How to determine and recognize the type of framework that we should use during structuring process quickly?

case structure Framework
New answer on Sep 19, 2020
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Ben asked on Sep 28, 2018
Looking for case partner in all levels to improve my case interview skill regularly. Available in afternoon or night (GMT+7).

When I am being the interviewee, I always stuck in a long time to think which framework that I have to use for structuring the case. I need an advice for improving to think quick for recognizing the type of framework of the case that I am facing.

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replied on Sep 28, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


It really depends on the case. If it is an issue tree case type, like profitability, you may have 2-3 buckets in the first level, while with open-ended cases it will be 3-4 buckets. Same with the levels and being MECE:

  • For cases like profitability, I might have a structure with 3 levels (especially if I have multiple revenue streams) structured as an issue tree and this structure will be very MECE
  • For other cases like Market-related cases (market entry, new product, PE deal) I will have just 2 levels (buckets + bullet points under the buckets). These structures are open-ended and not very MECE

Here is some inspiration for you. Below you can find a list of the most common case types and some high-level recommendations on structuring:

  1. Market sizing - structuring from the supply or demand side. Structuring using a formula or using an issue tree
  2. Profitability - basic profitability framework. Remember about different revenue streams and product mix
  3. Market context cases (Market Entry, New product, Acquisition, etc). Always start with the big picture "Market". Finish with something specific question related to the case (e.g. How to enter?"). For the buckets in the middle - choose the most important ones for this particular case (Competitors / Company / Customers / Product)
  4. Operational math problem (e.g. Should we increase the speed of an elevator or just buy a second one? How should we reduce the queues? Etc.) - Structuring as a process / value chain, with inflows, operations, and outflows
  5. Cost cutting - I provided the recommendations on structuring it here:
  6. Valuation - Purely financial structure with cash flows, growth rate, WACC / hurdle rate, etc.
  7. Synergies - revenue synergies (price, qty, mix) and cost synergies (value chain).
  8. Social / economics cases (e.g. How to improve the quality of life in the city? How to increase the revenues of the museum?) - huge variability. Practice 3-5 social cases before the interview.

So I recommend you to use a flexible approach depending on the type of the case. It definitely comes with practice. Here is an algorithm on how to develop this skill:

  1. Make sure you understand all the different types of cases that you may face
  2. Identify the most appropriate structure for each type
  3. Solve 30-50 cases and try to understand where do they fit in your categorizations
  4. Based on your experience think of the potential variations in structures within each of the case types

Best of luck!

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Ben on Sep 28, 2018

Thanks Vlad for the answer! Anyway how we could identify quickly the most appropriate structure for each type of case? Because this is the phase where I often get stuck. For example when the interviewer had explained me the client situation and objective, I always stuck to structure the framework because simply I don't know which type of framework that I have to use for structuring and give recommendation.

replied on Sep 28, 2018
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

I think you will find the coaches here will roughly fall in two different camps:

- First, the hardworking ones who like Ben suggest you learn a ton a various frameworks and hope you have the right now available in your backpocket / back of your head

- Second, the lazier ones like myself (I'd call ourselves 'pragmatic'), who suggest starting from a couple of tried-and-true frameworks that work in 95-99% of the cases: broadly, the business framework and the profitability framework

Where we meet again is that everyone will agree you still need to update to fit the actual case. In other words, everyone agrees you can't learn every single framework, and you will still need to adjust and think.

Look, here's what I strongly suggest: Learn the business and profitability frameworks really well, so you always have available in a bind. Everyone agrees you need to learn these ones. Then, go back and practice cases with coaches and fellow candidates as you normally would. If you feels like it, keep learning about additional frameworks on the side. No matter whether you are on the more pragmatic camp or not, you will still have to adjust the framework in nearly every instance. This is where being MECE and following the 80/20 rule will serve you well.

At the end of the day, you will need to practice a lot regardless - there are no shortcuts.

Hope this helps, good luck in your prep

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updated an answer on Sep 28, 2018
ex-Manager - Natural and challenging teacher - Taylor case solving, no framework

Hi Ben,

This topic is so key, it has been discussed multiple times on this forum. So you will definetly find excellent answers from experts in previous Q&As.

To answer your question here, applying a standard framework is not a best practice. A unique client issue requires a unique solution, and the framework are the opposite since their purpose is to standardise the thinking. Learning them from the books is a good starting point, since its exhaustive and give a first idea of the different sub topics to cover in a given situation, but in the real case interview, you will always have to taylor your approach to only focus on the relevant topics given the current context of your case.

So in a nutshell, your common sens is your best ally :

1. Identifying all the topics : put yourself in your client shoes and think about what issue should be discussed for your to make a reasonable decision

2. Focusing on key topics only : for each topic you want to cover, ask yourself weither it will bring a usefull element for the final recomandation if your spend time on it. If not, drop it

3. Clusturing related topics in macro categories : this will facilitate your communication instead of listing randomly several ideas (which could be good by the way)

I hope this will help and can provide tailored exercise if needed by mp.



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Anonymous replied on Sep 19, 2020

Hi Ben,

This is a common issue, I should say. My colleagues have already shared their opinions but I would like to get a word in.

I have to agree that learning a dozen frameworks might difficult and even impossible in a short time because you need the quality, not the quantity, first of all.

I would recommend, as Guennael said, to start with the one that fits most of the cases and then gradually increase the number of frameworks you could use for a specific situation. You also have to learn to adjust the most suitable framework for a particular case.

Hop this helps.


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Vlad gave the best answer


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