You are on page 1of 19

Skip to main content <#maincontent> B835 assessment guidance <

id=62660> Printable page generated Monday, 16 Jul 2012, 15:26 B835 assessment guidance 1 Assessment The purpose of assessment Assessment on B835 /The dynamics of/ strategy serves two purposes. 1. Summative assessment acts as a measure for awarding module results. It is the means by which the B835 module team and examination board will ensure that students completing the module have achieved the necessary performance level to be awarded a pass. All assessment on B835 is summative, that is, it all counts towards your eventual result. 2. Formative assessment recognises that you can learn as part of the assessment process. Assessment can act as a target for your study, be a focus for furthering your understanding of the module, and provide feedback, advice and guidance for future study. Your assessment is, therefore, an integral part of the overall design of the module. In /The dynamics of/ strategy, the continuous assessment has been designed to further your understanding of the materials as you work your way through them. Tutor-marked assignments The assessment of /The dynamics of s/trategy comprises of three tutor-marked assignments. (TMAs). The TMAs are weighted at 20%, 40% and 40% respectively. Additionally, there is a requirement that you obtain a mark of at least 30% on the final TMA. Failure to achieve this mark in TMA 03 will constitute failure to pass the module. In order to pass B835 you will need to score an average of 40% over the three TMAs and at least 30% on TMA 03. Please note that that B835 operates on a pass/fail system there are no Distinctions or Merits for B835 continuous assessment (OCAS). The exam module (B836) When you registered for B835, you were automatically registered on to the examination module B836, which examines both B835 and B831 /Corporate finance/. There is no additional charge for B836 and there is no action required by you to register for the exam. The three-hour exam takes place at the end of B835. More detailed information is given in section 3 The exam module (B836). 2 The tutor-marked assignments TMAs and cut-off dates

The TMAs for B835 can be found both on the home page and in the Assessment resources section of this website. The cut-off dates for the TMAs can be found in the study planner, on the home page of the website and at the beginning of each TMA. All your TMAs should be submitted electronically through the eTMA system. You should submit your assignments by the deadlines shown on the study planner. Should you require a short extension, present your case to your tutor who has some discretion in this area. Your tutor will want to know (in brief) the reasons for the delay, a proposed submission date, and how you intend to make up lost ground in your studies. You should note that extensions *will not* *be granted for TMA 03*. All requests for extensions must be made to your tutor before the submission deadline. Submitting your TMAs You must submit all three TMAs electronically using the Open Universitys eTMA system which can be accessed through your StudentHome page. More information on the eTMA system can be found in the MBA Qualification Guide <>. Length of assignments TMAs 01, 02 and 03 have a word limit of 3,000 words. *Your tutor will deduct marks from your assignment should you exceed these lengths.* Details of the penalties for not complying with the word count can be found in the MBA Qualification Guide <>. You are required to include a word count on the front of your TMA. This can be estimated to the nearest hundred words. The word count should include tables and diagrams in the body of your TMA. Appendices should not be excessive, and should not include material that should be included in the body of your report. Appendices should be used to support your analysis and argument. When writing an assignment, remember that concise expression is an asset. You will not be penalised merely because your report is shorter than the recommended length; a shorter report of the right quality will be given the appropriate grade. When writing in report format, you should include a one-page summary which outlines, in no more than three short//paragraphs, the main findings of the report. This should concentrate on the key points that you might wish a casual reader browsing through the report to notice. It can be thought of as promotion for the rest of the report. References and bibliography It is good academic practice to include literary citations and a bibliography or reference list. Citations can be from multiple sources,

