Let me start off by asking, how many consultant positions have you seen advertised that require the applicant to have memorized the pre-existing frameworks as a necessary qualification for the job?
The chances are likely none. Therefore it makes no sense to spend valuable time devoted to committing the pre-existing frameworks to memory.
Memorizing the framework is not the key to launching a successful consulting career. It is for this reason that the Case In Point approach should not be used to prepare for case interviews.
While being one of the more popular resources among many aspiring consultants, what Case In Point is teaching, can be misleading. The information that it provides leads the reader to believe that the ultimate success of solving complex problems lies in adopting one or a combination of the pre-existing frameworks. If only it were that simple in the fast-paced business world.
It Is Not About The What But All About The How
Firstly, allow me to be clear, there is nothing wrong with the Ivy Case framework. It all comes down to the outlook and approach that Case In Point is instructing.
If solving complex business problems is as easy as applying one of the pre-existing frameworks, then consulting firms could just advertise a few attractive packages and expanded versions of the frameworks for sale. This way the potential client can simply choose the most likely framework package to rectify their problem and proceed to the checkout.
However, the fact that globally, consulting revenues reached more than $480 billion in 2018 communicates to you that it is just not that straightforward. There is so much more to providing client solutions than simply just squeezing the problem into a pre-existing framework to solve the problem. Where is the value in that?
The Consultants Toolbox
Having knowledge of the basics of the framework and properly understanding the essential core of each of the pre-existing existing frameworks is undoubtedly an excellent tool for any consultant to have. These existing frameworks can sufficiently be used to establish a basic foundation for any case structure.
The key fact, though, and this is what Case In Point does not drive home is that the framework alone does not define how to approach the case or draft the roadmap for solutions.
The value of the pre-existing framework is only established once it is attached to a specific situation. So while learning these frameworks are great for any consultants toolbox, the question is, what use are those tools if you do not possess the suitable knowledge to use them correctly?
Key Takeaway 1: Having the tools to do the job is not enough. Knowing how to use those tools to personalize the job is what is ultimately essential.
“Think Like A Consultant.”
If anything, this specific phrase best describes what Case In Point has failed to sufficiently instruct. I initially never completely grasped the broad meaning behind this creative expression. However, once I was able to identify what Case In Point was not saying, the gist of this phrase made sense.
What Case In Point is not saying is that first and foremost, the comprehensive approach should not merely be about achieving a potential solution but rather about how to go about solving the fundamental problem. Secondly, in order to correctly solve the problem, you must initially have a clear understanding of what the actual issue is.
The specific answers to the appropriate questions are what will mold and define the structure of your case. If you are to simply squeeze that specific problem into one of the pre-existing frameworks, you are not providing the client with an innovative tailor-made ACTIONABLE solution.
Key Takeaway 2: An innovative solution is one that has translated the customer’s needs into an actionable plan.
Rule # 1-Do Not Reuse Framework.
One of the most elementary mistakes made during the case interview remains an applicant trying to resolve the case on hand by reusing one of the pre-existing frameworks. Developing custom solutions through tailored frameworks represents the one excellent opportunity to stand out during the case interview. In addition, it is also one of the most valuable skills a consultant can demonstrate during the case interview.
There is a fundamental value in having knowledge of the existing frameworks. They provide you with a firm foundation on which to construct case driven solutions. The list of pre-existing frameworks includes:
This framework is most commonly used to develop a marketing strategy.
This is the most basic framework widely used for business analysis, for example:
To determine the cause of probability loss.
Porter’s 5 forces framework
This framework is commonly used to analyze competition in a specific industry or market.
Market entry framework
Most often used by businesses to make decisions on whether to launch products or services in a new market.
Price case framework
Determining prices, most often when launching new products.
The 3 Cs Framework
Analyzes the company, the competition and identifying target customers.
A mini-framework which is used for quick evaluation of an individual or companies performance. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) This method is also commonly used to assess an individual’s strengths and weaknesses.
MECE (Mutually Exclusive Collectively Exhaustive) is used to analyze information to solve problems and make recommendations for solutions.
What Do Consultants Do?
In the general sense, consultancy is about providing skilled advice. Clients compensate the consultancy firm for skilled recommendations which will enable them to achieve a specific goal or resolve a specific issue through the advised solutions.
The consultant’s goal is to adequately resolve a fundamental (SPECIFIC) problem. SPECIFIC is the keyword here. The client’s problem is nothing but that, “their operational problem.”
Therefore, it makes no sense to want to seek a solution for company A’s problems, trying to employ the same or even similar principles you used to fix company B’s issues. Even if the end goal is the same. Considering that there are so many variable influences between companies, the chances are you will not be providing absolutely sound solutions.
Key Takeaway 3: An effective solution is simply achieved if the specific recommendations are uniquely situation motivated and client goal specific.
It Is Not Innovative Or Creative If You Are Providing The Same Standard Solutions To Every Client
What Case In Point is saying is that you can categorize business problems and that you then need to learn and memorize the pre-existing frameworks to solve issues within each of the specific categories. While this exercise will represent an excellent opportunity to acquire knowledge about each framework, it is simply not practical or logical to provide creative or innovative solutions to the client.
It is a great learning opportunity but it is just unpractical for the corporate world. Business problems are not clear and clean cut. Each independent business issue typically involves a considerable number of key factors that will undoubtedly influence its operations and performance.
It only makes sense to consider those influences when proposing solutions and recommendations. If you are categorizing the issue, all those individual influences will not properly be considered. You will ultimately be providing a solution and not fixing the problem.
Key Takeaway 4: Instead of using your valuable time to learn each framework by heart, learn efficient ways to implement the framework as the essential foundation to a unique case driven solution.
