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How to develop own framework?

I have been told not to use a framework in a case interview, but develop own one and show independent thinking...but...how? can somebody tell me their approach for this?

I have been told not to use a framework in a case interview, but develop own one and show independent thinking...but...how? can somebody tell me their approach for this?

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Hi Anonymous,

Your question points a typical challenge that candidates face in preparing for case interviews, and developping this ability is a key success factor, if not the most important.

This will of course require a lot of practice and will never be resolved by reading a few tips, but let's start with some basic advices that most candidate forget about / don't know about.

1. (almost) Never use a standard framework taken from the books. Strategy consulting is about helping client facing unique issue with a tailored answer. Forcing your approach in standard framework is unlikely to be relevant

2. Project yourself in your clients shoes and show emphaty for its problematic. By doing so you this will be much easier for you to understand what are the key topics to cover in order to formulate a recommandation and make sure you don't forget anything. I always ask myself "what would I do if this was my business and my own problem ? What do I need to know / understand to make a decision ?"

3. Make sure every topic you want to cover is relavant for the final recommandation. A simple check is to ask yourslef "If I spend time on this specific topic, and get some answers to my questions (ex. market sizing, competition, etc.), will this bring usefull element for the final recommandation given my clients problematics" ? If the answer is no, then you should drop this sub issue.

4. Practice a lot, with any daily case you can set up on your own. The above tips are taken from my own experience doing my best to build MECE structures, but keep in mind that it takes a lot of practice to achieve a satisfying performance here. I have developped an exercice called structuring drills, that focus your effort on learning to build structure. This is ususally very appreciated by candidates. Don't hesitat to ask more by mp if you need help here.

Hope this will help
Best
Benjamin

Hi Anonymous,

Your question points a typical challenge that candidates face in preparing for case interviews, and developping this ability is a key success factor, if not the most important.

This will of course require a lot of practice and will never be resolved by reading a few tips, but let's start with some basic advices that most candidate forget about / don't know about.

1. (almost) Never use a standard framework taken from the books. Strategy consulting is about helping client facing unique issue with a tailored answer. Forcing your approach in standard framework is unlikely to be relevant

2. Project yourself in your clients shoes and show emphaty for its problematic. By doing so you this will be much easier for you to understand what are the key topics to cover in order to formulate a recommandation and make sure you don't forget anything. I always ask myself "what would I do if this was my business and my own problem ? What do I need to know / understand to make a decision ?"

3. Make sure every topic you want to cover is relavant for the final recommandation. A simple check is to ask yourslef "If I spend time on this specific topic, and get some answers to my questions (ex. market sizing, competition, etc.), will this bring usefull element for the final recommandation given my clients problematics" ? If the answer is no, then you should drop this sub issue.

4. Practice a lot, with any daily case you can set up on your own. The above tips are taken from my own experience doing my best to build MECE structures, but keep in mind that it takes a lot of practice to achieve a satisfying performance here. I have developped an exercice called structuring drills, that focus your effort on learning to build structure. This is ususally very appreciated by candidates. Don't hesitat to ask more by mp if you need help here.

Hope this will help
Best
Benjamin

(edited)

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Hi Anonymous,

first, you should definitely use a framework in a case interview. What you should not do is to use a predefined framework and apply it blindly to the case – interviewers would understand immediately you just learned it by art, and would lose confidence in your structuring skills. One very frequent example on this is people repeating the usual Victor Cheng structure “Product-Customer-Company-Competition” without any reference to the peculiarity of the case.

In order to develop your own framework I would recommend you the following steps:

  1. Create some basic structures for your frameworks. Case in point should work well for that, although it presents too many frameworks, many of which not very useful. Still, it’s a good starting point.
  2. Start to practice cases (ideally, you should get to 50+) in person, online, or reading MBA handbooks. Every 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. Try to find commonalities between frameworks, so that you do not have to remember 7-8 structures completely different, but just few differences between frameworks.
  5. Finally, 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.

Hope this helps,

Francesco

Hi Anonymous,

first, you should definitely use a framework in a case interview. What you should not do is to use a predefined framework and apply it blindly to the case – interviewers would understand immediately you just learned it by art, and would lose confidence in your structuring skills. One very frequent example on this is people repeating the usual Victor Cheng structure “Product-Customer-Company-Competition” without any reference to the peculiarity of the case.

