In honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we would like to honor a pioneer in our profession – Barbara Minto – yes, she of The Minto Pyramid fame!! She was the first female graduate of Harvard Business School (1963) and she got in without an undergraduate degree. She was also McKinsey’s first female consultant in the USA. Prior to that, she was a secretary – yes, a secretary. It was with McKinsey that she developed The Minto Pyramid – a structured thinking and communication technique that makes creating and presenting your arguments a lot easier – and is still in use today. For those of you that have been through the TMG Sourcing/Supply Chain “University”, you will recognize the technique immediately and are still hopefully using it :)!! :).
Minto essentially developed the argument that it is necessary to group and summarize ideas under a single question or hypothesis (thus the name pyramid). Let me use a Sourcing /Supply Chain example to illustrate:
Some of you will recognize the objective as a fairly normal one for a simple Supply Chain/Sourcing initiative. You would then agree that the three hypotheses are fairly logical ones you would reach. Let’s just take the middle one and continue. Minto would call this the S(Situation). The next layer is C(Complication) and would you agree that the three presented seem reasonable? Now to resolve the Complications, you would probably come up with the same list of Qs(questions )– n’est ce pas? Voila – SCQ or the Minto Pyramid(Imagine what could have been had she gone to college :)!!!). And SCQ leads to your A(Answer) or recommendation or proposal to resolve the situation and thus SCQA.
This is an extremely powerful way to organize your thinking before you start an initiative and to ensure that you have thought thoroughly and logically. Then, when you prepare your presentation document (report, paper, slides etc.), you should organize it exactly the same way. And depending on your audience, you can organize it from the bottom up (Inductive) or top down(Deductive). Here is another powerful technique based on ju jitsu – the Reverse Hypothesis. Let’s pretend that you are dealing with a very senior stakeholder who believes or says the exact opposite (not that anyone of you ever faces that) and therefore refuses to let you launch the initiative. What if you were to adopt her hypothesis – that we cannot generate savings? To prove her hypothesis, you still have to answer the same exact questions? Houston – we have liftoff!!
A doff of the hat to a doyen of my profession and thanks for the pyramid!!