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Aspirational Versus Deficit Case Interview Training

Preparation before the case training session:

1. Building general knowledge. I read news and business articles (mostly NewYorkTimes, Economist and Washington Post) every day to build my general knowledge (4-5 articles per day, mostly from the business section).

One interesting article I found was “Consulting on the cusp of disruption” from October 2013 issue of Harvard Business Review. The authors argue that the familiar pattern of industry disruption, with new players arriving with new business models which incumbents choose to ignore and ultimately becoming strong enough to compete with incumbents, can be observed in management consulting industry. Companies such as Eden McCallum and Business Talent Group (BTG) offer services at a fraction of the price of prestigious management consulting firms, and while they currently lack the reputation and brand of the top firms, new players slowly gaining ground.

2. I worked through the second chapter of “The mind of the strategist” by Kenichi Ohmae, recommended by Firmsconsulting. Some key learnings include:

Business strategy is all about competitive advantage. The purpose of strategic planning is to allow company to gain sustainable competitive advantage over its competitors. Strategy is about making company stronger relative to its competitors.

I would add to this that what will make company stronger is further divided into what will improve performance and what will improve the health of the company.

The author underlines that the word “strategy” should be reserved for actions that make company stronger vs its competitors, and not used for actions targeted at improving profitability or to improve training.

Strategy is about finding the way to be stronger than competitors at acceptable cost to the company. The author offers 4 basic strategies:

a) Business strategy based on KFS – focusing on key factors for success in the industry and devoting most resources to them.

b) Business strategy based on relative superiority – take advantage of differences in composition of assets of the company vs its competitors.

c) Business strategy based on aggressive initiatives – challenge the accepted assumptions of how business is done in specific industry. Change the rules of the game.

d) Business strategy based on strategic degrees of freedom – focus on innovation. Develop new markets or create new products.

3. I watched/listed to the following Firmsconsulting’s videos/podcasts: speaking advice for cases and invisible presentation techniques.

Some key things to remember:

In the beginning of the management consulting case, make sure you take some time to understand it. Ask yourself, “Is everything clear to me or do I need to ask clarifying questions?”. Clarifying questions are there to help you understand the case, not to solve the case.

Your recommendation at the end of the case should be a list of options and such options should be prioritized and pros/cons of your recommended options should be disclosed.

What was accomplished:

1) LinkedIn – I decided to keep my old photo for now (it is good enough, I just don’t like my hairstyle there) and I sent invites to about 5 consulting partners from second level connection, using “friend” option. 3 partners accepted my invite. To those who accepted I sent an email using a short email draft recommended by Firmsconsulting in one of the networking videos/podcasts thanking them for accepting my invite, informing them that I will be applying to their firm and asking if they had some time to have a discussion with me about the work, culture etc. Most have replied and I have a lunch scheduled with one partner and another lunch being scheduled with another.

2) Felix Session 9 (The Consulting Offer, First Season) – I worked through the case session, which was very a valuable and less intensive session.

Coaching style:

I wonder if Firmsconsulting must have the deficit teaching model to deal with the admission mistakes. It seems that for truly deserving candidates to be admitted to coaching program the aspirational teaching model should work.

Life of an engagement:

I thought the 6 slides recommended at the beginning of engagement approach is very useful for a consulting project. I never seen it in my own consulting experience but I see what a tremendous pulse check this can be at the beginning of the project, while there is still ample time to replace/coach underperforming project team members and adjust direction of the consulting project.

I think the discussion on how to manage your image during the consulting engagement, how to plan your career and how to set yourself up for attractive exit opportunities was very valuable and the type of information that I never had access to before, neither when I was a management consultant or by reading about management consulting.

Score out of 10: N/A (no cases were covered in this session)

Questions to Firmsconsulting:

1. I know that admission for the case coaching service with Firmsconsulting is very competitive. I wonder if Firmsconsulting must have a deficit teaching model? It seems that for truly deserving candidates who are admitted to the coaching program an aspirational teaching model should work.

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