Polling McKinsey

During question hour today, I asked the prime minister to explain what work McKinsey were doing that couldn’t be done by our own civil servants. And in my leader to the question, I’d reported that the civil servants I’d spoken with had confided that they were not impressed with the work that McKinsey had done so far.

Naturally, the prime minister saw it differently. He claimed that every civil servant he’d talked to had been impressed with McKinsey’s work and had lavished praise on the world’s leading consultancy firm.


But still, let’s conduct a poll – we haven’t had one in quite a while. Today’s poll asks,  “Are civil servants impressed with McKinsey’s work?”


Facebook Comments:


  1. The fact is that our own people are rarely trusted to do things. Even if you dare to propose things, they’re either too expensive or unrealistic. McKinsey could be a classic example of the cliched definition – a consultant is someone who borrows your own watch to tell you the time. They go around talking to the bigger bosses to figure out what they want, the mid-level bosses and professionals to steal their ideas, put them together and throw in some nice sounding jargons for appeal, and put a big price tag on it. And Bingo! there’s the strategic thinking that everyone’s been waiting for. We should be familiar with this Western weapon of mass extraction by now.
    However, I do believe that McKinsey has a lot to offer but it is not going to give unless we know how to get it. Are we doing it? My fear is that we may end up just taking what they give us (which may as well be only just a part of what they took from us in the first place) and end up giving all the money (and the ideas) we had. At least if we did it ourselves, we would have learned how not to do it even if we got it wrong.
    Yes, I am a civil servant and I am impressed with the money McKinsey is extracting from us and the way they are able to convince the Government that we are getting our money’s worth. The results, we will have to wait and see. the most visible one so far to me has been the signing of some performance pacts. The Education minister, for instance, signed with the PM followed by the Edn Minister signing it with the Dzongdags. I’m sure the Dzongdags will now sign one with the DEOs, the DEOs with the Principals, the principals with the teachers, and may be the teachers will sign one with their students and parents. Thus the outcomes trickle down to the grassroots involving our next generation. How does it change the quality of our life or education, I don’t know? Surely, something must happen with so many commitments signed.

  2. How old is McKinsey. hope they have idea and experience at our stage. Forget west, even India is more than 50 years advance then what we are. I think we are not ready to cope with what developed countrys are moving with.

  3. I think the biggest problem we have in our system is lack of trust among ourselves. Improving on this front will solve most of our problem. There are several things Bhutanese are capable of doing, but they are not encouraged by the system to put their ideas and skills into practices.

    I could not agree more on our blind faith in whatever a foreigner or consultancy firm tell us: And most of the things they tell us is what we already know. Thus, no amount of foreign consultancy firms inputs will solve our fundamental problem—that is, lack of faith in ourselves. If we can improve this or change our attitude, i do not see any need for expensive consultancy to steer our course of development.

    Going back to Mackinsey firm, no doubt it is a international firm going around and preaching whether or not they do practice what they practice. My gut feeling is that this firm mostly work on borrowed ideas, and and in the country of origin of this consultancy firm, their ideas are not welcome in most of cases. And i am not particularly sure whether their inputs will have any meaningful outcome in Bhutan. Because the people who are here in Bhutan from the firm are mostly fresh University graduates and lack the real work experience in totally different socio-economic settings. They have some business skills but only in terms of making profit which is not all we want; their these ideas are nothing new to me atleast. For instance, they are suggesting that we promote and go full swing with organic agriculture as far as possible; but they do not realise that Bhutan is still struggling to feed its population which is not possible from organic practices. Ofcourse there are advantages of organic food production from health and environment points of view, but when our need is food security and sufficiency i do not see much potential for organic agriculture, at least, for time being in Bhutan. Also we should remember that organic food is a luxuary when we have enough disposable income. Mackinsey also suggest that we grow pomogranite in large quantity in large areas without saying much on where we will grow them, how we will process the fruits, where we will sell the products and what will be net benefit to the growers. In other words, it is easy to say do this and that but not realising the details that should go into how we will do things and from where we will have resources to take on board several things at a time.

