as the author Nicolas Mathieu already described this world of consultants

IN Connemara (Actes Sud), novelist Nicolas Mathieu, Goncourt Prize for Their children after them (Acts sud, 2018), addresses (in particular) the theme of the use of consulting firms in the administration and local communities. A trend that the current McKinsey scandal sheds a harsh light on. The character Hélène, a class defector, has escaped her social environment. His story is a disillusionment, of which passengers at the business school, then in the consulting firm Elexia, were the cornerstone. Nicolas Mathieu explored this themefrom his first novel, war against animals (South Acts, 2014)with so much the more appropriate as he knew this universe before he became a novelist. To Connemarahe even interviewed consultants.

ALSO READ:“Connemara” by Nicolas Mathieu: we set off in the author’s footsteps in the Vosges

It is only natural that the current McKinsey affair has challenged him. He also wrote a text on his Instagram page in which he pointed out the ideological dimension of the work of these consultants.


Nicolas Mathieu’s text on the McKinsey affair (posted on Instagram):

Since I was a little interested in consulting in my last book, I allow myself two or three remarks on the McKinsey case. It seems to me that the scandal, as it is revealed, partly misses the most interesting questions. Finally, three major criticisms have been raised in this case: mismanagement, co-operation, tax exemption. But there is something deeper to explore beneath the surface that is certainly important and political, but above all useful in an election period.

“The consultant is the Trojan horse of a thought. »

The crucial thing is the ideological question. The expertise produced by these large firms and disseminated by their agents, in companies, communities and administrations, even in the palaces of the republic, is not neutral. Every time it’s about performance, economies of scale, doing more for less. These assumptions are political. They stem from a line of thinking which in France will be described as liberal, which no doubt comes to us from Hayek and the Anglo-Saxon countries. On this I leave the judgment to economists or sociologists who are better informed than I am. But what matters is that the consultant working in these large firms is not a scientist.

His knowledge, his expertise pursues political goals, moreover, not always particularly illuminated or conscious. He is the Trojan horse of a thought. In its own way, it replaces the yuppie of the 80s. Gordon Gekko [dans le film Wall Street, d’Oliver Stone, N.D.L.R.] postulated ” Greed is good “. The people at McKinsey may be saying, Efficiency is everything “. But democracy is not effective. Health can not be reduced to the cost-benefit ratio. Democracy must not be confused with HR management. Basically, these companies that charge brains for exorbitant prices do nothing but promote everywhere.” become a business of the whole social world.


IN war against animals:

The factory was old, its competitiveness regrettable. So one fine day, Parisian consultants landed to change the size of the organization chart. The guys only saw them once in the workshops. They were young and wore pointed shoes. They crossed Hall 2 without looking up, without touching anyone. We had to let them go everywhere and open all the files for them. […] Eventually they handed in their report, and all the temps left, we fired employees all year round, scattered out in the country, with their debts, their installments, the skills we had given them. »

IN Connemara :

Hélène therefore landed in the middle of the picrocholine war and found in every organization where she intervened irreconcilable teams and a handful of leaders on the brink of a nervous breakdown. The extent of the damage hardly surprised her. She had already a hundred times been able to see the devastating effects of these overhauls, which were imposed by virtue of beliefs born the day before in the heads of satellite economists or in the depths of business schools of undisputed prestige. These managerial catechisms varied from year to year depending on the taste of the moment and the color of the sky, but the effects on the earth remained unavoidable.

ALSO READ:Nicolas Mathieu: “I have a debt to the Republican school”

Depending on the season, we switched to lean management, or we strived to separate the support functions before reintegrating them, to favor organic organizations or in silos, to decompartmentalize or reorganize, to horizontalize the verticals or make circles with squares, inverters the pyramids or re-prioritize on core businesses, deconcentrate, re-articulate, increase, focus on operations or value creation, model the operation of units according to the quality approach, intensify reporting or establish collegial leadership. »


Two weeks later, she moved to Paris and started working for her first client. The beginning is difficult. His job is to take trains and drop off at universities looking to improve their organization. Because in the ministries where the same little blue men who spawn in the big consulting firms in New York, Oslo or Puteaux cross, the key words have become rationality, performance, evaluation. We are really tired of the loss of energy, of the general waste. We owe the taxpayers’ accounts, the citizen a return on investment, the voter his consolidated balance sheet.

“The management speaks through their mouths from evening to morning, and they influence and prioritize themselves as a family. »

This money, entrusted to society, must now be used with calculating wisdom in a scientific way to distribute it where they will produce its best effect, which will then be duly measured. The Saxon homework is well learned. They gradually gain ground, in schools, palaces, and then flow into management when departments, infuse decision-making processes, end up in all offices, in diaries, and finally in people’s heads, arteries, and here is a heart that is now pounding in a satisfying rhythm, a repeated, repeated gallop. »


They believe that their work is moving in the right direction, which we will call the direction of progress, of adapting to a world in perpetual development. The fiery souls, on the other hand, can be recognized by a kind of ruthlessness, a categorical conviction. The management speaks through the mouth from evening to morning, and they influence and prioritize themselves as a family, even on Sundays, and serve their children the same wisdom as their customers with short sentences like “My job is to help you ask yourself the right thing. questions “or” Information is power “. These no longer separate the world of work from the real world. Jargon took them. Performance is in their soul. We recognize them on this kind of hovering gaze, this deep conviction, which gives them the involved atmosphere of men who know that things must be taken seriously, but without fear.

Hélène at first thought they were farting; they just believe in it. The most surprising thing is that intelligence is irrelevant as we find in the crowd of almost remaining as well as ultra-genius people. We see them walk with long strides from open spaces to meeting rooms, from denominations to kickoffs, their faith firmly in their bodies and their suits are wrinkle-free. They will end up as millionaires and will wear Ralph Lauren polo shirts this weekend, even loafers with pompoms. We can do nothing for them but to see them succeed.»

Leave a Comment