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Straw Man Proposal – A Comprehensive Problem-solving Technique

The Straw Man Proposal is a problem-solving technique used to identify and analyze a problem.

In this article, we will introduce you to a more comprehensive problem-solving technique that you can use to solve complex problems effectively.

Understanding the Straw Man Proposal

The Straw Man Proposal is a problem-solving approach developed by the McKinsey consulting firm that involves brainstorming and creating a draft version of a potential solution. It is a structured approach that helps solve customer problems within companies.

The aim of the method is to identify deficiencies that may lead to problems and come up with new and better proposals. This method is particularly useful when dealing with complex issues that require a more structured approach.


Origin of the Straw Man Proposal

The origin of the term “straw man” is unclear. It is often used in a rhetorical sense and refers to a human figure made of straw, such as a military training doll or scarecrow.

Straw men are easy to pull apart, destroy, and rebuild. The same principle applies to the Straw Man Proposal method.

The idea is to propose potential improvements that are easy to criticize, dismantle and rebuild, leading to better solutions.

Conditions and Examples for Straw Man Proposals

The Straw Man Proposal is a valuable tool for problem-solving in partnerships and organizations. It can be applied in all phases and at every level of customer involvement. It can also be used to offer solutions for other problems within an organization.

The method is commonly used when developing an initial hypothesis based on a potential overarching answer to a problem.

The key condition here is that every team member must be prepared to make a contribution and be willing to critically assess other’s contributions and discard them if necessary.

By doing so, the method helps to create a spontaneous mindset for all involved, allowing for a closer examination of all sides of the problem.

Format and Working Method of the Straw Man Proposal

The Straw Man Proposal method involves discussing a problem with a group of people and developing a draft version of a potential solution.


However, it is important to note that this approach should not be viewed as the ultimate answer to a problem. Instead, it is a useful aid in the search for the best possible solution.

Arguments and ideas that arise from the Straw Man Proposal can provide valuable feedback in a solution-oriented process and lead to successful adjustments and improvements.

The method also recognizes that it is often the counter-arguments that lead to the eventual solution.

The following steps outline the working method for the Straw Man Proposal:

1. Concept proposal

The first step in the Straw Man Proposal format is the concept proposal. This is where you introduce a potential solution or proposal to the group.

This proposal should be a rough idea or draft version that is open to discussion and critique. It should not be considered the ultimate answer or solution to the problem at hand, but rather a starting point for discussion.


During this step, it’s important to present your proposal in a clear and concise manner. Be prepared to answer questions and address any concerns that may arise.

It’s also important to be open to feedback and criticism from others in the group.

Remember, the goal of this step is to generate discussion and ideas, not to defend your proposal.

2. Discuss

This is where the group can provide feedback, ask questions, and raise concerns about the proposal. It’s important to approach this step with an open mind and be receptive to feedback and criticism.

During the discussion, it’s important to keep the conversation focused on the proposal and the problem it’s intended to solve. It’s also important to encourage everyone in the group to participate and contribute their ideas and feedback.

3. Clarify

The third step is to clarify any misunderstandings or misconceptions that may have arisen during the discussion.

This is where you can address any questions or concerns that were raised in the previous step and provide additional information or context to help the group better understand the proposal.

It’s important to approach this step with patience and empathy, and to make sure that everyone in the group understands the proposal and the problem it’s intended to solve.

This step can help to ensure that the group is on the same page and can move forward with a shared understanding of the proposal.

4. Final Decision

The final step in the Straw Man Proposal format is to make a final decision about the proposal. This decision may be to move forward with the proposal as is, to modify the proposal based on feedback and discussion, or to discard the proposal altogether and start over with a new idea.

It’s important to approach this step with a willingness to compromise and make adjustments based on feedback from the group. Remember, the goal is to arrive at the best possible solution to the problem at hand, not to cling to a particular proposal at all costs.

5. Rough Sketch

To enhance the Straw Man Proposal method, it is often helpful to include a rough sketch of the proposed solution.

This helps to visually communicate the potential solution, making it easier for the team to evaluate and modify. The rough sketch should be simple and easy to understand, with enough detail to convey the proposed solution.

The sketch should also be open to modification and revision as the team continues to develop the proposal.


The Straw Man Proposal format and working method is a structured approach to problem solving that encourages open discussion, feedback, and collaboration.

By following these steps, you can generate new ideas, clarify misunderstandings, and arrive at the best possible solution to the problem at hand.

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Marty Hoffman

Marty Hoffman, MBA, PhD Management Consultant for Fortune 500 and Corporate Strategist πŸ“ San Francisco, CA More »

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