    Well, I can go on and on but will stop here by saying that please trust in ourselves and if there is a need to hire consultancy please do so but ensure that what the consultancy firm does is something novel and beneficial to us. Afterall, what Mackinsey tells us is not a rocket science or complicated high level science and technology; they are just ordinary common sense approaches that all Bhutanese are capable of.


  4. What our civil servants are capable of is always telling that we are qualified enough to do whatever any consultancy firm does.

    But the question is we don’t do it.
    We blame it on to government not trusting us, blah, blah blah.

    We do not have the deligence and committment level required to see thorugh any task. Unless someone gets to travel outside or gain some form of advantage civil servants, in general, are least bothered about thier work.

    It is true that government is paying the Mckinsey handomely. But for the amount paid we get the committment and serious thinking that are needed behind any initiative if it needs to succeed.

    They are doing a lot of good things. For those who can’t see the good work they are doing at least we must be feeling the earnestness with which we are required to work now–all because we the civil servants need supervisors more than anything else

  5. In 2009, when Mckinsey was first consulted, I happened to discuss with a professor of an economically sound and well-known university that my country is engaging Mckinsey. He laughed and said, that wasn’t needed.

    Logically, we are just less than a million people. I am sure if all responsible people do their work, we should do things much better than with the advise of Mckinsey.

    On the other hand, with my few years of experience working with different people I observed..I maybe wrong…we Bhutanese in general have very petty attitude. Every contribution…be it filling a small survey questionnaire is judged on what is my share of Khepsay (personal gain).
    Unless we leave aside such petty thoughts and think of collective benefit for the larger society as Bhutan, likes of Mckinsey will remain necessary.

  6. High time the Govt confide trust in our own people.

  7. In our country, we are certainly not short of ideas and if correctly used, we even have the people to do what Mckinsey’s doing. Our problem basically lies with the lack of leadership, to see it through. If we look at the archives of the government surprisingly, one will see piles of proposals and projects collecting dust.Imagine the amount of resources used in formulating them.
    The Mckinsey story will probably suffer the same fate and the only winner will be the one’s taking millions away from our meagre resources.
    There is definitely something fundamentally wrong with our bureaucracy and if we first don’t put our house in order, any grandoise schemes will join the other great one’s that have been sacked up and collecting pigeon shit in the attics of the Dept. and Ministry’s.
    Over the years our bureaucracy has grown in strength, qualifications and expertise included, but all these are just mere “sound and fury” for the balance sheet says otherwise.
    I’m little baffled that the PM who is fully conscious of our shortcomings,still went ahead to engage a very expensive consultant to tell us how to go about, on something we already know,but are stuck up with our own hang ups.

  8. Hon’ PM has wisely done the right thing at the right time. We can’t be lost in our own little world always claiming that we are not short of ideas.
    Its true that we are not short of ideas. The likes of our Hon OL are people with great ideas, but to everyone’s dismay, fulfilling his own needs by getting closer to the right people at the right time.
    What the people and the country need is a different kind of idea. Ideas that surpass individual greed and need. Ideas that could transform the country to be fully self reliant where its people really reap the fruits of GNH.
    Our civil service has been, at best, an ineffective bunch of highly qualified people.
    Talking about qualification- qualification until degree is fair and just for all. In other words people who deserve got the right kind of study fields to pursue.
    Further studies after entering the civil service has never been based on meritocracy as Hon OL might recall vividly. It has all been dominated by corrupt practices.
    We therefore need to transform the way we do our work. We need to institutionalize a system where our civil servants could perform.
    To this end, I personally believe that the Hon PM has done the right thing.

  9. Long time ago, I too use to be among those who staunchly believed that Bhutan will be managed by the Bhutanese. But over the years, I have come to accept that we the Bhutanese people simply don’t have it in us. We are too lazy, we like the easy life, we are not committed, we are casual, our commitment level is zilch.

    We may not need McKinsey – accepted, but we need Charles Benigner.

  10. I’ll tell you what our civil serpents are good at: In the recent past, they have become good at blackmailing the government and hurdling abusive criticism against the politicians. If these are an indication of their capability, it is absurd to even think of comparing our civil servants with the world renowned McKinsey Consultancy firm. It is like holding a candle against the sun.

