managers working at McKinsey's US offices, though the pay duration could be different, The Times said, citing people familiar with the situation.

A spokesperson for McKinsey did not confirm the specifics of The Times' reporting but told the outlet that the company's mission was to help staffers "grow into leaders, whether they stay at McKinsey or continue their careers elsewhere."

"These actions are part of our ongoing effort to ensure our performance management and development approach is as effective as possible, and to do so in a caring and supportive way," the spokesperson continued.

This wouldn't be the first time McKinsey has tried to trim its head count amid a slowdown in the consulting industry . The consulting giant last year said it would cut about 1,400 jobs, or about 3% of its staff, per Bloomberg .

In February, Bloomberg reported that McKinsey had given 3,000 employees poor performance ratings . The report said employees who received such ratings had about three months to improve their performance or they'd be "counseled to leave" McKinsey.

Bloomberg also reported last week that McKinsey told some senior employees they had only about 2 1/2 years to be promoted — amping up the pressure on staff to move up or out.

Representatives for McKinsey did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider sent outside regular business hours.

Watch: Marketing leaders from Amazon, LinkedIn, Lego Group and more tell Insider what pandemic-fueled business changes are likely to stick around

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Impacting audiences across the globe: CEO Excellence revisited

McKinsey’s Carolyn Dewar, Scott Keller, and Vik Malhotra chat with McKinsey Global Publishing leader Raju Narisetti about the global impact of their best-selling book, CEO Excellence: The Six Mindsets That Distinguish the Best Leaders from the Rest (Scribner/Simon & Schuster, March 2022), and reflect on why the book is as relevant today as it was two years ago. An edited version of this third and final installment of our three-part conversation follows. See the first  and second  parts of the discussion as well.

Raju Narisetti:  Has the response to the book changed your approach to CEO counseling?

Vik Malhotra: Certainly, for me, and I’ve been doing this for a long time. I have a very, very different lens on CEO counseling and senior-leadership counseling, more broadly. Some of the strengths I hope I have retained historically: qualities like being a good listener, having empathy, and being able to build a personal relationship.

I also came to recognize that I actually wasn’t pushing the people I was counseling hard enough on some of the dimensions of the [six mindsets]. It was easy enough to say, “OK, there’s a reason this next year needs to be a little more incremental in its approach.” In year two, year three, we can get bolder, and we can take some bigger steps, and so on.

What you soon realize is that if you’re an incremental leader for a couple years, you lose the permission from the organization to suddenly adopt a mindset of, “Be bold.” I use that as an example, but it certainly pushed me to push these leaders harder on the six mindsets.

Importantly, within the six mindsets, there are certainly five or six elements that I was probably not pushing them hard enough on: the boldness of the vision; being tough minded on resource allocation; shaping culture by picking on the one or two things that really align with your vision; recognizing that, at the end of the day, it’s all about talent, and asking, “Are you really doing everything you can to equip this organization not just on your team but across the organizational talent? Are you really doing everything to build a star team, not a team of stars, but a real star team? And are you putting in the personal energy, too, on the composition, the cadence of meetings, the coaching that they need—all of that?”

Then, on the personal operating model, a lot more pushing people by saying, “You’re spending way too much time running the business day-to-day when you’ve got great leaders around you. If you haven’t, you ought to be recruiting those great leaders to go do that.”

I highlight those things because they meaningfully changed how I talk to leaders today. I haven’t lost the empathy, and the listening skills, and the ability to be thoughtful when I interject all of that. But I didn’t interject those things as powerfully or tough mindedly as I do today.

Carolyn Dewar: I think it changed each of us in how we counsel. I also hope that it changed, more broadly, anyone who’s coaching a CEO, whether it’s our colleagues, board members, investors, even people who are reading it themselves. Because a big part of what this brought is a fact base and a pattern recognition. It’s really easy to get anecdotal when you’re giving someone advice. We’ve all done that in the past, and there’s value in the stories. We’ve actually looked across 70 CEOs who objectively have done it well.

