Science agency CSIRO taps McKinsey for organisational review

11 January 2022 2 min. read

Consulting firm McKinsey & Company has been brought in to review the CSIRO’s organisational processes and systems, with the $1.2 million assignment to run till mid-March.

After its recent slap in the face in being overlooked on the federal government’s net-zero modelling report in favour of McKinsey, the CSIRO has now welcomed the US management consulting giant in for an organisational review. According to a note on AusTender, which was published last month, the $1.2 million contract commenced in October, prior to the unveiling of Australia’s heavily criticised emissions reduction road-map.

Scheduled to end in March ahead of the next federal budget, McKinsey will provide initial input on a CSIRO-led project to simplify and streamline the national science agency’s organisational processes and systems in line with its strategy.

Science agency CSIRO taps McKinsey for organisational review

A CSIRO spokesperson informing media outlet InnovationAus said that agency picked McKinsey for its extensive experience of working with other organisations on similar programs.

The CSIRO Staff Association’s secretary Susan Tonks told the same publication in November that the government’s decision to overlook the agency for its modelling work didn’t make much sense. “For all the talk of this plan representing ‘the Australian way’, it’s actually US-based consultants who are providing the modelling, at considerable cost, limited transparency and ultimately at the expense of homegrown expertise,” she stated.

McKinsey was tapped to look at the timelines and deployment pathways to achieve the government’s low-emissions technology investment ‘stretch goals’, and to examine the potential decarbonisation pathway to 2050 and its employment impacts. The government later defended its procurement of McKinsey over the CSIRO by stating that the consulting firm provided valuable private-sector insights to the net zero plan.

While questions might be raised as to the motivations behind the modelling contract appointment of McKinsey by the Department of Industry – headed by Angus Taylor, a former McKinsey partner who spent seven years at the firm to 2001 (along with a decade at Port Jackson Partners) – the CSIRO also has close links to the consultancy, with recently-appointed chair Kathryn Fagg having also spent four years at the firm in the early 90s.

McKinsey and the CSIRO themselves share a long history too. Back in 1987, the management consulting firm was commissioned to perform an assessment of the CSIRO’s commercial prospects and a review of its organisational set-up, and recommended “profound changes in the organisation’s structure, ethos and working arrangements”, with a greater emphasis on links to industry – proposals which were ultimately implemented by the board.