    In appearing to have trust in the capability of civil servants, OL’s intention is unmistakably clear. He knows that the outcome of the 2008 election was largely determined by the influence of the civil servants and to that extent, PDP openly accused the civil servants for influencing the rural votes in favour of DPT. So, if his party doesn’t want to suffer the same fate in 2013, the only rational thing he can do is to praise the civil servants and appear to support their cause, which some of the capable civil serpents might find genuine!

    I support the government’s initiative in recruiting McKinsey firm which I feel is doing a great job. In reply to OL’s question, the Hon. PM clearly said that unlike other consultancies in the past, McKinsey is required to exhibit result instead of documents. This is a radical shift from the past where consultants practically did nothing other than leaving behind a document which remained dusted in the book shelves of the parent agencies. In addition, Hon PM mentioned that the money paid to McKinsey as consultancy fees is a direct saving resulting from the implementation of their consultancy ideas.

    Unlike the OL, I can clearly differentiate between a gold an an ordinary stone. Unless proven, I can never be convinced that our civil servants are better than any foreign consultants let alone world renowned McKinsey.

  11. international consultant says

    I agree that we have some people in the system who are academically qualified and can deliver expert services in various fields but they cannot be compared to that of an international consultancy firm like McKinsey which has well established networks and wider international experience. Our people cannot provide an unbiased third view because of the culture we have in our civil service. “Boss is always right” still prevails. There is not much creativity in our way of working, people cannot think arationally and out of the square/box. Even if our people were engaged they would not have been able to make an inch move of our same colleagues. Their influence in the consultation meetings would have dominated the views and thus nothing creative or new would have been generated. I have experienced that in some projects Bhutanese consultants either submit bids with “out-of-proportion” fees or either do not generated any new ideas. Further, all our “good” people cannot be pulled together to work as this sort of consultation would demand. There would be poor teamwork as a result of “ego” and conflicts. Our consultants would work like sheep in front of “big” bosses and be a “yes man” rather than work with raised head and think freely and speak freely like the McKensey teams. There are no analytical tools and data to compare with. The information in Bhutan is little “messy” in the sense no figures are accurate and there are many different figures even within the information shared by one single agency. There are no published reliable sources of information to benchmark with. The research culture is still at its infancy. Access to international publications is limited mostly due to cost constainsts. So all these points indicate that having an international consultancy was not a bad idea. Well, the cost was little high when converted into NUs. but then if we want quality we need to pay good amount. So I am not saying that our people are not capable but given the culture in the system, the situation and the lack of resources and coordination problems an international consultancy firm would be a better choice.

  12. I said the following main points in my earlier post:

    1. there is lack of self-confidence and trust among ourselves

    2. Mackinsey firm and its immatured fresh University graduates dispatched to Bhutan is working on borrowed ideas and applying business concepts in otherwise a complex development and government systems.

    3. Government can hire consultancy firms for fresh input of ideas but it is more important to take on board the implementors of ideas and trust them, who are our development workers.

    Some commentators feel that our civil servants are lazy and lack energy and interest to perform useful tasks. We should ask a question: who is responsible for this state of affairs? My feelings are:

    1. There is no reward or punishment system built into our civil servant’s system. No matter what you do everybody is treated same that develops mediocratic and monolithic civil servants system. PCS, with a performance evaluation system, was supposed to change this but somewhere PCS was not strictly implemented.

    2. Bhutanes system continues to reward those who can praise and massage higher ups in hierarchy and those who remain subservant to bosses, regardless of what bosses do.

    3. Scientific culture is not nurtured in Bhutan, and those with science and technology professions and doing hard works in the laboratory, factory, hospitals and in the fields are considered second to those who sit in the office and doing paper works.

    Unless we reverse some of these undesirable situation within our system, no amount of outsiders, be it Mackinsey firm or donor funds can accelerate economic development or improve our systems.


  13. I read the Kuensel report about the PM’s view on the McKinsey questions asked by the Opposition leader and as always i find that the Govt has failed to address the real issue. I thought the queswtion was really, why is Mckinsey proposing policies that have either been already proposed at one time by the civil servants or the stake holders….

    What are the new ideas and methods that have already not been provided by the Bhutanese stakeholders in the past? Is liberalising tourism feasiable?

