McKinsey buys leadership and change management expert Aberkyn

08 December 2017 5 min. read

McKinsey & Company has acquired Aberkyn, a specialist consultancy in the area of leadership and organisational transformation. Roughly 120 experts across six offices will join McKinsey and become part of the firm’s Organisation Practice. Aberkyn will continue to operate under its own brand, serving clients independently, while also working in collaboration with McKinsey on joint engagements.

Alongside significant investment in building a holistic and bespoke digital, design and solutions platform, and an expanding global digital labs presence, consulting industry giant McKinsey & Company has also worked to branch into the implementation services field. As digital transformation has become key to many businesses’ operational plans, so has the need to upskill personnel and change the soft skills of employees in order to successfully support organisational change. Notably, expanding into this area has seen McKinsey become the fifth largest HR digital transformation firm, by way of offering services such as translating clients’ HR and business objectives into practical solutions.

Now, the acquisition of change management experts Aberkyn sees McKinsey attempt to consolidate and build upon its leading human capital reputation. The firm was actually co-founded by McKinsey back in 2012, but the firm’s DNA can be seen running through the project which would become Aberkyn for around a quarter of a century. According to the firm, it’s roots can be traced back 25 years to a young McKinsey Partner who had overcome cancer. Michiel Kruyt, who credits meditation and group therapy with his recovery from stress induced by the experience, eventually saw the technique inspire a career change.Leadership and change management expert Aberkyn joins McKinseyFollowing his return from illness, Kruyt left corporate life, trained as a group facilitator, and joined McKinsey in New York in 2005, working with the Organisation Practice’s mind-set and behaviour group, where he teamed up with leading specialists in the transformational change segment to develop an innovative approach, intertwining a potent blend of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ business, to provide high quality guidance in performance improvement and leadership transformation. The left-field solutions employed by the group to this day include the group therapy methods Kruyt was first exposed to during his own recovery, but also take in notable marquee techniques like wilderness-based learning experiences.

In 2008, Kruyt moved to McKinsey’s Amsterdam office, where he and fellow partner Arne Gast worked together with many of the practitioners who went on to found Aberkyn in partnership with McKinsey in 2012. The final creation of Aberkyn as a business entity in 2012 was aimed at attracting and developing top practitioners, who could ensure the optimum delivery of Aberkyn’s programme. The firm combined its name from the Celtic word for a meeting place of rivers, Aber, and the Old Norse word for community, Kyn. From a linguistic standpoint, the moniker of Aberkyn might seem apt, as the intersection of Aberkyn and McKinsey’s partnership becomes a binding business kinship.

The newly acquired firm of 120-plus experts in leadership development and cultural transformation will retain its unique culture upon joining the McKinsey Academy as the firm’s leadership and team development solutions wing. While still working for some clients independently, the team will also work side by side with McKinsey consultants, helping clients with transformations, including culture change, digital reinventions, mergers and acquisitions, and turnarounds. The acquisition will allow Aberkyn to expand its global profile and client base, while McKinsey’s change management offering stands to benefit chiefly from new ‘soft’ business skills, which aim at the expansion of consciousness in order to discovering organisational and personal blind spots.

Full circle

Summarising the innovative, reflective process which Aberkyn brings to McKinsey, Michiel Kruyt commented on his first experiences with the techniques, “I thought I was pretty self-aware as a leader, but in group therapy I began to learn about my blind spots. With each insight, I felt tremendous relief, and the better I felt, the more effective and influential I became. I got my energy back, and I wanted to help other people find the blind spots that were hindering their performance.”

Aberkyn’s Managing Partner, Erik Mandersloot, is presently leading the integration with Kruyt, and explained that the group’s open-minded nature is one of its most important assets. “One of our strengths is that we meet clients on their ground and don’t come in with a fixed way of thinking,” he said, continuing, “We focus on the inside-out transformation of the individual person—often the leaders—as part of the business transformation.

Speaking on Aberkyn’s final integration with McKinsey, Arne Gast added, “What started as an experiment in Amsterdam has grown to a global community of change-leadership practitioners, trained in a common way, who can offer a seamless approach across the US, UK, Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. And we are expanding rapidly in India and China. For Michiel and me, Aberkyn joining the firm is like coming in a full circle.”