Consulting By The Numbers

Can You Crack the Consulting Formula?


Question: What does it take to make it big in the big-number world of management consulting? Answer: a smaller number — or, even better, a string of small numbers that make up a formula.


In their quest to reduce complex management practices to customer-friendly bullet points (and to capture their share of the number that really matters–the $70-plus billion spent each year on consulting services), consultants have turned concoctions of numbers into mind-cookie formulas. Random examples: “The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding” (by Al and Laura Reis), “The Seven Cultures of Capitalism” (by Charles Hampden-Turner and Alfons Trompenaars), and “The Eleven Commandments of 21st Century Management” (by Matthew J. Kiernan).

To help you calibrate your susceptibility to formulaic consulting, the Fast Company Consultant Debunking Unit (CDU) has enumerated its own brain-teaser, consisting of some of the best-known consulting slogans, book titles, systems, and lists. Your challenge: to decode each formula by working from the number on the left side of the equal sign to the abbreviation on the right side. (For example, if the formula were “22=I L of B,” the answer would be “22=Immutable Laws of Branding.”)

Take the test, check our formula, and find your score.

Can You Crack the Consulting Formula?

  • 1. 7=H of H E P
  • 2. 360=D of F
  • 3. 5=M P’s F
  • 4. 9=B in the GE/M M
  • 5. 3=K O’s S Cs (C, C, C)
  • 6. 5=P of T Q M
  • 7. 14=W E D’s P
  • 8. 4=Q in the G/S M (S, QM, D, CC)
  • 9. 80/20=P P
  • 10. 1001=W to R E
  • 11. 1=M M
  • 12. 7=Ss of R P (S, S, S, S, S, S, S)
  • 13. 4=G C’s Rs (R, R, R, R)
  • 14. 9=S to F F
  • 15. 5=P S’s D for L O

[answers listed below]


How to score:

0-5 correct answers: 1=S B E M (1=Sucker Born Every Minute). When consultants see you coming, they just smile.

6-10 correct answers: You’ve already hired so many consultants that you may as well become one.

11-15 correct answers: So what formula are you selling?

1. 7=Habits of Highly Effective People (see book by Stephen R. Covey)

2. 360=Degrees of Feedback


3. 5=Michael Porter’s Forces

4. 9=Blocks in the GE/McKinsey Matrix

5. 3=Kenichi Ohmae’s Strategic Cs (Customers, Competitors, Corporations)

6. 5=Pillars of Total Quality Management (see book by Bill Creech)

7. 14=W. Edwards Deming’s Points


8. 4=Quadrants in the Growth/Share Matrix (Stars, Question Marks, Dogs, Cash Cows)

9. 80/20=Pareto Principle (see book by Richard Koch)

10. 1001=Ways to Reward Employees (see book by Bob Nelson and Ken Blanchard)

11. 1=Minute Manager (see book by Kenneth H. Blanchard and Spencer Johnson)

12. 7=Ss of Richard Pascale (Strategy, Structure, Skills, Staff, Shared Values, Systems, Style)


13. 4=Gemini Consulting’s Rs (Reframing [corporate direction], Restructuring, Revitalizing, Renewing [people])

14. 9=Steps to Financial Freedom (see book by Suze Orman)

15. 5=Peter Senge’s Disciplines for Learning Organizations