including module materials, module readers and set books, magazines, newspapers and websites. All of them require an appropriate reference.*One or two percentage points **can**be deducted for relatively poor application of references.* Referencing should be according to the Harvard system <>. Use sources concisely, so that your own thinking is not hidden behind your presentation of other peoples views. The basic principles of referencing are that you should give credit to authors whose original work you are using, and that you should give enough information for a reader to be able to find the original source. *Failure to give credit to the original author is plagiarism, or academic theft, which is a serious matter.* The marking of assignments The B835 assignments are weighted as follows: * TMA 01: 20% * TMA 02: 40% * TMA 03: 40% Your tutor will mark the TMAs out of 100, reflecting the skills and competences that you demonstrate (see Skills and competences of assessment <;printable=1&sectio n=4>). In addition: * Your referencing *must* conform to the requirements laid down in the MBA Qualification Guide <>. * You should not exceed the word limits given, and your TMA should be presented in a clear, logical and well-structured fashion. * Failure to meet these standards may lead to penalties being applied to your mark. Where a TMA is subdivided into separate questions, you will be given the number of marks available for each and this information will help you apportion your effort in answering the TMA. Your overall mark will also be given out of 100 for the whole TMA. TMAs are marked on a pass/fail basis for B835. If you average 40% or more over the three TMAs and score 30% or more for TMA 03, you will pass the module. If you do not pass the continuous assessment (OCAS), you will have to retake the module. Your assignments are treated confidentially. Your answers will only be seen by your tutor and occasionally, by University staff whose task is to monitor tutors comments and grade allocations. TMA format Unless a TMA specifically directs you otherwise, you may prepare your answer in whatever format you choose. Your prime concern in choosing a format for your answer should be the way in which it helps support your analysis, arguments and conclusions. An additional concern must be the

clarity with which the report conveys your ideas to the tutor. A possible format you should consider is the business report style. It aids the simple, clear and rapid presentation of ideas. Whilst we do not wish to exclude other valid approaches, those who have trouble preparing TMAs in a simple, clear way should consider adopting this format. Should you wish to do this, the MBA Qualification Guide <> provides guidance. Assignment content Detailed advice on how to approach case study analysis and case-based assignments is given later in Analysis of case and application of concepts <;printable=1&sectio n=4.1>. You should note that the case study for TMA 02 was not written with the TMA in mind. The TMA simply uses existing articles and case studies as vehicles for analysis. Consequently, you may find the case contains material that you regard as superfluous to the TMA, or conversely that it fails to provide material that you consider important in producing a good answer. If this seems so, identify the perceived shortcomings and any assumptions or prior knowledge you have drawn on in tackling the TMA. You are encouraged to draw upon all or any of the following resources when exploring additional information that you feel is relevant to your TMA: the internet, traditional printed sources and computer-conferencing sources. What constitutes plagiarism or cheating? If you submit an assignment that contains work that is not your own, without indicating this(acknowledging your sources by referencing as explained in References and bibliography <;printable=1&sectio n=2.4>) you are committing plagiarism. A full explanation of what constitutes plagiarism can be found in the MBA Qualification Guide <>. You are strongly advised to read this before you undertake your first TMA. 3 The B836 exam module Format of the exam As mentioned previously, when you registered for B835 you were automatically registered for the exam module, B836. The date of the exam will be posted on the website as soon as we are informed of it by the Exams Office. You will receive information about your exam centre, and other exam-related matters, about two-thirds of the way through the module. The three-hour exam takes place at the end of B835. It examines your knowledge and understanding of both B835 and B831 Corporate finance. Two thirds of the exam will be concerned with B835 (Part A) and one third

concerned with B831 (Part B). You must score at least 30% in each part and an average of at least 40% to pass B836. If you pass both B835 and B831 (which are both continuous assessment-based modules) and you pass B836, the exam module, you will be awarded 45 points towards your MBA (or other qualification that you have registered for). If you do not score 40% in B836, but you score 15% or more, you will be entitled to a re-sit of the B836 exam module. If you re-sit the exam module and fail a second time, you will have to retake (and pass) both B835 and B831 and then take the exam module B836. Preparing for the exam You will need to plan ahead to ensure you have adequate time to revise for the exam. A specimen examination paper (SEP) <olink.php?id=62660&targetdoc=B836+SEP> is available in the Assessment resources area of the website. You should review this as part of your revision. The last day school run by your tutor will focus on giving you practice in answering typical B836 exam questions. Your tutor will also provide advice on how to approach the exam and work with you on completing the SEP as part of your preparation. Style of the exam questions The exam paper is divided into two parts; Part A relates to B835 (67% of the marks) and Part B related to B831 (33% of the marks). Part A will consist of a case study that will be made available to you two weeks prior to the exam. You will be expected to answer two questions relating to the case study. This will form the strategy part of the exam and counts towards 67% of the overall marks. Part B will consist of two questions, both drawn widely from the module content and which will cover both quantitative and essay style-elements. You will have to answer one of these two questions. The specimen exam paper (SEP) <olink.php?id=62660&targetdoc=B836+SEP> shows you the format and style of the B836 exam. 4 Skills and competencies of assessment The following section indicates some of the skills and competencies you are expected to demonstrate in answering B835 assessments. These criteria represent a summary of the kind of assessment skills and competencies B835 seeks to encourage, however, they are not necessarily exhaustive. Neither does their ordering carry any significance for their relative weighting; they are not weighted in relation to the marking. These criteria have been laid down with all B835 assessments in mind. There are some differences, however, in the skills and competencies you need to emphasise for different types of assessment. For the purposes of this section, we make the following distinction:

