When you are trying to get your point across, how you communicate is just as important as what you say. You may have the most interesting and prolific points, but if your key message is lost within the overall story, you really have nothing. The SCQA framework is a way to structure your communication to better capture the audience’s attention and tell your story more effectively.
Buckle up as we share more about the elements of the SCQA framework and how to apply it.
What Is SCQA?
SCQA is a framework that provides a simple structure to organize your narrative stories and convey your stories more effectively. SCQA stands for:
- S: Situation
- C: Complication
- Q: Question
- A: Answer
This framework can be used for many situations, including:
- Structuring a request for a proposal
- Answering fit questions during an interview
- Problem solving a solution for a client
- Getting advice on an interpersonal conflict
Examples of employing the SCQA framework across the above situations are below.
There are many examples of SCQA in practice, e.g.,:
- Answering fit questions during an interview: While Management Consulted generally recommends the STAR (situation, task, action, result) method for fit interviews, you can also consider using the SCQA framework. For example, if you are looking to describe a conflict that you had with a colleague, you can frame the story as follows:
- Situation: My colleague and I were financial analysts at a direct-to-consumer company that was supposed to IPO in the next year. My colleague and I were in charge of developing the revenue and profitability forecasts for the company. Given the transition to being a private company, the stakes were particularly high.
- Complication: While my colleague and I agreed with the overall methodology to use for forecasting the company’s financials, we disagreed on the embedded level of conservatism. While I thought we should incorporate a mild level of conservatism given the potential public scrutiny and overall macro uncertainty, my colleague wanted to be more aggressive with the forecasts to push the team.
- Question: The main question I asked myself was how do I best address the difference in perspectives to deliver the best result for our company and also preserve our interpersonal working dynamics?
- Answer: I thought of a few different ways to address the situation and ultimately realized that my colleague and I were solving two different problems. While I was trying to develop an externally-facing forecast that we could comfortably hit, my colleague was looking to develop stretch targets for our fellow co-workers. When I explained to my colleague the importance of hitting our externally-facing forecasts, she acknowledged that her forecasts may not be achievable. However, we agreed that her forecasts can be hit in an “upside” case and should be used to inform our co-workers’ productivity targets.
- Problem solving a solution for a client: The SCQA method can be extremely effective when looking to problem solve a content issue with a consulting team. For example:
- Situation: As we all know, our client is an incumbent retailer that is losing market share, particularly amongst millennial consumers.
- Complication: Our client is in a tough position as millennial customers do not value the client’s brand. In fact, millennials prefer to buy at smaller, mission-driven, trendy DTC brands.
- Question: The main question for our session is how do we turn the client’s trajectory around and enable them to gain market share.
- Answer: I thought of a few hypotheses that I would like to discuss further with this group, e.g.,
- Do we acquire a smaller DTC brand like Nestle has done in the past?
- Do we incubate smaller, more trendy brands?
- Do we create a new business unit that is more in line with millennial tastes?
- Do we create an advertising campaign to better explain to millennials how we are catering to their needs?
- Communicating at an executive level: The SCQA method is the standard – along with Pyramid Principle – for putting together exec-worthy decks that get to the heart of a matter.
- Situation: For two decades Dell was the leading supplier of computer systems with a highly configurable, direct-to-consumer model
- Complication: While Dell focused on tailored customer solutions, Asian manufacturers emerged with significantly lower cost alternatives
- Question: How can Dell regain competitive advantage?
- Answer: Double down on services side of the business, ceding the space of being the “lowest cost” hardware supplier to Asian manufacturers
There is no cut and dry SCQA template. However, if you are planning to use the framework, it is helpful to take the following steps:
- Think through your situation ahead of time and break the elements of your story into the above predefined categories.
- Jot down a few bullet points around the message you want to send – to that particular stakeholder group and at that specific point in time.
- When telling your story, limit your explanation across the sub-sections to a few sentences each.
The SCQA framework is a helpful tool to use when looking to communicate your point and enables you to highlight your key takeaways in an easy-to-digest manner. The SCQA framework allows you to set context for the audience through the use of your “question” and then quickly gets to the “answer” of the question you’ve asked.
While the SCQA framework can give you a roadmap for structuring your arguments, it is also important to make sure you are curating the content inside of each section to ensure the story you’re telling is the correct one for your audience and that time. This takes focused practice and intentionality!
In conclusion, the SCQA framework can be an effective tool for getting your point across when used properly. Does your team need a communication or presentation training? Reach out to our team!
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