What if my framework doesn't match the direction of the case?

Framework Structure
New answer on Aug 24, 2019
4 Answers
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Shan asked on Aug 23, 2019

In one of the mock interviews I encountered the following situation: the question is how to help the client to increase revenue. I proposed a framework to acquire more customers, increase price, and develop new products. But the case was actually about fixing internal (efficiency, marketing strategy) and external (competition, shrinking market) factors that limited the company's revenue growth. Therefore it became difficult for the interviewer and myelf to navigate back to the right track.

Can this problem be avoided by asking clarifying questions? I think that may help a little bit but a problem can always be divided by all kinds of MECE structures so I assume there must be times that one's framework is different from what's expected.

So what should I do if that happens? Should I check with the interviewer upfront, before diving into details of the framework, that if I'm on the right track? But I'm worried that may make the interviewer think I'm not confident enough or do not have an in-depth structure.

If I only learned that the case is expecting a different framework from mine after presenting my own framework, should I adapt my framework, and how? In the case mentioned above, some ideas under the expected framework (marketing & competition) are vaguely related to my original framework (acquring customers & developing new products), but others are much less relevant if I continue to use my own framework.

Overall I'm wondering whether I should be worried about finding the "right" framework for the case? I heard a lot of people saying no worries and encouraging people to develop their own framework, but if that framework doesn't match the direction of the case, what should we do then?

Any advices are highly appreciated! Thank you!

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Content Creator
replied on Aug 24, 2019
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.400+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ InterviewOffers.com) | Ex BCG | 9Y+ Coaching

Hi Shan,

it seems there are a couple of issue with your approach; I would say the main ones are the following:

  1. Apparently you have not properly clarified the goal in this case. From the information you provided, the client was not simply looking to increase revenues, but to actually fix issues affecting revenues. These two situations are different as in the second case you should understand first the reason for the problem. This is something you could have clarified at the beginning.
  2. Related to the first point: you moved directly to a generic solution, without clarifying the problem
  3. Apparently you did not clarify the possible segmentation of the revenue streams of the client

In terms of your main question: yes, if you notice there are issues with your structure you should definitely adapt it to what presented by the interviewer.

It seems there are definitely possible improvements in your structure. I would recommend to do cases with partners or experts that can provide feedback specifically on how to structure better the case. In case you are interested to work on that please feel free to PM me, I do one class specifically on how to improve structures, you can find some details on that in my profile.



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Shan on Aug 28, 2019

This is the only answer relevant to my question. Thank you.

replied on Aug 23, 2019
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers

Hi Shan!

Your approach is just wrong. You should NEVER start with defining qualitative areas. This is not rigorous thinking, but just random. It reflects a very immature and junior way of looking at things. You ALWAYS should first disaggregate your focus metric (here: revenue) into its NUMERICAL drivers (e.g., revenue per segment, then price and quantity, then digging deeper into quantity via, e.g., #of purchases tims average quantity per purchase, and so on). Only after having done this, you can start developing ideas how you can influence each numerical drivers by qualitative measures. THIS is how you think and work as a partner at MBB. Unfortunatley this is not reflected in the case books that are flying around.

Cheers, Sidi

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Anonymous A on Aug 23, 2019

Hi Sidi, thanks for this answer and I'll now try to structure all my answers this way. But one question I have is -- is it always possible to know the numerical drivers? For example, in this case that the candidate pointed out - the true answer was in analyzing internal and external things like marketing strategy and competitors. So if I had made a framework where I said to the interviewer: "The revenue can be driven by the revenue coming in from each segment (which are dependent on things like price and quantity), but also by internal and external factors like the firm's marketing strategy and competitors", wouldn't that be a more MECE approach? I'm wondering if by listing these things, I'm being too qualitative at the beginning? Please let me know what you think.


Anonymous B replied on Aug 23, 2019

Couldn't agree more with Sidi here, simply phenomenal!

Just one more thing I'd like to emphasize regarding growth strategy questions: it is essential that revenue segmentation is clearly embedded in your structure in order to understand what the biggest levers of revenue as well as their growth trends are and therefore prioritize your actions, that's why most of the clarifying questions in such cases should be to identify any type of revenue segmentation (revenue streams, geography, product, distribution channel, customer etc.).

Then, you can walk the interviewer through your disaggregation of the revenues level-by-level and briefly explain how revenues could be improved within each level. For example, you first segment the revenues by stream, here you can either add new streams, either organically or through acquiring another company, or improve the revenues within the existing streams... then you disaggregate within each stream by geography, again here we can either add new geographical regions, meaning geographical expansion, or improve revenues within existing geographies... then by distribution channel within each georgraphical area, sell through new ones or improve revenue within existing ones... then by product, develop new products or improve existing ones etc... until you come to a point in disaggregating into #units sold and price within each product category, where now you're looking at qualitative KPIs such as quality, marketing/sales, price elasticity etc., how important each one to your customers is and if any competitor/substitute is performing better amongst them than your client.

As you can see, I just included most (if not all) of the possible ways of revenue growth in a bullet-proof and structured way, practically forcing the interviewer to give me the data in any possible format.

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Content Creator
replied on Aug 23, 2019
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


There are multiple problems with your answer:

  1. First you have not asked the right clarifying questions. So you have not clarified the objective at all
  2. Secondly you started with looking for a solution (you structure is basically a solutions structure), but in most of the cases there is some problem. The correct approach is to identify the root cause of the problem and then start providing the solutions. Asking the right clarifying questions could help you identify the problem.
  3. Thirdly, your structure is not tied to the objective / context of the case

Here is the set of questions you should ask at the begining:

1) Clarify the business model. Ask how the company actually makes the money. For several reasons:

  1. Even if you think you understand the business model, you need to make sure that you understand it correctly.
  2. Some cases have pitfalls related to a business model (re profitability cases with several revenue streams
  3. You need to understand the revenue streams to make a proper structure. E.g. if the case is about oil&gas company which revenues are declining, ask if it is Up / mid / down-stream problem. In this case, defining a revenue stream is critical to setting up the right structure. (At the end of the day it may be the decline of snack sales at the gas stations:). In case of telecom company it may be the problem of the core business (wireless) or non-core (landlines, internet)

2) Clarify the objective. Here make sure that your goal is:

  • Measurable
  • Has a time-framed
  • Has / has no limitations

e.g. Should I invest 100k in this business for 1 year if I want to get 15% return?

3) Ask the questions that will help you build a relevant structure and remove ambiguity.

E.g. in the market entry case ask whether we are entering the country organically or non-organically

!!! do the recap after asking the clarifying questions. Although most of the case books suggest to do it immediately at the beginning of the interview, it makes much more sense to clarify the situation first and then to make sure that you understand everything correctly.

Finally, after presenting your structure you can always ask the interviewer: “Is that structure good to move forward with? Should I add or prioritize anything?”


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Francesco gave the best answer


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