    Don;t we all know that consulatncy swervices doesn’t come for free but is it wise to pay millions of dollars just for one service?
    i still believe and strongly feel that traning and hiring our own Bhutanese consultants will be a much better option than hiring international team. it will be cheaper, more realistic and most of all, there will less time spent over all.

    however, now that they have workeed all this while, i hope to see some results soon.

  14. We don’t need consultants from outside when we have our own people. Hiring outsiders proves the insecurity and mistrust of the government in their own people. Someone has rightly pointed out that “a consultant is someone who borrows your own watch to tell you the time.”

  15. Whenever we talk about such expensive projects, it’s important to look at the opportunity cost. Given our limited resources, our government should conduct proper study and research and look at the cost-benefit analysis carefully.

    First of all, we need to make sure that we have our priorities right, and then we have to make sure that we spend our precious money accordingly. I believe that our highest priorities today are:

    1) Poverty Alleviation and
    2) Job Creation.

    If our government invested this huge amount on the above priorities, it would go a long way in fulfilling the government’s promise of “Equity and Justice.”

    In a democracy, government shouldn’t be just doing the right thing, but they should also appear to be doing the right thing. Therefore, it is government’s responsibility to communicate effectively and let the people know why the investment of our precious money in McKinsey is important. Instead of maintaining an arrogant silence, they should share the project document with the people and discuss it openly through media and other forums.

    So, as long as people continue to perceive that the government is wasting our precious money on McKinsey and other arbitrary projects like CDG, etc., people will continue to make noise.

    Also the main reason why people are making a lot of noise with regard to the recent tax increase is because people feel that the tax-payer’s money is being wasted on such expensive and unnecessary projects.

  16. Our people talk as if the country’s developmental activities is single handedly funded by the ‘tax payers’ money. If we exempt the BIT and CIT, the so called ‘tax payers’ money is so insignificant that it may not even cover up the cost of a month’s current expenditure. Even BIT and CIT are mostly from the government owned companies which basically means that what our people actually contribute is absolutely meager. But the amount of noise we make about the so called ‘tax payers’ money gives an impression that the whole developmental activities is funded by the tax payers’ money! So, let us not magnify something out of proportion.

  17. Let me be very very direct with this poll: its my personal feeling that i am not at all impressed by the services of Mckinsey.

    The direction by Mckinsey after lot of consultation with the Ministry/Organization is nothing new, they have been directing on what we have already implementing. So the question is, in what areas are we going to benefit? after spending so mush as consultancy fees we land up doing same normal thing, This isn’t a waste? for me its real waste both in terms of national wealth as well as time in attaching our civil servant with Mckinsay consultant.

    There seems no much a substance in what i have shared, yet i must confes that I am writing this with some experience of my involement with this firm. In conclusion, I personally have not felt any difference in direction; Same programmes are identified with same strategies but put it in flowery words NOTHING NEW AND EXCITING.

  18. We all know that almost all our developmental projects are funded by donor assistance. But that too is the people’s money. The Donors give the money for development of our nation and our people. So whether the source is from the tax payers or from donors, it ultimately belongs to all the people of Bhutan and we all have a say in how it is being spent.

    In fact, we have to be extra cautious if it involves donor funding. We cannot afford to let the donors think that we are wasting “their tax payer’s money” on projects that may not really help our people. Also I think, for any donor, poverty alleviation and job creation will rank very high in their priority list too.

  19. Dorji,
    To be able to appreciate what such a world class consultancy firm does you also need to a lil smart too. May be you lack that!!

  20. and i just read the Kuensel report on hotels to reach for the stars….. Its interesting that the Thimphu hotels are excited and ready for the rating. I hope the hotel owners and managers beyond Thimphu, Paro or Punakha are as excited and more importantly ready for this big change.

  21. Disciple says

    Based on the concept of GNH, our development paths should be people centred and not industry-driven. Buying expensive services of McKinsey is not going to solve our core problems. Larger national issues revolving around basic livelihood, fundamental rights, and good governance are still un-resolved. Govt should settle first things first, without trying to create fancy diversions that would not add any happiness to the common man on the street.

