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15 McKinsey, Strategy

Session 15: Complex Profitability Cases

Samantha should now be able to handle any estimation or brainstorming case we throw at her. Moreover, by focusing on her technique and not her speed, she should be faster since speed is an outcome of using the right techniques.

No one is trying to be slow so simply telling them to be faster is very counterproductive. It is better to fix the technique which causes the slow-down. At this stage, we have spent a lot of time showing her techniques, her speed is now totally dependent on her ability to remember them and apply them in a case.

We do not encourage our candidates to practice on websites or material which purport to increase the speed of mathematical calculations, unless the material helps the candidate analyse the structure of their approaches. If it does not do this, it is most likely hurting the candidate by creating false hope.

There are 5 levels of difficulty for profitability cases.

There are straightforward profitability problems, turnarounds, core competency/health-performance issues, organization challenges, and finally, marginal pricing graphs.

In this session, we teach the important limitations of simply following the numbers from the financial statements and why candidates need to understand broader organizational health issues which cannot be captured in financial analyses.

Candidates tend to take a lot of notes since this pivotal session is a mini-MBA lecture on strategy concepts which can show maturity and deep business judgement in a case interview.

We now ask candidates to introduce articles related to the sectors in which they have the most interest, and later, session 20, we narrow this down even further to the country of interest.

Mentoring with the former-McKinsey Worldwide Strategy Practice Leader

For the best performing candidate, the session begins with a debriefing of the mentoring call with Kevin Coyne. We go to extensive lengths to ensure the feedback from the mentor is tailored:

• We first ask another mentor, also an ex-McKinsey director and office leader, to listen to the call and provide his feedback.

• Firmsconsulting then listens to the recording and generates our own feedback.

• This combined feedback is generated for the client to ensure thinks the mentor may have missed is picked up the second mentor, and areas the second mentor may have missed is pick up by the coach.

• Only once there is agreement on the feedback between all three coaches, will the prioritized feedback be presented to the candidate in the form of a podcast.

We then compile the feedback from both mentors and include our own advice. The aim is not to focus on every little irrelevant detail, but to identify just the 1, 2 or at most, 3 things to improve a candidate’s performance by between 30% and 50%. We follow the 80/20 rule in case training – as you can clearly see.

It is important we help the candidate learn from the mentoring process. Mentors will only help a candidate if they sincerely believe the candidate is making progress. It is our job to facilitate that merit-based relationship. A candidate selected for this program knows they are doing well if the mentor is open to doing anywhere from 3 to 5 sessions. That is a significant amount of mentoring time and it is rarely allocated.

In the session descriptions which follow, we are using one description for 4 different candidates. Yet candidates do not perform the same, and while the descriptions are mostly accurate, there will be some differences as a few cases are brought forward, others moved back or candidates fail to prepare adequately. While these differences are minor, they sometimes occur.

Cases questions taught in the session:

Felix’s cases recorded in the session; Luxury brands trends hypotheses development, Brainstorm how to increase Burberry sales worldwide, Estimate Burberry scarf sales worldwide, Healthcare article discussion, Marginal cost curve investment case, BCG Luxury sector data interpretation.

Sanjeev’s cases recorded in the session; Retail banking trend hypotheses development, Brainstorm why the Indian retail banking market is attractive to foreign companies, Estimate the number of retail banking customers in Peru, Oil & Gas article discussion & BCG Financial Institutions Group data interpretation.

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