So it’s not just because they’re your cousin, or your friend, or the client you happen to know. These are folks who’ve done it exceptionally well, the best in the world. We found the patterns. That gives all of us and should give anyone reading it confidence, too, that this isn’t just the autobiography or the anecdote.

There’s a body of thinking here that can be a handbook, that’s grounded in facts, that’s grounded in experience, that everyone should feel confident drawing from. I think that’s what’s shaped not only my counseling but also that of many, many colleagues. You don’t need to be Vik. I wish we could all be Vik. He’s amazing. Someone reading CEO Excellence  can get the wisdom from all of those voices in one place. I think people should feel confident and emboldened by that.

There’s a body of thinking here that can be a handbook, that’s grounded in facts, that’s grounded in experience, that everyone should feel confident drawing from. Carolyn Dewar

Scott Keller: In doing the research for this book, we came to know the game more than we ever have. We can now coach every play, every tackle. We can because we’ve gone so deep, asking, “What is the role?” I also think it’s because of our orientation. As you mentioned, Vik, it’s the amount of empathy we have for people in this role, the amount of compassion and desire to help this human being win for all the reasons we talked about earlier. It’s also thinking about the human being succeeding as being excellent in this role that they’ve been given to be of service to this great organization and to this group of people and to everyone who depends on it.

Our approach to CEO counseling is not just about, “Are you going to lift share price?” It’s about, “Are you going to leave a legacy not for you, but are you going to build this great institution in a way for generations, set it up for more leaders to be successful and for more humans to be successful?”

That’s knowing the game and standing for something more than winning. I think it strengthened both of these in a step-change way, at least for me, in how I counsel CEOs. That has made a big difference in the potency of being able to actually help advise in positive ways.

Raju Narisetti: The book came out in the height of the pandemic. It couldn’t have been a more challenging time to be CEOs. But how do you avoid being complacent as a CEO?

Vik Malhotra: One of the conversations I have with CEOs is that in today’s world, with all the uncertainty, inflation, supply chain, geopolitics, and more, it’s easy to jump to the here and now.

A big push I make a lot, specifically with about-to-become CEOs or recent CEOs, is that this book is about timeless messages. I think great CEOs were bold 20 years ago. They are today, and I think they will be 20 years from now.

When it comes to aligning the organization, they’ll treat the soft stuff as the hard stuff. They did that 20 years ago. They do it today. They’ll do it 20 years from now. So you have to get your head around the timeless actions that will always serve you well no matter the environment.

This book is about timeless messages. So you have to get your head around the timeless actions that will always serve you well no matter the environment. Vik Malhotra

Yes, of course you have to adjust for legacy and for circumstance. I’m very clear now to say, “I think you should worry whether you will still be in the role two to three years from now, because I don’t think those actions are sufficient, particularly given what your competitors are doing, given what’s happening in the environment, all the changes, and disruptive aspects like [generative] AI. You can’t be complacent.” That’s actually a big part of the message no one actually ever talks about: “Oh, I’m complacent about this.”

Scott Keller: Right.

Vik Malhotra: But you can see them talking in incremental terms. I’ve been very tough minded about saying, “You cannot be incremental. The world’s moving too fast. The change is too rapid. Take these timeless messages and apply them.”

Now, you also want to overlay on that everything as it’s happening on a timely basis. If you happen to be a global company, and geopolitics is a real risk, you’ve got to factor that in. You have to worry about the timely aspects as well and work on them. Don’t let the timely aspects hold you back, which is what people will do by saying, “I’ve got X challenge and Y challenge and Z challenge, and I’m just going to anchor on them.” Well, you also have to remember these other lessons.

Carolyn Dewar: I think some of the interesting conversations about complacency come up when folks are a few years into the role. It’s one thing when they’re starting out. But when we’re sitting and talking with CEOs who are three, four, five, ten, 15 years in, well, by 15 years they usually realize they can’t be complacent.

But they’ve gone through that first S-curve. They’re saying, “OK, I got through the first three, four years. I nailed it. I had my agenda. I made it happen. I’m good now, right?” That’s one of the moments when you need to be really careful.

A lot of our research since then, and some of the work we’re doing more and more with clients, is asking, at midtenure, “What should you be thinking about”? There are a couple of key things.

