Core Skills at L.E.K.

Case study questions are a cornerstone of the L.E.K. recruitment process. Over a number of interviews I was asked to size the market for beef products and residential mortgages, analyze a waste management business, and determine how to increase the revenue earnings of an airliner. The common underlying thread among these interviews is the need to seek out candidates with outstanding critical thinking skills. It is important that new associates start off with a strong critical thinking base, which will only get stronger as we learn on the job and complete formal training sessions.

There are three aspects of critical thinking that I find particularly important as an associate – drawing out implications, analysis and communication. I would like to share how I have developed these during my past seven months at L.E.K., and why these are so important:

Drawing out implications – It may seem peculiar to start with this instead of analysis. After all, what implications can we draw if we have not done the analysis? Unlike a case study interview, the issues in a real case are less likely to be as well-defined, and there could be enormous amounts of data available. To make sense of it all, it is important to be clear about the key implications we are trying to understand, rather than diving headfirst into analysis. Once we have identified our objectives, we carry out the appropriate analysis, and are subsequently able to draw out the full implications for our client.

At L.E.K., I am constantly encouraged to draw out the implications of my analysis. This would usually take the form of a collection of two-line summaries of my analysis at the top of a PowerPoint slide. At first this can be mildly intimidating, for fear of writing something blindingly obvious, but my teams have always actively engaged me in the context of the case, and the friendly team-based environment at the firm means everyone is expected to voice their opinions. Drawing out insightful implications is a skill that you will constantly work on during your consulting career, but as an associate at L.E.K., I have been nurtured to sharpen this skill from the outset.

Analysis – This is the core purpose of the associate. As an associate at L.E.K., I am at the frontline of analysis. I understand the fine details of my data, often more intimately than my consultants or managers, and thus my input on related topics is valued. I often find myself working independently on a piece of analysis, with full leeway on how I would execute it. Responsibility comes early on at L.E.K.

At L.E.K., I have learned to use many analytical tools, from the basics such as Excel, to more advanced offerings such as databases and mapping software. I have also developed a good understanding of where and how to look for relevant data when it is not easily available. For example, I worked on a niche project on interior fittings for ultra-luxury yachts which involved a lot of calls to yacht interior companies to tease out the data we were interested in. With my improved repertoire of tools and sources, when handed a task, I can now envision several routes of analysis and potential roadblocks, which allows me to carry out the analysis more effectively and efficiently.

Communication – There is a common stereotype of entry level work in certain professional services, consulting included, as spending inordinate amounts of time designing PowerPoint slides. I hope that by this point I have convinced you that the work of an associate at L.E.K. is far more diverse. I do feel that slide design has an undeserved bad reputation. A PowerPoint pack is often the only tangible output a client receives for their money, and we have spent hundreds of hours doing the analysis behind our findings. The pack is a key medium through which we engage the client. Logic and presentation have to be combined for effective communication, and slide design is crucial to that.

I hope this has given you a flavor of the role of the associate at L.E.K., and how the firm has nurtured my development so far.

Add new comment