I am wondering if you might have a reference for consulting-specific writing coaching.

Since joining Booz and Company, I have been rated ‘high potential’ but am being told that I need to be more concise in my writing and speaking.

I am in the somewhat unusual position of being an Engagement Manager-level hire with no previous strategy consulting experience – and the firm where I was before Booz had a completely different approach to professional deliverables and communication. If you might have a reference I would greatly appreciate the guidance.

My Reply:

Hmm… this is a good question.

When people say a consultant needs work on their writing, often it means they need to improve their synthesis — in written form.

I have noticed that users of my Look Over My Shoulder® program have gotten good at verbal synthesis, and I think it very much carries over in their writing (as well as verbal communication). I can see the structure and conciseness in their emails to me. It is very much a specific format in terms of logical layout, conclusion stated first (followed by supporting facts in numbered order), optimal sequencing of ideas, elimination of unnecessary information.

Though LOMS is nominally a guide on preparing for the case interview, somewhat ironically, a number of people have gotten promotions in their current jobs mainly because their communication skills have improved so dramatically (including people at Goldman who have impressed the CEO of Goldman’s international division).

A number of my students get feedback that they have the strongest communication skills of any candidate this year / last 5 years / last 10 years… that kind of thing.

If you get LOMS, I would focus less on the problem-solving and more on the communication and synthesis approach. In the last candidate for each case, the best practice example, you’ll see good synthesis both during the case (think: engagement) and also at the end of the case (which would mirror a presentation to a client).

I would suggest getting LOMS, listening to it actively one time through (about 20 hours of bad, good, and excellent communication examples and my commentary explaining the subtle differences between each level of performance), then play it in the background (while you commute to work, work out, etc…) for a total of 50-100 hours. (FYI, cases 1-5 will be more useful for your purposes than cases 6-8 will be.)

Your thinking and verbal communication skills will be much sharper, more concise… and then when you write, what you have in your head as starting material will itself be concise, and therefore your written communication will be more concise as well.

The other resource I would suggest (now that I think about it) is Barbara Minto’s Pyramid Principle (book). She’s ex-McK and all of the writing at McKinsey is based on her approach. It is meant to be a “how to write as a McK consultant” guide.

The book itself is written a little like a textbook, so though I am very familiar with the principles and ideas in the book (taught to me by McK colleagues, I personally did not get much out of the book — a little too theoretical). The examples in LOMS are essentially a demonstration of the principles of Minto — which seem a bit abstract if you’re only learning about it conceptually.

Good luck!