How to Tell a Business Story Using the McKinsey Situation-Complication-Resolution (SCR) Framework

The Situation-Complication-Resolution (SCR) Framework

  • Situation - The framing of the important, recent context the audience already knows and accepts as fact.

  • Complication - The reason the situation requires action.

  • Resolution - The action required to solve a problem (or capture an opportunity).

Early in my career, I had the good fortune to work with a McKinsey alum, Richard Graham. Richard was my boss at First Union. Richard and I worked together to transition a lending business to First Union after they purchased Signet Bank.

At some point, I was struggling with communicating a particularly thorny issue in a way that was both clearly descriptive and lead to a high value outcome. Richard suggested the SCR framework (1). That was about 25 years ago. I’ve been using it ever since!

Think of the SCR framework as a reasoning approach that 1) helps the writer organize their thoughts in a way that 2) efficiently helps align the readers on a high value conclusion. As slight modifications, sometimes I may:

  1. Provide a background as a preamble to the situation, or,

  2. Provide multiple resolution alternatives, or, for simplicity, stick to the “best” resolution and have a follow up alternatives discussion.

The SCR framework is a valuable communication and reasoning tool in my business tool box.


(1) SpeakingSherpa does a nice job providing more context.

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