MECE me .. (please)
I was re-reading "The McKinsey Way" the other day when, after a quick glance through Chapter 1, the above quote came to mind. Ethan Rasiel, in his exposé of McKinsey's methodology, hammers us on the importance of structured thinking, what they call "MECE" thinking - their Church of Reason, their Church of Solution Making.
You are not what you think you are, but what you think, you are!
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale,
"The Power of Positive Thinking", © 1952
The concept of MECE is a fairly useful one — by & of itself.
Mind you, it does hint that McKinsey-ites potentially only use that proverbial 'one-half of their brain'. Is that the left or the right ... Oh yeah! Its the left side. The side that is considered responsible for logic, reasoning, even just conscious thought.
See, MECE is an acronym which stands for 'Mutually Exclusive, Comprehensively Exhaustive'. As part of McKinsey & Company's drive to be the best at everything they do, a major tenet of their business model is to ensure that all problems statements, issues, analysis, even just thoughts, are always structured in a formal hierarchy. MECE is their criteria for ensuring quality in any information hierarchy and ultimately, they believe, in all their solutions.
Using MECE, one checks each and every layer, one at a time, to make sure all components of the layer are unique and non-overlapping in content with any other component of the same layer, i.e. that all components are Mutually Exclusive of all others within a given layer. Additionally and importantly, one checks each and every layer to make sure the aggregate of all components of the given layer Comprehensively and Exhaustively represent the whole.
So, pretty much, MECE is a simple reminder on how to form proper hierarchies.
As author Ethan Rasiel puts it,
MECE structures your thinking with maximum clarity
(hence minimum confusion) and maximum completeness.
The McKinsey Way, © 1998
Reductionism ".. by any other name would smell as sweet"
For the most part I agree. I see MECE as a fairly natural understanding and outcome of rational and formal, logical thought called 'Reductionism' - a style or method of thought originally tabled by Socrates, Aristotle and his colleagues Circa 400 BC. Various sectors of society know it by other labels. From a group of social workers, I remember them calling it 'chunky' or 'chucking it down'. In Systems Engineering Reductionism is used when we do 'Functional Decomposition', which is also referred to as 'Partitioning and Requirements Allocation'. I even remember that in my lower grade school, our grammar lessons and learnings about about subject and predicate, verb and object, and all those other little bits I have to ponder a while to get their labels; that this grammar stuff is just another application of Reductionism.
Nonetheless, for first-level Professionalism in any industry, any walk of life, I'll give a big bow and a hats-off to MECE.
The Other Half
I've worked hard all my life using this kind of formalism to help me achieve an excellent level of success in all my endeavours, even many personal endeavours. So I can't help but encourage it.
Yet recently I learned a profound appreciation for the other half of my brain and it's fantastic capabilities. I like to think of this 'Other Half' simply as Intuition. Intuition, feeling, your emotional half .. all the same thing really.
But too often I see it being pooh-poohed in business, if not our entire Western-World culture as something irrational. Where did that ever come from? "Emotional" equals "Irrational", I certainly don't know of any real evidence or proof for that. Do you? IMHO, just because a lot of people don't understand their emotional sides doesn't make it irrational.
In fact, as I have come to understand it, our emotional, intuitive nature has as much if not more to offer than many of our current, often long and complex, 'daisy-chains' of supposed rational and structured reasoning.
What to know more, I'll present that in a subsequent blog ...
... 'Cause I'm tired and need some rest.
— and that's a first hint!.