Consulting Case Study: The One Thing Every Consulting Case Study Must Produce
A case study is one of the most common tools used anywhere a major decision has to be made, whether it’s within a large company, or it’s for a consulting firm advising a company. This common tool is so often used but people don’t really think about what a case study should deliver. So today I want to talk about logical case studies and really focus you on the one thing that a consulting case study should deliver. If you can deliver this one thing, it doesn’t matter whether the rest of the case study is missing components or it’s not very clear.
Now let’s show you a slide that we put together in the corporate strategy and transformation program where we’re helping Empire International, a very large energy utility, restructure themselves.
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Extract the key insight from the consulting case study into one slide
Back to our slide, it’s a very straightforward and insightful slide. I’m not going to talk you through the slide because you can read it for yourself. What I want to talk you through today is why we presented this slide versus a 20-slide deck on the case study.
Think about this, right! When a firm or a consultant does a case study, the perception is that the consulting case study should be about 5 to 20 slides. There should be a cover page, a summary page, an executive summary page, the details and lessons learned. That is what other people do.
What I had always done when I was an associate, or when I became an engagement manager, what I had always instructed the teams to do even when I led teams directly as a partner, is that I asked them to focus less on the fluff, and if they can extract the key insight from the consulting case study into one slide, that is far more valuable to me.
Can you imagine I’m presenting to an executive and I’ve got to present this 20-slide deck for each of four case studies? That’s 80 slides, in which a lot of pages are just redundant and nonsense whereby there are the cover page, summary page, index page, and so on, which are unnecessary. The client does not need to know all of the background. The client does not need to know all of the things you analyze, either. They want to know the deepest insight that is relevant to them, which can be depicted on just one slide in any case study you do.
And you have to be careful, creative, and take some time to figure out how to create that one slide designed in such a way that you can show the insight versus using just any standard templates the firm has, which is one of the dangers you have. Firms have these template guides. You pick a template to use and populate it with data even when the template does not allow you to convey the key message you want in just one slide.
So if you are doing a consulting case study ask yourself this, “What is the one most important thing you want the client to know from this case study?” It’s possible that you want the client to know three important things. That’s fine, then you can have three slides, or you can have two important things in one slide and the third thing on the second slide, giving you a total two slides.
The habit of showing clients a lot of slides
You want to break away from the habit of showing the client you did work by presenting to them many slides. Initially, you may impress the client with the amount of work you’re doing, but at the end of the study when the senior members of the client team are talking about the insights and value, it would be apparent that you haven’t actually shown them anything important or that you haven’t actually extracted some piece of information that is useful.
They’re never going to say, “Well, you know, this consulting firm gave us a three hundred slide deck; therefore, they brought a lot of value even though we can’t really understand the insights.
I remember once working with a very large firm. This is after I left and I was considering joining them, and they let me talk to some of their consulting teams. The team I was talking with was from New York and they were doing this really in-depth set of analyses. I mean extremely detailed mapping of the sector and so on. I remember talking to them and saying, “What is your hypothesis? Why you are doing this?” And I remember the engagement manager, who I think was a senior manager, telling me that, “Well, we’re doing all this analysis, and hypotheses will come later.” That to me is a problem.
They’re doing a lot of analyses because they want to show that they’re busy, and they’re producing a lot of slides. It looks like an equity report from an equity analyst but there’s no insight and it’s going to take me forever to go through it. I remember looking at the slide deck and it was incredibly detailed 70 slides on the sector. They went out, analyzed everything, and summarized everything but I couldn’t know what they were telling me because even they didn’t know what they were telling me.
They were opting for an enormous amount of slides without giving me that one insight that I needed to know. In fact, they were coping out and making me do the work. They were making me read all of this and it’s dense with tiny writing. Some of the font was size five on a PowerPoint which is really small and is ageism as well because it doesn’t let old people to read it, which is another problem you have to deal with.
If you’re doing a consulting case study, figure out the most important thing you want to say and say it on one slide
If you’re doing a consulting case study. In fact, if you’re doing anything, figure out the most important thing you want to say and say it on one slide. If there’s nothing else more important you want to say, no one is going to punish you for that and say, “Well, you have been doing the case study on the entire company for three weeks.” That’s fine because if you come up with one very important insight, that’s okay. And remember sometimes you can do a case and there’s nothing really useful there.
One insight, one slide to get your message across. You will become a better consultant if you do that. Of course the flip side is don’t just produce one slide because you are lazy. You must have some deep message and deep sight in that one slide for your consutling case study.
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