BCG in the 1980s

During the 1980s, BCG embraces implementation with clients, developed practice areas, and created time-based competition.

After years with Bruce Henderson as CEO, this decade also saw a new leadership model put in place. New CEOs, starting with Alan Zakon, and a committee structure took the reins. The firm continued expanding its offerings and grew its “Make It Happen” initiative around implementation while preserving the underlying BCG approach: meeting the challenges of complexity with insight, collaboration, and integrity.

After more than a decade of success, the firm’s emphasis on strategy remained important, but brilliant insights were no longer enough, especially as BCG expanded its client base. Many clients were now looking for help to realize the opportunities discovered by strategic analysis. Thanks to its decentralized structure with autonomous offices, the firm developed a number of approaches to helping clients make changes.

To support this in-depth work, the firm needed expertise on specific industries and organizational functions. Accordingly, it established six practice areas, which have since expanded to close to 20 across industries and functional areas. The practice areas had the side benefit of giving ambitious and entrepreneurial partners a goal for continued career development, helping the firm retain high-level talent while preserving its fairly flat hierarchy.

BCG continued to make its mark on the world through its game-changing insights. A team of consultants in Tokyo, led by George Stalk, realized that Japanese manufacturers had overcome the long-standing trade-off between product variety and affordability. Combining BCG’s strategic sophistication with its new attention to organizational dynamics, the team created the concept of time-based competition, which teaches clients how to keep up with speedy Japanese rivals through flexible factories and lean production. Clients liked what BCG brought to the table, and the firm’s growth in this decade reflected its ability to help shape competitive advantage in the market.

BCG Books Published in the 1980s

BCG’s Growth in the 1980s

By the end of the 1980s, BCG had 550 employees and 14 offices, including new offices in Düsseldorf, Los Angeles, New York, Milan, Madrid, Stockholm, and Zurich.