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Create strong business cases with The Situation, Complication, Resolution (SCR) framework

When it comes to communicating business rationale, a great communication structure can make or break your presentation. Learn the secret structure used by top consultancies around the world.

When you have a recommendation fail to persuade others, this failure can feel devastating. You feel countless hours have been wasted, an opportunity was lost, and perhaps you’re unwilling to go through that exercise again. More often than not though, it’s not because your recommendation was a poor one, but because you're not speaking in the love language your colleagues receive.

One of the main reasons organizations hire external, business management consultancies like BCG, Bain, or Accenture is because they use a storytelling structure that explains the rationale behind a recommendation. This structure is is valued by executives and stakeholders it is predictable in nature and is specifically focused on placing difficult trade-off decisions at the heart of the story.

When it comes to communicating business rationale, a great communication structure can make or break your presentation. One of the most famous and heavily used analytical storytelling structures is called ​The Pyramid Principle​.

Developed by ​Barbara Minto​, the Pyramid Principle takes the basic elements of a story and organizes them into a pyramid structure to make them easy for someone else to understand. By using a pyramidal structure, presenters can present their arguments by framing what is known, summarize logical reasons for action, and order the arguments in a way which makes sense to the audience.

The Situation-Complication-Resolution (SCR) Framework is both a popular version of the structure and very learnable. If you’re familiar with the ​5 paragraph essay structure​ in writing, the SCR Framework is quite similar in its base, but includes flexibility to adjust accordingly. The beauty of this framework is that it can be tailored for specific circumstances in which a decision needs to be made.

To construct a good argument, the framework allows you to structure your thinking as a series of situations and complications, which leads to a resolution. The structure is summarized with the acronym SCR:

The most basic approach for presenting business rationale with SCR is to highlight one situation, introduce three complications that require action, and conclude with a resolution to solve the problem.

I like to think about it like an equation: S + C + C + C + R.

As you become familiar with the approach, you’ll find it’s applicable for more than just product or design decisions. Here’s an example from my past, where I used the SCR Framework to present my decision to change the priorities of my team.

Situation:​ Our goal is to develop a modern approach to Employee Experience

Complication​: We currently have a goal of reducing operational expenses by 8% for this year

Complication​: 2/3s of employees are spending less than 10 seconds on average for the digital tools we provide to them

Complication​: The CSAT rate for employee digital tools is 37%

Resolution​: Prioritize the rapid development and adoption of a design system to meet cost-saving goals, increase usage of digital tools, and increase the overall satisfaction within those tools.

Pro-tips when using SCR

With this basic format, a few best practice guidelines can be introduced to help you develop a more complete SCR story.

Use our free Mural template

Second Wave Dive’s Situation Complication Resolution Canvas on Mural

To influence strategic decisions, start with our Situation Complication Resolution Canvas on Mural. This template walks you through a step-by-step process to shape your rationale and argument in the love language your colleagues’ receive.

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