McKinsey top-down communication

Case communication consulting Framework McKinsey
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Anonym D fragte am 4. Nov. 2021

What exactly is top-down communication when it comes to structuring? Is it saying 'There are 4 areas I want to look at : A, B, C and D. Within A, there are 3 things. Firstly X, Secondly Y, Thirdly Z.."? Is mentioning the number of areas (4, 3 etc..) and then saying firstly, secondly as you go through each item in the area, what makes it top-down?

Are there other ways to communicate a structure top-down for the purposes of the interview? 

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Florian
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antwortete am 4. Nov. 2021
#1 rated McKinsey Case and PEI Coach | 5 years at McKinsey | Mentorship Approach | 120+ McK offers in 18 months

Hey there,

It depends a bit on the context. Generally, I very much like your approach!

Let's provide some context:

For a structure question

Top-down means that you go from the more general and abstract ideas to the more concrete and tailored ideas that are relevant to answer the initial question. By using numbers and signposting the way you do, you make it easy for the interviewer to follow, intervene or ask follow-up questions.

 

For a recommendation, implication, hypothesis, etc

Top-down means that you would start with your key point first, then provide supporting arguments. 

Generally, consulting communication is mostly top-down, especially on the level with senior executives. When collaborating with clients on less executive levels, consultants sometimes switch to a bottom-up approach, first explaining their logic and rationale, then providing their insights, request, etc. The latter, however, is not relevant for case interviews. 

Cheers,

Florian

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Originally answered question:

What is a top down approach?

Sidi
Experte
antwortete am 17. Juli 2018
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers

Hi Anonymous,

the top-down way of communicating is also sometimes refered to as the "Pyramid Principle". It emerges on the grounds of the mantra: "Think about your audience, first!"

As a consultant, you’ll be presenting your findings to busy C-level executives. In your interview you’ll be dealing with consulting Partners, who work everyday with CEOs and share their manners and approach. Hence, often the most challenging constraint you’ll face is time. What they expect from you is a short and clear main message or recommendation. Then, if they are interested, they’ll ask for details. This is called “top-down” communication.

top down approach for your case interview

It follows the principle that ideas should always form a pyramid under a single thought. The single thought is the answer to the executive’s question. Underneath the single thought, you are supposed to group and summarize the next level of supporting ideas and arguments. Then, for each supporting idea or argument, break that further into more ideas or arguments until you have formed a pyramid. Ideas at any level in the pyramid must always be summaries of the ideas grouped below them.

When comunicating your "pyramid", you should first lay out all elements of the upper levels before diving deep. For example, if the peak of your pyramig disaggregates into 3 buckets on the first level, list the three elements first before deep diving into any of them.

Cheers, Sidi

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Pedro
Experte
antwortete am 4. Nov. 2021
Bain | EY-Parthenon | Roland Berger | FIT | Market Sizing | Former Head Recruiter

Almost. It's not about saying the number. It's about:

  1. Explaining your overall structure first at a high level
  2. Then diving at the first branch (2nd layer of the structure) and mentioning its components, and onyl afterwards explaining them
  3. Then move on to the next branch and repeat the process. 

So it is not about saying the number of components / factors, but about mentioning those factors altogether before explaining them one by one.

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Ian
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antwortete am 4. Nov. 2021
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Yes! That's exactly right!

Just be careful to not be too generic/repetitive with the  “firstly, secondly, thirdly” :)

Also, make sure you're really clear about which bucket you're in and when you transition. I find that gesticulating with your hands in parallel to verbally indicating transitions is the most clear!

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Originally answered question:

What is a top down approach?

Benjamin
Experte
antwortete am 18. Juli 2018
ex-Manager - Natural and challenging teacher - Taylor case solving, no framework

Hi Anonymous,

In addition to Sidi answer which is very clear on the principles of pyramidal communication, I would like to share 1 or 2 pragmatic tips to help you build a top down approach.

In general, consider you are always limited by time to communicate your messages. So you want to make sure that if you don't have enough time to tell the full story you wanted at least you will have deliver the key messages.

