It's a paaaaaartner year at Goldman Sachs. Next month, the firm will announce the names of the lucky few. It's also that time of year when existing partners at McKinsey & Co are evaluated upon their performance of late. We know this because Gordon Orr, one of McKinsey & Co's partners, has written on LinkedIn about how he's assessing the latest list of McKinsey Partners at this very moment.
So, how is reaching the top rung of the most esteemed bank in the world different to already being on the top rung of the most esteemed consulting firm? Well. Obviously we're not comparing like with like (Goldman's selecting, McKinsey's assessing), but McKinsey comes over as far more inclusive.
At Goldman Sachs the partner selection process is known as, 'cross-ruffing'. Under this procedure, current partners are given the names of partner-potentials in other divisions, along with their performance reviews and their photographs (for ease of identification, not because appearance is a determining factor). These 'selecting partners' then spend a lot of time interviewing fellow partners who've actually worked with the people on the promotion list to gauge their opinions on them and make sure they match what Goldman's looking for.
For this reason, getting promoted to partner at Goldman Sachs is entirely dependent upon getting current partners on your side. If the current partners don't know and rate you, you'll get nowhere.
Over at McKinsey, partner assessments are an inclusive process. Orr says he conducts, 'interviews with as many of the colleagues a partner has worked with as it takes for me to get comfortable that I have a complete picture of their achievements.' Usually this is at least 15 people, often more. They're not all partners.
Goldman Sachs doesn't actually tell the people it's considering for partner that they're on the partner list. Sometimes, being promoted to partner comes as a complete surprise.
Over at McKinsey, Orr says he has a 'lengthy discussion' with every partner he's evaluating. Sometimes he has several lengthy discussions with them. He defines lengthy as 'several hours.'
Because no one at Goldman Sachs actually knew that they were in line to be promoted to partner, no one is given feedback when the promotion doesn't happen. Uncertainty is pervasive.
At McKinsey, Orr says feedback is 'the most important step' of the annual partner evaluation process. Partners are are given feedback both in writing and verbally and there are 'follow-up feedback sessions' to make sure this feedback is understood and assimilated.
At Goldman Sachs, the 'partnership committee' gets together to debate the names on the final partner short list. These are then voted through by Goldman's management committee.
Orr and his partner-selecting colleagues spend a whole week holed-up together comparing notes and challenging each other on their opinions about the colleagues under review and how they should give them feedback.
At Goldman Sachs, partners need to be 'commercial', but they also need to be 'culture carriers'. At McKinsey, values are super-important too. "If colleagues have values concerns about a partner, it is impossible for them to be highly rated, and feedback must lead off with this topic," declares Orr.
Finally, disappointed managing directors who don't make partner at Goldman Sachs often leave the firm rather than wait two years to see whether they're luckier next time. The Financial Times suggests similar goings on at McKinsey. 'Every two or three years, McKinsey determines whether its consultants will make progress to the next level in the Firm. If not, it gently pushes them out.' it reports. So some things are pretty similar then.