* Case-based assessment This refers to TMA 02 and to the case scenario questions in the examination. * Report- and essay-type assessment This refers to TMA 01 and to TMA 03. In the following explanation of the assessment criteria, there are instances under the first section, Analysis of case and application of concepts, where a criterion applies to one only of these types of assessment. All other criteria apply to both types of assessment. Analysis of case and application of concepts Comprehension and understanding of the case (case assessment only) You need to demonstrate a basic ability of understanding the often complex situation facing the subject organisation as described by the case material. Clarification of interpretation and assumptions about the case (case assessment only) Where gaps in the information available to you exist, you should demonstrate your ability to make stated assumptions about the case scenario. Where different interpretations of the case material are possible, or where there appear to be inconsistencies in it, you may need to reinterpret the scenario in an appropriate manner to clarify its meaning. In all cases, you should state clearly what your interpretation and assumptions are. Knowledge and understanding of concepts used This attribute records the markers view of your knowledge and proper understanding of the B835 and other strategy concepts you use in your answer. Analysis and application of concepts to the case (case assessment only) This covers the use of B835 material as well as other strategy concepts to interpret and analyse the material. The concepts must be both appropriate (relevant) and adequate to provide an analysis of the scenario. The appropriate and adequate use of concepts also provides the marker with evidence of your knowledge and understanding of these concepts. Your analysis should demonstrate your ability to apply both quantitative (where the case data allow) and qualitative techniques and concepts. While there is no limit to the number of concepts you can use, it is generally considered to be a positive attribute if you use only those that are necessary. More importantly, where there is a temptation to work in concepts, you should first consider whether they are truly appropriate or add to the analysis. You should feel free to draw on appropriate strategy concepts you may have encountered elsewhere, but in a supplementary manner. However, you should be conscious that the assessment has been set primarily as a means of testing B835.

Use of concepts to answer the question (essay-type assessment only) This covers the use of B835 and other strategy concepts to address the question set. The concepts must be both appropriate and adequate to provide an answer. The appropriate and adequate use of concepts also provides the marker with evidence of your knowledge and understanding of these concepts. Where questions are broadly based in the syllabus, or where value terms are used in the question set, assessing what is relevant and adequate may involve you clarifying your interpretation of the question, or in defining the scope of the appropriate part of the syllabus. In general, questions that focus broadly across the syllabus will require you to show your understanding of relationships between a number of concepts in answering the question. Those that are more narrowly focused on one part of the syllabus will require a more in-depth approach in the use of concepts. Where there is a temptation to work in concepts, you should first consider whether they are truly appropriate or add to your discussion. Again, you should feel free to draw on appropriate strategy concepts you may have encountered elsewhere, in a supplementary manner. However, you should be conscious that the assignment or examination has been set as a means of assessing B835. Appropriate parallel examples, relevant experience or material You should, wherever possible, try to demonstrate your understanding of how conceptual knowledge applies in specific contexts. It may often be appropriate, therefore, to draw on examples from your own organisation, cases from the module material, day schools, TMAs, residential school, or from your general knowledge of business or management. Such examples can be used both to illustrate theories or models and to suggest parallels or lessons which might apply across different contexts. *The use of examples to illustrate theory is particularly important in essay-type questions**/./* Argument and conclusions Argument The ability to build a coherent and consistent argument is a key skill. Your argument should draw on the conclusions from your analysis and evidence from case material (in case-based questions). You can also draw from your discussion and consideration of concepts, from parallel examples or cases, and from the authority of appropriate theoretical strategy concepts. You should avoid unfounded assertion. Critical evaluation B835 encourages a critical perspective. This does not mean disagreeing with concepts or case material for the sake of it. Rather, it is an indicator of your willingness to examine assumptions in the material as presented to you, to appraise the validity and usefulness of the concepts you use, to explicitly consider counter-arguments, and to identify strong and weak parts of your argument. For example: recorded