Personnally I always ask myself "what is the minimum that I should say if I am time constrained? ". That helps me build the first level of the pyramid

To build the next level you just assume that you have a little more time to details more about your arguments.. and so on..

Hope this helps.

Best

Benjamin

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Hagen
Experte
antwortete am 4. Nov. 2021
Current Bain & Company Project Leader and interviewer | 250+ interviews conducted | 6+ years of coaching and mentoring

Hi there,

This is indeed an interesting question which is probably relevant for quite a lot of users, so I am happy to provide my perspective on it:

  • First of all, you understood perfectly the overall concept of top-down communication.
  • However, please be aware that at some level, communicating top-down is not meaningful anymore, e.g. when you would want to present the profit tree.
  • Moreover, please do not overdo with numbering your aspects. While it definitely makes sense and helps the interviewer follow your structure on the first and maybe second level, you will lose him/ her when you continue numbering. Here, gestures might as well help you communicate your initial structure and ensure the interviewer can still follow.

In case you want a more detailed discussion on how to best communicated any type of initial structure, please feel free to contact me directly.

I hope this helps,

Hagen

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Originally answered question:

Top-Down Communication

Ben
Experte
Content Creator
antwortete am 24. Juni 2019
Ex-McKinsey EM | Experienced interview coach (1,000+ sessions) | Discount on 1st session | LBS MBA

Hi there,

My view is that top down communication is not about communicating your issue tree from top to bottom. In order to get your message clearly acrsoss - you should start from outlining what you will be looking to achieve / learn / uncover using your structure.

For example: if the case is about deciding whether to launch a new product, and you use the business situation framework (customer, company, competitor, product), your opening statement should sound something like: "I would recommend the client to launch the product, if we can prove that the customers want it at a price the client can offer, the company has capabilities to produce and distribute the product, and none of the competitors commands a significant market power"

Afterwards you can present your framework bucket by bucket, in any of the ways suggested by the other experts.

Hope it helps!

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Originally answered question:

Top-Down Communication

Guennael
Experte
antwortete am 13. Okt. 2018
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

Your first option is right. Here is how I coach it:

1. Build the issue tree, start from the top and repeat the question

2. Go down one level, and just count + list all the big branches of the framework ("go horizontal")

3. Go back to the first branch, and describe it / explain what you want to know there ("go vertical"), then explain you go the the next branch (you need to remind me what that branch is by the way, and perhaps even the number it was associated with) and repeat

As you present the structure, I expect you to go at least 2 levels deep, but 3 is best. Someone today asked me if they should go to a 4th level... No! 4th is too much, and you likely won't have time to prepare or present to that granularity in a case anyway.

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Originally answered question:

Top-Down Communication

Vlad
Experte
Content Creator
antwortete am 12. Okt. 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School

Hi,

  • Do the 1st level first
  • Do the 2nd and the third level together

Here is the tip: Rotate your paper and walk the interviewer through your structure with a pen. Thus your logic will be clear to him.

Best!

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Originally answered question:

Top-Down Communication

Anonym antwortete am 12. Okt. 2018

Easier to answer your question by giving you an example: how I would communicate a Structure top down:

Top level: "To answer this question I would like at three things: Firstly, The market's attractiveness, secondly, the company's attractiveness, and thirdly, the associated risks"

Middle/third level: "...For risks, I would like to look at two types of risks: firstly, non financial risks, and secondly, financial risks. Under non-financial risks, I'd look at A, B, C. Under Financial risks, I'd look at X, Y, Z"

So, to summarise: Do the "2nd level within one of your top level buckets together, then deep dive into sub-bucket 1 and sub-bucket 2 etc. (as above). However, you shouldn't go through all of your level 2 buckets across your level 1 buckets together - as you note, this would be hard to follow.

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Antonello
Experte
Content Creator
antwortete am 7. Nov. 2021
McKinsey | MBA professor for consulting interviews

Hi!

Top-down communication is about explaining your logic at a high level and then iteratively deep dive into the subconcepts.

This is also known as the Pyramid Principle, which is a nice book if you want to further explore this topic.

Hope this helps.

Best,

Anto

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Florian gab die beste Antwort

Florian

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