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What to ask before determining a structure?

Anonymous A

I am wondering what to ask in a case interview before determining a structure and stating a hypothesis. Is it appropriate to ask about the business model, products and revenue streams or would that already be too much and fall under the "Company" section in a structure?

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Vlad replied on 12/27/2017
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School

Hi,

Here are some ideas regarding your question:

Pre-structure questions

1) Clarify the business model. Even if you think you understand it, try to repeat it to make sure that you understand in correctly.

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. 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.

Post-structure questions:

It's kind of hard to generalize all the cases. I will try to provide a general algorithm here:

  1. Ask for a piece of data / info you've defined in a structure
  2. Compare the data with historical trend / benchmarks
  3. If you find something interesting ask for the root / cause or state the hypothesis
  4. If no root/cause at this point available - ask for segmentation to drill down further
  5. Once you are done with analysis in one branch of your framework (found the root-cause / found nothing interesting) - summarize what you've learnt so far and move to the next one

Again, the last one is super high-level and the devil is in details:)

Best!

Currently non-active expert
Expert
replied on 02/24/2018

Hey anonymous,

Vlad's post is super comprehensive about what to ask before getting your proper framework. But let me build on what not to ask - I felt the need to clarify this point as I've seen so many candidates failing on it: you shouldn't ask by any mean problem solving questions, i.e., questions that you just ask in order to understand what are the solution rather than the context (e.g., how much are revenues declining over the last years? what's the client market share?, etc).

Best

Bruno

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