In this week’s New Yorker, Jill Lepore reviews a new book on management consultancy by Matthew Stewart, The Management Myth: Why the Experts Keep Getting It Wrong. Both the book and the piece take a dim view of what management consultancy achieves: offices become more ‘efficient’, but life doesn’t become any better for those who work in them.
Efficiency was meant to lead to a shorter workday, but, in the final two decades of the twentieth century, the average American added a hundred and sixty-four hours of work in the course of a year; that’s a whole extra month’s time, but not, typically, a month’s worth of either happiness minutes or civic participation. Eating dinner standing up while nursing a baby, making a phone call to the office, and supervising a third grader’s homework is not, I don’t think, the hope of democracy.
Yesterday Condé Nast, the company that owns the New Yorker, announced the closure of four publications, including Gourmet, the 68-year-old American food magazine; that decision was partly based on recommendations drawn up by the management consultancy McKinsey. Some readers of the magazine are said to be very upset, including Alice Waters. ‘Thanks, McKinsey,’ another reader said. ‘The consulting firm that touted Enron as a model of modern management has just given Condé Nast a dose of its bean-counting, strategically absurd advice.’