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How unique shall your Issue Tree structure be for McKinsey Interview?

Sergei asked on Nov 23, 2018 - 4 answers

Hello everyone, I'm intensively preparing for my McKinsey Case Interview and after familiarizing myself with the most generic Issue Tree structures (profitability,3CP,M&A,MKT Entry etc.) via Case In Point and Case Interview Secrets I'm really wondering how much deviation from those shall I take in order to satisfy structuring requirements.

I've been solving several cases on my own by now and Frankly saying found that a slight deviation from the most generic Issue Trees does the job for the majority of the cases. However, all the people in the industry that I know keep on forcing the same though: Avoid using generic structures. So shall I go on and substitute commonly known branches with the ones that are similar in the sense, but just sound different? (ex. Promotion -> Marketing etc.)

Thank you in advance for your time and help.

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Guennael replied on Nov 23, 2018
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

No matter what framework you want to use, make sure to adapt it to the actual question.

Even a framework derived from the Cs and the Ps can be relevant, but you need to make it clear that you are following a real hypothesis than simply going through the motion and checking the box. As Matt mentions, we hate having someone just going mechanically through a poorly designed framework "just because"

Francesco updated his answer on Nov 23, 2018
#1 Expert for coaching sessions (2.100+) | Ex BCG | 1.000+ reviews with 100% recommendation rate

Hi Sergei,

as for the resources you mentioned, the structures in Case in Point and Victor Cheng are not good enough nowadays.

As for Victor Cheng, if you start with a structure that is product, company, competitors and customers, you simply won't impress your interviewer. As for Case in Point, you have too many structures, not always MECE. They could have been good 5-10 years ago, but nowadays the level in a consulting interview has raised (partially because such books have become mainstream thus all candidates have access to them). As a consequence, you would have to refine them further to have a good performance in a case.

If you want to improve on the structuring part, I would recommend you either:

1) Invest time in doing good cases (ideally a minimum of 30, knowing that quality is more important than quantity) to develop/refine your own structures or

2) Book a coach/ ask help to current interviewers that can support you specifically to work on structuring and avoid generic ones

Hope this helps,


Someone replied on Nov 23, 2018

I personally hated seeing generic tree structures from interview candidates as almost anyone can learn them. The general rule is that the more senior the interviewer, the less impressed they are going to be with generic structures. This is an important consideration a) in the actual interviews and b) when considering feedback from colleagues, ex-consultants, peers and PrepLounge candidates / coaches. Be sure on point (b) to take into consideration their actual interview experience and level. The discussions about case structure are MUCH different in 1st round decision meetings than in final round decision meetings.

Vlad replied on Nov 23, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School


The short answer it - it comes with practice. There is a number of ways how you can approach in a MECE way:

  1. If your structure works mathematically (e.g. Total time spent on cleaning operation = # of people x Frequency x Hours per cleaning per person)
  2. If your structure comes from a formula (e.g. output rate = total number of people being served / time to serve one person)
  3. If you are using the common industry drivers (e.g. revenues = # of customers x av. check) (e.g Passengers on the plane = capacity x Load Factor) or theindustry revenue streams (Fuel revenues / non-fuel revenues for the gas station) or the functional drivers (e.g. for the problems in sales : Sales strategy / sales people and allocation / motivation / sales process)
  4. If your issue tree is a real framework used by the consultants (e.g. the famous Bain Cap framework for PE due dills: Market / Competitors / Company / Feasibility of exit) (e.g. People / Process / Technology) (e.g. The famous McKinsey framework - People don't want to do smth / they can't do smth / smth prevents them from doing that)
  5. If your structure is a well-known academically MECE framework (e.g. Product / Distribution / Price / Marketing (Also known as 4P))
  6. Structures from casebooks (e.g. Cheng with Market - product - customers - company) - some of them are good, but not so often to be honest

There is no magic pill how you can learn to build the MECE issue trees. !!!! It comes with a lot of Practice and reflection and building proper industry and functional knowledge. !!!!


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