details in a case may vary or quoted opinions may disagree; theories or concepts may contradict each other; you may be aware of empirical research findings that do not agree with theoretical propositions; a theoretical framework may fail to explain as expected, indicating limits to its applicability; the evidence of case material or examples from your experience may not accord with expectations from theory, etc. Once again, your evaluation should be clearly stated. Conclusions and recommendations Your conclusions need to be robust. They should be supported by your analysis, discussion of concepts and argument, and make clear any significant uncertainties in your argument. Depending on the question set, it may be appropriate to make recommendations as to how an organisation might act or how an issue might be resolved. Where this is the case, your recommendations must likewise be supported by your answer, and you should note any practical problems or constraints to their implementation. Structure, organisation and overall cohesion Structure and organisation of answers This attribute is concerned with the style of your answer, and the way in which the structure and organisation of your answer improves its quality. You should organise your answer to support the development of your analysis or discussion, and the argument you wish to advance. It should lead naturally to your conclusions and/or recommendations. Detail should not be allowed to disrupt the flow of your argument; diagrams or appendices should be used to deal with these. Presentation is a contributory factor here but the emphasis is firmly on how you structure your work to aid your answer. Creative and/or original answer This records the extent to which your approach to your answer was original or creative. Methods of analysis in strategy can become routinised or mechanistic, such as with mechanistic concept-box filling and answers may, therefore, become predictable. While this is acceptable and may often be appropriate, answers which go beyond a mechanistic approach can create additional value, for example when two approaches are combined in a way that provides new insights into the problem situation. Overall cohesion of the answer The foregoing attributes and skills deconstruct the answer. It is, however, important to reconsider the overall construction of the answer. How does it fit together? Does the analysis you have undertaken, your discussion of concepts, and the argument you have developed lead to a synthesis of the answer? In considering this overall feel, a number of the attributes we have already discussed are likely to be particularly influential:

* * * * * *

knowledge and understanding of concepts used analysis and application of concepts to the case (case assessment) use of concepts to answer the question (essay-type assessment) argument structure and organisation of the answer conclusions and recommendations. General points to note

The adequacy of referencing You must ensure the concepts you draw on and the authorities you rely on are suitably referenced in the text of your answer. Detailed guidance on text referencing and bibliography requirements for TMAs is provided in the MBA Qualification Guide <>. In the B836 exam, it is usually adequate to give the authors name as it is not necessary to provide a bibliography at the end of each answer. Length of answer Your answer should be of adequate length. You should note, however, that an answer of excessive length may lack focus and coherence. We specify word limits for what we believe are sound academic reasons, as it should be possible to answer the TMAs to the required standards within the word limit. We are looking for depth and conciseness in your answers quality rather than quantity. We expect you to comply with the word limits*. *Details of penalties for not complying with the word count can be found in the MBA Qualification Guide <>. You must state the number of words used on the front of the TMA. There is no minimum word limit. In the B836 exam, you are likely to maximise your overall scoring of marks if you ensure a proportionate balance of effort across the questions you answer. 5 Example of a report structure The following is an example structure for students wishing to use a business report format. It is not prescriptive and is presented here as an aid to those who have trouble preparing TMAs in a simple, clear way. A standard report structure Title page * Title * Your name * Your personal identifier (*note*: this should also be at the top of every sheet) * Module code (e.g. B835)

* Date * Word count. Contents list * Full list of sections (including appendices, reference or bibliographic lists) * Page number on which each section begins. Summary * A one-page summary which outlines, in no more than three short paragraphs, the main findings of the report. This should concentrate on key points which you might wish a casual reader browsing through the report to notice. It can be thought of as promotion for the rest of the report. * It should be in the third person and present tense, for example, The report considers the main strategic external issues facing the low-cost airline industry and concludes that they failed/did not fail to address these. Introduction * This should give a succinct explanation of the aims, scope and context of the report, and should include brief details of any information necessary for the reader to understand it. Main body of the report * The main account of the case or organisation you are writing about. * It should be based on analysis, not unsupported opinion, e.g. avoid writing I feel . * You must back up what you write with evidence//and/or//argument. This means you must substantiate each assertion you make with evidence (e.g. extracts from the case study or appendices), or by reference to concepts and models in the module. * You must support//opinions with specific examples or evidence, or by building a logical argument based on previously cited examples or evidence. * You should make a clear distinction between reported facts and personal opinions/./ Where evidence in the case study is missing or needs to be clarified, you may need to make an assumption based on your opinion. Where this is the case, make it clear. * Consider presenting material in the form of diagrams, charts, etc., wherever appropriate. These may be easier to grasp, and can break up the monotony of the printed word * Headings for each sub-section should be underlined or in bold. Conclusions and recommendations * Do not confuse conclusions (where you draw together the threads of the preceding discussion to make some overall points) with recommendations (where you say what should be done about the conclusions you have reached). * It can aid clarity to present your conclusions in the form of a

