How do I practise being more MECE in my answers?

brainteaser Case Interview MECE
Recent activity on Oct 16, 2017
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Anonymous A asked on Oct 14, 2017


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updated an answer on Oct 16, 2017
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


First of all, I totally agree with Francesco on the process. You should always come back to the cases you've solved and reevaluate your structures.

Secondly, I believe it's very much related to industry / functional knowledge.

There are several sources of information to develop industry knowledge and learn to build MESE structures:

  1. Cases - you simply solve 50-70 cases and get a broad knowledge of different industries, common pitfalls and questions. The key here - find good partners who already had case interviews with MBB companies
  2. Company reports, equity reports, IB roadshow docs - usually have a good overview of company and industries. Annual company reports are probably the best source of information about the industry. Make your structures while reading the reports
  3. Books - one good book about airlines can help you build all possible airlines frameworks

I strongly recommend practice drawing structures for each industry - profitability, value chain, etc

Then I will switch to getting functional knowledge (Marketing, supply chain, finance, etc) and drawing various functional structures.

Also here are my recommendations about particular industry structures:

  • Retail - make sure you understand key retail metrics (P&L lines, same store sales, revenue per square meter and per person, etc) and distribution metrics (share on shelf, etc)
  • Airlines - read about profitability issues, different routing models, cost structure, industry metrics like load factor and make sure you know all possible additional revenue streams
  • Telecom - I would read industry reports and try to understand how telecom is transforming with internet penetration and tech innovations
  • Banking - you should know the key products in corporate and retail banking and how they earn money (Interest, commission, transactional)
  • PE / M&A - try to make a proper Due Diligence structure, Revenue synergies and cost synergies.

Good luck!


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replied on Oct 15, 2017
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Hi Anonymous,

many people think being MECE means having the right content for the structure only. That’s actually just part of what you need: to be MECE you need (i) the right points in the structure and (ii) the right communication. That’s because if you have a perfect MECE structure, but you communicate that poorly, the interviewer will not perceive you as MECE. More specifically you would need the following:

For the STRUCTURE you can work on two areas to improve your points:

#1: Optimize the framework

In order to optimize your framework, you should personalize it proceeding as follows:

  1. Create some basic structures for your frameworks. Case in point should work well for that, although it presents a lot of frameworks, many of which not very useful. Still, it’s a good starting point.
  2. Start practicing cases (ideally, you should get to 50+) in person, online, or reading MBA handbooks. Each time you find a new approach to solve the case that is not present in your structure, write it down and add it to your framework, keeping a MECE approach.
  3. Eliminate or consolidate the sections in your frameworks that you do not find useful to solve cases.
  4. Find commonalities between frameworks, so that you do not have to remember 7-8 structures completely different, but just few differences between frameworks.
  5. Once received the initial information from the interviewer, present the framework adapting it to the specific goals of the client, mentioning why you would like to explore a particular area and the connection of that area with the goals previously communicated by the interviewer.

#2: Brainstorm in a structured way whenever you are unable to find a proper framework

This is something you want to do in case you are unable to find the right structure for a particular question. In order to brainstorm in a structure way, you can do the following:

  1. Recap all the information you received. This will provide you time without giving the impression that you don’t know how to approach the question.
  2. Identify the key elements that would constitute the fundamental areas of your structure. Some potential divisions are: Internal-External (eg reasons for an increase in costs); Current-New (eg product, customers, distribution channels); Financial-Non financial (eg benefits from a way to enter a market compared to another).
  3. After having defined the key areas, start brainstorming for each of them.

For the COMMUNICATION you can follow two steps as well:

#1: Mention the macro areas of your framework.

An example would be: “In order to help our client, I would like to focus on three main areas. Number 1 I would like to focus on [FIRST TOPIC], Number 2 on [SECOND TOPIC], Number 3 on [THIRD TOPIC]. If this is fine for you, let me go deeper in each of them”

#2: Provide details for each macro point.

An example would be: “In area Number 1, this is what I would analyse. First, I would like to cover [FIRST STEP OF FIRST TOPIC]; second, I would like to focus on [SECOND STEP OF FIRST TOPIC]; next, I would like to work on [THIRD STEP OF FIRST TOPIC]. In area Number 2, this is what I would analyse. First,(…)”

This should ensure you are MECE on both the actual content of the structure and its communication.



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Anonymous replied on Oct 16, 2017

I think Vlad and Francesco have done a great job of thoroughly covering this subject. But to build on Vlad’s point about Industry / Functional knowledge, almost all consulting firms are organized around both Industry verticals and Functional horizontals. For example, at McKinsey, a partner will be affiliated with a primary Industry vertical like “Financial Services” and a primary Functional horizontal (McKinsey calls them Business Functions) like “Marketing & Sales”.

These Industries / Horizontals are listed out on most firm’s websites. As a starter, prioritize 5-7 of the most prominent Industries (e.g., choose High Tech vs. Metals & Mining) and figure out what structures apply by 1) learning the basics about the industry and 2) practicing cases in that industry. Do the same for the Functional areas and you will have a strong basis for developing MECE structures.

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Vlad gave the best answer


McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School
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