Thursday, November 15, 2012

How to give McKinsey-style feedback: The McKinsey Feedback Model

McKinsey is a feedback-driven culture.  It's used to develop better consultants and make sure we're always pushing toward greater client impact.  There's also an expectation that less tenured consultants also provide frequent, upward feedback to their leadership.  Unfortunately, there's a also a tendency for McKinsey feedback to focus on "development opportunities", resulting in predominantly negative feedback that I address in a related post.

As with most things in consulting, McKinsey has developed a framework for delivering structured feedback and it's called "the McKinsey feedback model".

In this post I'll go over...
    • Explanation of the McKinsey feedback model
    • Format recommended by the Firm for giving feedback
    • Explanation of why that format is used
    • Examples of what the McKinsey feedback model in practice
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The McKinsey Feedback Model is the approach the Firm recommends for delivering feedback.  McKinsey consultants are used to receiving feedback in this format, so giving feedback to the McKinsey consultant in your life using this format might increase the likelihood that your feedback will be heard and understood.  The intent of the model is to make the feedback:
    • Specific
    • Fact-based
    • Less personal
    • Irrefutable
    • Actionable


 "When you did [X], it made me feel [Y].

In the future, I would recommend that you do [Z]"


    • The more specific the example, the more vivid and memorable the feedback
    • Being fact-based keeps the feedback from feeling too personal to the recipient
    • The first part is incontrovertible, as long as you remembered and communicated it correctly


Explaining how the recipient's action made you feel [Y] is also unarguable - your feelings and reactions are your own and no one can deny them.  The intent of the first two steps is to set the stage for giving the recommendation without getting derailed by debating the context.


The point of providing feedback is so that we can improve.  If someone receives feedback that is too vague or beyond their control, it does nothing to help them do better the next time.  And example of feedback I was once given that was not specific and therefore not actionable was "make this page prettier" rather than something more actionable like "instead of pasting in an Excel table, next time create a table in PowerPoint".

Feedback should be provided in such a way that if the feedback recipient does what you recommend, it will solve the problem and prevent [X] and [Y] from occurring again.


"When you were late to our meeting this morning, it made me feel that you don't value my time.  In the future, I would recommend you plan on arriving early to meetings and call my mobile phone if a delay can't be avoided"

"When you checked in on my progress every 10 minutes, it made me feel like you didn't trust me to complete the project and I couldn't maintain my focus on the task.  In the future, I would suggest we agree upon specific milestones and check-in points to ensure the project will be completed on time."


  1. One important part of the framework for feed back I learnt at McKinsey (not mentionned here) was: "Deliver you feed back in 3 steps". The step 2 is the most important to avoid crashes.

    Step 1:
    "When you did [X], it made me feel [Y]."

    Step 2:
    PAUSE. Let the other party reflect, digest, react if needed.

    Step 3:
    "In the future, I would recommend that you do [Z]"

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