“A PROBLEM WELL-FRAMED IS HALF DONE”
During her time at Bain, Whitley has also observed that results stem from the consultant serving as a diplomat, someone who understands both operations and politics and is able to bring the various factions together using a common language and end in mind. “If you want to create real change in an organization, you need to get everyone around a table,” she points out. “So much of the value that Bain brings to our clients is ensuring that the right conversations are happening between the right people at the right time.”
For Sanchez Servitje, the Bain method is an extension of the best practices he absorbed in business school. It is a customized approach, one that requires intensive analysis and ongoing relationship-building and communication to build buy-in. Wu describes the approach slightly different: “Simplifying and framing complex problems. Our work brings to life the phrase, “a problem well-framed is half solved” every day.”
Bain’s second principle centers around teamwork. This teamwork is rooted in placing the right mix of expertise and experience on client teams. Even more, Bevans adds, teamwork is simply part of the Bain DNA. “Bain people love working with each other. It’s not like when I was an engineer where you’d go off and put your head down. We like coming to a better answer together than coming to a pretty good answer by ourselves.”
NEVER FEEL ALONE AT BAIN
Munford cut her teeth as a member of Team Fuqua, a school renowned for attracting active and invested students whose first instinct is to help others succeed. Joking that “teamwork makes the dream work,” Munford believes Bain takes this supportive stewardship model she experienced at Duke to another level.
“I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve asked an associate consultant – the folks right out of undergrad – for a simple formatting question or to help with an offset formula. There is this flatness to the organization despite what hierarchy may exist on a business card. I have never felt alone at Bain, where I didn’t have anyone to turn to. That is completely outside my experience.”
The final operational principle at Bain is humility. Bevans considers this one of Bain’s biggest advantages. Here, he says, employees are more open to learning from each other, respecting how the firm’s high entry requirements and core cultural mores translate to working with proven experts who don’t hold ulterior agendas.
“WOW! I WOULD LIKE TO BE YOU!”
“You can learn in any moment, from any person, on any case,” says Adanna Ukah, a Northwestern Kellogg grad who works out of the Chicago office. “The pace and the rigor of work forces you to ask for help and observe others all the time. Watching other Bainies who are performing stronger and faster than I am has been valuable these first few months.”
Ukah claims that she was initially surprised how the Bain consultants she met “seemed like regular people with consulting jobs, not consultants first.” Similarly, Munford was wowed by the Bainies she met during the interview process. “It was one of the first times that I sat across the desk from a partner and thought, ‘Wow! I would like to be you!”
This sense of wonder continues during on-boarding. Shareef, for example, assumed there would be an inverse relationship between success and humility at Bain. However, his Sydney colleagues quickly proved him wrong. “That trade-off does not exist at Bain,” he admits. “We work with the world’s leading companies on their toughest problems. We have brilliant people who crack those problems, and drive relentlessly towards positive results for our clients. But those same people will consistently check in with you over coffee or lunch just to see how you’re doing, even if they have nothing to do with your case.”
A HEAVY INVESTMENT IN TRAINING
Training is another huge differentiator at Bain. The firm maintains a robust training program and couples it with an interrelated mentoring program. Like most organizations, Bain conducts the usual week-long onboarding to expose MBAs to the basic procedures and toolkits. After being staffed on projects for a few months, they are sent to a week-long NCT (New Consultant Training), which is held in Miami, Lisbon, or Dublin. Here, teams work in teams of 4-6 people – all from separate offices – on a simulated case.
“During the course of that week, you are working through that case learning how we do method analysis, how we do client work, how we interact and communicate with clients, and how we run teams,” Bevans details. “So you’re starting to build those relationships that you’ll reach out to and lean on throughout your career.”
That’s just the start. Bain consultants participate in week-long trainings every 12-18 months throughout their careers. Eighteen months after NCT, Bain also holds ECT (Experienced Consultant Training) in either Lisbon or California, where all consultants return to work on cases applicable to their tenure. New managers also converge for a week of special training. Even interns get into the act through a week-long Bain Summer Associate Training held in Cape Cod.
“There’s a huge investment for us because we’re actually taking people off the field for a week and we’re taking partners, principals and managers off their client work for a week to be the trainers,” Bevans explains. This investment hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Class of 2017. “It was immediately apparent to me that Bain invests an incredible amount of time and energy in developing its consultants at all stages of their careers, adds Ciccone. “Bain actively makes this a priority.”
HOME OFFICE MODEL THAT BRINGS A SUPPORT NETWORK TOGETHER
Notably, Bain applies a home office model, where consultants can be staffed anywhere in the world but still report to one central location. This is not a local office model, Bevans is careful to note. Instead, the model creates a nearby support system accountable for developing each MBA. Even more, it exposes new consultants to a regular set of peers with whom they may sometimes work on cases – or simply act as informal mentors.
“We have to invest in people in a way that is different,” Bevans contends. “When you join, you’ll get paired with a formal mentor. Basically, what they are doing is helping you transition from school into the workforce. Early on, it takes the form of nuts-and-bolts issues like how to dress or help with training modules. Over time, it shifts into long-term career goals, such as making the right tradeoffs at Bain so you get the skills to hit your long-term goals.”
In the end, Bain is a place where it takes a village to develop a great consultant. Each home office includes a staffing manager who is focused on helping MBAs, in Bevans’ words, “marry their professional and personal goals with their Bain goals.” In the process, the staffing manager is also a lookout for projects that fit with the types of industries, geographies, and issues that pique particular consultants’ interests. In addition, MBAs will be assigned a Professional Development (PD) champion, who reviews their cases and writes reviews every six months.
GO TO PAGE 3 FOR IN-DEPTH PROFILES OF NEW BAIN HIRES