MECE stands for “mutually exclusive” and “collectively exhaustive”
2. Benefit of the MECE framework
You can use the MECE framework to help you think clearly about a business problem. The framework aids clear thinking in two ways:
- No overlap: categories of information should be grouped so that there are no overlaps, which helps to avoid double counting; and
- No gaps: all categories of information taken together should cover all possible options, which helps to avoid overlooking information.
3. MECE explained
MECE is a framework used to organise information which is:
- Mutually exclusive: information should be grouped into categories so that each category is separate and distinct without any overlap; and
- Collectively exhaustive: all categories taken together should deal with all possible options without leaving any gaps.
4. MECE tree diagram
The MECE tree diagram is a way of graphically organising information into categories which are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive. The diagram as a whole represents the problem at hand; each branch stemming from the starting node of the tree represents a major issue that needs to be considered; each branch stemming from one of these major issues represents a sub-issue that needs to be considered; and so on.
A major issues list should not contain more than five issues, with three being the ideal number (see Rule of Three). If you are not able to categorise a problem in 5 major issues there is always the option of creating a category of “other issues”.
The MECE framework can be applied to a lot of different business problems, for example, “what is the source of Coca-Cola’s declining global profitability?”. Coca-Cola could tackle this business problem by using a MECE tree diagram to help it locate the source of declining profitability.
Victor Cheng, former McKinsey consultant and creator of CaseInterview.com, indicates that:
The definitive book on this subject is the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto. It’s a book that describes an approach to communicating complex ideas in easy to understand ways. It is based on the MECE Principles and was a book often referred to and used while I was at McKinsey.