Setting Up A Case Question

Setting Up the Case Question

(Source: Flickr)

When it comes to answering a consulting case question, there are three stages to the answer: setting it up, solving it, and providing a recommendation.

The first stage is setting it up, and below we provide five (5) steps to setting up a case question:

1. Summarize the question

Give yourself time to think by writing down the question and considering the key facts. You can safely pause for up to 90 seconds or so in order to capture your thoughts on paper. When you have finished doing so, summarize your understanding of the question out loud.

2. Clarify vague information

Ask questions to help you understand the situation and clarify any unfamiliar concepts or vague information provided by the interviewer.

3. Determine the goal

Be clear about the objective of the case. Is the company concerned with maximizing profits, increasing market share, or something else? Does the interviewer want a “go/no go” decision, or a list of recommendations?

For example, you might say “From what you have told me I understand that the company wants a list of recommendations on how to maximize profits, are there any other objectives that I should be aware of?”

4. Structure the analysis

When answering a case question, structure is crucial. The interviewer wants to know not only that you can provide a coherent answer but that you can deliver your analysis in a “client friendly” way.

That means having a clear structure.

Select an appropriate framework for analysis. This will allow you to gather the right kinds of information. However, don’t nominate the framework by name, for example don’t say “I want to use the three C’s framework”. Instead, use the framework to identify the relevant issues and draw out a structure for the interviewer to see. A good way to do this is to use a tree diagram. You can then walk the interviewer through your structure and start asking for data or diving into the details.

5. State a hypothesis

If the case is broad and open ended, for example “profits have declined, what should we do?”, then it is helpful to state a hypothesis about the source of the problem.

For example, you might say “Profit is a function of revenue and costs. My hypothesis is that declining profits have been caused by falling revenue.” This will give your analysis a starting point, and allow you to drive towards a solution.

[For more information on consulting interviews, please download “The HUB’s Guide to Consulting Interviews“.]

Your Presentation: setting it up

Good presentations are clear, relevant, structured and provide the audience with a takeaway message

Presentation

YOU have probably seen a presentation at school, university or at work that you would describe as “less than successful”.

The presentation was probably unsuccessful because it failed to meet your expectations.

You may have found yourself asking one of the following questions:

  1. What is this presentation about?
  2. How is this presentation relevant to me, my organisation or my industry?
  3. I can’t follow, where is this presentation going? What are the main points?
  4. I’m giving an hour of my time, how does this presentation benefit me? Why do I care?

Setting up your presentation is important because it will help you take control of the presentation right from the start by managing the expectations of your audience and answering their unspoken questions.

The presentation set up has four main parts:

1. What

What are you talking about?  You should make it clear for the audience what subject or topic area the presentation will cover.

2. Why

Why is the presentation relevant to your audience? Put the presentation in the context of recent events or impending events. For example: “you will be able to use the skills you learn in this presentation on the MECE Framework in your next presentation, client meeting or research report.”

3. How

How will the presentation be structured?  Provide a structure for your talk.  Do you have three main points – what are they?  Will you allow questions during the presentation or should people wait until the end?

4. Outcome

What will your audience take away with them at the end of the presentation that they didn’t have at the beginning? Outline what your audience will get out of the presentation. What will they know? How will they feel? What will they do?  For example: “when you walk away from this room, you will be able to structure your thoughts more logically.  Structured thinking will help you give clients clear explanations so that they can easily understand and engage in the consulting process. Being easy to understand is client friendly and will make you a more valuable consultant.”

[For more information on consulting concepts and frameworks, please download “The Little Blue Consulting Handbook“.]