NOTE: PLEASE CHOOSE CASE NUMBER 3 ABOUT RSPCA clearly addresses the audience as outlined in the scenario, uses plain language, and is structured in line with ‘answer first’ principles that advance the purpose of the report. This task focuses on the writing quality more than the report finding itself.  Please focus on creating a quality writing (grammar, punctuation, etc)

by Jeff Kavanaugh
We’ve all heard the conventional wisdom that says if you
want to advance in your career, then you have to work
The denitive guide
to learning fast,
thinking clearly and
Buy on Amazon
Except, that’s only partially true.
If you want to move up the ranks from in any business,
then you need to master a critical skill beyond work ethic:
the ability to communicate more information, more
clearly, in a limited amount of time.
In business, you have a few minutes to get your point
across before a busy executive stops paying attention to
you. If you fail to get right to the point, you risk losing
Yes, a presentation may last a lot longer, but you don’t
have much time to get–and keep–someone’s attention.
You need to tell your stories in a way that models the way
people process information. In the consulting world, we
accomplish this with The Pyramid Principle.
I’m Jeff Kavanaugh,
Vice President and
Executive Editor for
the Infosys
Institute, the
research and
thought leadership
arm of Infosys, a
$12bn technology
and consulting rm.
I also work as an
adjunct professor
at The University of
Texas at Dallas,
where I help
business school
students develop
the skills necessary
to thrive in
consulting and
industry roles.
One of the best, yet relatively unknown tools to help you
hold the attention of executives (or any audience) is The
Pyramid Principle.
The Pyramid Principle was created by Barbara Minto, who
headed training for McKinsey & Company back in the ’70s.
Barbara was the best at getting all the new recruits to go
from hot-shot, straight-from-campus hires to expert
consultants in the shortest amount of time.
Barbara did it by employing a principle that could take
large amounts of information and structure it to simplify
the story yet retain the detail.
How often have you had to decide between unloading a
ton of content or dumbing down the message to
communicate it quickly?
The Pyramid Principle allows you to have your cake and
eat it, too – all the content, and easily digestible. How is
this possible?
By focusing on the key actionable point, or the “bottom
line,” and supporting it through the underlying arguments
and data, Barbara was able to teach her students to get
straight to the point.
That’s what The Pyramid Principle is at its core: a principle
that allows you to quickly seize your audience’s attention
and communicate with gravitas, by creating a compelling
story that is easy to understand and remember.
The Pyramid Principle has a four-part introductory