bulleted list. * Recommendations are actions which your conclusions lead you to believe are necessary or would benefit the organisation. * Recommendations must//be based on the analysis, argument and conclusions. They should not be unsubstantiated assertions of opinion. * Wherever possible, you should include a clear indication of the priorities, constraints, difficulties, resource and political implications of recommendations. * It may not always be appropriate to make recommendations to answer a TMA question. Conclusions, however, are always required. List of references and bibliography * This is the list of sources referred to in preparing your report. If you have mentioned a writer or a book (even a module book) you must give full details here. * You should also list details of any books or other sources you have consulted in preparing your report which you think it would be useful for your reader to know about or be able to consult. * Refer to the MBA Qualification Guide <> for the required style of referencing. Appendices * Information whose inclusion is not central to the main body of the report but which explains, amplifies or puts in context the arguments and evidence you have presented. * The main purpose of appendices is to allow you to include important information which, if it were included in the main body of the report, would interrupt the flow of the argument. * Any material in an appendix does not count towards the word length for the TMA, nor will it attract any marks. You should not, therefore, include in your appendices material central to your argument. The flow of your argument will suffer as a result, and your tutor will ignore this material. * Examples of material suitable for an appendix include sets of complex figures or statistics, or supporting documents (e.g. extracts from company reports). 6 The role of case studies in B835 The study of business strategy originated in the Business Policy courses at US business schools in the 1950s and 1960s. These courses complemented functionally based subjects such as operations management, finance, marketing and personnel, and were intended to bring together learning from all subjects in a holistic way. The need for this kind of course had been identified before any significant models or body of theory had been developed to understand the way organisations worked as a whole. Cross-functional analysis of a variety of case studies was, therefore, critical. From the early 1960s onwards, theory, models, and frameworks to understand strategy began to be developed. Nevertheless, case studies continued to be a central learning vehicle for study on most strategy courses. Why then, are case studies still so important to the study of B835 The dynamics of strategy, sixty years after they were first used

First, an MBA requires you to do more than simply learn theory and concepts by rote. The study of strategy is an applied subject, which should help you in practice. To pass this module, you must show that you have gone beyond merely knowing theory. You must show that you understand theories and models, and know how to apply them. Case studies provide repeated practice of moving from general theories and models to the specifics of real-life examples. While theories and models give some general principles for analysing and understanding organisations, organisations compete and operate in different ways, and within these different approaches lie the secrets of their relative success. Gaining an understanding of the role of differences between organisations is therefore central to understanding how sources of advantage arise. Simply studying general principles is not enough to develop strategic thinking. As discussed in Unit 1, thinking strategically depends on understanding the context in which decisions are taken, and the pressures which are felt by decision-makers. Strategy extends across organisational and sector boundaries, and sensitivity to context is a key requirement in strategy. Even in the case of managing a single-product, single-sector business, managers ignore changes and innovations in other sectors at their peril. Case studies are, therefore, central to your learning on B835 The dynamics of strategy. While you must use ideas and concepts to analyse and understand your own organisation, applying theories and models in some depth, case studies allow you to apply ideas and concepts across a broad variety of contexts. They also allow you to develop common ground for discussion with colleagues studying the module. The next few pages will help you make the most of the opportunity to study the various cases you will encounter. Where are case studies used in B835? Case studies are used frequently on B835 The dynamics of strategy, and for a variety of reasons: In the written materials The authors have used cases, mini-cases, and short examples to demonstrate the application of ideas, theories and models that they are discussing with you. Sometimes, authors also use cases and examples to demonstrate the limitations of concepts or to point out that they do not work in all the situations you might encounter. At day schools, tutor group forum discussions, or residential school Cases give you practice in using the module to analyse strategic issues and situations. You will be able to compare and contrast your approach with that of your peers and your tutors. Group dynamics and discussion are important in the success of these sessions, and we will discuss these at more length later. We strongly recommend that you make every effort to attend day schools, while residential school is a compulsory component of the module. In assignments and exams Most of your module work is case-based. The strategy component of the examination is based on a case analysis. It is unlikely, therefore, that you will do well on this module unless you embrace the challenge of case analysis.

