Mece pronounced as ‘me-see’ or ‘meece’ is a technique used to organize information in a constructive and systematic manner. MECE is an acronym for Mutually Exclusive And Collectively Exhaustive. This technique was first developed by Barbara Minto of Mckinsey and Company in the late 1960s. Barbara Minto was also the first female MBA hired by Mckinsey and Company. However, Barbara Minto did claim in one of her interviews that this technique goes way back to Aristotle. In order to ace case interviews and solve problems with precision and accuracy, giving MECE approach to the problem-solving process using the MECE framework has accounted for amazing results.
The MECE technique is mainly used during case interviews of a lot of MBB companies especially Mckinsey where the interviewers expect an answer which is MECE. Case interviews are interviews in which the interviewees are asked to solve a certain made-up company problem situation, wherein they expect the answer to be MECE friendly. MECE is also used to differentiate and separate the client’s information by consultants to analyze them systematically and cover every minute detail and avoid overlapping of data or missing out on any of it.
Mutually exclusive is one of the two parts that MECE comprises of. Mutually exclusive is a concept taken from probability which explains that two events cannot occur at the same time. This concept makes sure that every piece of information is distinct and differentiated according to its subtopic in order to avoid overlapping and confusion.
For example, you have to make a list of tips to improve a social media page. The MECE way to explain would be:
- Use aesthetically pleasing templates.
- Make sure the posts are consistent.
- Take a note of what the audience likes.
Here, these points portray the information in an easier and an organized manner which will help the client know where to exactly apply more effort. You cannot add ‘keep up with the trend’ because that would overlap with the third point. If necessary, you can add subpoints to dig deeper and emphasize better.
Collectively exhaustive is a part of MECE which explains that every information should be included and no alternatives should be left out. This concept makes sure that along with the information being mutually exclusive it is also not left out and the deliverance to the client is precise.
For example, you have to make a chart which includes a list of items to decorate the house, the items are:
Couch, bed, dining table, coffee table, chairs, side table
There are two ways of presenting the information, the first one is the non-mece way-
Couch bed dining table
Coffee table chairs side table
The second one is the mece way-
Living room- couch, coffee table
Bedroom- bed, side table
Dining room- dining table, chairs
What we notice here is, for the client the information becomes very easy to digest and directly dive into the work. In a second way the information is not only differentiated but also all the items are included which makes it mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive.
While making a wedding menu, the options were desserts, cocktails which are pretty mece unlike the options desserts, ice cream, cocktails, martinis.
In the below Venn diagram, you cannot put dessert and ice cream together as they come under the same category and overlap each other.
As ice cream and desserts come under the same sub-topic and are overlapping each other, this approach is non-mece.
In the below Venn diagram, all the required information is added, and the information is not overlapping. Hence, it has a mece approach as the information is mutually exclusive i.e., belong to different categories and not overlapping each other and also collectively exhaustive i.e., all the information, point and alternative are added in order to avoid missing out on crucial information.
As desserts and cocktails are both included but are also differentiated and not over-lapping one another, this is a mece approach.
The three mece frameworks are:
- Issue tree
- Decision tree
- Hypotheses tree
The issue tree is like a family tree or a mind map that consultancies use to solve the problems of the clients. Issue tree helps diagnose the problem and come up with solutions and alternatives for the same.
What does an issue tree look like?
An issue tree has the problem stated at the very top and the problem is then dissected as it continues downwards from branch to branch with several solutions and alternatives stated.
Structure of an issue tree- The first or the top-level contains the problem of the client.
For example, the problem is, how can the sales of ABC company increase?
The second level will then comprise a sub-issue of the main issue. Like increasing dept or not enough profits. Then as the issue tree branches out in the downwards direction, it comprises of some solutions or methods to get out of the rut.
- Geographic research for a profitable market.
- Target audience for the product.
- Unnecessary company expenditure, etc. would be some of the solutions to the main problem.
These points can help the client identify the root problem and dig deeper into it. The reasons are:
- These points are MECE which means the information is neither repeated or overlapping each other. All the needed information is included which makes it a very precise and trustworthy analysis.
- Various subpoints can be added under each point to understand and solve the problem better.
- The structure of an issue tree helps in making the information visually easy in the eyes of the client and helps the consultant in dissecting the problem smoothly.
- After a deeper analysis the consultant can trim some of the branches which are not very considerable, which lessens the number of options to choose from and makes an easy pathway to choose the most optimal option.
The above image is an example of how an ISSUE TREE looks like.
A decision tree helps one understand the potential of a certain decision made and the outcome of it be it negative or positive. This technique helps one make better decisions with precision and a sense of right and wrong.
Structure of a decision tree- A decision tree is actually structured like a tree from left to right. A specific decision is first written in a square. After which branches are drawn with potential solutions or options. But if a new decision is made then its gain written in a square. The branches with potential options for the decisions are then ended with a triangle if the decision is still unsure or unclear. This triangle can also stand for a decision already made or chosen.
How does a decision tree help- A decision can help make better decisions. It can also give the clients a choice of better or potential outcomes of decisions. It helps create a broader field for the client to look upon. It opens a lot of options and thus can help visualize a decision and its advantages and disadvantages better.
For example, a decision has to be made on what should be done with the extra bonus that you have got?
The decision here is how to invest the bonus amount of $50,000 and where? The potential choices are the stock market where a good bull market and dividend can compound your money, or invest in real estate where a monthly rental can double your original price and you can also have a diverse portfolio.
