WHY or HOW

Structure
Edited on Sep 05, 2021
4 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Aug 29, 2019

Shall i make a structure on how to fix a problem or structure to find why the problem occurs?

Let's say a case comes about "bad quality education", should i structure to see WHY the education is bad or should i make a structure on HOW i can fix it and make better education?

Or does it matter since they are similar both would be OK?

What do you think?

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Marco-Alexander
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updated an answer on Sep 05, 2021
Former BCG | Case author for efellows book | Experience in 6 consultancies (Stern Stewart, Capgemini, KPMG, VW Con., Hor

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Vlad
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updated an answer on Aug 29, 2019
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School

Hi,

It depends on the case and you should clarify the objective clearly.

  • In 80% of the cases, there will be some problem and first, you have to find the root cause of the problem (WHY), and then think HOW to fix it
  • Some cases start with HOW question - mostly non-profit and non-conventional cases. (E.g. How you can increase the revenues from tourism in the city?) This situation is very typical with interviewer-led cases at McKinsey. In that case, you can start directly with HOW

Even if you start with HOW question, you still need to challenge the existing situation. e.g. if we are hired to develop a new bankruptcy law, and the question is how you would approach it, your first step will be to do the diagnostics of the current law.

Best!

(edited)

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John
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replied on Aug 29, 2019
Ex Bain Case Team Leader I Focus on Private Equity I +80 interviews conducted at Bain I All cases based on real life cases

How can you fix a problem without knowing why it occurs? So your structure should be to 1) understand the problem(s) 2) find approaches to fix it and go beyond

Hope this helps ;)

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Anonymous A on Aug 29, 2019
I dont' think we are on the same page. Let me rephrase the question. Say our client has a land and now they want it to be green. I can either make a structure like WHY it's not green A) It's not green intentionally B) It's not un-intentionally & keep on breaking down the WHYs.
Anonymous A on Aug 29, 2019
OR i can make a structure on HOW i can make the field green by making again a MECE structure saying A) How can i make the ground green B) How can i plant additional stuff C) How can i sustain they are green all around the year....& continue decomposing by saying i can lay down grass, i can plant trees & so..
Deniz
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replied on Aug 29, 2019
BCG | A.T. Kearney | University of Cambridge | 350+ coachees | 5+ years of consulting experience in London, Dubai and Istanbul

Hi,

In fact, you need to do WHY and HOW respectively. So to continue your example, you need to first diagnose the problem (and understand the root cause), thus you should first ask WHY the education is bad. Following this, you need to move on to HOW to fix the problem.

Best,

Deniz

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Marco-Alexander gave the best answer

Marco-Alexander

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Former BCG | Case author for efellows book | Experience in 6 consultancies (Stern Stewart, Capgemini, KPMG, VW Con., Hor
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