Skills developed by case analysis Cases are excellent vehicles for you to develop a number of important skills, which should enhance your strategic thinking. These are: * identifying strategic issues * recognising the significance of information (what is vital, useful, insignificant, or irrelevant) * identifying underlying assumptions or values in the information presented * determining vital missing information * making credible working assumptions in the face of incomplete information * applying quantitative and qualitative tools, models, theories and frameworks for analysis (which also demonstrates knowledge of them) * assessing which of these models and theories are appropriate and adequate for the analysis (which also demonstrates understanding of them) * critiquing the use of these tools and models, identifying their relevance in context, and assessing their advantages and disadvantages * thinking clearly about complex, ambiguous situations (which may have several valid perspectives) * developing argument and reasoning based on a synthesis of analysis, relevant theory, or relevant comparisons * drawing appropriate conclusions from your analysis and argument * developing solutions to problems, and action plans for implementation * testing these solutions and plans against the difficulties of implementation (how realistic are they). In addition to these strategic skills, you will develop skills in communicating your ideas to group discussions (orally and electronically), and in writing clear and convincing reports on the case studies. Problems in case learning Case learning is a superior way of learning some of the skills of strategic thinking. That is why we give it such prominence. On occasion, however, students are uneasy about the method. Some of the issues which cause concern are: Cases rarely have a correct answer This reflects the reality of strategy, but can be disconcerting where your previous learning has stressed the certainties of best practice in technical or functional management. Answers in strategy may be good or bad, but this depends to a great extent on the supporting arguments and the use that is made of the available information. You should be sure of the quality and realism of your analysis, argument, and conclusions. Case studies vary considerably in style and content They may contain very little detail or a seemingly baffling amount. They may cover a broad range of issues or alternatively focus on specific strategic issues. Sometimes the problem for analysis is obvious, sometimes it is not (identification of the issues may be the main task). A case study rarely contains all the information you would like As managers, however, we frequently have to deal with situations in which we have incomplete information. Where information appears to be lacking

we have to make assumptions, taking care that these can be reasonably supported or justified. Information in the case may not be wholly reliable Ambiguous and contradictory information is, unfortunately, a reality in all management, and is likely to continue to be so where the pace of change demands rapid action from an organisation. In the same way, you may have to discard irrelevant or redundant information before undertaking your analysis, or making your decision. It is, however, important that you assess the relevance and significance of all information in case studies, drawing on the mixture of quantitative and qualitative data. The situation depicted in the case study may be inherently complex and ambiguous For example, the objectives and values of participants in an organisation may be contradictory. Equally, in a dynamic and hostile environment it may be impossible to predict the outcomes of any strategy embarked upon. These problems, however, are at the very heart of strategy, which depends on formulating a working prediction of uncertain outcomes such as how competitors will react to our initiatives to allow strategy to proceed. Cases are historical They are written at a particular point in time and require you to ignore subsequent events. The purpose of most case studies is to give practice in analysing situations and evolving strategic solutions. Their purpose is not to tell you what happened next. In practice, it is not always easy to ignore what we already know from other sources. A useful rule-of-thumb in determining what external knowledge you may validly use in a case analysis, is whether the information was available in the public domain at the date at which the case was set. The case study may be written from a perspective with which you disagree Information is rarely neutral, and authors will bring their own unstated assumptions, ideologies and prejudices to the case. Case studies are also usually written with the agreement of the organisation depicted. A similar issue would apply if you were, for example, a chief executive recently recruited to manage an organisation: * * * * Could you trust the reliability of the data Which managers are presented more or less favourably by the data Do the report formats make a difference to the picture presented What information is absent from the reports

As a new chief executive, you would be naive not to test the information provided. Reviewing the problems that have been reported by new case study learners, we can easily make one observation: it is remarkable how the problems of case study learning resemble those encountered in management and strategy in practice. Hence the value we place on case studies as a method for learning about strategy. Analysing case studies We will first present some ideas on how you as an individual might approach case study analysis. We will later consider how case discussion in groups can benefit your learning.

