The Golden Passport: Harvard Business School, the Limits of Capitalism, and the Moral Failure of the MBA Elite

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With The Firm, financial journalist Duff McDonald pulled back the curtain on consulting giant McKinsey & Company. In The Golden Passport, he reveals the inner works of a singular nexus of power, ambition, and influence: Harvard Business School.

Harvard University still occupies a unique place in the public’s imagination, but the Harvard Business School eclipsed its parent in terms of influence on modern society long ago. A Harvard degree guarantees respect. But a Harvard MBA near-guarantees entrance into Western capitalism’s most powerful realm—the corner office. And because the School shapes the way its powerful graduates think, its influence extends well beyond their own lives. It affects the organizations they command, the economy they dominate, and society itself. Decisions and priorities at HBS touch every single one of us.

Most people have a vague knowledge of the power of the HBS network, but few understand the dynamics that have made HBS an indestructible and dominant force for almost a century. Graduates of HBS share more than just an alma mater. They also share a way of thinking about how the world should work, and they have successfully molded the world to that vision—that is what truly binds them together.

In addition to teasing out the essence of this exclusive, if not necessarily “secret” club, McDonald explores two important questions: Has the school failed at reaching the goal it set for itself—“the multiplication of men who will handle their current business problems in socially constructive ways?” Is HBS complicit in the moral failings of Western capitalism?

At a time of soaring economic inequality and growing political unrest, this hard-hitting yet fair portrait offers a much-needed look at an institution that has had a profound influence not just in the world of business but on the shape of our society—and on all our lives.

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About the author

Duff McDonald is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence on American Business and Last Man Standing: The Ascent of Jamie Dimon and JPMorgan Chase, and the coauthor of The CEO, a satire. A contributing editor at the New York Observer, he has also written for the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, New York, Esquire, Fortune, Businessweek, GQ, Wired, Time, Newsweek, and other publications. He lives in New York.

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Additional Information

Publisher
HarperCollins
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Published on
Apr 25, 2017
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Pages
672
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ISBN
9780062347183
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Business Ethics
Business & Economics / Corporate & Business History
Business & Economics / Education
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The story of McKinsey & Co., America’s most influential and controversial business consulting firm, “an up-to-date, full-blown history, told with wit and clarity” (The Wall Street Journal).

If you want to be taken seriously, you hire McKinsey & Company. Founded in 1926, McKinsey can lay claim to the following partial list of accomplishments: its consultants have ushered in waves of structural, financial, and technological change to the nation’s best organizations; they remapped the power structure within the White House; they even revo­lutionized business schools. In The New York Times bestseller The Firm, star financial journalist Duff McDonald shows just how, in becoming an indispensable part of decision making at the highest levels, McKinsey has done nothing less than set the course of American capitalism.

But he also answers the question that’s on the mind of anyone who has ever heard the word McKinsey: Are they worth it? After all, just as McKinsey can be shown to have helped invent most of the tools of modern management, the company was also involved with a number of striking failures. Its consultants were on the scene when General Motors drove itself into the ground, and they were K-Mart’s advisers when the retailer tumbled into disarray. They played a critical role in building the bomb known as Enron.

McDonald is one of the few journalists to have not only parsed the record but also penetrated the culture of McKinsey itself. His access puts him in a unique position to demonstrate when it is worth hiring these gurus—and when they’re full of smoke.
A sharp and illuminating history of one of capitalism’s longest running tensions—the conflicts of interest among public company directors, managers, and shareholders—told through entertaining case studies and original letters from some of our most legendary and controversial investors and activists.

Recent disputes between shareholders and major corporations, including Apple and DuPont, have made headlines. But the struggle between management and those who own stock has been going on for nearly a century. Mixing never-before-published and rare, original letters from Wall Street icons—including Benjamin Graham, Warren Buffett, Ross Perot, Carl Icahn, and Daniel Loeb—with masterful scholarship and professional insight, Dear Chairman traces the rise in shareholder activism from the 1920s to today, and provides an invaluable and unprecedented perspective on what it means to be a public company, including how they work and who is really in control.

Jeff Gramm analyzes different eras and pivotal boardroom battles from the last century to understand the factors that have caused shareholders and management to collide. Throughout, he uses the letters to show how investors interact with directors and managers, how they think about their target companies, and how they plan to profit. Each is a fascinating example of capitalism at work told through the voices of its most colorful, influential participants.

A hedge fund manager and an adjunct professor at Columbia Business School, Gramm has spent as much time evaluating CEOs and directors as he has trying to understand and value businesses. He has seen public companies that are poorly run, and some that willfully disenfranchise their shareholders. While he pays tribute to the ingenuity of public company investors, Gramm also exposes examples of shareholder activism at its very worst, when hedge funds engineer stealthy land-grabs at the expense of a company’s long term prospects. Ultimately, he provides a thorough, much-needed understanding of the public company/shareholder relationship for investors, managers, and everyone concerned with the future of capitalism.

