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Francesco

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Not structured enough?

Hi,

I keep getting feedback that I am not structured enough, both in my initial framework and also during the case. I guess I am still not completely sure what this means, as I feel like my frameworks are pretty good? What are some tangible, practice ways I can work towards improving this weakness of structuring?

Thank you !

Hi,

I keep getting feedback that I am not structured enough, both in my initial framework and also during the case. I guess I am still not completely sure what this means, as I feel like my frameworks are pretty good? What are some tangible, practice ways I can work towards improving this weakness of structuring?

Thank you !

(edited)

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Hi Gabbie,

I believe Sri gave a very good answer on what structured enough means. As for your second question on how to work on improving your structure, I would say you may work on three areas.

#1: Optimize the framework

In order to optimize your framework, you should personalize it proceeding as follows (at the following link you can find the full article I wrote about the topic: http://bit.ly/2lnPjXK):

  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 practicing 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. Find commonalities between frameworks, so that you do not have to remember 7-8 structures completely different, but just few differences between frameworks.
  5. 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.

#2: Communicate correctly the framework

This may potentially be your main issue, as you mentioned you believe your frameworks are already good. If you do not communicate correctly your framework, even if this is perfect you will not score high for the interviewer.

The easiest thing you may do to communicate correctly the framework is to proceed as follows:

  1. Repeat the objective (“So you asked me to identify [OBJECTIVE], right?”)
  2. Present first the main areas, numbering the main elements (“I believe we may do 3 things: Number 1 we may work on [FIRST TOPIC], Number 2 on [SECOND TOPIC], Number 3 on [THIRD TOPIC]”)
  3. Present your full structure for each area, still keeping a structure based on numbers (“Let me go deeper in the first area. Here I believe we may follow 5 different steps. Step 1, I would like to [DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE FIRST STEP], Step 2…etc.”

#3: Brainstorm in a structured way whenever you are unable to find a proper framework

This is something you may want to do in case you are unable to find the right structure for a particular question. In order to brainstorm in a structure way, you may want to proceed in a way similar to what shown in #2, but taking more time in 1) Repeat the Objective and applying brainstorming in 3) Present your full structure. More specifically:

  1. Recap all the information you received until that moment. This will give you time without sounding you don’t know where to go.
  2. Identify 2-3 key elements that would constitute the fundamental areas of your structure.
  3. After having defined the key areas, then start brainstorming for each of them.

At the following link you can find the full article I wrote on structured brainstorming, where I also presented a specific example: http://bit.ly/2lof0r5 .

Hope this helps,

Francesco

Hi Gabbie,

I believe Sri gave a very good answer on what structured enough means. As for your second question on how to work on improving your structure, I would say you may work on three areas.

#1: Optimize the framework

In order to optimize your framework, you should personalize it proceeding as follows (at the following link you can find the full article I wrote about the topic: http://bit.ly/2lnPjXK):

  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 practicing 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. Find commonalities between frameworks, so that you do not have to remember 7-8 structures completely different, but just few differences between frameworks.
  5. 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.

#2: Communicate correctly the framework

This may potentially be your main issue, as you mentioned you believe your frameworks are already good. If you do not communicate correctly your framework, even if this is perfect you will not score high for the interviewer.

The easiest thing you may do to communicate correctly the framework is to proceed as follows:

  1. Repeat the objective (“So you asked me to identify [OBJECTIVE], right?”)
  2. Present first the main areas, numbering the main elements (“I believe we may do 3 things: Number 1 we may work on [FIRST TOPIC], Number 2 on [SECOND TOPIC], Number 3 on [THIRD TOPIC]”)
  3. Present your full structure for each area, still keeping a structure based on numbers (“Let me go deeper in the first area. Here I believe we may follow 5 different steps. Step 1, I would like to [DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE FIRST STEP], Step 2…etc.”

#3: Brainstorm in a structured way whenever you are unable to find a proper framework

This is something you may want to do in case you are unable to find the right structure for a particular question. In order to brainstorm in a structure way, you may want to proceed in a way similar to what shown in #2, but taking more time in 1) Repeat the Objective and applying brainstorming in 3) Present your full structure. More specifically:

  1. Recap all the information you received until that moment. This will give you time without sounding you don’t know where to go.
  2. Identify 2-3 key elements that would constitute the fundamental areas of your structure.
  3. After having defined the key areas, then start brainstorming for each of them.

At the following link you can find the full article I wrote on structured brainstorming, where I also presented a specific example: http://bit.ly/2lof0r5 .

