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Structuring a case based on the objective of the client

case structure Framework
New answer on Jan 27, 2023
5 Answers
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Patrick asked on Jan 20, 2023

Hello!

I am quite new to the world of case prep and have done around 10 cases with peers.

After completing these 10 cases and reading a lot of articles, I have come up with my way of answering the first question of a case (inspired by the articles I've read) which would either be an open one “How would you help the client” or closed as in “What factors would you analyze…” (usually McK style cases).

So my approach would be that for M&A, market entry, product launches, decisions of any kind I would ask the interviewer what the objective of an action X would be. In most cases so far the client was concerned with increasing their profit.

So, the structure I would now use would be: 1) Can our client increase his profit from entering this market/acquiring the company/launching the product, etc.. and then I'll go into explaining that we have to quantify Revenue and costs and then the subdrivers of revenue and costs. What usually then happens is that I get some data that I can work with.

 

I have battle tested this approach a couple of times and it worked well so far.

My questions, especially to experienced coaches, would be:

1) Would this approach be advisable for MBB interviews? The approach seems logical to me, but I am not sure if I can pass the interviews with this memorized framework as my gut tells me that one cannot pass the interviews with memorized structures.

2) If that approach is indeed useful I wonder what I would do if the objective would be for example “we want to launch product x to grow our brand”. In this case I wouldn't know what I would do with my approach.

3) In one of the cases I did with a friend, he pushed me to answer how exactly I would quantify the revenue of a merger target, which was a restaurant. I then responded that "we'd have to look into #of burgers sold and price per burger. This depends on the general market size of fast food - especially burgers. The feedback later from him was that MBB interviews only want to hear those factors i.e. market size, competitors, etc. and that I should not be explaining what revenue is or going into the objective of the client at all. What do you think?

4) If the approach doesn't make sense at all then why do people ask for the objective at the beginning of the case at all? I have watched some live case solves on youutbe and people would ask this question, but I never see them coming back to this objective at all.

Thank you very much in advance for the comments/help!

 

Best regards,

Patrick

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Cristian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jan 20, 2023
#1 rated MBB & McKinsey Coach

Hi there, 

I'd advice against that. 

I'll just focus on questions 1 and 4 (2 & 3 are not relevant based on my answer for 1)

1) Would this approach be advisable for MBB interviews? The approach seems logical to me, but I am not sure if I can pass the interviews with this memorized framework as my gut tells me that one cannot pass the interviews with memorized structures.

No, it wouldn't be advisable. The whole purpose of these interviews is to get an understanding of how you think. Candidates make the mistake of attempting to simplify everything to a couple of frameworks (some guru coaches also don't help by promoting these magic frameworks) instead of developing their structuring and analytical skills. Interviewers are trained to pick up on automatisms and even if the structure did work for that particular case, they'll catch you falling short somewhere else on the case if your abilities are not up to par.

4) If the approach doesn't make sense at all then why do people ask for the objective at the beginning of the case at all? I have watched some live case solves on youutbe and people would ask this question, but I never see them coming back to this objective at all.

People ask for the case objective because other people told them to ask about the case objective. i.e., not because they have to

You should ask questions that indeed make sense either because

 1. you want something clarified or 

2. because you want a hypothesis that you want to be more confident about. 

I've done hundreds of candidates sessions and by now I can tell based on the questions they ask in the beginning and how they ask them whether it's something they ask for every case. Then as the interviewer I ask them back why are they asking me that question in the first place, which is when the majority get blocked because they didn't have any sort of hypothesis behind the question to begin with. Only ask what makes sense. It's also ok not to have questions.

Hope this makes sense! Point is, don't cut corners. If we didn't need them, they wouldn't be there :)

Best,

Cristian

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Patrick on Jan 20, 2023

Thank you very much for the detailed answer to my question!

Anonymous A on Jan 22, 2023

Push

Ian
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Content Creator
updated an answer on Jan 22, 2023
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

Hi Patrick,

Keep going down this path and keep "figuring things out". I like how you're trying to break things down.

However, remember that you're just scratching the surface here. Be careful not to oversimplify and have 1 set approach/pathway. Cases have infinite possibilities. You have to train yourself in HOW to think and approach cases/problems.

Please please step back from such a narrow approach to case solving.

I'm going to take a step back and answer the question you're really asking: How do I use frameworks in a case?