In order to develop your own framework I would recommend you the following steps:

  1. Create some basic structures for your frameworks. Case in point should work well for that, although it presents too many frameworks, many of which not very useful. Still, it’s a good starting point.
  2. Start to practice cases (ideally, you should get to 50+) in person, online, or reading MBA handbooks. Every 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. Try to find commonalities between frameworks, so that you do not have to remember 7-8 structures completely different, but just few differences between frameworks.
  5. Finally, 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.

Hope this helps,

Francesco

By thinking about it in a structured way ;)

OK, seriously: It is a good start to know Standard-Frameworks and also use them. Just be sure to adapt to the situation as well as possible. 2 particular points that may help:

  • Use wording/nomenclature specific to the industry/client. Pick up the words used by the Interviewer as opposed to standard (e.g. for a Pharma company there's no marketing, but "medical affairs" - basically the same thing)
  • Make sure to NOT include topics previously ruled out (If Interviewer sayd that price can't be changed, it is not a lever) - strangely this is an aspect many interviewees get wrong

Hope that helps!

By thinking about it in a structured way ;)

OK, seriously: It is a good start to know Standard-Frameworks and also use them. Just be sure to adapt to the situation as well as possible. 2 particular points that may help:

  • Use wording/nomenclature specific to the industry/client. Pick up the words used by the Interviewer as opposed to standard (e.g. for a Pharma company there's no marketing, but "medical affairs" - basically the same thing)
  • Make sure to NOT include topics previously ruled out (If Interviewer sayd that price can't be changed, it is not a lever) - strangely this is an aspect many interviewees get wrong

Hope that helps!

Fully agree with the point in your question: Don't use standard frameworks. That doesn't mean you need to reinvent the wheel, as David says. Wording is super important: If it's a services company, don't talk about products or goods. Also, if something from a framework doesn't apply at all, don't even mention it. (e.g., for a software company, there tend not to be variable costs or input costs). Why is this important? Imagine you are a consultant talking to a client, and to solve their problem you start with a standard textbook framework which she knows, and use general language. The CEO's perception of you will not be good.

Regarding which frameworks to use, I find important:

  1. Revenues = Quantity * Price. Important to adapt it immediately in your head; for a hotel, it could be #booked rooms * average rate, or # of total rooms * utilization * average rate. Also, never forget additional/side revenue streams, in this example maybe room service/breakfast or events or kickbacks from tourist attractions.
  2. Cost = variable cost * quantity + fixed cost. Definitely learn the main cost components (personnel, rent, ...). In a case about cost, you need a reference point to find out if costs are high or ok. To get to the bottom of this, I would ask for benchmarks, either external (competition, adjacent industries), or company internal (e.g., different factories/sites for a manufacturing company, different stores for a retail company)
  3. Profit = Revenues - Cost. Any question like "profitability has been down", "need to increase profit", ... Fill components with details from 1. and 2. and ask questions to get to the root cause.
  4. Investments. Any question like "Should I buy X", "What price to bid at an auction", "How much is X worth", "should we invest in X", or make or buy decisions. Basically, formula is equal to future profit streams (profit over time), discounted to today, minus the investment amount. Detail profit out via 3 -> 1, 2 and compare with price/investment.
  5. Growth. Basically any question around "how can we increase business". For this, the 4Ps work, but I also like the Ansoff matrix (grow with new or existing products into existing or new markets - hint: generally don't do new products in new markets :).

These "frameworks" can already get you very far. Really important however to adapt them as quickly as possible to the specific case, in both content and wording: "Since we are already active in North America, we can grow by expanding to other regions, e.g., Asia, Europe or Africa" sounds much better than "we can go into new markets".

Hope that helps!

p.s.: Btw, have never seen a case where Porters 5-forces works well :)

Fully agree with the point in your question: Don't use standard frameworks. That doesn't mean you need to reinvent the wheel, as David says. Wording is super important: If it's a services company, don't talk about products or goods. Also, if something from a framework doesn't apply at all, don't even mention it. (e.g., for a software company, there tend not to be variable costs or input costs). Why is this important? Imagine you are a consultant talking to a client, and to solve their problem you start with a standard textbook framework which she knows, and use general language. The CEO's perception of you will not be good.