    Anyway, why is McKinsey work being done in a secretive CIA-like fashion?

  22. The main issue here is whether Mckinsey is worth all the money we are paying them? US$ 9.1M couldve been used for grass root benefit purposes-how many farm roads, electriity, water, etc could we bring to farmers with this amount of money.
    And another thing would be, how effective is the implementation in the govt system of this consultant’s advise la? If there is atleast 75-80% success in implementation i.e. improvements in govt system, policies or benefits for the people themselves; then I cant really argue with PM.
    These are the most posing questions, not whether we are capable or not, or whether it is needed or not…its a bit late for that now. But the questions that should have been asked are:
    1. Where else 9.1M could’ve been used for, perhaps it would’ve been more beneficial utilising it for other means. Did the govt. negotiate 9.1M, does the govt. get any perks? Couldnt they have negotiated less? Mckinsey’s initiative in other countries were rarely a success, how could PM go ahead without a background check?
    2. What is Mckinsey doing, a detailed report would be great for transparency. How effective will the measures be? How will we measure the effectiveness of thier consultancy? What are the results expected?Is the govt. planning to measure the success rate? If its a failure, then what is the govt going to do?

    I think these are important questions to be asked.
    Besides la, being an opposition leader I had expected thorough check from you la and a resounding opposing arguement against PM…but perhaps next session la. A democracy encourages healthy arguement, if in benefit of the people la.

  23. Bhutan has always been unique in its own ways. The people’s attitude, behaviour, culture & tradition are unique. Therefore, the concept that McKinsey would adopt would be western which wouldn’t synchronize with bhutanese. Therefore, more than paying these people we could sent our people for training on this aspects and these people could adopt the various methodology best suited to bhutanese way of life. It would generate employment and enhance the knowledge base for the bhutanese. There is a bhutanese saying ” BAY JEM WA DHI, TOEN JEM GHA” which means its better to impart than to do it. Thus, let our people learn from them rather than making them do the things. These people will come here and write hundreds of pages of report and research papers and our beaucrocrats will just shelf them and remain just a sacred relic not known of its existence and not worshipped. Anyway, more than bringing any changes to the civil service it would certainly compile some baseline reports for DPT to how to run for the next election and secure more votes.

  24. Definitely Bhutanese a different attitude.
    Capacity to take everything negatively.

  25. Dear Mr. Kencho,
    I suppose you are a bhutanese and if so, you are also negative. What is positive about you and that you have done? Since you yourself is negative, you would view everyone negative because the thief only knows what has been stolen at what time and the liar knows what lie he had told to whom.

  26. Dorji,
    To be able to appreciate what such a world class consultancy firm does you also need to a lil smart too. May be you lack that!!

    Smart Kencho?
    What do you know about Mckinsey? McKinsey was cited in a February 2007 CNN article with developing controversial car insurance practices, used by State Farm and Allstate in the mid-1990s to avoid paying claims involving a soft tissue injury: in general McKinsey’s reputation has come under scrutiny several times in recent years..Forget that… lets be realistic and lets talk in bhutanese sense… I amy be wrong in understanding what are implementing modalities…. But Kencho remember that what they recommend is not a rocket science. what i am trying to say here is for me …I have not seen anything innovative in the recommendation. for instance organic argiculture, whats added value there? I think kencho if you are smart enough please enlighten us on with positive thaning that Mckinsey has brough in. After all the Govt. is paying very hugh amount. The amount if spent would produce/ educate thousands of our own people to next level of education, which would infact be sustainable in long run.

  27. I think PM ws clear in his reply about everthing. I am happy with McKinsey being in Bhutan. Imagine guys, we are confident and perhaps i do not undermine our own people. But in reality, we do lack capacity of doing work. For example- elevator accident in JDNRH, an authorities said that there is no techinicians in Bhutan and thus will have to hire from Kolkata….despite so many engineers and techinicians in Bhutan, we do not have one for that Task…chk..chk..chk…..
    This is what we are and where we are..cheers guys. Monkey shouldnt try to jump at the pace of tiger, it will get its balls crushed half way…


  1. […] the last session of the Parliament I asked the prime minister to explain what Mckinsey were doing that couldn’t be done by our own civil servants. […]

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