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Case structures

Tim asked on Mar 21, 2018 - 1 answer
Preparing for a BCG interview, so candidate-led cases only please. Made it to decision-round in April and reapplying

Hi, I'm struggling a bit with the whole structure element of the case. I have no problem setting one up initially but I get nervous towards the end if I haven't addressed all of the areas I laid out in the beginning. Any tips for how to go about this? I've read a lot about not being glued to your initial structure as things often change as a case progresses and you learn more information. But sometimes I lay out a structure, get through maybe 1 of the 4 buckets, and that happens to be the solution to the case...but what about the other 3? They still matter. Should I say at the end that if I had time I would go through those?

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updated his answer on Mar 21, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School
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First of all, you should start taking for granted that you will not be able to go through the whole structure - it's fine.

Now there are two options:

  1. You went through a part of your structure and you can provide a valid recommendation but you are still not sure about some minor aspect of it - "Hard Recommendation"
  2. You went through a part of your structure and you are mostly not sure about your recommendation - "Soft Recommendation"

In the first case your recommendation should be the following:

1) Our objectives were to understand why the profit is declining by X and how to bring the profit back within one year (Don't forget that your objective should be measurable in terms of money / other metric and time)

2) According to the analysis we've done, my recommendation is to shut down the division A and to concentrate on the divisions b/c if we want to increase the profit,

3) and there is a number of reasons for that.. (Remember that your arguments should include numbers)

  • First of all, problems in Devision A are the major driver of the decline in profits - 90% of the decline in profits refer to Division a
  • Secondly, the decline is driven by the contracting market size that is shrinking at xx percent and is not expected to improve in the near future
  • Finally....

4) Additionally, I would like to check the following... (In the last bullet, you simply provide a list of what else you need to check to be comfortable with the solution)

In the second case when you are completely not sure about your recommendation, the approach should be different and you should provide a Soft Recommendation

Consultants may be testing several things:

  • Are you comfortable enough with providing preliminary recommendations based on limited data? (Imagine a CEO whom you met in the elevator and who wants to know the preliminary findings)
  • Will you make a mistake of providing a recommendation with a high level of certainty without having a proper supporting data?

Imagine a case when you have to make a decision whether a PE fund should acquire a company. You make a proper structure (Market, Competitors, Company, Feasibility of Exit) and in 25 min of a case, you've managed only to go through the Market and Competitors branches of the analysis. What will be your recommendation?

Here is how you should approach this problem:

1. You start with an objective ("Our objective was to understand whether we should buy this company")

2. You provide a preliminary recommendation highlighting the uncertainty("According to the limited data we have so far, our preliminary recommendation is to buy this company and there are three reasons for that..." or "Purely by analyzing the market our preliminary recommendation is..."

3. You provide the reasons ("First of all the market is big at X and growing at Y, Secondly the competition is fragmented with the target company having x% of the market. Thirdly...")

4. You Mention which pieces of data you need to provide a full recommendation ("To be completely sure about the recommendation I would like to look at several other aspects like the company financials, key capabilities and...") - this is exactly the soft recommendation