Just a reminder: Do you want to stand out during the case interview? Well, then you then need to learn to adequately develop a unique, logical method of structuring any case based on requirements of that specific case.
Things To Consider When Developing Your Own Framework
There are a few key points to consider and remember when developing your own framework. This includes:
- An excellent framework is one that can be modified to directly adapt to the specific issues you are trying to resolve.
- To develop a modified, unique framework, you will need to meet the criteria”
- Re-evaluate your approach. Do not kick off by trying to pull the case together using an existing framework.
- Extract the knowledge you have gained about the structure of a case and utilize it to establish the foundation of your analysis.
- Once you have taken the time to learn how to create and build a problem-solving framework and how to implement it to structure a case, it all comes down to practice, practice and more practice.
- A firm structure is one that is organized, logical and where the situation on hand is what drives the analysis.
What Is MECE?
MECE which is an acronym for “Mutually Exclusive” and “Collectively Exhaustive.”
Is the effective method of comprehensive analysis which is based on the principle of consolidating, and grouping of information into smaller, more logical groups and analytical subcategories until each set is mutually exclusive (ME) and collectively exhaustive (CE). (just on that note, if the data can fall under more than one category, it is not mutually exclusive)
With this method of organizing and grouping data, no information is omitted and no work is duplicated. Most importantly, the data is organized in a concise, structured way. This is even more valuable during the case interview where your assessment is done in a limited time.
Key Takeaway #5 – (there are a number of points to consider in this key takeaway which includes 🙂
- Problem-solving should consistently be priority driven.
- Your comprehensive analysis should always start by correctly identifying the core priorities. Before trying to find the possible answers, make sure you have a thorough understanding of the key objectives.
- Data must always be arranged and sorted in a logical manner.
- Always group the key data in a mutually exclusive way.
- Practice until you can properly approach every potential problem in a MECE way until this naturally gets to be second nature.
Just to summarize what has been covered so far:
- We have looked at why not to use Case In Point to adequately prepare for a case interview. It is not about knowing every framework by heart but rather about sufficiently developing a comprehensive framework that can be modified to adequately address each client case on its comparative merits.
- We have in addition also taken a look at key points to adequately consider when developing a framework. Just on that note, if you are preparing for a case interview, this is one of the most vital skills that every consultant should have and is one that contributes massively toward your overall performance assessment.
- We have covered MECE, which is an effective method of data organizing and grouping.
- We have evaluated the benefits of MECE, which includes preventing information from being missed or duplicated. This efficient method ensures the comprehensive analysis is logical and organized.
The Case Interview And Framework
While pre-existing frameworks on their own hold no essential value for client-driven solutions, they are valuable to have in your toolbox. The fundamental basis of every case is set up at the beginning. To answer the client questions and outline the right recommendation, you have to possess a deep understanding of the end goals. If you do not possess a sound understanding, the objectives will be unmet, regardless of the framework or structure you use. You will have to carefully identify the case type and properly apply the applicable framework at the foundation phase. Ultimately, your case structure occupies a key role in the time it can take you to find the solutions. With an incorrect or incomplete structure, you are not going to find the desired answers.
Key Takeaway #6: No matter which framework you use or how you try to structure the case, if you do not have a clear understanding of the desired objectives, it is likely that you will not reach the right conclusions.
Just a few other tips and valuable reminders about analyzing data using framework:
- Not all the data is useful data. Valuable data can come in a variable number of formats and can include interviews, text, numerical information and even data charts. Therefore categorizing and prioritizing data is one of the most key steps in the extensive process. Ultimately, the result of necessary data collected and analyzed is to produce the relevant recommendations and answers to the client’s questions. Do not try looking for answers until you have a full understanding of the questions being asked.
- An exhaustive structure like an Issue Tree or MECE represents an essential way to arrange and plow through data in a systematic, concise manner. With these concepts, you will prepare, divide and segment the data until you have filtered out the problem. If the structure you are using does not isolate the issue, you cannot outline recommendations or offer solutions. Therefore, it all comes down to the structure.
- Constantly evaluate a data point with structure and always start with the goal to finish. You are adopting the framework to keep data organized and logical, therefore it makes no sense to jump between the groups of categorized data before you have completed analyzing a specific segment of data. Dissect, examine and discard data before moving on.
- Assembling data in a logical manner will also help support and carefully arrange your thoughts. Once you have positively identified the objective and key priorities, you can efficiently carry out a logical assessment. Once you have identified the objective and key priorities, you can carry out a logical assessment:
- What does the client want to do with the analysis?
- What is urgent?
- What will the outcome be if the problem is not resolved?
- What does the client expect to achieve through the recommended solutions?
- Do I possess a sound understanding of the problem?
- Having the tools to do the job is not enough. The value lies in knowing how to use those tools to develop tailored solutions.
- An innovative solution is one that is custom made and has analyzed all the possibilities in order to create an actionable solution.
- Do not just seek solutions, fix the problem!
- There are many variables between companies and those variables will influence operations and solutions, therefore solutions must always be case driven and specific to the problem being addressed. A one size fits all solution does not offer the client a customized solution.
- Create a unique, priority driven framework to analyze and structure the case.
- Before trying to find the answers, you must have a clear understanding of the objectives. Always ask the right questions to ensure you have a comprehensive understanding of the client’s questions and expectations. If you do not have a clear understanding of the end objectives, your analysis will not support the right recommendations.
- Logical data supports logical thoughts. It helps to keep your thoughts and notes in an organized, logical, concise manner too. This enables you to ensure that you have covered all the key points and have a clear understanding of the client’s requirements.
- Practicing how to apply case driven framework is a vitally important step in preparing for your case interview.
- Key recommendations must consistently be supported by the necessary data when presenting your fundamental solutions to the client.