The Pyramid Principle is a communication technique that allows us to communicate technical and complex issues clearly and quickly to non-technical executives. Developed by a McKinsey consultant, Barbara Minto, the technique is now used by some of the world’s top consulting firms.

In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about the pyramid principle.

What is the Pyramid Principle?

The Pyramid Principle is a highly effective communication technique used by consultants for making persuasive arguments and closing case interviews effectively. Here are the core elements of the Pyramid Principle:

Lead with the Answer

Begin by presenting recommendations right away. Highlighting essential actions early focuses the narrative on the immediate call-to-action.

Reinforce the Answer by Presenting Key Facts and High-Level Insights

Emphasize key insights that lead you to your recommendations. Here you use extracted insights to support or even challenge the suggestions you have given earlier.

Support Key Insights with Detailed Analysis Backed by Data and Evidence

Lastly, you will present data and evidence for insights you had given earlier. This stage includes a summary of the evidence and analysis that lead you to a particular insight. Leveraging data points helps readers understand the situation clearly and witness how the evidence aligns with your recommendations.

In contrast to how most people answer questions, the pyramid principle encourages users to reverse the typical flow of information. Doing so helps them begin with a clear goal and understand why the team must work towards that particular goal.

Why Is the Pyramid Principle an Effective Communication Tool?

Executives are always short on time. As consultants, researchers must organize their presentation to communicate with the executives more efficiently. Researchers tackle extremely difficult problems that take months of research, data collection, and analysis. Therefore, each project entails performing a significant analysis and synthesis of information.

Research and consulting teams must pack a lot of information into their presentations. However, all this information can be overwhelming for business executives who don’t have an in-depth understanding of the solution.

The Pyramid Principle allows researchers and consultants to communicate their solution in a user-friendly way. The technique uses vertical relationships between various key points, enabling executives to absorb the message quickly and understand how the recommendations were developed.

How Is the Pyramid Principle Structured?

The pyramid principle divides your recommendation into various levels:

  • Top level: The summary point you must communicate as your recommendation.
  • Second level: Key insights you discovered during analysis that support the top-level point.
  • Third level: Data and evidence supporting second-level points.

Researchers should start with the solution first and communicate the summary point. This gives the audience time to absorb your point. In the second level, you give insights that reinforce the recommendation.

Lastly, the third-level data and evidence back the insights shown in the second level, allowing you to resolve any doubts and strengthening your argument. Just like a real-life pyramid, each lower level supports the level above it.

Illustration of the Pyramid Principle (created by the writer)

Illustration of the Pyramid Principle (created by the writer)

Why Is the Pyramid Principle Essential for Researchers in the Corporate World?

The corporate world is cut-throat and executives are always short on time. They pay millions of dollars for consulting projects and they must know if the project was worth it or not. They are eager to know if your recommendation will help them earn significant revenue, reduce costs, and/or improve workflows through other key metrics.

For instance, corporate clients are happy to learn about cost saving recommendations. Telling them about the recommendations early will pique their interest. As a result, they will pay more attention to your insights, allowing you to reinforce recommendations through your analysis and back measures through data.

Putting recommendations at the end of your presentations dulls down the entire conversation. Sometimes, it can even drive the c-suite leaders away from the main point, as they get tangled in the details.

When used correctly, the Pyramid Principle gives you a framework where you share the answer first and sequentially put forward supporting points and relevant data. In other words, the Pyramid Principle is a great proponent of deductive reasoning, where we assert the answer in the beginning and then back it up with evidence.

Telling your clients that you may have found a million-dollar savings is significantly more engaging than dragging them through a stretched out conversation, which ultimately concludes with the same answer. The only difference is that the audience will be far more engaged if the recommendation is suggested early.

Explaining relevant concepts in detail and creating a clear, logical structure can help you build a strong foundation for your business document. If you think your business document needs further improvement, consider our professional business document editing services.