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How to lay out structure in an "unstructured case"?

New answer on Jun 30, 2020
3 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Mar 08, 2020

Hi, today I encountered a case (Darden 2018 casebook) that I don't know how to structure. In the casebooks, is it possible that the structure is "unstructured", which means that the case design is not so ideal and information is scattered around, making it hard to drill down different issue trees? I'm not sure whether it is because the case is not well designed so that I find it hard to structure the case. I find the sample structure also a bit odd because it does not "drill down" root causes, and was directly thinking of many possible solutions. Would really appreciate some feedback!

Here's the case prompt: Your client is National Logistics; a large transportation and logistics company that delivers freight to all areas of North America. Over the last five years, the company has experienced rising costs due to increases in wages resulting from a shortage of truckers. The client is now looking to reduce operational costs in the business. How would you advise the client? (One information only given when asked is: National express is looking to boost profitability by any means.)

The sample structure provided:

1. Profitability (revenue): increase price / improve delivery mix / use double trailer per delivery

2. Profitability (cost): hedge fuel / reduce staff / contract labor

3. Investments (buy new fuel-efficient truck/purchase low-cost leader transportation company)

4. Innovate: explore autonomous trucks / develop drone delivery capabilities


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Anonymous replied on Mar 10, 2020

Dear Anonymous,

here's my feedback:

1. I find the sample structure useful as a starting point, since it addresses some of the main areas that should be investigated

2. I would add to the structure more detailed "root causes" buckets such as (i) what's the reason behind the shortage of truckers, (ii) how is the trucks industry evolving in North America, (iii) how are other competitors performing

3. As overall comment, some cases are deeply depending on the business itself, so a general framework may not always be the best choice, while specific "root causes" questions could be more effective.

Hope it helps! :)


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Content Creator
replied on Mar 11, 2020
BCG |NASA | SDA Bocconi & Cattolica partner | GMAT expert 780/800 score | 200+ students coached


I agree with you, the sample structure seems to be too much influenced by final solution. More over, the prompt of the case asks to focus on operational costs reduction and the first bucket is about how to increase your revenue (even if "improve delivery mix" should go under the cost optimization..).

I wouldn't focus so much on the specific structures proposed by casebooks, that can be very different one from the other. I suggest my candidates to build their own structures, starting from a framework proposed by a casebook (e.g. Cosentino) and then enriching it with every time that they solve a case and the solution was not "addressed" by their own structure.

Feel free to contact me if you want to discuss it further.


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Anonymous replied on Jun 30, 2020


There is no "unstructured case". Regardless how the question is posed, the way to solve a problem could always have a structure. The question is whether the structure to solve the problem is good / effective enough or not.

As for MBA case book, they are good tool for practice. But at the same time don't get too fixated on how the solution is in the case book. There could be more than 1 way to structure and solve a case. Plus, case books are built by MBA students and the solutions might not always be the best ones. Take the answer as a starting point, and customize as you seen most fit, to make it more natural to you.

Hope it helps,


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