Thinking Skills

How Top Business Consultants Solve Problems

Problem solving skills

How McKinsey, one of the top consulting firms in the world approaches problems:


1. Things at McKinsey come in threes:

- A topic is described in three bullets

- Create issue trees: Issues are broken down into three sub-issues

- A solution to a problem has three main components, etc.


2. 'MECE': Every analysis is decomposed such that the issues are:


- Mutually Exclusive: Each idea is distinct and separate; overlap represents muddled thinking and

- Collectively Exhaustive: You've covered all the possibilities; you've thought of everything.


3. The top beliefs that drive McKinsey's problem solving:


The Problem Is Not Always the Problem: 'What do you do when you are convinced you are working on the wrong problem?'


Don't Reinvent the Wheel: 'Most business problems resemble each other more than they differ.'


Don't Make the Facts Fit Your Solution: 'No matter how brilliant, insightful, and original you may feel your initial hypothesis to be, you must always be prepared to accept that the facts may prove you wrong. If they do, adjust to the facts.'


Make Sure Your Solution Fits Your Client: 'The most brilliant solution, backed up by libraries of data and promising billions in extra profits, is useless if your client or business can't implement it.'


Sometimes Let the Solution Come to You: 'If you get your facts together and do you analyses, the solution will come to you.'


Solving Problems that Can't Be Solved: 'You have several options to pick from when confronted by a problem that seems too difficult to solve.'


80/20 Rule: 'If you keep your eyes peeled for examples of 80/20 in your business, you will come up with ways to improve it.'


Know Your Solution: 'Know your solution so thoroughly that you can explain it clearly and precisely to your client in 30 seconds.'


Pluck the Low-Hanging Fruit: 'By plucking the low-hanging fruit, by resisting the temptation to hoard your information until some big end-of-study presentation, we make our client more enthusiastic, our jobs easier, and ourselves happier.'


Hit Singles: 'It's much better to get to first base consistently than to try to hit a home run and strike out 9 times out of 10.'


Look at the Big Picture: 'When you're feeling swamped by it all, take a metaphorical step back and figure out what it is you're trying to achieve.'


'I Don't Know' versus 'I Have No Idea': 'Just as you shouldn't accept I have no idea from others, so you shouldn't accept it from yourself, or expect others to accept it from you. This is the flip side of I don't know.'


Structuring an Engagement: 'Before you go hot footing in search of a solution, get a feel for the scope of the problem.'


(Source: 'The Mckinsey Way' by Ethan Rasiel)


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