The secret of McKinsey

Brian Kaasner Kristiansen teaching Executive MBAs at Copenhagen Business School

100… 100… 100! Easter marked a milestone – we have now trained Executive MBA number 100 in the seven steps of strategic problem solving at Copenhagen Business School.

At raving reviews.

That means 100 senior leaders will now crush difficult problems much faster and much better around the world in every function and deliver a whole new level of returns.

But what is so special about this approach besides being the cornerstone of the three most powerful strategy consultancies in the world?

Well each step is actually deceptively simple. And put together all you got to do is follow the process. So why did my mentor at Bain – one of the giants, who taught everyone else – say this on our first meeting: “I have been doing this for 25 years and I will never be good enough”?

Firstly, it is not like riding a bike – break the balancing code and you are ready to go – because each step is fueled by your experience from a hundred other projects to sharpen and customize it. Take the first step – define the problem. I use a template that anybody can copy and fill out. But understanding how to design a problem statement, so you get the value, the full value and nothing but the value may from the outside seem like an arcane artform, but there are very specific tricks to it.

Secondly, the thinking needed is anything but system 1 – you know that automatic intuition that runs +95% of your decisions? This is hardcore system 2 work. For example in step 2, you need to break down the problem in logical parts, because as Einstein famously (and somewhat adjusted here) said you cannot solve a problem at the level it was created. And yes it looks beautiful when a master breaks problems down in front of you and is a bit like watching Pablo Picasso paint Visage: Head of a Faun (look up the video – pretty amazing).

Thirdly, the step by step picture is betrayed by it’s iterative nature and extreme coherence between the steps. Every single step depends perfectly on the one that preceded it and perfectly dominates the next one. So when you have defined the problem, broken it down, prioritized the key areas, built the work plan and analyzed everything, you need to build everything back up in the same order it was broken down to conclude on your recommendation. On paper it is a strict military march, but in reality it is more like a salsa dancing festival in Trinidad in Cuba (ask me sometime about that story:).

Once you do nail it though you have joined one of the most exclusive clubs in the world.

More exclusive than Harvard.

And more powerful. As one colleague once told me after teaching this: “This is worth more than five years at university”.

If you also want to join the club, then contact brian@behaviouralstrategygroup or +45-23103206.

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