Hope this helps,

Francesco

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When people say structured, they often mean they want to see you being MECE - be able to look at a problem but comprehensively, but also in clearly defined categories - I think the "CE" is more importance than the "ME" - it's tough to be perfectly mutually exclusive sometimes.

With initial frameworks, they typically involve some combination or permutation of products/competitors/customers/market (highly generalized, but you get the idea). With profitability cases which come up often, you typically see something like external/internal frameworks with external being all the market/customer/competitors factors and internal being the Profit = R - C, with deeper exaimination into company specific factors. The above are highly generalized, but the idea is to give the sense of a "here is a categorized way to look at all the major dimensions of the problem", and then you proceed with the analysis. Case in Point and other popular books have good ones and memorizing them and practicing customizing them to the situation enough times will make you solid enough.

Now, WITHIN the case is trickier because we aren't always as conscious of it, but it can be thought of in a similar way. Here's a simple strategy I would try - whenever you are asked a question, try to categorize it in a logical way and use that categorization to think through your answer.

Example: How can we increase sales?

Unstructured response: "We can do A, B, C"

Structrured response: "Since sales are price x quantity, let's look at ways to optimize pricing, drive quantity, and then maybe even expand our product portfolio. Within pricing we should consider.... To drive quantity in our existing products we should.... Finally we can expand our portfolio to...."

Example 2 - What are some ways to improve our company's image in light of the recent negative publicity?

Unstrucrued - We can advertise, we can donate money...

More structured - We can either focus on improving the image and impact of our products, build our company's outreach activities, or highlight our own people strategies. By products, we can advertise them as representing strong values, highlight the environmental or ethnical ways in which they were produced, or the positive impact that our products have on customers. For our company's outreach, we can become more civically involved through engaging in communities efforts, CSR programs, participate/host conferences on key issues. Finally, we can highlight the positive programs we have for our own employees such as paid family leave, flexible work policies - in fact, many tech firms have generated very strong PR by highlighting how they treat their employees.

----

Note - I'm not saying the above are the best structures - I'm sure better ones are out there. But by creating the structure, it makes the problem/situation feel more manageable and guides the conversation better.

When people say structured, they often mean they want to see you being MECE - be able to look at a problem but comprehensively, but also in clearly defined categories - I think the "CE" is more importance than the "ME" - it's tough to be perfectly mutually exclusive sometimes.

With initial frameworks, they typically involve some combination or permutation of products/competitors/customers/market (highly generalized, but you get the idea). With profitability cases which come up often, you typically see something like external/internal frameworks with external being all the market/customer/competitors factors and internal being the Profit = R - C, with deeper exaimination into company specific factors. The above are highly generalized, but the idea is to give the sense of a "here is a categorized way to look at all the major dimensions of the problem", and then you proceed with the analysis. Case in Point and other popular books have good ones and memorizing them and practicing customizing them to the situation enough times will make you solid enough.

Now, WITHIN the case is trickier because we aren't always as conscious of it, but it can be thought of in a similar way. Here's a simple strategy I would try - whenever you are asked a question, try to categorize it in a logical way and use that categorization to think through your answer.

Example: How can we increase sales?

Unstructured response: "We can do A, B, C"

Structrured response: "Since sales are price x quantity, let's look at ways to optimize pricing, drive quantity, and then maybe even expand our product portfolio. Within pricing we should consider.... To drive quantity in our existing products we should.... Finally we can expand our portfolio to...."

Example 2 - What are some ways to improve our company's image in light of the recent negative publicity?

Unstrucrued - We can advertise, we can donate money...

More structured - We can either focus on improving the image and impact of our products, build our company's outreach activities, or highlight our own people strategies. By products, we can advertise them as representing strong values, highlight the environmental or ethnical ways in which they were produced, or the positive impact that our products have on customers. For our company's outreach, we can become more civically involved through engaging in communities efforts, CSR programs, participate/host conferences on key issues. Finally, we can highlight the positive programs we have for our own employees such as paid family leave, flexible work policies - in fact, many tech firms have generated very strong PR by highlighting how they treat their employees.

----

Note - I'm not saying the above are the best structures - I'm sure better ones are out there. But by creating the structure, it makes the problem/situation feel more manageable and guides the conversation better.

Hi Srihari and Francesco, thank you for these helpful answers. My challenge is brainstorming about an industry, issue at hand in the McKinsey interviewer-led format when I am not at all familiar with the industry. For example question "Parcels of parcel delivery company are not being delivered on time, what could be the issue?". I understand that this will become easier with practice, but what would you advise as best approach to adopt in 2-3 days time. Thank you — Anonymous A on Sep 20, 2019

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