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Consulting Demons: Inside the Unscrupulous World of Global Corporate Consulting Hardcover – January 26, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

With the ubiquitous term consultant now being bandied about as practically every second person's job description, Consulting Demons is a book for everyone. At once an entertaining account of one man's personal odyssey through the various levels and organizations of the corporate consulting world, an informed opinion given to fresh-faced MBAs choosing this profession as a career, and an ominous warning to clients not yet privy to its inner workings, Consulting Demons is a compelling read.

Earning an undergraduate degree in political science at MIT, Lewis Pinault channeled his interests in space development into areas more salable in the late 1970s, namely, ocean engineering and Japanese. Hired directly out of college by a Japanese shipbuilder, he spent the next few years living in the conglomerate's dilapidated dormitories, mastering the language and gaining valuable project management experience. Pinault's introduction to the alluring world of corporate consulting came through company contact with consultants from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), and a year later he'd been willingly sucked into the vortex of a fast-paced, all-consuming 12-year consulting career. His ensuing adventures led him throughout Southeast Asia, in and out of BCG, the MAC Group, Gemini Consulting, Arthur D. Little (ADL), and finally Coopers & Lybrand, and through a number of less-than-professional exercises in client scamming and industrial espionage (otherwise known as benchmarking).

Having left the sanctums of global consultancies to pursue his original aspirations in science and the law, Pinault has written an exposé of considerable force. Part autobiography, part cautionary manual, the book presents a dark picture of the world of management consulting; in fact, each of its chapters ends with a "Consulting Demonology" tract, including such topics as "Client Beware: Consultants' Spycraft Charms" and "Red Spots and Other Ruses Consultants Use to Close on Large Fees." Though Pinault's tone is sometimes rather arrogant, it serves to reinforce the nature of the consulting game, one that this book portrays as risky and lucrative for the consultant but extremely costly and often not worthwhile for the client. If you're already a bona fide member of the ever-growing management consultant population, read this book and measure your worth as a successful trickster or unknowing drone. If you're thinking of becoming a consultant, read this book and think again. If you're a client about to sign a pact with the devil (or its demons), beware. --S. Ketchum

From Publishers Weekly

This expose is sure to incite envy and lust for the power and influence consulting entails, while simultaneously inciting dismay at the underhanded tactics consultants apparently use as a matter of course. Pinault, an international player in a number of major consulting organizations, narrates the story of his life as a participant in a number of corporate takeovers, reengineerings and project startups. The book is heavily dependent on dialogue, which lends an air of freshness and reality to business subjects often bound in stilted, academic prose. The story begins with Pinault's background: he tells how, having hoped for a career in space technology, he detoured into the study of Japanese and began his career working for a Japanese shipbuilding firm. This was followed quickly by his immersion into the international Boston Consulting Group. With the exception of a few detailed descriptions of actual consulting projects--the manufacture of disposable diapers is one--most of this account describes Pinault's rise up the consulting ladder, his struggles with the demands and stress of the job and the machinations of various consulting firms competing intensely on several continents. Pinault's work was sometimes skullduggerish, and he gleefully relates tales of his "benchmarking"--i.e., covertly, duplicitously discovering other companies' trade secrets--and low-bidding competitors' clients. Interspersed throughout are pithy guidelines that condense consulting into simple lessons: e.g., "Cases that begin to show obsession with large quantities of data... run a high danger of fractured expectations." This is two books in one, the narrative refreshing and illuminating, the guidelines terse and educational. At times, both serve to highlight the shady, sometimes questionable activities that seemingly permeate this professional culture. (Feb.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 284 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness; 1st edition (January 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0066619971
  • ISBN-13: 978-0066619972
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,581,624 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In the interests of full disclosure, I would like you to know that I worked as a consultant and later as a project manager at The Boston Consulting Group in Boston from 1971-74. As far as I can remember, I neither experienced nor heard about any of the sorts of problems raised by the author. In fact, senior members of the firm frequently encouraged me to be concerned about ethical issues, and made it easy for me to follow the right course. I have headed my own management consulting firm for the last 22 years, where I can made my own calls on ethics. So I am probably biased in my review. Forgive me for that, but this book called out to me to be read and reviewed.
This book should be required reading for anyone about to enter a business career. The reason I say that is because it exposes the reader to the kinds of ethical choices that can arise in consulting, investment banking, law and many other high impact professional careers. If you have your moral compass in front of you, you will probably make different (and possibly better) choices than Mr. Pinault did. If you don't, you may stumble into some places where you will later wish you hadn't gone.
The book is also promoted as a source that all clients should consider. If you think of some of the stories as being "what can go wrong during a consulting assignment," that can be valuable. But the book is hardly a thorough look at how to buy and get value from consultants. Here is where I graded the book down one star. I think the blurb and the subtitle are misleading on this point.
I drew a different lesson from this book than the author did. I thought that he was a victim of stalled thinking.
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on February 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A brave, significant work. By breaking the consulting industry's omerta, its own Sicilian code of silence, Lewis Pinault has taken a professional gamble to be much lauded, exposing the inherent skullduggery of a business gone unexamined for too long.
Pinault's "Consulting Demons" does for management consulting what Michael Lewis's "Liar's Poker" did for investment banking and Po Bronson's "Nudist on the Late Shift" did for Silicon Valley. In fact, Pinault's wry wit, engaging prose, and lucid insights invite comparisons with the best work of Lewis and Bronson. Yet unlike Lewis and Bronson, Pinault actually made it to the top of the profession he chronicles. This lofty vantage imbues his work with added credibility and authority.
The book is a thoroughly enjoyable read for the layperson, but for anyone considering a career in management consulting, it should be required reading.
Really two books in one--half memoir, half Machiavellian primer for career advancement--Demons triumphs on both levels. Pinault balances tales of swash-buckling success with monumental failure. The Shell snafu in particular is palpably frightening. Scarier for a professional than any Stephen King novel could be. As the incident unfolds, you'll find yourself screaming at the book, "Lewis, don't give that PowerPoint presentation!"
Yet this work is much more than just an "emperor with no clothes" expose of the oftentimes insidious world of the globe-trotting, management consultant. It treats its subject with remarkable compassion and fairness.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Management consultant in an integrity crisis This book can save users of management consultants millions of dollars. But they can also miss making millions. The stories in the book appear to be true. They show that some of the most important and prestigious consulting companies are far more interested in making money than solving a company's problems effectively and with integrity. The author however also states correctly that good consultants have three unique advantages 1 intensive concentration on a problem 2 no blinkers as the persons working in the company 3 experience of similar problems and their solution elsewhere. These unique advantages when combined integrity can deliver important benefits. The quality of the individual consultant is very important regardless of whatever the most reputable consulting company may claim. Many clients once they decide to start a project want to start quickly which makes it often impossible for the consulting company to make suitable persons available. Therefore a company that engages consultants at short notice takes a high risk as there is no time to properly organize and staff the project. The book documents a considerable lack of integrity in consulting companies and among consultants, with the author being a frightening example. The book is also useful reading for consulting companies that wish to operate at a high level of integrity. An interesting issues is strategy development and gathering information about competitors. The book gives dramatic examples of how is "stolen". Every company worth its salt is benchmarking the performance of its products against the competitors'. Reverse engineering, that is dissecting a product of a competitor and figuring out how one can do the same or better is an accepted practice.Read more ›
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