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House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time Paperback – March 8, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Complete with an appendix of terms like "brain dump," "pulse check" and "swag" (an acronym for "smart wild-assed guess"), this somewhat disjointed, highly intelligent and deeply funny debut memoir skewers a segment of the economy that nearly every white-collar worker has learned to fear and loathe: consultancies. Kihn, who has been nominated for an Emmy as a comedy writer, went to Columbia Business School and has spent the last few years working as a consultant; he writes the "Consultant Debunking Unit" column for Fast Company. Kihn argues that many consultants know little or nothing about the firms they're hired to help; furthermore, he contends, they often offer companies information that companies already have. For him, the consulting industry is a shell game, imparting an air of authority and expertise rather than actual authority and expertise. To achieve the illusion, Kihn says, consultants use mechanisms ranging from legions of Harvard MBAs in Oxford shirts to reams of incomprehensible blather presented as winning corporate wisdom. His reconstructed dialogue from within his (unnamed) firm and from his time serving clients is alone worth the price of admission, as is his relentless taunting (by name) of McKinsey, Deloitte & Touche and others.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

With sharp wit, consultant Kihn tears down myths surrounding the highly profitable and revered management-consulting industry. Presenting stories from his own career in a large management-consulting firm, this tell-all book sketches a picture of a consulting firm with teams of brilliant professionals who are hired by companies that pay millions of dollars in fees for an analysis of their organization and its processes. The author contends that consultants merely provide information the client already knows, and he offers insight into the effect consultants have on the company's employees and their culture. Language plays an enormous role in dealings both within and outside the firm, and the inclusion of a dictionary of important words for management consultants is revealing and entertaining. No activity avoids Kihn's scathing pen, including his highly critical analysis of business books. This will be popular among those engaged in consulting as well as clients who pay dearly for their advice. Mary Whaley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Business Plus (March 8, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446696382
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446696388
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #411,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Martin Kihn is a writer, digital marketer, dog lover, balletomane and spiritual athlete. He was born in Zambia, grew up in suburban Michigan, has a BA in Theater Studies from Yale and an MBA from Columbia Business School. His articles have appeared in New York, the New York Times, GQ, Us, Details, Cosmopolitan and Forbes, among many others, and he was on the staff of Spy, Forbes, New York and Vibe. Until recently, most of his writing could be called satirical or snarky, meticulously researched and office-based.
His third book, the soon-to-be-released memoir "Bad Dog:
A Love Story," changes everything.

In the late 1990's, Kihn was Head Writer for the popular television program "Pop-Up Video" on MTV Networks and was nominated for an Emmy for Writing. He lost to "Win Ben Stein's Money," decided to quit writing and got into business school. Ironically enough, the tragicomic world of American business, where everybody seemed to be speaking an impressive language that was not quite English, and not quite clear, provided him with a whole new vein of source material, and his writing career really took off.

Kihn's first book was a humorous expose of the consulting industry called "House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time" (Grand Central 2005), based on the three years he spent working for a large consultancy. The Economist said "a more entertaining book about business is unlikely to appear for a long time," and called it "exceedingly smart and funny," echoing Publishers Weekly's reviewer, who declared the book "highly intelligent and deeply funny."

Former co-workers and pinheaded career consultants were less amused, however, spamming with one-star reviews and all but sabotaging the book's chances in the marketplace.

Enraged but unbroken, Kihn reemerged a few years later with a grotesquely satirical stunt-memoir called "A**hole: How I Got Rich & Happy By Not Giving a Damn About Anyone" (Broadway Books 2008). The premise of this reality TV-type firebomb was that a guy who is too nice to get ahead in business (aka Marty) decides systematically to turn himself into a pricktard and reap the rewards. Film rights were sold to Warner Brothers, where it is in development, and Booklist raved "Kihn's got a great ear for dialogue - and a comedic sense worthy of Second City."

For reasons that elude the Author, "A**hole" became a publishing phenomenon in Germany and Austria, sitting for months on the Der Spiegel bestseller list and causing his German publisher to proclaim him "the David Hasselhoff of satirical non-fiction." Notes from his legion of German fans lead some to suspect Kihn's gossamer irony was lost in translation.

Kihn is married to the singer-songwriter Julia Douglass. Her most recent projects include a series of brilliant one-minute animated songs about cooking called After twenty years living and working in New York City, the couple recently relocated to Minneapolis, where Kihn works as a digital marketing strategist for a well-known agency.

The forthcoming "Bad Dog: A Love Story," marks the emergence of a mature writer at the height of his powers. At its heart is an intensely charismatic, terribly-behaved 90-pound Bernese mountain dog named Hola. After a shattering personal crisis, Kihn decides to train Hola and together they earn their Canine Good Citizen certification from the American Kennel Club. It's a journey of redemption, as together man and dog reclaim their lives by working toward a common goal.

