How to communicate properly when getting stuck

New answer on Sep 07, 2020
2 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jun 07, 2019

Dear experts,

How can I properly communicate my reasoning to my colleagues during work and during cases (especially when getting stuck) in order to obtain help the right way?

My strategy so far:

I started reading Barbara Minto’s book “the pyramide principle” and will start solving brain teasers on my own, communicating my reasoning loudly (even when I get stuck)


In my feedback at my current consulting internship they told me that I still need too much external help and advice when solving tasks. After that feedback I looked into this problem with my mentor and we came to the conclusion (after an assessment day) that the reason is that I do not communicate properly what I am thinking when solving a problem. Hence, when asking for advice my colleagues cannot help me correct my thinking, as they do not understand my line of thinking. Ultimately, they just come up with their own approach concluding that I’m not able to come up with own solutions.

I guess that this problem also led to me failing my MBB cases: when I got stuck I did not properly communicate what I am thinking. Hence, they were not able to help me and thought I lack the conceptual thinking to solve cases (given my academic background, this is not the problem)

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replied on Jun 08, 2019
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


When you get stuck there are 2 options:

  1. You ask further questions
  2. You make a new structure to drill down further

1) You ask further questions. There are 4 types of questions that you can ask. Basically you can never get stuck if you ask one of these questions:

  1. You can ask for a historical data
  2. You ask for the comparable data of the competitors / internal benchmarks
  3. You can ask for a further segmentation
  4. You ask to describe the process behind the particular number

The 4th question is probably the most important if you get stuck. For example, if you know that the sales department is not performing you can ask the interviewer: "Could you please tell a bit more about existing sales process?"

2) You ask for 30 seconds and build a new structure. The most common feedback on the interviews is "You are not structured enough". To avoid this you should always be structuring. These structures can issue trees, frameworks, process value chain, etc

For example, if you find that we spend more time on cleaning the job shop than the other division you go with the following:

  • The frequency of cleaning * Time spent per one cleaning * number of people
  • You compare each with the competitors / benchmarks
  • You drill down further into problematic area


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Anonymous replied on Sep 07, 2020

Hi A,

That is quite a common problem when a candidate fails because he or she was could not make the answer structured enough.

Here are some tips to improve your situation:

  • Try to develop another line of thinking and structure when getting stuck. Just do not panick and ask for some extra time to do this. Prepare an alternative to solve the task.
  • Networking is essential. Try to discuss some cases with your colleagues to develop a different approach.
  • Also, practice solving cases consistently and learn asking right questions that will help help you to move firther and get to the right conclusion.

Best, Andre

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Vlad gave the best answer


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