Good engagements start with top-down analyses

Top-down analyses is a necessary means of determining if the study is worth completing and if the team is headed in the right direction.

Strategy Study W0 9

Pre-study onboarding

As the interns prepare to arrive from their various MBA programs, I wanted to have regular conference calls to help them prepare and understand the culture, attitude, and style of the way we approach problems.

Having so many updates before the interns start is uncommon, even at the elite firms, so this is a luxury that I hope they will use to their benefit.

The agenda for this call is simple:

(1)  Provide a high-level study background.

(2) Emphasize they should forget what they think is management consulting, and focus on my guidance.

(3) Ensure they internalize the pace at which we will work – it will be blistering. It will astonish you, and them, to see what we will produce in the 10-week period.

(4) Explain the culture and value system we will use.

(5) Get them comfortable asking for help, realizing that within the team they need to spend less time trying to look good and spend more time asking for help.

(6) Emphasize the importance of doing something with the help they will receive. I want them to learn and deliver at the same time. This is not only meant to be a learning experience.

(7) Emphasize the importance of taking initiative.

Unfortunately, I cannot provide more details to them until they arrive and sign the full non-disclosure agreement.

If I want them to take away one thing, it is the pace at which we will need to work to understand the economics of this problem.

There is far too much emotion and anecdotes being used to make massive decisions.

I will also send them a reminder about sending me a list of their expectations from the internship and overall study.

I want them to look for 2nd and 3rd order expectations. In other words, make a list and ask themselves why are they are asking for these expectations to be met. Then they need to reword the expectations with their refined answers and repeat the process.

This forces them to get to the root cause of the expectation.

Then send it to me and I will discuss that final list with each person when they arrive.

Top-down analyses

LAB recommended we use an un-banked expert from the USA to work with us on the study. They believe he can add value given that he understands the market well and worked on the initial studies they did internally.

This is not a bad idea. By working with him, we have someone they trust who understands our approach, findings, and research.

The team will have to focus on three areas for the initial top-down analyses:

(1) Analyses of the bank’s current financials to see how the bank is performing.

(2) Focus interviews with a range of stakeholders including government, banks, NGOs, the banking clients’ partners in the US and local market intermediaries.

(3) Day-in-the-life-of studies for both the banks’ agents working with borrowers in the field, clients of the bank and the intermediaries who help the bank find clients.

I will spend the next few days thinking through how this works and whom we need to interview. In particular, the bank has intermediaries in the US and Mexico to whom it provides financing and these intermediaries find borrower clients. The bank also works with banks in Mexico and Guatemala who have the same model.

We really need to spend time understanding the economics of the intermediaries since this is what the bank would want to create if it entered the market directly with a retail structure.

Would the intermediaries mind such an intrusion? Could the bank run the retail structure better?

Every time we present a finding, someone will say, “have you looked at…”

Therefore, we will have to conduct our very own case studies to understand why some ventures were successful and others were not.

Since we are looking at micro, small and medium-sized businesses in the US, primarily in the south, we can consider a wide range of countries. The client has recommended Poland, Indonesia, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Kenya, Thailand and of course, the famous Grameen Bank of Bangladesh.

I would want to be very involved in the case studies to prevent them from becoming simple desktop research.

We want to speak to the clients, managers, partners and management of the agencies and companies we end up choosing to case study.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: Why are values such an essential part of our training?

We answer this question, additional reader questions and discuss more issues raised in this article on the accompanying episode on the Strategy Skills podcast channel on iTunes, Spotify, Acast and Google Android Podcasts. This is the world’s #1 ranked business strategy podcast channel.

If you have a question, please post it as a comment on iTunes and we will respond in a podcast.