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How to Tackle Case Studies

How to Tackle Case Studies

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Published by: Soumya Jyoti Bhattacharya on Apr 24, 2010
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05/19/2013

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Steps to Follow in Analyzing a Management Case
1.
Identify the central issues:
Focus on what seems to be key problems.Separate superficial issues from the key problems. The superficial issues areusually just symptoms of deeper, ingrained problems. Use the planning,organizing, actuating and controlling framework to assist in identifying thecentral issues. Also decide on the management problem-solving approach tofollow.
2.
Organize the pertinent facts:
Utilize the central issues as centres aroundwhich substantiating and relevant facts are organized. Put the facts in differentformat if this will assist in their understanding. Charts and matrix forms, forexample, are helpful.
3.
Determine the alternatives:
There is always more than one possibleanswer. Think and imagine until at least three or four possibilities are evolved. Insome case studies alternatives are quite clear, while in others some deepthinking and probing are required.
4.
Evaluate the alternatives:
Basically this involves relating certain importantfacts in support of a certain alternative and repeating this for each alternative.Some facts will support a given alternative; others will indicate preference for adifferent alternative. Also some facts will suggest the consequences of choosingone alternative over another. Judgement and experience will also assist inevaluating the alternatives.
5.
Select the alternative recommended:
All things considered, what appearsto be the strongest, most appropriate and most feasible alternative is selectedand recommended. This selection is a natural out-growth of step-4. By thismeans the case solver is aware of the strengths as well as the limitations of achoice.
Questions for Case Study Analysis
What is going on here?Is there a problem at all?What precisely is the problem?What has caused it?Are we looking at causes or symptoms?What are the main issues?Why are these issues important?Whose problem is it?What precisely are his objectives?What should he try to do now?What possible courses of action are open?How realistic is each of the actions/solutions proposed?What are their possible effects?
 
 Tackling Case Studies – A Descriptive Thought for OB /HRD
A case study is a concise description of a situation which exists or a series of eventswhich have taken place in an organization. This description may be drawn fromactual events in a particular organization or it may be a fabricated description whichdraws its inspiration from several parts of the author’s experience. Whatever itssource, this description [perhaps with organization charts and tables of dataincluded] is the scenario which you will be asked to analyze. Often these scenariosdescribe a number of things which have gone wrong or indicate things left undonewhich should have been done and sometimes illustrate effective and sometimesineffective practice and management.Usually you will be given questions to answer or a course of action to comment on oryou will be invited to make recommendations which have to be supported byargument and analysis. This method of learning from case studies has long been the core of most businessschools teaching. Students learn by ‘participating’ actively in the business case,rather than ‘passively’ studying the theory behind it.In the conventional business school the treatment of case studies usually falls inseveral parts:1.The students individually analyze the case and prepare their own commentson the situations they discover, together with some possible solutions.2.They may then discuss the case, formally or informally, as part of a team of students.3.They will then attend a classroom session during which the various ideasdeveloped by the individuals and groups will be tested against each other. Theprofessor’s role in this session will be to ‘chair’ the discussion ensuring that thestudents fully develop their own ideas.4.At the end of this classroom session the professor will summarize the principallearning points that emerged from the case. The most important part of this treatment is [1], the individual analysis. You will gaina lot from this element. Your task will be to identify the relevant principles andconcepts from the course and shoe how they are indeed useful in understanding thesituation and generating recommendations. To do this, you will not need to know thetechnicalities of the selected industry or organization. Indeed, if you do have some
 
expert or inside knowledge it will be a disadvantage, unless you can resist thetemptation to dwell on technicalities rather than on the central issue(s) involved.Elements [2] and [3] must inevitable be less immediately available since usually‘participation’ occurs less often than one might imagine. With a typical class size of 50 or so, a few individuals will almost certainly dominate the discussions. Despitethe best intentions of the professor, many, if not the majority of the students will bespectators, not active participants. You will be provided with the full range of opportunities in working on some of thecase studies in this course but for some of the case studies that may not be thecase. For these, we may provide the professor’s view in the given case study but itis important to note that, like real life, there is no correct solution; there is oneopinion among many. The value in each case lies in your developing your ownopinions which might, quite justifiably, be totally different. There are techniques that can make reading and analyzing a case study somewhateasier, and certainly faster. They are, incidentally, techniques that can be appliedalmost as productively to the textual material that you are required to study in thiscourse but they are particularly applicable to the case studies. The first technique is to annotate the case study material. The best way is to use ahighlighter, or fluorescent marker, to emphasize the words and passages you thinkare critical, or at least are relevant to the questions being asked. In addition you canuse an ordinary ball-point pen, preferable red, to add your comments in the margins.By these means you can most easily, and immediately, see which elements of thecase study to concentrate on. The text may contain a few ideas, albeit oftenunintentional, that can offer insights into how the company really works; in any caseit will still be meaningful in providing the overall context for the material critical forthe analysis. This leads to the second technique, which is to top read the material several times,with different priorities each time. The first read should be quick ‘skim’, so that youcan put the second more detailed reading into perspective. It is often fatal to get tooquickly immersed in the details at the beginning of the case study, without knowingwhat comes later. The later material may give you a totally different perspective. The first ‘skim’ should also allow you to rule out the most obviously irrelevantmaterial, and may already allow you to highlight certain of the key elements.

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