The McKinsey Way

I finished reading The McKinsey Way – Using the Techniques of the World’s Top Strategic Consultants to Help You and Your Business (Ethan M. Rasiel, 1998, 187 pages), and I think it was an enriching experience.

To start with, my motivation to finding and buying this book lays on the fact that I have always admired strategic consultants, since I discovered they existed during my years at the university, where I followed some of their recruiting sessions. I actually went further in the hiring process for BCG, but ended up not getting a job offer there.

Fast-forward a decade and a half, and I got the chance to work closely with some ex-consultants, when I just got remembered how good these guys are at organizing and presenting their business ideas. Hence, my interest in finding a book to read further about the way they work.

And I think this book delivered on my expectations. The concept of MECE (“pronounced mee-see”), for example, is one that I had read about before, but not got a deeper appreciation for until now. It stands for Mutually Exclusive, Collective Exhaustive. Meaning that basically any problem or topic can be divided into individual components that are independent of each other and, together, they cover all that is to say about the issue. The idea behind is giving clarity of thinking and communicating, since non-related ideas are not mixed.

Waterfall chart is another example of something very typical of business consultancy, which is also covered in details in the book.

So, I’m quite happy and recommend this book as a way of understanding how top consultants work. The only remark I have is that the book is a bit dated, and I would not be surprised if some of the ideas are not representative anymore of the reality as it is today. McKinsey is a very traditional firm, and probably its culture persists. But I would be amazed if the new technologies from the last two decades, and other societal changes, would not have impacted on some of the practices the book described. Good reading!


Empowered: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products

I recently finished Empowered: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products (Marty Cagan with Chris Jones, 2020, 432 pages), and I love virtually everything about this book.

In a way, it represents a continuation of the book Inspired, and a deepening into different aspects of Product Discovery. But the details and examples are so numerous, and so relevant, that it’s like I could still use several more of these books.

Actually, I was a bit sad while approaching the end, because I feel that reading this book gives me some inspiration to pursue continue showing its concepts to people around me, and moving towards a way of working that is simply better than my current model.

When I reflect about the software industry, and my (limited and personal) experience with it, it is easy to see that the way many of us worked since about 10+ years ago and until now, cannot deliver the results we need today.

The reason for it is simple. Creating great software products is like solving a big puzzle. No one has all the answers. Therefore, it only makes sense to adapt our way of working, so that we use realistic tools to learn about what works and what does not work for our target user groups.

Producing features just because some stakeholders really believe in them is not a guarantee of success. It doesn’t matter if the stakeholder is an early adopter or the company’s CEO. And this has always been like that. But the techniques available today, many of each being discussed in Empowered, really can enable a product team to realistic access and develop product opportunities.

Still, these techniques cannot and do not promise success either. This way of working, however, guarantee that we either can come to the conclusion that this product is not a good idea after all, or it can allow for innumerous small changes that brings the product, step-by-step, closer to a state in which possible buyers can actually make that final buying decision.

So, reading a book like Empowered, as well as other books in this same modern field of Product Discovery is almost mandatory, I do believe, for someone really interested in organizing a company in a way that can allow engineers, product manager, and designers, to really discover amazing products.


Programming Pearls

I just finished reading Programming Pearls (Jon Bentley, Second Edition, 239 pages). It was a great experience!

If you are a developer or have a degree related to Computer Science as I do (Computer Engineering, in my case), this can be a delightful way of reviewing some of the basics on solutions for interesting computing problems.

The author has lots of knowledge and experience in algorithm design and implementation, which surfaces up in a mostly inspiring way.

In my personal experience, I see that most professional programmers do not spend their days creating algorithmic solutions to real-life problems, but rather spend time in system’s design and architecture, integration between multiple components and API’s, bug fixing etc. In any case, studying classic algorithmic problems and different solutions to them is always useful. At a minimum, it stimulates problem-solving skills, and certainly adds creativity to when tackling other programming challenges.

I also find it very interesting to study algorithm design, data structures, the tradeoffs between space and time complexity, and the different variables incurring when creating software in general. The traditional sorting and searching problems, for example, and their best solutions, are always good starting points to think hard about programming.

As it is clear already so far, I really enjoyed the book. Even if I don’t program full-time anymore, and even if my personal interests are currently shifted more towards software products and entrepreneurship around them, this book resurrected in me some old admiration and respect for the basic programming skills that lay at the foundation of everything else, when it comes to software engineering.