More will be revealed about this memoir shortly. You will be able to follow Hola's pre-publication antics on Facebook ( and Twitter (@BadDogTweets). For now, Hola and her companion can guarantee this: There won't be a dry eye in the kennel. xo

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is a fast, fun read and a fairly realistic introduction to the negative aspects of consulting. Anyone considering a consulting career should read it to understand the downsides. The author is clearly a skilled writer, far better than most business writers. He is also very funny. It is rare to read a book that is a quick read, funny, and informative all at the same time. That's why I gave it five stars. The author touches on several aspects of consulting. He discusses a bit of his experience at Columbia Business Schools. The bulk of the book is taken up by his discussion of a couple of his consulting assignments. This is very much a worse-case scenario book. Most people don't have such a negative experience, but it is vitally important for those interested in consulting to be aware of what can and often does go wrong. I also think the author may not have been all that seriously interested in consulting as a career.

This book is especially useful for those who are trying to decide whether or not to go into consulting; many people become consultants just because that's what others do or because there is supposedly a lot of money to be made. Read this book before you make the decision to target consulting firms in your job hunt. If you read it and still are excited about consulting, then you will probably be a pretty good "fit' for consulting.
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22 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Garrett on July 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A friend reccomended this book to me. It more depressed me than anything (because it so accurately describes me)

There are some good points in the book:

1. The consulting feedback and review process is a joke

2. All consulting firms are the same, except McKinsey which is just the same but better

3. Travel is probably the worst part of the job and points are mostly worthless

There are some things that made me think:

1. Why do I hate Sheratons but tolerate Marriott

2. Why am I obsessed with my luggage

3. Why do I get so excited at recruiting events

He also accurately describes a lot of the unspoken rules. Such as never eating in groups in the caffeteria.

There are a few funny bits as well.

I certanly wouldn't compare it to Liars Poker (not even in the same league) and the point about not having a point is well taken, its a bit rambling.

If you are a consultant you won't be able to put it down. Everyone else will just scratch their heads.
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22 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Red&Read on June 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
From someone who works in this industry, Martin Kihn has hit a lot of nails on the head in the mode of 'Snapshots from Hell' and 'Liars Poker'.

If you are thinking of becoming a management/ strategy or technology consultant read this book before making that decision.

Kihn lifts the lid on the self serving consulting firms, their inability to proffer little more than repackaged data and the clever use of a language and culture to protect their vested interests and hideous cultures.

Companies run by partners and VP's, whom a large proportion are sociopathic and driven by personal greed. Men and women prepared to sacrifice their home lives, health, relationships and quality of life (universal payback) for the Babylonian mirages of money, vanity, status and ego ..

This book is funny and dark too. .. Kihn (former MTV writer and Columbia MBA) joins Booz Allen Hamilton in New York and injects the book with a fresh ironic wit to make his points. His depth of insight is valuable as well as his ability to extract some of the more dysfunctional elements of an industry built on intellectual snobbery, stabbings and shamings. The book is thought provoking and although not written in a moralizing style it contains Kihn's values that are good. He empathises with those would may lose their jobs in the companies the consultants work with. He explains the truth of the devaluation of humanity within this sphere as people are fired and the game is to survive, and not look over your shoulder and consider those whom you have trampled on to do so.

Two other core truths Martin Kihn exposes are

1. Consultants actually don't know much.
Read more ›
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Kendall V. Scott on September 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This riotous book stands with the work of Mr. Bing, my longtime favorite "business" writer. The idea that anyone would read this to learn anything about management consulting strikes me as pretty silly; after all, at the end of the day, Marty's not trying to boil the ocean--he's simply trying to put a stake in the ground and then add value so he can increase his billability just in case he gets counseled out. (Hey, Marty, did I pass my consultant-speak audition?) Start at the end, with the faux acknowledgments--"negativity of the pissants around him," brilliant! It's FUNNY, people! Get a grip!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Irfan A. Alvi TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 27, 2013
Format: Paperback
Judging from the previous reviews, this book is rather polarizing, largely 'love it or hate it'. I can see why. It's simultaneously rambling, witty, sarcastic, cynical, mocking, depressing, funny, self-loathing, self-admiring, superficial, probing, etc. ... in no particular order. But if you know what to expect and have a taste for this sort of incoherent hodgepodge - as I do - the writing is fairly entertaining and sometimes even genuinely insightful.

The other key question is whether the book accurately portrays management consulting (mc), whether mc is really a 'house of lies'. I have no firsthand experience in that regard, but I certainly want to know, so I read every prior review to help me judge that. My conclusion? The negatives of mc are somewhat exaggerated, and the positives are downplayed (I'm inclined to think that if mc always has zero to negative value, never being able to add positive value, it wouldn't have survived and grown over the course of decades). But, sadly, a somewhat negative overall assessment may not be off the mark.

So I give the book 4 stars for writing and 4 stars for accuracy of content, thus 4 stars overall. Recommended if you have an interest in mc or business in general.

PS - A TV series of the same title was created based on this book, and is worth watching, but note that the series takes many liberties relative to the book.
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