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Mistake in “The Mind of The Strategist”

I am going to discuss my experiences of working through Felix’s session 8 videos. I spent 8 hours in total going through in great detail mainly because I did all the reading Firmsconsulting recommended.

Preparation before the session:

• I read news and business articles (mostly NewYorkTimesEconomist and Washington Post) every day to build my general knowledge (4-5 articles per day, mostly from the business section). Specifically, I try to select articles that pose a question that I can brainstorm prior to reading the article.

• I worked through the first chapter of The mind of the strategist by Kenichi Ohmae, recommended by Firmsconsulting. The chapter is called “Analysis: the starting point”. Some key points to remember:

o A strategic thinker should identify a critical issue, dissect the problem/situation into parts, get a clear understanding of each part, discover the significance of each part, and restructure parts into a new pattern to maximize the advantage.

o The key question should be framed in a way that points towards the solution. This reminds me that Firmsconsulting seems to be the only firm teaching this clever way to structure problems.

o The author presented a sample issue diagram, which was in a Yes/No decision tree format. I think there was a mistake in how this diagram was structured (figure 1-4 for those who have this book). The issue diagram’s question is “Can product A’s cost be lowered?”. Fixed cost is examined only if the answer to the question “is the design specification too expensive?” is “No”. Variable cost is only examined in the diagram if the answer to the question “are the fixed costs too high?” is “No”. What if the design specification is too expensive and both fixed and variable costs are too high? I think all 3 variables must be given equal weight during initial stage of analysis. Consequently, I think Yes/No type of the decision tree in this particular case does not allow in examining important parts. This makes me think that Yes/No decision trees are very limiting and in most cases should not be used in brainstorming or full case analysis.

A strategic thinker should identify a critical issue, dissect the problem/situation into parts, get a clear understanding of each part, discover the significance of each part, and restructure parts into a new pattern to maximize the advantage.

o One observation I have is that although the information in the book is useful, it is not presented in a way that is interactive and easy to remember. For example, when I watch Firmsconsulting’s videos such as sessions with Felix, brainstorming videos, estimation videos, perfect answers etc, information that was presented is actually easy to remember and the learning process is interesting and enjoyable. Reading this book is less interesting, although the content is valuable. I think this is because it is not interactive.

• I watched/listened to the following Firmsconsulting’s training videos/podcasts: Brainstorming with decision trees during full cases, NYC concierge total market size per annum in US dollars (estimation case) and Networking mistakes.

What was accomplished:

Resume and Cover Letter – I completed yet another revision of my resume and cover letter. I removed work experience prior to consulting from the experience section and moved some of it to the personal section. I expanded on my experience in consulting and industry, as these two sections should be allocated the most real estate. I went through cover letter a few times to make sure there is a good story and not too much details. The cover letter still requires more work.

LinkedIn – I updated my LinkedIn profile by deleting experience that did not add value to my profile and including more details on experience which are key to my profile. I finalized my resume first and used the same wording for LinkedIn. The only outstanding item for LinkedIn that remains is to find a better photo, which I will do within the next 2 weeks.

Felix Session 8 – I worked through session 8.

Some of my observations follow:

Mascara estimation case:

• The challenging part was to estimate how many planes are in the fleet and how many flights there are per day/month etc. I was not sure if it was ok to just provide a guess for this or if I should have done a separate estimation for that part of the equation. After watching the training it was clear that I had to do calculations/separate estimation to determine the number of planes/number of flights. I think Felix’s way to estimate number of flights made sense, it was better than just guessing the number of planes/flights.

• Felix assumed that only mascara applied during the flight should count. My understanding was that it does not matter when mascara was applied, as long as it was on during the flight. This seems logical since flight attendants need to also look good prior to the flight and not only during the flight, so most of them probably apply make up at home/in a hotel.

• I think it is not likely that all flight attendants will be using the same bottles of mascara. Mascara is a personal item and is usually not shared with others. So my equation assumed that each flight attendant would be using her own mascara. I also assumed that regardless of whether or not the mascara is used by flight attendant between flights, it will dry out, so I assumed that each flight attendant will have to purchase 4 mascaras bottles per year (that each mascara will be used on average over 3 months) to be able to apply mascara for flights.

Emirates airlines growth brainstorming:

• I also broke revenue into price x volume, but it is now clear that it would make much more sense to break it down into revenue streams. It is also very important to include category called “other” to ensure that this level of decision tree is MECE.

• One minor mistake I noticed in Felix’s performance is that she was saying that to increase capacity Emirates could have promotions. This will not increase capacity. This will increase capacity utilization. The only way to increase capacity is for Emirates to move more people.

• I actually did not know how important cargo revenue is, which was concerning. I should have known this.

• I think one key thing I learned from this brainstorming session, specifically from the perfect answer training video, is the blind navigator technique. That is a very useful technique I can use in my current role.

SkyChefs full case:

• Because the interviewer did not wanted to provide information on the amount of sales/volume in airports, I assumed this should be estimated and completed a mini-estimation case. My strategy would be to offer the interviewer my estimated amount and see if the interviewer will confirm it or correct it. I also planned to ask about revenue breakdown between the two streams of revenue, which would give me more data to more accurately estimate volume within the airports.

• Similar to Felix, I assumed number of meals meant how many times people are served during the flight (e.g. dinner and breakfast). Now, looking back, the actual definition should have been obvious to me.

Score out of 10: 7.5

Communication 7.5

Technical 8

Confidence 7

Strengths: I moved through cases rapidly and my analyses were logical. I feel my level of general knowledge is sufficient to allow me to make reasonable assumptions during cases.

Opportunities: I should have estimated number of flights for the Mascara estimation case. I knew how to do it, I just decided not to do it because I felt that it was not necessary or I just was lazy. I am still not consistent in ensuring my decision trees are MECE, I should watch this carefully. Although my general business knowledge is high, I should continue enhancing it as there are some obvious things that I should have known, that I find I do not know as I progress through The Consulting Offer training. I think my thinking is still very unstructured. I need to work on this.

Questions to Firmsconsulting:

• I still build decision trees on paper. I wonder at which point I should start building it in my head? I think there is value in firstly learning to build it on paper, so I learn the right technique, and thereafter when it will become second nature I can do it in my head.

• In the book “The Mind of the strategist” the author presented a sample issue diagram, which was in the Yes/No decision tree format. Is there a mistake in how this diagram was structured (figure 1-4 in chapter 1)?

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