Questions or analysis One of your first actions will be to identify what your task is. For example, some case studies (especially in TMAs) will ask you to answer set questions or will provide a brief for your analyses. This will influence the way you approach the case study, and it is impossible for us here to anticipate all the types of question or brief you may encounter. Questions will usually require you to come to a clear conclusion or answer on a specific issue, giving your reasoned opinion supported by all the detail and argument of your case analysis. A question of this type might, for example, read, Was ABC successful in fulfilling its stated objectives between the years x and y? A brief for analysis also requires the same skills of detailed analysis and reasoned argument in coming to a conclusion or recommendation. Such briefs might read, Critically evaluate XYZs strategic decision making. A task like this requires that you set some parameters for your evaluation, and that you explicitly challenge the approach to decision making. All such questions or set briefs require you to look carefully at the wording used to determine what is required from you. Cases without instructions: general frameworks for analysis On occasion, you will simply be presented with a case. There will be no question or set brief. You are nevertheless expected to analyse the case and come to some conclusions about what the strategic issues in the case are, and what strategies should be adopted. Although there is no one best way to approach case study analysis of this type, Exhibit 1 gives one generic framework for analysing cases: *Exhibit 1 General framework for case analysis applied to strategy* 1 Comprehend the case situation * Speed-read the case * Reread the case carefully, take notes, highlight or underline key points 2 Identify strategic issues and diagnose problems * Identify main strategic issues * Diagnose related problems to be resolved * List information and knowledge of problem areas from your notes and by rereading the case 3 State problems * State strategic problems * State minor problems 4 Generate alternative actions * List solutions to strategic problems * List solutions to minor problems 5 Evaluate alternative actions and make selection * List pros and cons of the alternative solutions

* Determine selection criteria * Carefully weigh the pros and cons, and choose the best alternative 6 Plan implementation and defence of solutions * Develop an implementation plan * List questions concerning the realism of your solution and the workability of the implementation plan * Develop a defence for each question or re-evaluate your choice Exhibit 1 suggests a very linear approach to case analysis. It takes you through the three key stages in linear analysis: strategic analysis, strategic choice and strategy implementation described in Unit 1. There are, however, many other possible frameworks for your case analysis. For example, your work could be driven by an iterative process of examining key areas of an organisations strategy in different degrees of depth and levels of integration. Exhibit 2 suggests a framework of this type: *Exhibit 2 An iterative case analysis of strategy by key area* Stage one: Overview and identification of strategic issues Read case once and identify strategic issues concerning: 1. The interaction between the organisation and the environment in which it operates 2. The organisations utilisation of its resources and capabilities 3. How these resources and capabilities are integrated and developed for the future 4. The values, beliefs and objectives of key stakeholders and decision makers 5. The organisations recent performance, present position and future potential. Stage two: Detailed examination of strategic issues Read case in detail and conduct detailed analysis of strategic issues, retracing areas 1 to 5 in Stage One. Detailed analysis will involve quantitative analysis of financial and statistical data in appendices, an examination of the evidence in the case, and an identification of the likely significance of missing evidence, or ambiguities and uncertainties in the analysis. Having conducted a detailed examination of areas 1 to 5, review how your analyses of the five individual areas interact as a whole. Stage three: Synthesis and conclusion Taking the results of your analysis in Stage Two, synthesise the separate elements of your analysis into a coherent whole. Develop a reasoned and supported argument which builds towards a coherent conclusion on the whole case study. In a case study without set questions or you must decide how to conclude the case of forms, depending on the nature of the the strategic issues and problems facing a defined brief for analysis, study. This could take a number case study: prioritisation of the organisation; evaluation of

