Using the Techniques of the World's Top Strategic Consultants to Help You and Your Business
Ethan M. Rasiel, an ex McKinsey associate, tells us the story of how 'the firm' approaches its consulting practices and provides additional insight on the day-to-day life of a management consultant.
Pillar #1: Facts
Even though saying that ‘facts are everything’ seems dull, boring and well-known, it’s crucial for consultants, mainly for two reasons:
Pillar #2: Structure: be MECE
Ideas and issues should be MECE: Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive.
Mutually Exclusive means that each factor contributing to a problem is one separate and distinct issue, without any overlap; overlap represents muddled thinking and leads to confusion.
Collectively Exhaustive means we cover the entire problem/market/population.
Pillar #3: Initial hypothesis
Always start with the initial hypothesis (IH). We come up with IH by doing just enough research to state one. Then, we plan our engagement in a way to prove/disprove the initial hypothesis.
If the hypothesis was correct, it’ll be part of our final recommendation. If it turns out we were wrong - disproving the IH will give us enough insight to plan and test a more accurate hypothesis.
We come up with IH by:
The initial hypothesis is not always correct. Take an occasional step back, look at data you have researched and ask yourself, ‘how does it fit the initial hypothesis’? If it doesn’t, how might we change the hypothesis? Do reality checks, so you don’t chase down blind alleys.
When tackling a challenging problem, it's easy to focus on the day-to-day grind, jumping from research to analysis to study further. It's easy to lose sight of the goal and just gather more facts to gather facts.
To avoid this trap, we should build a habit of occasionally pausing, looking at the big picture and the engagement goal, and asking ourselves:
These questions often help us self-correct and refocus on what really matters.
Fact packs are a powerful alignment tool. As the name suggests, it's a collection of relevant facts about an issue.
Preparing fact packs allows every discussion participant to be on the same page. It's incredible how many wasted meeting hours there are just because different people in the room know other pieces of the puzzle.
Every good brainstorming should start with a fact pack, too. At least a day before a problem-solving question, prepare and distribute the newest fact pack to participants, so we don't waste precious time during the session to exchange information and will be able to come up with more informed solutions.
With the Internet at our disposal, massive amounts of information are available to us on the web. Yet, it doesn't mean we should use it all.
An important principle is to gather just enough facts to make a point or prove/disprove a hypothesis, and no more.
It's tempting to 'analyse everything' - perhaps we've missed something? Maybe a breakthrough is just around the corner? One more report.. one more chart... don't.
Know your priorities. There's a limited amount of time we have. We must always focus on actions that have, in the long run, the highest return on investment for our time.
It's often better to do 'just enough' research and analysis of 5 key drivers than overly excessive analysis on 2 key drivers. It's like boiling the ocean to get a handful of salt.