How to structure and apply methodology to consulting projects, with Peter Bancroft & Jonan Boto
Last week we had Peter Bancroft and Jonan Boto attend the Freshminds headquarters for an intensive training day on how to structure consulting projects and apply the methodology to everyday scenarios. Peter and Jonan have both completed consulting training in Bain & Company and use structured thinking throughout their freelance consulting careers.
On the day the Freshminds team was joined by 15 Research Analysts from our network looking to get the first-hand experience of how to get into consulting. We kicked off the day looking to understand pyramid thinking and the basic principles of how to frame a problem and structure an answer. The pyramid principle was developed by Barbara Minto, McKinsey’s first female Consultant in the 1960s and it can be used to structure your thinking, working and communication. Since then, the methodology has been adopted throughout McKinsey, BCG, Bain and others.
We learnt that when presented with a problem, you should first seek to determine the situation, complication and critical question. Understand the context, the constraints and the reasons for there being a problem to solve. What is the question that needs to be answered?
Once you have this, most answers can take the form of a logic tree and be answered using the MECE principle (mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive). This principle is used for grouping items, with the branches of the tree naturally leading to a course of action.
There are three main types of logic tree; deductive, hypothesis and issue. To create a successful logic tree, you must start with a well-defined query, identify the response and all possible outcomes and ensure the logic flows between the connections.
Deductive trees provide a clear, logical framework for unknown issues and can significantly help structure analysis.
Hypothesis trees begin with a recommendation we believe to be accurate and sets up a rationale to test that hypothesis. It can convert a question into a set of assertions to be checked to logically prove an answer.
Issue trees represent critical elements of a problem in a hierarchical order for resolving those elements and present discrete analyses.
Once we had been armed with how to structure a problem and answer, we moved on to how this could be applied within a consulting context. On a consulting project, you can deliver different levels of value and output at every stage; facts, findings, conclusions and recommendations.
Delivering the facts includes the separate pieces of data including quotes and numbers. Delivering the findings involves bringing the points together and summarising them or explaining patterns in those facts. Reading the conclusions incorporates your judgement and shows the implications of the results for the client including identifying an opportunity or solving a problem. Delivering recommendations gives the client options for action and takes into account the client’s resources and appetite for change.
The Research Analysts in the Freshminds network seeks to deliver facts and findings for consulting projects, leaving the Consultants to provide the conclusions and recommendations. Amongst teaching us the theory, we were tasked with practical tasks, some to be completed individually and others to be completed in small groups. This allowed the group to digest and implement the thinking and structure we had learnt.
For the final task of the day, we worked in small groups to tackle a consulting case study. We applied our understanding of how to frame the problem through looking at the situation, complication and critical question. We then used our knowledge of how to create a hypothesis tree to go about structuring the answer. Finally, we presented our facts, findings, conclusions and recommendations to the entire group, receiving feedback on the approach.
This training was a great blend of theory and practical application with on the spot feedback and critical learnings which you could take away into the real world. We hope to see Peter and Jonan in the Freshminds headquarters for a follow-up session shortly!