the success of the organisations existing and past strategy; elaboration of a number of potential future strategies, recommendations as to which should be pursued, and a plan for implementation; etc. It is important that you realise that the two exhibits shown here are merely general frameworks that might help you to find the best way for you to analyse case studies. These approaches might not be appropriate in all circumstances, or might fail to address particular set questions. Merely following these stages by rote is no guarantee of the quality of your analysis, or of your strategic thinking. They should, however, give you frameworks for unearthing some of the strategic issues in a case. Case analysis for assignments You have to submit case analyses as part of your module assessment on B835 The dynamics of strategy, and you will also be faced with case analyses in the final examination. It is unlikely that you will pass this module unless you master the case method. In such assessments, you will be faced with answering set questions or following defined briefs. Therefore, it is very important to look carefully at the TMA or examination question: * How focused is the question or brief? * What do particular words mean? * What kind of conclusion must the analysis drive towards? The general skills you must demonstrate to pass the assessments are detailed in this document and the TMA section of the website. Many of these are identical to, or build on, those identified above as case study skills; others concern, for example, the effective structuring of your assessment report. You must familiarise yourself with these assessment skills. Group discussions of case studies Discussing case studies with other managers and tutors in day schools, forums, study groups and residential schools adds value to working with cases. Most important of these, perhaps, is exposure to the range of different perspectives on case issues that module colleagues bring to the discussion. As case studies are the best way to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the theories, models, frameworks and concepts used in B835, group discussions also represent an excellent way to test your understanding of how these should be applied in practice. Finally, you are encouraged to bring relevant real-life examples or experience into the discussion where this helps; you will thereby benefit from the rich diversity of practical illustrations and examples your colleagues bring to the group. Group skills Some of the benefits and skills you develop in group discussions of cases are simply those of being a manager working as part of a team; strategy is rarely a solo activity, and you must learn to work with others and gain their commitment to strategic action. Therefore, as with all group activities, you learn to:

* * * * * * * * *

come prepared delegate work communicate information around the group show your willingness to participate, lead or chair the group present your own individual view and argue your position listen to the contributions of others evaluate all contributions question and challenge accepted group views prepare and make presentations on behalf of your colleagues, etc. Types of case discussion

Tutors will deliberately vary the way case discussions are run. In some cases, the tutor will lead the interactive discussion in a semi-formal style, drawing out and then summarising desired learning points. At other times, small groups of students will discuss the issues themselves, perhaps with the tutor sitting in to facilitate the discussion. Sometimes a student or small group will present an analysis of the case and/or recommended course of action to the class, who will then debate its merits. Other activities might include role play exercises, or cases as simulations of real-life strategy making. In the same way as we discussed the role of questions and set briefs or tasks in Section 2, the amount of structure and direction in a group case discussion can be guided by the nature of the question or task set. Exhibit 3 shows a selection of the types of question a tutor might ask, and the intended orientation of the discussion. These questions can be as easily used by you in your group to help its discussions. *Exhibit 3* Group case discussions questions and discussion orientations /Question/ /Orientation/ What are the strategic issues in the case? Issue identification What did you notice about ? Attention drawing What other examples are there of ? Generalisation from the particular What action would you recommend to X? Problem solving or problem reduction What resources would be required for this strategy? Feasibility and realism of solution What difficulties might arise in implementing your recommendations? Prediction and projection of future Problem analysis Acceptability of solutions What other options are available? Generation of alternatives How do you feel about ? Attitude/opinion eliciting How did the group decide on this strategy? Attention to group processes Guidelines for case discussion We want you to obtain the maximum benefit from group case discussions. However, much of the responsibility for this falls back on your colleagues and yourself, although your tutor will always endeavour to stimulate the discussion to cover relevant issues. Exhibits 4 and 5 contain some ground rules for encouraging useful case discussion. Of these, we would particularly stress the importance of coming to the case discussion having prepared adequately by reading and analysing the case. If you do not do this, you will waste your own

learning time, and that of your colleagues. You should also be tolerant of your colleagues differences. There will be many with whose opinions you will feel strong affinity, but you cannot always expect to agree with everyone. You should, however, look positively for what you can learn from the diverse mix of colleagues in case discussions. *Exhibit 4 Constructive case discussion positives* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Read and analyse the case before the discussion Present your ideas clearly, concisely and convincingly Expect and tolerate challenges to your views Listen to other views and keep an open mind Relate outside examples and past case studies where relevant Bring in research studies and theories you have read about Be prepared to open the discussion Put relevant questions to the group Recognise the flow of the discussion Be constructive in your contributions Challenge solutions that are being accepted too easily Be provocative where it will stimulate discussion and thinking Agree to disagree, where necessary Be prepared to summarise and present the groups conclusions Do not use the excuse of imperfect information to avoid discussion

*Exhibit 5 Constructive case discussion negatives* * * * * * Do not make sudden topic changes Do not repeat yourself Do not repeat what others say Do not use unfair hindsight Do not rehash case data unless it supports your argument or provides a comparison

We hope you enjoy the experience of case discussion on B835 The dynamics of strategy. B835 assessment guidance <>