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MECE is a best practice method to lay down a robust structure for your case interview

Use MECE segmentations to group information in a logical manner

MECE is a way of segmenting information into sub-elements that are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive. In other words, elements should “exclude” each other, i.e. be distinct and should “exhaust” the relevant field, i.e. contain everything that belongs to it. MECE as a method should be used when you craft an issue tree for your case structure. Doing so will help you avoid dependencies between different branches of the tree and thus sub-problems can be properly isolated.

Mutually Exclusive: aims at reducing complexity by avoiding overlaps. You need to make sure that the possible solutions or groups are not accidentally considered twice. Proving exclusiveness forces you to carefully look at each option, consequently leading you to a much deeper understanding of the issue.

Collectively Exhaustive: aims at ensuring a comprehensive collection without leaving alternatives. Exhaustive means that all possible options have been considered. The trick is to divide a problem into categories with a finite number of general groups. For example, if you need to make “means of transportation” MECE, don't start just collecting “per foot, train, plane, bicyle, bike etc.” Try to find categories, because this practice will prevent you from forgetting important options: wheels vs. no wheels OR air vs. water vs. land.

Learn the difference between MECE and non-MECE

Another example for a MECE breakdown is dividing the population into subsets of age:

  • A group of people below 50 years and another group of 50 years and above is MECE. No person can be in both groups - mutually exclusive - but every person is in either one of them – collectively exhaustive

MECE, mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive

  • A group of people below 50 years and another group with people from 40 to 70 years is not MECE, as people from 40 to 50 years belong to both groups - they are not mutually exclusive – and people above 70 are in neither one of the groups – they are not collectively exhaustive.

​​MECE, mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive

Be MECE in profitability cases to split costs and revenue in an issue tree

The MECE methodology is famously used at McKinsey. McKinsey interviewers along with other firms will especially look whether you are able to structure information in a MECE format. During a case interview, MECE is also helpful for calculation. Many well-known frameworks, such as Cost-Benefit, 4Cs, Porter’s Five Forces are all designed with the MECE principle in mind.

The example below, from the "Startup vs. Consulting case" on PrepLounge, shows how costs are typically broken down in a MECE way. Subsequently, an issue tree-like format is used to break down the estimation into its basic components for easier approximation of data.

MECE issue tree of costs

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4 Kommentar(e)
15. Oktober 2018 10:20 -
Tiong Soon

The gender question made me pause and think!

26. Juni 2018 22:20 -
Sap

Terrific short quiz to test MECE.

22. Februar 2017 18:57 -
Anyl

Nice and useful quiz

26. September 2016 12:21 - Anonym

I have read many articles and books on MECE.. but you have managed to explain it in a way that immediately clicked. Thanks!

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MECE ways to grow market share
Anonym gab die beste Antwort am 24. Jun 2016 - 4 Antworten

Two frameworks here: 4 Ps (= price, place, product, promotion), or the Ansoff Matrix (grow with existing or new products in existing or new markets). Both are quite MECE. Word of caution however --... (mehr)

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Vlad gab die beste Antwort am 16. Feb 2018 - 6 Antworten
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School
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Hi! It depends very much on the industry. In some cases (Growth strategy) I will use a broad structure, in others (e.g. “how to increase the excessive luggage revenues for an Airline”) I will use P... (mehr)

Brainstorming creatively in a structured/MECE way when under pressure is one of the hardest things to do. Let's have a look at a basic example: "how can client X gain market share?". A great start... (mehr)

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gab die beste Antwort am 19. Jan 2017 - 2 Antworten
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You never want to use a pre-thought out framework in a case, so I would throw out any notions of having anything ready. What you'll find is the case will be laid out in a way which means that you don'... (mehr)

In an issue tree for profitability framework, where do you factor in questions about market etc.?
Sidi gab die beste Antwort am 13. Aug 2018 - 1 Antwort
McKinsey Engagement Manager & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 80+ candidates secure MBB offers
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Hi Kay, this is indeed one of the fundamental things that you need to learn in order to rigorously disaggregate the value drivers of a business. The driver tree allows you to identify the numerical d... (mehr)