Case structure: comprehensive vs. simple?

case structure
New answer on Apr 26, 2022
7 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Nov 05, 2021

I have been taking “Crafting Cases” online course for a while. The course quality is great but the case structure examples are usually very "comprehensive".

In my case prep, sometimes I get feedback that my case structure is not “prioritized” enough and covers too much topic. For instance, in an M&A case, to assess the target I included a bucket discussing whether the target can maintain its competitive edge. My case partner said I should directly jump into calculating the potential profit of the target instead. 

In a nutshell, my question is:

1) What would be the ideal timing to present a case structure? Is 2.5 - 3 min too much?

2) Is it better to be comprehensive (of course, being relevant at the same time), or should I try to keep the case structure as simple and streamlined as possible (only covering critical areas)?

 

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Florian
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replied on Nov 06, 2021
#1 rated McKinsey Case and PEI Coach | 5 years at McKinsey | Mentorship Approach | 120+ McK offers in 18 months

Hey there,

It depends. 

For most firms / candidate-led interviews, shorter is better. See the answers for that by Pedro or Ian.

For McKinsey / interviewer-led cases, it's different as you need to demonstrate exhaustive and creative structures. At the core, McKinsey wants to see creative ideas communicated in a structured manner, the more exhaustive the better.

Your goal should be to come up with a tailored and creative answer that fits the question. The framework should - broadly speaking - follow these three characteristics:

  • Broad
  • Deep
  • Insightful

You can take a couple of minutes to guide the interviewer through your approach. For McKinsey specifically, I have written this article that explains it in a bit more detail: https://www.preplounge.com/en/mckinsey-interview

Cheers,

Florian

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Agrim
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replied on Nov 06, 2021
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Your structures needs to be MECE - which is another word for comprehensive (somewhat).

Your issue appears slightly different - it is around customisation of the framework in accordance with the case. Most candidates when they make a ‘comprehensive’ framework - they go too generic. Product, pricing, promotion, customer, competition etc. etc. This is not how it should be done.

Your frameworks need to be customised around the client in the case. e.g.

  • ‘mobile phones’ instead of ‘products’,
  • ‘selling price of a phone' instead of ‘price of products’
  • ‘number of mobiles sold’ instead of ‘volume’
  • etc. etc.

The second issue I believe is around over-engineering the comprehensiveness of the structure. And this will get resolved by tackling the above customisation problem. If you are making generic frameworks - you will err on the side of excessive buckets and details. If you customise your thinking - you will be able to eliminate some of the issues already based on case facts and hypotheses.

NOW, answering your 2 sub-questions:

  1. Ideal time to present structure: 2-min max. Anything longer and you need to practice your pyramid principle discipline.
  2. What should you do: You need to be simple, streamlined, comprehensive, and relevant. Thats the hallmark of a good caser.
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Pedro
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replied on Nov 06, 2021
Bain | EY-Parthenon | Roland Berger | FIT | Market Sizing | Former Head Recruiter

1. More than 2 minutes is too long…

2. The issue here is that a lot of times candidates are being generic. They are very comprehensive as they are trying to cover everything because they don't know what they really want to cover… 

In a real case, you want to be efficient. It's not about covering everything. It's about covering what is really needed in order to be able to make a decision with a good degree of confidence. Let me stress again: it's the information that will lead you to make a decision.

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Pedro on Nov 06, 2021

A couple of additional thoughts. 1. You should be able to explain exactly WHY you want to look into a specific area. I usually suggest that it is answering a question (e.g. can we expand into other markets?). 2. Explaining the framework should take less than 2 minutes, provided that you can go into deeper detail if necessary / asked by the interviewer.

Ian
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replied on Nov 05, 2021
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Hi there,

The answer to this question (and any written response regarding structuring/frameworking) is incredibly nuanced - just note that a verbal explanation is generally best here.

1) What would be the ideal timing to present a case structure? Is 2.5 - 3 min too much?

Generally speaking yes. Try to keep it to 2 min. There are a lot of ways to get more concise in your articulation (one technique, say “for example” and just list!)

2) Is it better to be comprehensive (of course, being relevant at the same time), or should I try to keep the case structure as simple and streamlined as possible (only covering critical areas)?

It is better to be objective-driven. Every single thing you say should clearly be about solving your objective. If you can't say why it's there and how it will get you closer to answering the problem, it shouldn't be there.

This takes a lot of practice, so patience as you drive towards this!

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Antonello
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replied on Nov 07, 2021
McKinsey | MBA professor for consulting interviews

Hi!

1) 2.5-3 min is ok for structuring and exposing it. Sometimes you might need more, sometimes less.

2) It's better to be comprehensive and concise :)

Hope this helps.

Best,

Anto

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Clara
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replied on Nov 06, 2021
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

To your questions: 

  1. Yes, indeed, that is a good proxi. However, don´t get obsessed about this either, since there are also complex cases with follow-up questions in which you are supposed to take a bit longer than that
  2. MECE and as comprehensive as you can (which is not the same as noisy and crowded)

Hope it helps!

Cheers, 

Clara

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Ken
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replied on Apr 26, 2022
Ex-McKinsey London final round interviewer

You need to priortise AND be comprehensive, just like you would on a real consulting project.  Presenting your structuring should never be a monologue but an initial 2.5-3 min presentation sounds about right. 

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Florian gave the best answer

Florian

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