in terms of customizing the initial structure I would recommend the following
- Be sure to clarify the goals and revenue model of the client well before moving to the structure
- Use that information to personalize the initial structure. For example, don’t talk about price and volume for a bank providing loans, but rather number of loans and interest charged
In terms of understanding how to structure inside the case: it would be very useful if you could provide some examples of what you found challenging as otherwise one can only suggest a general approach.
In general, I would recommend the following steps to improve how to structure inside a case:
- Recap the situation until that moment
- Ask for one minute of time to structure your thoughts
- Identify some key MECE areas. This is something you can do even if you have never seen that question before. If you go blank, you can use a structure as X vs Non-X. Potential divisions include: Long term vs short term; Current vs New; Financial vs Non-financial. The more you practice cases in the right way, the more you will be able to derive appropriate MECE areas fitting a case.
- Brainstorm inside each of the areas. Your creativity in this area is directly correlated with the number of cases you have done. If you feel weak in one specific industry, the most effective strategy is to go through consulting MBA casebooks (there are many available for free online – although not all are good) and screen the list for the industries interesting for you. MBA casebooks are not good in terms of the structure of the case but can help to develop creativity.
I provided an example below.
Interviewer: So, generally speaking, how would you decrease the cost of raw materials?
Step 1: Recap the situation
Interviewee: So, if I understood correctly, you would like now to move to the elements that could decrease this cost. If it is fine for you, I would like to do a small recap and then move through the key elements that can help to do so. In the beginning, you asked me what brought a decline in profits. We have identified the problem lays in Product A, and in particular in the cost area. We then found out that the main increase in cost was related to raw material.
Interviewer: That’s right.
(Note you may have gained 30 seconds of additional time summing up information to think)
Step 2: Ask for one minute of time to structure your thoughts
Interviewee: Do you mind if I take 1 minute to think about it?
Interviewer: Please take your time.
Step 3: Identify some key MECE areas
Interviewee: Thanks; I believe there are two key areas to decrease the cost of raw material; we may decrease the cost of each unit, or we may decrease the number of units we buy. I would like now to go a bit deeper into these two components.
(Note that even if you are brainstorming, you are first presenting a list of the MECE areas. This is fundamental to brainstorm correctly)
Step 4: Brainstorm inside each of the areas
Interviewee: Well, in order to decrease the cost per unit we may do a couple of things, keeping in mind we want to maintain revenues at the same level:
- we may negotiate a lower price;
- we may look for other suppliers.
In order to decrease the number of units, we may do the following:
- we may start to use a more efficient technology for our raw material, so that we have less waste;
- we may use a new kind of raw material for which there is less waste.