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Structure of cases

Someone asked on May 15, 2019 - 5 answers

Hi everyone,

as you know it is important in the cases to have a structure that is fit on the case. I often use a more general structure and then discover the problem.. what do you suggest me? How can I develop a more "fit structure"?


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Sidi replied on May 15, 2019
McKinsey Engagement Manager & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 60+ candidates secure MBB offers

Hi there!

Hi Anonymous,

The structure or approach to the case is indeed an absolutely crucial element towards success in a case interview. However, there is still a BIG misconception that I unfortunately see with many many candidates:

Structure DOES NOT equal frameworks!

The different frameworks that you can find in pertinent case literature provide a nothing more than a good starting point in terms of which areas to look into for certain types of problems. However, they are very poor (and I mean: REALLY poor!) regarding HOW TO APPROACH a case and HOW TO DRAFT A ROADMAP for solving the case.

This approach and roadmap needs to be rooted in rigorous and specific logic!

Unfortunately the "framework learning philosophy" brought forward by, e.g., Case in Point, is the very reason why an overwhelming majority of candidates are struggling so much and will most probably never get an MBB offer.

By and large, most (or probably all) casebooks on the market are teaching a fundamentally flawed way how to think about business / strategy / organizational problems! A framework as such is worth nothing if it is not embedded into the specific context of the situation! This means, each element that you want to scrutinize ("building blocks" of the framework so to speak) needs to clearly relate back to the question that you want to address! This principle should form the basis of any structure.

This is why you ALWAYS start from the specific question that you want to answer! From there, you define the criterion or criteria that need to be met in order to anwer this core question in one way or another.

In 95% of cases, value creation will be the central element. Ultimately, this is nothing else than profit generation over a specific time frame. You then draw a driver tree for profitability in order to isolate the numerical drivers for your solution. And then, only after you have drawn out the driver tree, you can map out the relevant qualitative "framework elements" to the sub branches. This approach, visualized by means of a rigorous driver tree, is much much clearer then any framework you will find in any case book. And, contrary to such frameworks, which are hanging in the air and do not logically relate back to the specific question, this is a bullet proof approach when done rigorously.

The caveat is: this requires time and qualified coaching to internalize. But ultimately, this is how consultants think about problems - how can we optimize for value creation?

Cheers, Sidi

updated his answer on May 16, 2019
BCG Consultant | MBA Stern | 100% interview success rate (8/8 incl BCG, A.T. Kearney, Strategy&) |Personalized interview prep

Hi Anonymous,

Lots of ways to address your question, and the others have done a very nice job of this.

I agree with everything they say, and would just like to add some tips (some unorthodox) on HOW to learn/think in the right way.

  1. Frame based on the objective: Identify exactly what the objective is, then think about the areas you would look at to solve the problem.
  2. Think of buckets as "building blocks" - understand the 10-odd buckets that exist out them (Market, Product, Company, How to Enter, etc.). Learn these, and what their used for, then think of them as ingredients that you then pluck out and tailor to your framework.
  3. Practice with Introduction, then End, then framework:
    1. Practice a number of cases where you hear just the introduction, then build a framework.
    2. THEN, look at the end of the case and what conclusion was made, and re-do your framework.
    3. THEN, look at what framework(s) was/were proposed as the answer.
  4. Read the Economist religiously: The Economist is an excellent, longer-term base knowledge/thinking resource for you. I've found that reading the Economist over the years has been instrumental in helping to shape my thinking and holistically understand problems, whether political, economic, social, or anything in between. Feel free to throw in the Financial Times or BCG Insights into the mix!

Hope this helps!


Vlad replied on May 15, 2019
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School


Your structure should be tailored to the case. You should do it in multiple ways:

  • Addressing the objective and context of the case. E.g. If the case is market entry but the objective is NPV the good call is - should it be a classic market entry structure with NPV bakes in or an NPV structure or smth else?
  • Addressing the industry: e.g. if you have a case about telecom industry, besides the standard market analysis topics you might want to cover specific topics like geography, penetration, etc
  • Making a separate bucket of analysis addressing the type of the case. E.g. for a PE case you might want to have a bucker "Feasibility of exit" looking into exit multiples, exit time, investments, the existence of buyers, etc.


Anonymous B replied on May 15, 2019

I'm trying to develop issue trees & internalize that thinking...And feel sorry for the time i wasted by remembering those victor cheng or case in point structure formats.

Daniel replied on May 15, 2019


short solution: be creative

long solution: there is no general rule on how to create a framework. Imagine yourself to be the client who has a problem, what would you do to solve your problem? What would you look at? It is often just common sense. In the end, it's the art of consulting to come up with a structure that is unique, solves the problem, and impresses your client. If it were so straightforward, consulting firms would run bankrupt as they were not able to find a client because the client could solve his/her problem alone.

With practice, you will become better:-)