  1. Situation
  2. Complication
  3. Question
  4. Answer
    You start with knowing your audience. Then you arrange
    the information in a way that your audience can rapidly
    Think about the introduction to a story:
    Good stories don’t just dump information on their
    audiences, they begin by crisply describing a situation,
    creating a mental picture in the mind of the audience.
    Like any good story, you introduce a complication to
    highlight the conict, the problem or opportunity that
    affects the situation. Then a question is posed to highlight
    the decision at hand, the moment of truth for the
    individual or company. The answer or recommendation is
    then provided as the resolution, the (hopefully) happy
    ending to the story.
    Let’s pretend a shoe company (which I’ll refer to as Hot
    Fire Shoes) hired you as a consultant. Here’s what your
    Pyramid Principle-driven presentation intro might look
    “For years, Hot Fire Shoes has shown a steady increase in
    yearly revenue and protability.”
    You’ve established your familiarity with their company,
    established a positive atmosphere, and set the stage for
    your story.
    “This quarter, Hot Fire Shoes’ protability unexpectedly
    at lined for the rst time in company history.”
    You’ve made the dilemma immediately clear to everyone
    in the room. This creates a sense of urgency, compelling
    the executive to listen and possibly act, based on your
    upcoming ideas. In short, you’ve grabbed their attention.
    “How can we increase protability for Hot Fire Shoes?”
    You’ve started a question and answer dialogue (drawn
    from ancient techniques, like the Socratic Method). In The
    Pyramid Principle, the question extends logically from the
    complication, which keeps the overarching problem
    mentally straightforward and easier to follow.
    Note that the question above is over simplied – in
    practice, a good question is often more subtle and the
    result of analysis to ensure the right question is asked.
    You’re not looking for a one-size ts all solution here. The
    question you raise needs to have answers that are
    mutually exclusive and completely exhaustive,
    otherwise known in business lingo as MECE.
    Mutually exclusive means that each component is distinct,
    there is no overlap, and that you can address each part on
    its own without worrying about the other components.
    Completely exhaustive means you have included every
    possible answer.
    For the Hot Fire Shoes example, you can start with a
    relatively simple answer. To increase prots, you can do
    two things:
  5. Increase revenues
  6. Decrease costs
    Neither option overlaps with the other, so they are
    mutually exclusive, and there are no major paths to
    protability that fall outside of either category, so they are
    also completely exhaustive.
    If your answers aren’t mutually exclusive, the lines
    become blurred, and clients may become confused and try
    clarify your logic on the y. If your answers aren’t
    completely exhaustive, clients’ minds may wonder what is
    missing and ask you, “What about these other options?”
    At that point you’ve already lost their attention,
    andwhatever momentum you had. Sound like any
    presentations you’ve seen?
    To keep executives focused, you need to craft a coherent
    story. This means restructuring answers into the right
    scopes and right descriptions.
    If I handed you a list of 25 options, you’d have no chance of
    making a smart decision. The same is true with your
    audience. You want to pick three to ve options to
    highlight as answers to the question you’ve presented to
    Research from George Miller has shown a human being
    can hold about 7 items in their short-term memory, and
    for some people it is even less. That is why 3-5 items is the
    optimal size of components for a given idea.
    Personally, I like three to ve because that gives you room
    to be wrong on one or two options. This is something
    Derek, a true genius who I thought would change the
    game for my rm, couldn’t grasp.
    Derek was quantitatively brilliant, but his comfort zone
    wouldn’t allow him to offer a client an idea with 3-5
    supporting options. Instead, he felt he had to demonstrate
    his intellect by telling them about all 25 options that might
    work, in a semi-organized list.
    Twenty-ve options are way too many choices for busy
    What’s nice about The Pyramid Method is that you’re
    conveying bite size morsels of information that can easily
    t on a slide, in a chapter, or in a section of a report that an
    executive—or functional leader—can quickly absorb.
    This is a key tenet of both effective information analysis
    and communication to your audience.
    One of the reasons The Pyramid Principle is so effective is
    that it uses vertical relationships.
    The vertical relationship is important because it presents
    an idea, allows the reader to absorb it, and then provides
    answers and supporting evidence. The top of the pyramid
    is a statement, with the supporting base of the pyramid
    ready to provide answers to the questions the statement
    Every piece of information on the pyramid base reinforces
    the tip above it, making the pyramid’s conclusion
    inescapable to the viewer. And the base of one pyramid
    can (and often does) become the tip of another, to
    maintain the ‘rule of 3’ discussed above.
    The Pyramid Principle
    Always present the summary idea before you give the
    individual ideas being summarized. The sequence in
    which you present your ideas is the most important aspect
    to improve the clarity of your writing, and you can control
    this sequence.
    If there is power in the vertical relationships, is there also
    power in the horizontal relationships? Absolutely, though
    in a different way.
    In vertical relationships, the supporting points (the base)
    need to answer the question raised by the statement
    above (the tip). For horizontal relationships, the
    supporting points relate to each other, using either
    deductive or inductive reasoning.
    Yes, it’s possible your recommendation may be wrong.
    However, the purpose of the Pyramid Principle isn’t
    always to convince everyone that you’re right. It’s to lay
    out your argument in the clearest terms possible, so that
    listeners can understand your thinking and engage more
    If you’re right, it will allow the audience to grasp the idea
    quickly and easily.
    If you’re wrong, it will make your thinking clearer, so that a
    listener can point out the aw in your logic and
    collaboratively provide you constructive feedback.
    Another upside to mastering how to craft coherent ideas,
    is that executives are keenly aware of how hard it is to do
    what you’ve demonstrated. They’ll want you around,
    whether as a consultant or in another capacity – don’t be
    surprised when clients want to hire you.
    You see, it’s not just about working hard. It’s about your
    ability to communicate, with impact.
    You still need to hustle, and you still need to hit your
    targets. But all else being equal, the person who advances
    the fastest is usually the one who knows the value of time,
    how to deliver value, and tell a succinct story with sound
    What Do I Do
    There are six skills you need
    to learn in order to succeed
    in the world of consulting.
    My free guide explains what
    they are and how to
    develop them.
    Let’s Get Started
    © 2020 Jeff Kavanaugh. All Rights Reserved.
    Site by SPYR

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