What are the best frameworks to use when solving cases?

Case Framework
Recent activity on Jul 23, 2018
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AbdelRahman asked on Jul 23, 2018

I know standard frameworks should not be used on their own when solving cases and that each case is different in terms of what framework best fits it. I also know it is good to have some frameworks at the back of your mind to use when opening and structuring the case.

In that sense, all the people around me recommended one or more of the following three frameworks:

  1. Victor Cheng's Frameworks
  2. Marc Cosentino's Ivy System
  3. PrepLounge's BootCamp's Frameworks

What are the most recommended frameworks to use? (either from the previous 3 I indicated or out of them)

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updated an answer on Jul 23, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


There is no one fits all structure. You should have some patterns in mind for specific case types, however, you should change them depending on the:

  • Objective
  • Additional details of the case
  • Industry
  • Etc

Below you can find a list of the most common case types and some high-level recommendations on structuring:

  • Market sizing - structuring from the supply or demand side. Structuring using a formula or using an issue tree
  • Profitability - basic profitability framework. Remember about different revenue streams and product mix
  • Market context cases (Market Entry, New product, Acquisition, etc). Always start with the big picture "market". Finish with something the specific strategy to asnwer the objective of the case (e.g. "Entry strategy" - for market entry. "Exit Strategy" for PE case. "Go-to-market strategy" for a new product case). Structure it as if you are defining the work streams for the real project.
  • Operational math problem (e.g. Should we increase the speed of an elevator or just buy a second one? How should we reduce the queues? Etc.) - Structuring as a process / value chain, with inflows, operations, and outflows
  • Cost cutting - I provided the recommendations on structuring it here: https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/operations-cases-mck-1105#a2134
  • Valuation - Purely financial structure with cash flows, growth rate, WACC / hurdle rate, etc.
  • Synergies - revenue synergies (price, qty, mix) and cost synergies (value chain).
  • Social / economics cases (e.g. How to improve the quality of life in the city? How to increase the revenues of the museum?) - huge variability. Practice 3-5 social cases before the interview

Besides that, there is a bunch of useful frameworks that you can apply in the middle of the case to find the root cause of a problem. E.g.

  • People - Process - Technologies
  • Capacity - Utilization - Output rate
  • Product - Distribution - Marketing - Price
  • Value-based pricing - competitive pricing - cost-based pricing
  • etc

You will learn these frameworks while solving the cases. It's useful to have a bunch of them in mind in order to be able to identify the root-cause quickly.



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replied on Jul 23, 2018
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers

Hi AbdelRahman,

you can (and should) get acquainted with all of these frameworks. But you should NOT use them as blueprints to structure your approach towards ANY given case! One big misconception that I unfortunately see with many many candidates needs to be called out again and again:

Structure DOES NOT equal frameworks!

The different frameworks that you can find in pertinent case literature provide a very good basic toolbox in terms of which areas to look into for certain types of problems. However, they are very 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 will not get an 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

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McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School
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