If there's anything to remember in this process, is that cases don't exist just because. They have come about because of a real need to simulate the world you will be in when you are hopefully hired. As such, remember that they are a simplified version of what we do, and they test you in those areas.

As such, remember that a framework is a guide, not a mandate. In the real-world, we do not go into a client and say "right, we have a framework that says we need to look at x, y, and z and that's exactly what we're going to do". Rather, we come in with a view, a hypothesis, a plan of attack. The moment this view is created, it's wrong! Same with your framework. The point is that it gives us and you a starting point. We can say "right, part 1 of framework is around this. Let's dig around and see if it helps us get to the answer". If it does, great, we go further (but specific elements of it will certainly be wrong). If it doesn't, we move on.

So, in summary, learn your frameworks, use the ones you like, add/remove to them if the specific case calls for it, and always be prepared to be wrong. Focus rather on having a view, refering back to the initial view to see what is still there and where you need to dive into next to solve the problem.

Here's some reading to help: https://www.preplounge.com/en/articles/how-to-shift-your-mindset-to-ace-the-case

 

(edited)

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Anonymous replied on Jan 20, 2023

This is a classic one. You prepare with profitability and market entry cases and come up with a method can you can replicate. However, as you have identified, you would not know how to solve non-profit objective cases such as branding. The bad news is most MBB interview questions are not profitability based. The good news is you have time to practice.

Memorising structures can be helpful only to spend more of your structuring time adapting them to the problem. Relying on them without being able to structure a completely unseen problem is a recipe for disaster.

Some cases will require you to break down the revenue part to get to insight so definitely don't shy away from doing this if need be.

The main point about understanding the objective is to help tailor your structure. For example, does the client only care about profit or do you need to have another thing to solve for in your structure? On the other hand, if they only care about revenue, you can exclude costs. In other words, clarifications on objectives help you be as precise as possible when structuring. You have very little time to solve the case so being very precise will give you the best chance to do so 

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Patrick on Jan 20, 2023

Thank you for the insights!

Pedro
Expert
replied on Jan 22, 2023
Bain | Roland Berger | EY-Parthenon | Mentoring Approach | 30% off first 10 sessions in May| Market Sizing | DARDEN MBA

The approach definitely makes sense. That is exactly what you should be doing. If you can solve a problem mathematically, you should do it.

Though I find it strange that you believe you can solve it if the objective is profit but not if the objective is a different quantifiable goal. Should not make any difference. I am under the impression maybe something is missing in your approach.

Regarding point 3): they will often ask you to perform market sizing, so the comment doesn't make sense. But it makes sense to consider that the consulting firm wants to hear as well about the specific analysis / factors to consider in your approach (so even if you solve it mathematically, you should include this in your approach).

Asking the objective is CRITICAL. If you don't know the objective, what the heck are you trying to solve? Yes, please do ask the objective and customize your approach to that objective.

 

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Moritz
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updated an answer on Jan 27, 2023
ex-McKinsey EM & Interviewer | 7/8 offer rate for 4+ sessions | 90min sessions with FREE exercises & videos

Hi Patrick,

I would advise against that for a very simple reason: You're being presumptuous about the 1st question when you should do the exact opposite i.e., listen carefully to understand what exactly you're being asked, as it may or may not be closely related to the client objective (this is particularly true for McKinsey interviews).

Let me exemplify with a very simple example i.e., a simple prompt with 3 different alternatives for the 1st question:

Client objective: A mobile coffee business in Copenhagen (DK), operating year around, wants to grow 

Background information: The owner of the mobile shop operates a full-sized barista coffee machine in a stylish old Piaggo tricycle in the capital of Denmark, Copenhagen, where the worlds healthiest and fittest people live, thanks to their healthy lifestyle choices, including the daily commute to and from work on bicycle 

Q1 (alternative 1): What factors might control coffee consumption in the region in the next 10 years? → Related to coffee at large but not specifically the client's business objective

Q1 (alternative 2): What are some of the preferences that people might have that could be basis for growth levers? → Related to coffee and the client's business objective

Q1 (alternative 3): What do you think could be some of driving factors for consumer behavior in the cold and the warm season as it relates to buying food and drink products on the fly? → Not specifically related to coffee but partly related to client's business

As you can see, all those questions are very different and you have to have a tailored approach for each, which you have to come up with in the moment.

Hope this helps you understand as to why you can't go into the interview with a predetermined answer.

Best of luck!

Moritz

(edited)

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Cristian

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