One is, “What is your own learning agenda?” You’ll only realize that complacency is an issue if you’re open to what’s happening in the world. There’s so much right now, it’s hard to not be aware. But some of these CEOs are very deliberate about asking, “How are they exposing themselves to the new ideas, the latest innovations, the new technology that’s coming down, AI, geopolitics, all these various things?”

Some take a really prescriptive approach. Satya Nadella spends one day a month just learning. He has his chief of staff gather information in advance, and he reads it, and he meets with people. For other folks, it’s more about attending forums and having conversations.

The second part is taking a real outsider view of your business. Do you have a view of your own learning journey? Do you know what you need to learn? And are you open to that? Do you realize you still have things to learn?

What are you doing as a leader to take a real hard-eye view and ask, “How are we doing? Are we reaching our full potential? Are we being as bold as we should be? Are we doing those things?” What’s your mechanism to do that and to really challenge the thinking?

The last part is your team. Some team conversations are so hard to have, even in the early days as a new CEO: “Oh, this person’s been here a long time. I feel loyal.” They get their new team finally in place.

In year four or five, when you’re sitting on that next S-curve, saying, “We did our first piece. What’s our next bold vision?” It’s also a moment to step back and say, “What is the mission of that team going forward? What will I need of my CFO, my CMO [chief marketing officer], my product person in this next era?”

“And I might have terrific people, but are they the profile for where we’re going next?” And, again, taking that fresh-eyed view. There are some moments in your tenure, particularly in that middle piece, where you need to build in explicit ways to ensure you’re not being complacent.

Raju Narisetti: Scott?

Scott Keller: I love the Andy Grove quote, where he says, “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure.” That’s very hard to stay aware of in this place where you have been successful.

To Carolyn’s point on the learning agenda, CEOs who have been successful in their first three to five years are asked to talk about their success. They somehow think they’re still getting out there and being external, but they’re actually not learning anything. They’re just telling their story. To Carolyn’s point, they can turn those into learning experiences: “Well, what would you do in my case for the next S-curve? What do you see happening in other industries that is really interesting for us in our industry that we can learn from?” So I just reinforce that point. I think about it from the outsider’s view, and having that mindset of, “What would an outsider do?”

Carolyn touched on three of the things that are in our thinking on midtenure CEOs. The last one is not to lose sight of having a risk management plan. It’s easy to think that if things are going well, everything will always go well.

Then, things happen. Things can happen if you don’t have a crisis management plan, which is often hard to manage when things are going well.

Laying the foundation for all the stakeholders is key. You can’t build trust when a crisis happens. You build trust before a crisis happens. Are you on top of all that? As a successful midtenure CEO, it’s so easy to lose sight. Those are a lot of the things that we’ll talk about when we get in the room with them.

Laying the foundation for all the stakeholders is key. You can’t build trust when a crisis happens. You build trust before a crisis happens. Scott Keller

Vik Malhotra: I might also add that there was some method to our madness when we said, “Let’s look at CEOs who’ve been in the role for six years or more to judge their performance from a shareholder value creation point of view.” If we’d actually done that same analysis at the three-year point, we would have had about 1,000 CEOs in our database. That would imply that 800 of them somehow didn’t really follow up on that first three-year promise. You didn’t see that additional S-curve and that additional shaping of the institution beyond that because they’re doing well. They’re comfortable in what they’re doing. The reality is that there is a cycle, whether it’s three or four years of renewal that an institution needs. The CEO needs to lead the charge.

Scott Keller: I would like to reinforce that because it’s important for people to hear. If you look at who was in the Fortune 500 in the year 2000, and then you look at 2015, 50 percent of the companies are no longer there. They’ve either gone bankrupt, they’ve been bought, or they have just closed their doors for good.

You combine that and look over the last ten years and say, “How often does the word crisis show up next to one of the 1,000 largest companies in the world?” There’s an 80 percent increase. Part of that is the dynamics of the external environment.

All of that comes together to make us say, “If you’re feeling good about where you are as a CEO and don’t have all the bold vision and all the things we talk about in terms of the next S-curve, you are very likely to run off the road.” It’s a really important warning.