"This is not a book about charismatic visionary leaders. It is not about visionary product concepts or visionary products or visionary market insights. Nor is it about just having a corporate vision. This is a book about something far more important, enduring, and substantial. This is a book about visionary companies." So write Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in this groundbreaking book that shatters myths, provides new insights, and gives practical guidance to those who would like to build landmark companies that stand the test of time.

Drawing upon a six-year research project at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, Collins and Porras took eighteen truly exceptional and long-lasting companies -- they have an average age of nearly one hundred years and have outperformed the general stock market by a factor of fifteen since 1926 -- and studied each company in direct comparison to one of its top competitors. They examined the companies from their very beginnings to the present day -- as start-ups, as midsize companies, and as large corporations. Throughout, the authors asked: "What makes the truly exceptional companies different from other companies?"

What separates General Electric, 3M, Merck, Wal-Mart, Hewlett-Packard, Walt Disney, and Philip Morris from their rivals? How, for example, did Procter & Gamble, which began life substantially behind rival Colgate, eventually prevail as the premier institution in its industry? How was Motorola able to move from a humble battery repair business into integrated circuits and cellular communications, while Zenith never became dominant in anything other than TVs? How did Boeing unseat McDonnell Douglas as the world's best commercial aircraft company -- what did Boeing have that McDonnell Douglas lacked?

By answering such questions, Collins and Porras go beyond the incessant barrage of management buzzwords and fads of the day to discover timeless qualities that have consistently distinguished out-standing companies. They also provide inspiration to all executives and entrepreneurs by destroying the false but widely accepted idea that only charismatic visionary leaders can build visionary companies.

Filled with hundreds of specific examples and organized into a coherent framework of practical concepts that can be applied by managers and entrepreneurs at all levels, Built to Last provides a master blueprint for building organizations that will prosper long into the twenty-first century and beyond.

The Challenge
Built to Last, the defining management study of the nineties, showed how great companies triumph over time and how long-term sustained performance can be engineered into the DNA of an enterprise from the verybeginning.

But what about the company that is not born with great DNA? How can good companies, mediocre companies, even bad companies achieve enduring greatness?

The Study
For years, this question preyed on the mind of Jim Collins. Are there companies that defy gravity and convert long-term mediocrity or worse into long-term superiority? And if so, what are the universal distinguishing characteristics that cause a company to go from good to great?

The Standards
Using tough benchmarks, Collins and his research team identified a set of elite companies that made the leap to great results and sustained those results for at least fifteen years. How great? After the leap, the good-to-great companies generated cumulative stock returns that beat the general stock market by an average of seven times in fifteen years, better than twice the results delivered by a composite index of the world's greatest companies, including Coca-Cola, Intel, General Electric, and Merck.

The Comparisons
The research team contrasted the good-to-great companies with a carefully selected set of comparison companies that failed to make the leap from good to great. What was different? Why did one set of companies become truly great performers while the other set remained only good?

Over five years, the team analyzed the histories of all twenty-eight companies in the study. After sifting through mountains of data and thousands of pages of interviews, Collins and his crew discovered the key determinants of greatness -- why some companies make the leap and others don't.

The Findings
The findings of the Good to Great study will surprise many readers and shed light on virtually every area of management strategy and practice. The findings include:

Level 5 Leaders: The research team was shocked to discover the type of leadership required to achieve greatness. The Hedgehog Concept (Simplicity within the Three Circles): To go from good to great requires transcending the curse of competence. A Culture of Discipline: When you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magical alchemy of great results. Technology Accelerators: Good-to-great companies think differently about the role of technology. The Flywheel and the Doom Loop: Those who launch radical change programs and wrenching restructurings will almost certainly fail to make the leap.

“Some of the key concepts discerned in the study,” comments Jim Collins, "fly in the face of our modern business culture and will, quite frankly, upset some people.”

Perhaps, but who can afford to ignore these findings?

The story of McKinsey & Co., America’s most influential and controversial business consulting firm, “an up-to-date, full-blown history, told with wit and clarity” (The Wall Street Journal).

If you want to be taken seriously, you hire McKinsey & Company. Founded in 1926, McKinsey can lay claim to the following partial list of accomplishments: its consultants have ushered in waves of structural, financial, and technological change to the nation’s best organizations; they remapped the power structure within the White House; they even revo­lutionized business schools. In The New York Times bestseller The Firm, star financial journalist Duff McDonald shows just how, in becoming an indispensable part of decision making at the highest levels, McKinsey has done nothing less than set the course of American capitalism.

