In consulting, you use frameworks all the time. The reason they are used so widely is that they are a hyper-effective way of sharing information, especially when you are trying to share that information with an audience (typically, the client) that does not have deep familiarity with the data.
There are three common ways to think about using frameworks
#1 Using Them To Do Analysis & Standardize Assessment
A big mistake that people presenting information make is that they assume their audience has the same knowledge of the information as they do.
We’ve all sat through these presentations. Large amounts of information are shown to us and we are responsible for figuring out how to think about it. If you are like me, you probably just give up and start daydreaming.
A better way of sharing loads of information is by using a framework. This can be very simple. For example, let’s pretend we are comparing different schools. We might make a simple list of categories that we are comparing the schools on:
- Teacher/Student Ratio
- and so on…
There are many factors you can consider but let’s just say that after your analysis these are the three most important factors. You decided to turn this into a clear visual for the audience you are presenting to. It might look like this:
With this simple graphic you are telling the audience what you want them to think. You might also be telling them that this is the order of your presentation. This gives them a mental model of thinking about the specific information you are sharing.
Frameworks like this can be useful in the future too. If you are working on a team that assesses schools, you can keep improving this framework and use it as a diagnostic assessment of schools. It becomes more easily shareable and can be taught to others more easily.
#2 Simplifying Ideas & Sharing The Takeaways
Consulting projects at big firms typically collect enormous amounts of information. A typical project can have hundreds of internal data sources, dozens of interviews, and many more inputs into the research phase of the project.
Consulting firms get made fun of for turning these into hundred-page decks. They deserve to get made fun of for this but what most people miss is that those hundred-page decks are often simplified into simpler frameworks.
These are often called “Executive Summaries.” One of my first freelance gigs was doing a broad scan of competitor blogs for a learning platform. It was a rushed project but still provides a good example of what I mean by idea simplification. I ended up gathering 32 pages of research and findings.
From those findings, I simplified everything down to the five things that I thought mattered most to the client.
While the client might browse the information I provided in the rest of the slides, these are the insights that they really care about. Even though many people like to look at data, what most people want is to know how to think about things and what to do next.
If you want to see the full deck, I’ve uploaded it here.
The third use of frameworks is for storytelling. What I mean by this is giving people a reference point of where they are and where they are going.
As a freelancer, in every project update, I always show a timeline of the current project, the milestones we have completed, and what steps still remain in the project. Here is a simple version of a template I use:
Storytelling frameworks can also be good if you are trying to sell something. One of the frameworks I had a hand in helping create at BCG is at the center of their very successful transformation practice that sells multi-year large-scale change projects.
The framework has four elements and is presented visually:
The top two boxes are the two “phases” – funding the journey and winning in the medium term. The bottom box is presented as something that is done throughout both of those phases and this is shown by extending the box the length of the top two boxes.
Finally, everything is surrounded by “strong and sustainable value creation.” This is the overarching aim of most businesses and this broad, general goal provides a way for company leaders to look at this framework and have an entry point where they can find agreement.
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