Take someone like [JPMorgan Chase CEO] Jamie Dimon who, I believe, in the latest polls, is the most admired CEO among CEOs. After the London Whale incident, which almost brought him down as a CEO, he shared a big learning: “You know what? What I learned is you can’t get complacent, no matter how successful you’ve been in the past.” I also think he’s done a really nice job of espousing that learning ever since.

Raju Narisetti:  The three of you, in addition to continuing to be CEO counselors, have taken on new work and new research. And you’ve framed it as the The Four Seasons of a CEO . Carolyn, talk a little bit about that.

Carolyn Dewar: It’s a natural extension of a lot of the research that went into the book, but, even more so, a lot of the conversations we were having. There is a natural life cycle of a CEO. While the six mindsets and the roles apply across that whole tenure, how you apply them varies by these various stages, or “seasons”:

  • Aspiring CEOs . You’re maybe a couple of years out. You’re looking ahead toward the role. You want to be ready. What’s that last mile?
  • New CEOs . This is not the first 100 days. It’s your first six, 12, 18 months in the role. How do you get out of the gates well? How do you set the momentum for your tenure that’ll serve you well throughout?
  • Midtenure CEOs .  This is where the complacency is, and there is this question: “How do you renew for the next S-curve?”
  • Transitioning CEOs . This is about finishing strong. How do you hand over the reins and finish strong as a CEO and set your successor up for success while you’re also excited about your own next chapter, whatever that’s going to be? We’ve seen a number of boomerang CEOs, so there’s a real question.

Now, we’ve become specific and clear about, “What is the advice for folks in each of those four stages? What does it look like?” The bulk of the conversations and the counseling we’re doing these days is, “Which stage is that leader in? What’s most applicable to this person? What are all the balls that this leader is juggling?”

Scott Keller: We should do some product placement here.

Carolyn Dewar: Yes.

Scott Keller: It’s not available in stores, but if you want one, reach out to your local McKinsey partner and say, “Hey, I’d really like to see that.” I think Carolyn did a great job describing what it is.

At a kind of thematic level, if CEO Excellence is the encyclopedia of being a CEO—to learn about whatever you want to learn about all the aspects of the role—this research is more like the Farmers’ Almanac , because it asks, “What do you do in spring versus summer versus fall? How do you make sure that all gets set up for the next season and the next cycle?”

There’s an institutional renewal that happens over time in these three stages: one person’s winter is another person’s spring as they come up, take over the role, as another person steps out. What we like about this book is it can also help people think institutionally and ask, “How do those cycles work exceedingly well?” When it comes to handing off the baton, we’re not dropping batons; we’re having the runner start running so they’re catching up to the speed. The handoff happens seamlessly, and we don’t lose any time as we do in the race of winning in a competitive environment.

Carolyn Dewar: That really comes into play. We’re spending more and more time with boards and investors and heads of HR. We work with them as as they think about the succession process and about building the bench of talent that will be ready and we help that handover happen.

Raju Narisetti:  In a way, CEO Excellence could also be a handbook for board excellence.

Vik Malhotra: Absolutely.

Carolyn Dewar: Absolutely.

Vik Malhotra: That’s a terrific point. As I was emphasizing earlier, we’ve talked to a lot of leadership teams about the application of this book. I’ve had a number of CEOs call and ask, “Will you come do a two-hour session with my leadership team?”

Similarly, we’ve received outreach from boards asking, “Will you come talk to our board about this, let them understand what excellence really looks like from a CEO point of view?” We’ve had board outreach at individual-company board levels, but there are many associations where board members get together and call upon us to speak to those groups so we can just share the lessons.

It’s interesting because you put it in terms of the CEO’s excellence, but it also very clearly informs board behavior: Are you, as a board leader, really doing the right things? Are you creating the room for the CEO and the leadership team? Are you building the strong relationship you should have between the board chair or the lead director and the CEO?

Are you making sure that the data that you’re absorbing about the company is focused on the big things that matter? Are you letting the leadership run what they need to run from a company point of view? It’s interesting. When they get into it, you can see the light bulbs going off and hear them saying, “You know, I could amend my own behavior a little bit here.”