Regarding which frameworks to use, I find important:

  1. Revenues = Quantity * Price. Important to adapt it immediately in your head; for a hotel, it could be #booked rooms * average rate, or # of total rooms * utilization * average rate. Also, never forget additional/side revenue streams, in this example maybe room service/breakfast or events or kickbacks from tourist attractions.
  2. Cost = variable cost * quantity + fixed cost. Definitely learn the main cost components (personnel, rent, ...). In a case about cost, you need a reference point to find out if costs are high or ok. To get to the bottom of this, I would ask for benchmarks, either external (competition, adjacent industries), or company internal (e.g., different factories/sites for a manufacturing company, different stores for a retail company)
  3. Profit = Revenues - Cost. Any question like "profitability has been down", "need to increase profit", ... Fill components with details from 1. and 2. and ask questions to get to the root cause.
  4. Investments. Any question like "Should I buy X", "What price to bid at an auction", "How much is X worth", "should we invest in X", or make or buy decisions. Basically, formula is equal to future profit streams (profit over time), discounted to today, minus the investment amount. Detail profit out via 3 -> 1, 2 and compare with price/investment.
  5. Growth. Basically any question around "how can we increase business". For this, the 4Ps work, but I also like the Ansoff matrix (grow with new or existing products into existing or new markets - hint: generally don't do new products in new markets :).

These "frameworks" can already get you very far. Really important however to adapt them as quickly as possible to the specific case, in both content and wording: "Since we are already active in North America, we can grow by expanding to other regions, e.g., Asia, Europe or Africa" sounds much better than "we can go into new markets".

Hope that helps!

p.s.: Btw, have never seen a case where Porters 5-forces works well :)

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Hi,

no need to tailor the structure depending on what industry the case is about - if it is a profitability case, you are right, it's either the cost or revenue side. What differs, though, are the individual cost and revenue components, i.e. what are the main costs in that industry and what are the revenue streams. For this it helps to get a thorough understanding of what products are sold in each industry, how they are manufactured, how they are distributed etc. For instance, energy costs differ substantially depending on industry (just compare the steel industry and banks). When solving the case, you may want to come up with a hypothesis what the main costs are.

For the revenue side, there may be one or several revenue streams depending on the case, e.g. a lighting technology manufacturer may produce both goods for B2B and B2C clients and those two streams may differ substantially. My advice here is, always figure out how many revenue streams there are and how comparable they are.

In general, it is not wrong to apply the same basic structure to every case, but you need to tailor it whenever you start digging deeper.

Hope this helps.

Dorothea

Hi,

no need to tailor the structure depending on what industry the case is about - if it is a profitability case, you are right, it's either the cost or revenue side. What differs, though, are the individual cost and revenue components, i.e. what are the main costs in that industry and what are the revenue streams. For this it helps to get a thorough understanding of what products are sold in each industry, how they are manufactured, how they are distributed etc. For instance, energy costs differ substantially depending on industry (just compare the steel industry and banks). When solving the case, you may want to come up with a hypothesis what the main costs are.

For the revenue side, there may be one or several revenue streams depending on the case, e.g. a lighting technology manufacturer may produce both goods for B2B and B2C clients and those two streams may differ substantially. My advice here is, always figure out how many revenue streams there are and how comparable they are.

In general, it is not wrong to apply the same basic structure to every case, but you need to tailor it whenever you start digging deeper.

Hope this helps.

Dorothea

Easiest way is to substitute the generic words such as 'competitors', with the ones relevant to the case.

Another way is to add or subtract one or more variables from the generic framework

Easiest way is to substitute the generic words such as 'competitors', with the ones relevant to the case.

Another way is to add or subtract one or more variables from the generic framework

For me making my own framework doesn't mean that I start from scratch. Use common sense and customize a standard framework like for example 3C&P before you use it. I often simply use a different (more specific) wording for my structure just to make it sound more customized.

For me making my own framework doesn't mean that I start from scratch. Use common sense and customize a standard framework like for example 3C&P before you use it. I often simply use a different (more specific) wording for my structure just to make it sound more customized.

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