The Financial Times asked me to write about the $600 million settlement that McKinsey accepted as recompense for its disgraceful role, via Purdue Pharma, in potentially abetting the opioid crisis.
McKinsey’s work on opioid sales represents a new low:
My former consultancy demonstrates what is wrong with business school graduates
This month McKinsey agreed to pay nearly $600m to settle claims that its advice had exacerbated the deadly US opioid crisis.
One bit from my submitted draft, which I unequivocally approved, did not make the final cut. I suggested that I fervently believe that heads in a not small number should or should have rolled. I am a U.S. Navy (and Royal Navy) veteran, and believe the Captain and those in the direct chain of command should go down with the ship. I observed that in a case close at hand during my service in Vietnam in 1966-67.
I can present no hard evidence, but from a couple of conversations with people who are well informed, it is my understanding that headrolling has been minimal. Certainly the Managing Director should have been fired, one hopes with no accompanying benefits. Though I do not know modern McKinsey, the Office Manager and all those between him or her and the coal face should have been shown the door as well.
I am not a vindictive person, but this situation is so appalling that, I believe, the punishment should match the crime.
What is more worrying from my conversations is that the centerpiece of the internal response has apparently been to revise processes.
Sure, but …
The issue is not a “process issue.” It is a culture and values and morals issue that runs to the core of the way McKinsey does business. It will in no way be solved with process change and a lecture or two. It requires deep reflection about “who we are and what we believe”—as human beings far more than “professionals.”. (In my angrier moments, of which there are many, I almost think McKinsey should consider shutting its doors and closing down.)
Such are my more pointed concerns largely not addressed in the original, far more analytic, article.