Hypothesis is an explanation of something with limited evidence for further investigation. A hypotheses tree is somewhat similar to an issue tree, the only difference being that in an issue tree a problem is broken into sub-components for further analysis, in a hypotheses tree has a more direct approach towards the problem.
Structure of a hypotheses tree- The main problem is written in the first block. Then according to the research two main hypotheses are created out of which sub-hypotheses are created.
Importance of a hypotheses tree- Unlike the other two methods, the hypotheses tree is a more direct one with direct solutions or alternatives to the problems. This technique proves to be very helpful for the client to understand the root cause and also proves helpful for the consultant to explain and make them understand.
The above image is an example of a hypotheses tree.
Some steps to come up with a precise and accurate MECE hypotheses-
- Identify the problem and clear out what exactly are you trying to solve.
- Write down the problem and understand which technique will best suit this problem.
- Take a note of the client while creating a solution or potential answers to the problem.
- Make sure that no information is repeated or is overlapping the other i.e., they are MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE and also that no information or alternatives of the same are left out i.e., they are COLLECTIVELY EXHAUSTIVE.
- Consider each option individually and its pros and cons and scratch out the ones that don’t fit anymore after taking a deeper analysis of the problem.
- Select the best option keeping the problem, the client, and the potential outcome in mind and present it to the client.
Rules Of MECE:
Parallel Items –
The first rule of MECE is that all the items should be in the same logical manner. One should not mix the categories while making any decision. One should make it simpler by having all the options in a similar pattern. Examples, numbers (1,2,3,4…), rows, columns, alphabets (A, B, C, D…), etc. This helps in creating a clearer and more accurate chart.
- Orderly list–
- The items or the particular category used should be in a sequence, order or put in a similar fashion. Mixing up the order can cause unnecessary confusion and chaos. For example, 1,3,2,4 is an incorrect way to put things in order. The correct way is 1,2,3,4. Not following this rule will instead of solving the problem, it will create one.
- The magic of “rule of three”–
- Research tells us that a set of three of any particular thing is easily remembered and memorized by a human in comparison to any other set. While creating a MECE framework a set of three (2 or 4 is fine) is more likely to be in favor of the consultant as well as the client or the organizer. It makes things way easier to organize with accuracy and correctness.
- No interlinking items–
- This rule is the most important as if not applied the analysis is not MECE. If any one item is interlinked with another, one problem in it will lead to several other problems leading to big chaos. For example, a yearly analysis of a company is then broken into sales and stock, as they are interlinked a small change in anyone could mess up the whole calculation.
Applying MECE in resumes–
While applying for a consulting job anywhere or applying for a job at Mckinsley and Company you have to be as MECE as possible. some of the tips to make your resume the most MECE one are:
- Apply to 2-4 bullet points for each position max. apply 4 for important jobs and 2 for less important jobs. But make sure you don’t apply 5 bullet points or a single bullet point.
- Keeping the orderly list rule in mind, make sure you keep the top items in your priority list first and then the less important ones. To make sure the interviewer knows exactly what you have to offer to the company.
- Keep the format of your resume extremely logical and in a similar order of fashion. Make sure the font, font size of the headings and the subtitles are similar and also make sure all descriptions start with parallel words.
- Every bullet should suggest a pattern or a framework. Everyone and anyone reading it should be able to identify the MECE framework.
The external link for the above information is https://mconsultingprep.com/
What is a case interview?-
There are situational questions asked during these interviews. They are mostly analysis of business questions and generally asked during consultancy interviews. They could be for around 25 minutes along with 5/10 mins of brainstorming questions.
Types of case interviews–
There are two types of case interviews namely,
- Quantitative assessments- These generally test the candidate’s mathematical and analytical skills.
- Hypothetical assessments- These interviews generally include hypothetical or imaginary business situations and the candidate is asked to come up with a problem-solving solution for the situation. These interviews test the candidate’s ability to solve a problem.
How to solve a problem using mece framework? –
The interviewer may only give some snippets or a gist of the hypothetical problem that the company is facing and the candidate is asked to solve the problem using the mece framework.
- While attending to such questions the candidate should be well aware of the problems and understand the cause of them properly.
- The analysis should be mutually exclusive to avoid over-lapping of information and it should be collectively exhaustive to avoid missing out on particular information or its alternative.
- Along with Mckinsley and Company even BCG and Bain are highly in favor of the MECE framework and expect every candidate coming in for the interview to be well versed with it.
- All along with the developer of the MECE framework Barbara Minto stated that the acronym for mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive which is MECE is pronounced as ‘MEECE’ as in ‘GREECE’ but everybody has been pronouncing it wrong all this time!
- Barbara Minto stated that she actually took the inspiration of the MECE framework from the old ideals of Aristotle.
Here are some of the frequently asked questions about mece framework:
- Where is MECe used?
ANS- MECE framework is not only used in consultancy firms or only to solve the problems of the clients but MECE can be used even in day-to-day life to analyze any situation and make the right decision.
- How do you practice MECE?
ANS- To master the mece framework a consistent practice is required in order to ace the case interviews. Here are some of the ways you can start practicing by:
- Start creating basic mece structures even for general life decisions in order to get fluent with it.
- Read more articles, watch videos, read MBA handbooks, etc. to master the technique.
- Start practicing cases you find in books or online.
- Try eliminating branches that are not required after a deep analysis of the case.
To conclude the MECE framework has been proved to be a very effective problem-solving technique. This technique not only helps the consultants to analyze the situation or problem better but also helps the clients in understanding the root cause of the problem and take the right decisions. The mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive technique will help you understand the situation and its pros and cons and lead you to the correct path after careful analysis using the frameworks like issue tree, decision tree and hypotheses tree.