Pyramid Principle Consulting Methodology

Topics: Logic, Reasoning, Inductive reasoning Pages: 5 (1384 words) Published: May 10, 2015
The Pyramid Principle
Logic in writing and thinking.

How can you grasp the attention of your audience in a couple of minutes? How can you create a compelling story with a logical structure that is easy to understand and easy to remember. If you have to convince customers and have limited time for a presentation with busy executives this can be quite a challenge. But how can we do this?

The Pyramid Principle is the answer to this question. Developed by Barbara Minto from McKinsey to find a method for the consultants to structure their advice and consulting reports. Nowadays every McKinsey Consultant is trained to learn and apply this method and it is also used by many other consulting companies worldwide. Consulting Methodology made the Minto Pyramid Principle an essential part of the Issue Based Consulting training program. Together with some other techniques Issue Based Consulting is the ultimate consulting toolkit.

This white paper explains briefly what the Pyramid Principle is and how it works.

Some facts
Some facts about people (our customers included):

People tend not to listen to things they already know.
Only if it is of interest, people want to find out what they don’t know. If people hear something they don’t know, it raises questions.

Making a statement to your audience that tells them something they don’t know, will automatically raise a question in their minds. Why? How? Is this true? Etc. The listener will be focussed to hear an answer to this question. A question-answer dialogue like that will ensure the listeners attention. Keep in mind however the topic must be of interest of your listener. That requires some knowledge about your audience or your customer. What is on their mind? What kind of problems and challenges do they have? As a consultant or sales representative this is something you should know or find out if you don’t know this yet.

After raising a question, the answers you give, might again be new to the listener and raise more questions. Just proceed the dialogue until you reach the stage where no logical questions are there anymore. The listener does not necessarily have to agree with your story. Prepare your story in advance with a hierarchical structure. A structured story is much easier to understand and to remember for the listener.

The Pyramid Principle is a hierarchical structure based on vertical logic and horizontal logic. The vertical logic represents the storyline (question-answer dialogue), the horizontal logic is about the kind of reasoning. Let’s explain both of them in more detail.

© Consulting Methodology 2014

page 1 of 5

The Pyramid Principle
Logic in writing and thinking.

Vertical logic
The question-answer dialogue is the vertical logic of the Pyramid. The same as we read a story topdown, we read one sentence after the other. We start with the main idea, than a question is raised, we answer the question and so on. Exhibit 1 shows an example of a question-answer dialogue represented by a vertical or hierarchical structure.

Exhibit 1. Question-answer dialogue.

Of course Exhibit 1 is just an example and remember - The listener does not necessarily have to agree with your story. Most important thing is that your reasoning is structured in a logical flow and only starts after a logical question about your initial statement. In a real dialogue, e.g. presenting for a group, you could interact with the audience and ask them about their questions. Of course you did prepare the possible questions in advance and even if you didn’t prepare that question, you master the topic and can answer any question.

© Consulting Methodology 2014

page 2 of 5

The Pyramid Principle
Logic in writing and thinking.

Horizontal logic
If we start a question-answer dialogue, our answer is often based on a number of statements. These statements are either deductive or inductive.
An example of deductive reasoning is:

An example of inductive reasoning...
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