McKinsey misses the point, again . .

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.  ~Phil Donahue

Another McKinsey Quarterly came across my computer screen the other day and it seems to me that the great analytical and analysis skills of McKinsey&Co completely miss the point, again.  This time the report, Fishing for Sustainability, was on the self-inflicted deteriorating condition of the global commercial fishing industry, a subject close to this former marine biologist’s heart.

Here’s a quote from the article:

As overfishing destabilizes marine ecosystems around the world, fisheries are finding themselves in rough waters. Data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) indicate that 30 percent of all fish stocks are now overexploited (beyond their maximum sustainable limits) and an additional 50 percent are fully exploited (at or close to those limits).

Their erosion and eventual collapse would pose an economic threat not only to fishers but also to everyone else whose livelihood depends on fisheries, which (according to the FAO) provide employment for 180 million people and account for a significant part of the animal protein consumed globally, particularly in developing countries. With 2008 exports that some experts estimate at more than $85 billion, fish and fishery products rank among the most widely traded agricultural commodities in the world, in a value chain the FAO says may generate $500 billion a year.

Lots of figures and consulting speak (value chain, 30% overexploited, 50% fully exploited, $85 billion in fish products, etc.) and obviously a focus on the financial state of the commercial fishing industry.

Good stuff and useful data in this report, but I do feel strongly that it misses the point, since the article describes the various McKinsey studies and computer models being developed to understand what constitutes sustainable fishing pressure.  Hey everyone, wake up, we don’t need another study, not now at least.  We need action on a global scale.  Fish stocks are collapsing.  That’s not a theory, it’s a fact.  Unless the world acts now, the great McKinsey studies will be academic and too late, the oceans will be depleted.

Consider the decline and near decimation of the Cod stocks in the North Atlantic.  There was good data on catches for years, the trends were there.  Then the data showed a huge spike due to the increased number of countries and fleets taking cod. Then because the catch was decreasing they started fishing deeper for brood stocks.  Any biologist will tell you that the taking of brood stock is the certain beginning of a collapse.

A study or computer model wasn’t needed. What was needed was a commitment on the part of the fishing industry and their respective governments not to commit suicide by gross overfishing.  To put their industry and their children’s livelihoods before this quarter’s profit and loss statement.

When an individual commits suicide it is a tragedy for the family and a small circle of friends.  When a commercial industry, like fishing or forestry, commits suicide it impacts all of us, in multiple ways. For commercial fishing it’s not just the loss of jobs for fishing families, but whole economic regions as well as an entire ecosystem. The consequences will be even worse if the commercial logging industry in the tropics continues on its suicidal course.

Orri Vigfusson and those who helped him start the North Atlantic Salmon Fund didn’t need a McKinsey computer model or data analysis exercise to understand that something had to be done, now, about commercial overfishing of salmon.  They didn’t wait, they acted with compelling logic and a workable solution.

I wish McKinsey&Co would turn its talents towards coming up with workable solutions instead of more studies and computer models.  I would like my grandchildren to swim in an ocean full of fish and life.

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

E |      T | +44 207 584 3774      M | +44 7833 493 999

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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1 Response to McKinsey misses the point, again . .

  1. Pingback: Over-fishing is painfully evident – action, no more studies | John R Childress . . . rethinking leadership

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