From my point of view, consultancy frameworks contribute four significant benefits when used effectively:
- they provide a common language between consultants;
- they can turn a seemingly complex problem into something much simpler but still relevant;
- they act as a communication device during consultation and recommendation; and finally
- they make it easier to depersonalise a discussion with key stakeholders.
However, if my recent experiences on the MBA’s Consultancy elective are anything to go by, they can be easily misjudged or misaligned. Thinking through the benefits, you can see that there may be a tendency to use the simple structure of a 2 x 2, however complex the problem. And when given the early chance to explore the idea of converting a case study problem into an analytical framework, most students took the little time we had to squeeze issues into a classic 2 x 2 framework. More often than not, the output was associated but obtuse.
We should all be forgiven of course, because it was the first lecture, a bit of fun and an exericse to show that while output may appear simple, the reality of distilling business problems into two opposing axes is not simple – and this is where much of the value lies.
There are shortcuts of course – existing frameworks. Most of us carried with us knowledge of the Ansoff matrix, the Boston Box and product life cycle. But let’s face it, as good as they are, they do not always hold the key. So it was good then to explore new frameworks. The lecturer was ex-McKinsey and happily pointed us in the direction of McKinsey’s online resource they have called ‘Enduring Ideas‘ (it surprisingly available insight thatyou will need to register to use this interactive resource). The series features classic frameworks that remain relevant in today’s complex business world.
I was drawn to two, in particular. The context for both frameworks were not new, but the explanations around application were cogent and insightful. Why would I expect anything else?
- McKinsey’s nine-box matrix – it helps to decipher which areas of a business warrant investment by simplifying them and putting them on equal footing. Essentially this is a portfolio model that compares the industry attractiveness vs the competitive position of a business unit.
- McKinsey’s three horizons – good growth companies are propelled by the concurrent management of 3 horizons of product s-curves. There is a tendency to focus on horizon 1 of current core businesses, but initiatives on horizons 2 and 3 actually need a much greater level of c-suite time because they represent the future of the company, and all the risks of variability that timelines bring.
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On reflection, in a thorough problem-solving process, one will have to build in logic around why something has happened and how to identify potential solutions. We were asked to use logic trees to do this and apply MECE principles – the trees must be must be mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive. So I will use existing frameworks wherever possible, for as long as they are MECE and relevant, they should be useful for problem-solving. Throw it on the wall, see what sticks and then iterate for success!