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Clarifying Questions

Anonymous A asked on Oct 08, 2018 - 4 answers

I always struggle with asking relevant clarifying questions that help me lay out a structure for the case. Do anyone have a method or any suggestions as to how I can improve this part of my performance?

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Vlad
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replied on Oct 08, 2018
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Hi,

You should ask the following questions:

1) Clarify the business model. Ask how the company actually makes the money. For several reasons:

  1. Even if you think you understand the business model, you need to make sure that you understand it correctly.
  2. Some cases have pitfalls related to a business model (re profitability cases with several revenue streams
  3. You need to understand the revenue streams to make a proper structure. E.g. if the case is about oil&gas company which revenues are declining, ask if it is Up / mid / down-stream problem. In this case, defining a revenue stream is critical to setting up the right structure. (At the end of the day it may be the decline of snack sales at the gas stations:). In case of telecom company it may be the problem of the core business (wireless) or non-core (landlines, internet)

2) Clarify the objective. Here make sure that your goal is:

  • Measurable
  • Has a time-framed
  • Has / has no limitations

e.g. Should I invest 100k in this business for 1 year if I want to get 15% return?

3) Ask the questions that will help you build a relevant structure and remove ambiguity.

E.g. in the market entry case ask whether we are entering the country organically or non-organically

!!! Finally - do the recap after asking the clarifying questions. Although most of the case books suggest to do it immediately at the beginning of the interview, it makes much more sense to clarify the situation first and then to make sure that you understand everything correctly.

Best!

Benjamin replied on Oct 08, 2018
ex-Manager - Natural and challenging teacher - Taylor case solving, no framework
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Hi,

Clarifying questions are here to help you reduce the scope of work and precisely identify the central issue to solve. Sometimes the case statement is very wide and without this clarification you'll have to build a very general structure to make sure you cover the copic.
So depending on the topic this question should help :

- clarify the objective of the client

- clarify the question asked

- clarify the context

After this question you should now be able to deelpp your approach more easily. On the other be carefull and not follow the temptation to start solving the case thourgh this initial questions without actually taking time to build a proper structure

Best
Benjamin

Sidi
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replied on Oct 08, 2018
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Hi Anonymous,

the questions you ask at the beginning have the following objectives:

  1. Completely understanding the context/situation (including, unclear terminology, but also, for example, the business model of the client if unclear!)
  2. Understanding the question(s) of the client
  3. Understanding (and quantifying if applicable) the underlying objective(s) of the client

These questions are aiming at understanding the initial setting, hence forming a precondition to outline your structure towards answering the core question (the issue tree)!

The later questions that you ask while navigating through the case are then aiming to verify the actual relevance of each sub-branch in your tree. So if you have defined and disaggregated the criterion to answer the client's core question in a clean way, all these leater questions follow a this precise "roadmap" as layed out by your tree. These questions then oftentimes also comprise enquiries on current performance metrics (revenues, costs, growth rates etc.), which normally should never be asked in the clarifying questions (before making explicit your structure).

Cheers, Sidi

Edouard replied on Sep 30, 2019

An easy way to remember if you understand the fundamentals is to get answers for the following topics: BGOT (Busines model, Geographic location(s), Objective, Timeline).

If you understand these 4 topics, you tend to get the basics of the case.

I hope it helps!