Help please with Quality Case

BCG Bain McKinsey
New answer on May 20, 2020
4 Answers
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Jimmy asked on May 19, 2020

Had a case interview in tier 2 consulting firm,

The case case about: You are a director of quality assurance department of pharm company. They have a new drug, which were sold within a year and everything was ok. But last month 50 people reported that they had a minor allergy to it, like skin irretation. So should he recall all batches.

In total they sold over 700k of this drugs throughout a year.

I didnt know what other questions to ask, so my anwer was: They shouldn't recall all batches because 50 out of 700k is so small number, and most likely thos 50 people were their own problems which is not related to our drug.

But my interviwer told me, i was wrong, that they should have recalled all batches even if it's 1 reported/confirmed case there.

Was my logic right here? I dont agree with interviwer

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Anonymous updated the answer on May 19, 2020


Have you asked about the firm's priority and constraints? Would they place safety as the top priority and that is not to be compromised in any event? Did you ask about the consequence of such allergy, could it be fatal in some cases? Drug quality problem with a Pharma company can have huge consequences - law suits, fines from govement, pulic relationsihp crisis...

If you didn't understand the priorities/constraints/consequences enough, your conclusion could be wrong. It is not only about the number you canculated as 50/700k (btw you shouldn't be comparing monthly number vs yearly number here also).

And for your reasoning " most likely those were their own problems..." - Did you have any info/data to back that up?

In short, doing a case requires a more holistic thinking with solid logic. It is not only about the numbers on the surface. I think you need to start from practicing how to ask the right answers to get the necessary information, so you don't jump into conclusion prematurely.




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Content Creator
replied on May 19, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut


Probably it´s a matter of industry knowledge. I guess in Pharma, even when you have one single suspicous case, you retrieve all you have sold for:

  1. Further analysis
  2. It has the power to destroy the full company´s reputation, so it´s better to cut off one arm than loosing later the whole body
  3. Purely PR

It´s true that 50/700K is not that many and that probably the company will fight back precisely with your argument, "this was not caused by this but something else".

However, probably both sides of the medal needed to be mentioned.

In any case, why don´t you ask them for feedback?

Hope it helps!



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Content Creator
replied on May 19, 2020
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

Hi Alex,

You jumped to a conclusion here - you shouldn't do this.

There'shaving a hypothesis, or presenting a viewpoint based on information known/provided. then there's guessing.

There are a lot of questions you could have asked! Such as:

  1. What does company protocol state?
  2. What have other companies done in similar situations in the past...and what where the outcomes?
  3. Do we have any indication as to whether our drug may have caused this reaction?
  4. Do we know what the PR implications might be?
  5. etc. etc.

Big Picture: You need to practice asking targeted questions when you're stuck, to tease out information/answers.

In terms of the answer itself: Well, he's right. The fines + PR risk could make the company go bankrupt. So you need to take the risk-averse route. Remember when Toyota had a few cars with faulty breaks? They recalled the entire batch. This was not at all the wrong choice...

Make sure you read The Economist, The Financial Times, etc. to start to have more industry knowledge under your belt, in order to recall it when needed!

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Content Creator
replied on May 20, 2020
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi Alex,

I believe the problem was not the answer per se, but the fact you made an assumption (50 out of 700K is not a problem), and jumped to a conclusion, without any structure or hypothesis.

In a consulting case, when you don't have data you should always present a structure, state a hypothesis instead of making assumptions, and then ask for data to verify it (ideally with some prioritization).

So in your case, a better approach would have been to present in this way (I assume this was not the very initial question, otherwise you should have a more complete structure):

“ To verify what would be the best option, I would like to estimate which could be the expected result in terms of our goal XYZ if we do not recall the batches compared to the situation where we do so.

I would consider three main areas we should take into account: A, B and C.

My hypothesis is that the company should not recall the batches, as there would not be a consequence in any of these areas.

I would like to analyze first the component A, which would be the most critical one impacted in my opinion. Do we have any information on that?”


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