But he also answers the question that’s on the mind of anyone who has ever heard the word McKinsey: Are they worth it? After all, just as McKinsey can be shown to have helped invent most of the tools of modern management, the company was also involved with a number of striking failures. Its consultants were on the scene when General Motors drove itself into the ground, and they were K-Mart’s advisers when the retailer tumbled into disarray. They played a critical role in building the bomb known as Enron.

McDonald is one of the few journalists to have not only parsed the record but also penetrated the culture of McKinsey itself. His access puts him in a unique position to demonstrate when it is worth hiring these gurus—and when they’re full of smoke.
企業高階主管心照不宣的成功法則──有問題,就去找麥肯錫!

1926年成立的麥肯錫,擁有許多號稱「第一」的事蹟:第一家實際運用科學方法管理,透過假設、數據和證據來解決商業問題的顧問公司;第一家樂於聘用年輕人而不是資深工作者的公司;第一家真正全球化的公司。它領導美國企業做出結構、金融和技術上的變革,改寫白宮內部的權力結構,領導戰後歐洲進行大規模的企業重組;協助發明條碼;首創將「編列預算」做為管理工具,更對商學院帶來革命性的影響。

麥肯錫為許多組織和政府提供全套的解決方案,逐漸成為最高領導階層決策過程中不可分割的一部分,不僅催生了現代白領階級,更將美國的資本主義推向世界各地。

麥肯錫的員工個個絕頂聰明、出身名校,用「不升遷就淘汰」的制度挑選出菁英中的菁英。他們自視甚高、不甘屈居幕後,充滿自信又神經兮兮。面對客戶甚至自家人,他們可以伸出援手同時充滿算計。因此,他們獲得的信任和不信任一樣多,大家對他們是又愛又恨。

然而,麥肯錫讓客戶認為,只要聘用這批「商業特種部隊」,花掉的每一分顧問費,都能得到超值回報。光是聘用麥肯錫這個舉動,便具有象徵和實質上的意義,發揮客戶想達成的效果。

雖然麥肯錫協助企業成功的案例不勝枚舉,它的失策也逼使不少公司走上窮途末路。許多公司支付鉅款請麥肯錫指點迷津,最後卻讓股東賠錢,導致不必要的裁員,甚至落得破產的下場。例如,通用汽車、凱瑪百貨、瑞士航空走向破產時,麥肯錫一直擔任其顧問。在安隆案爆發前一刻,麥肯錫還持續向安隆收取巨額費用。安隆執行長史金林因違法行為入獄,麥肯錫卻幾乎毫髮無傷的全身而退。

麥肯錫的故事攸關美國商業的興起和成就,本書作者深入採訪麥肯錫的現任員工或離職校友,佐以大量的資料,揭露美國最具影響力的企業袐辛,和許多傳奇事蹟的來龍去脈。讓我們得以窺探麥肯錫校友如何搭乘通往權力的特快車,進軍各國的董事會與政治權力中心,在全球政商界發揮莫大影響力。

麥肯錫善於分析、解構、整合與運用知識,也善於預測,為企業提供諮詢服務,確實對許多企業發展有實質的幫助。讀者可以從本書中學習如何有效善用顧問創造最大價值,從失敗案例中學習避免重蹈覆轍。麥肯錫公司本身能經歷景氣循環和產業快速轉變,在每個轉折點變得愈來愈強,如今發展成一家偉大的跨國企業,其成就不僅令人佩服亦值得管理者三思。
──國泰金控總經理 李長庚

這是一本值得細讀和深思的好書,不只是要投入顧問業的年輕人可以一窺這家顧問業龍頭的全貌,詳細了解他們的成功因素;也可以避免他們所犯過的錯。
──悅智全球顧問公司創辦人暨董事長 黃河明博士

這本有關麥肯錫顧問公司的書,讓我們了解這家公司整個發展過程,以及這一行業的經營祕辛。它為許多機構的最高領導階層提供建議和解決方案,成為決策過程中不可或缺的一部分,將美國資本主義的象徵,推向世界各地。
──逢甲大學人言講座教授 許士軍

 這本企業傳記深入淺出,帶我們深入了解當今最聰明也最重要的企業之一,沒有任何記者做過如此深入的報導。作者透過平實記述和縝密分析,揭開麥肯錫成功的秘密,也提供改變公司運作、精益求精的良方。
──摩根大通總裁 戴蒙(Jamie Dimon)

本書描述麥肯錫崛起的精彩故事。如果你想知道為什麼麥肯錫的企業文化可以出類拔萃,讀這本書就對了。
──普立茲獎得主 艾哈邁德(Liaquat Ahamed)

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