Raju Narisetti: By design, the book was global. It’s probably going to come out in 15 languages. Korean, Japanese, and Chinese are already out.

Vik Malhotra: Yes, we have Polish and Hungarian as well—Hungarian is particularly relevant to you [Carolyn].

Carolyn Dewar: Yes, my husband likes that. It won me points with my [Hungarian] mother-in-law.

Raju Narisetti:   What new insights might people take away from reading this book a second time?

Carolyn Dewar:  Part of picking it up again is because a person’s context has changed. It comes back to both the stage of the journey that you’re in as a leader and the context of your company. So if you were a brand-new CEO reading it, the notes you took in the margin would have been very specific to the question “How do I get going?”

If you’re now a few years in, you’ll pick up different things. You’ll reflect. You’ll realize where you’ve done well. You’ll say, “I missed that one. But more important, going forward, what are some new habits that I can take on? What are some new best practices or examples that I might want to experiment with?” I think it’s as much about your context changing, and you being ready for that next learning, as it is about the world around us changing.

Vik Malhotra: To add to that, I have 12, 15, 20 CEOs who I talked to back in 2021, perhaps even before the book came out, because we knew what we were going to say.

In early 2022, they were coming back and saying, “OK, I’m now three years into the journey or two years into the journey. Let’s have another conversation. I want to tell you where I am.” Some of the ones who’ve continued to remain in that learning mindset and in that inquisitive mindset want to see how these lessons apply to them at all stages.

Scott Keller: In the back of the book, we purposefully put an assessment grid that you can complete. It starts with an assessment of, “What is your mandate for change on each of these dimensions? And then, “How comfortable do you feel that you’re delivering against that?” To Carolyn’s point, as your mandate for change evolves, you will want to dial into different things and maybe even get other peoples’ views, not just your own, on how you’re doing vis-à-vis these things.

At any given point in time, it’s just good hygiene to go back to that and ask, “Where do I need to tweak the dials, and where do I need to adjust?” By the way, if you have no mandate for change on any of these, and you’re three years into being a CEO—

Carolyn Dewar: You’re probably complacent.

Raju Narisetti: Right.

Scott Keller: Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure.

I mentioned this idea of CEO blind spots and researching the other patterns and where CEOs tend to get blind spots. I mention it to raise the awareness of that and to say what to do about it and how to mitigate that.

That is one piece of research that we’re focused on. We also are helping a lot of our colleagues, who are more junior and aspiring to be the next Vik or the next Carolyn, learn that craft through that lens, using all the research that we’ve conducted. That’s super rewarding and exciting. It enables us as a firm to make a difference at a much bigger scale than just people always wanting to go to the authors. That’s super exciting, too.

Carolyn Dewar: Even though we call it four seasons, it’s never just four.

I think of a client who is in that awkward CEO-elect period. They know they’re about to get the job. Maybe it’s even been announced. Yet they’re not officially in the role for another six months. How do you navigate this? How do you make use of that time? What does that look like?

Alternatively, someone who’s about to hand over the reins is thinking, “What do I need to do in my last act to leave it in good place, to start thinking about my future, but also to create space and room for the next person?”

Vik Malhotra: Look, the research will continue. We’re also talking a lot about whether we create sector-specific perspectives, whether it’s for banking CEOs or advanced-industry CEOs and so on.

I think we should also give a shout-out to [McKinsey senior partner] Kurt Strovink , who is not one of the three authors of the original book but who is very instrumental to The Four Seasons of a CEO . He is really embracing and helping us evangelize this concept. Regarding the capability building  that Scott was talking about, making sure it’s not just the three of us—with Kurt, the four of us—but there are 50, 100 practitioners out there. Kurt is really leading the charge and the push on that. He’s helping us both from an intellectual point of view and a capability building point of view.

Watch the full interview

Carolyn Dewar is a senior partner in McKinsey’s Bay Area office, Scott Keller is a senior partner in the Southern California office, and Vik Malhotra is a senior partner in the New York office. Raju Narisetti is the leader of McKinsey Global Publishing and is based in the New York office.

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