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The objective in using the case method is to introduce a measure of realism into this course. Think of it as between lecture, but not yet simulation or real world. The case method demands that you deal with problems as they may occur in the business world. In essence, this provides you an opportunity to use concepts, practices and theories that you have already learned. The primary objective of the case method is to give you a hands-on opportunity to apply what you have learned (and continue to learn). A case is: … typically a record of a business issue which has actually been faced by business executives, together with surrounding facts, opinions, and prejudices upon which the executives had to depend. These real and particularized cases are presented to students for considered analysis, open discussion, and final decisions as to the type of action, which should be taken.1 Goals in using the case method are: 1) Help you develop critical thinking and analysis skills, 2) Develop an ability to make well thought-out and supported decisions, 3) Stimulate the application of the course material, and 4) Provide an environment where you are fully involved in learning. During the class session on the case, you have a chance to participate in a discussion that can both highlight the strengths of your analysis, as well as point out issues that did not occur to you initially. For any case, however, it is important to remember that there is no one right answer. Whether it is because some factors have been assigned different importance, or some points have been overlooked, many approaches to any case are possible, with as many different outcomes. Most importantly, I am interested in stimulating a process that involves detailed analysis towards the development, support, and defense of a viable and rational solution to the problem presented.
How to Prepare a Case for Case Presentations and Written Analyses
While there are many ways to approach any case, I will outline the technique to be used for this course. It involves seven steps. Step 1: Read and understand the case. It is likely that you will need to read the case several times. A first quick reading will familiarize you with the material, and is highly recommended. After this first reading you should endeavor to re-read the case until you remember many of the details it presents. At this point, you may also want to make notes about symptoms, potential problems and issues and other important information. You may also want to investigate all tables and charts to see what is relevant and what needs computations. Step 2: Situation Analysis and SWOT [strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats]. The situation audit phase is basically a synopsis and evaluation of an organization’s current situation, opportunities and problems. Usually this is a worksheet, although you may want to include an overview in your presentation. This is to prepare for the problem definition and subsequent problem solving steps. Here is where you would likely bring in outside information. Be sure to state any assumptions that you make…there is no “perfect” information. Just be prepared to defend any assumptions that you state. Step 3: Problem/Decision Statement. This is critical. Make sure that you are analyzing the problem, and not symptoms of the problem. Keep asking yourself, WHY? Think in terms of cause and effect. If there are multiple problems, see how they can be combined or linked. Try to state the problem concisely in a statement or question “Should Brand A be deleted from the product line?”
1 Charles I. Gragg, “Because Wisdom Can’t Be Told,” Harvard Alumni Bulletin, October 19, 1940.
Step 4: Identification of Alternatives. Alternatives are strategic options or actions that appear viable solutions to the problem or decision situation that you have determined. Prepare these in two stages: (1) prepare an initial list of alternatives that includes all of the actions that you feel might be appropriate (use brainstorming) and (2) refine the list and combine actions. Be sure that the problem and alternatives are consistent. Also, what are you using to measure success? By stating these criteria, you make clear the measures you plan to use in assessing and comparing the viability of the alternatives. Step 6: Analysis. This is the process of evaluating the alternatives against the problem. Examine each alternative in terms of each criterion by assessing the relative advantages and disadvantages. Step 7: Recommendations. The first part should address what specific action should be taken and why. State the main reasons for the choice (but don’t rehash). The second part should address implementation. State who should do what, when and where. Don’t worry about budgets for this case analysis.
Things to Consider for a Good Evaluation:
Given these five steps, your analysis should be quite satisfactory. Specific things I will look for in evaluating your analysis are as follows:2 1. Completeness. Have you gone through each step with sufficient depth and insight? 2. Have you analyzed vs. rehashed the facts? Rehash: Retained earnings are $75,000, there is $15,000 cash on hand, and the current ratio is 1.6:1. Analysis: The weak financial position of this firm (a poor cash position and current ratio) means actions considered should involve little cash expenditures. 3. Were assumptions, highly reasonable and explicitly stated? 4. Were symptoms separated from problems? 5. Were opportunities separated from action? Just because something “looks good” does not mean it is appropriate given competition, firm resources and a myriad of other factors that should be considered. 6. Are stated objectives dealt with realistically? You must analyze and assess the objectives presented to ensure they are reasonable. 7. Were alternatives beyond those presented in the case developed? 8. Was the decision based on a complete analysis? Or was the decision made early, and simply supported by a skewed analysis? 9. Was each alternative fully explored? Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each. 10. Was effective use made of financial and other quantitative information? You must, when possible, “crunch” the numbers. Ultimately, it is about profitability! 11. Was the decision clearly stated and supported? Don’t hedge your bets! 12. Was the information presented in the case used to it fullest benefit?
2 This list, and other material in this outline, is from Kenneth L Bernhardt and Thomas C. Kinnear (1991), Cases in Marketing Management, 5th ed., Irwin, Homewood, IL.
PREPARING FOR YOUR CASE PRESENTATION AND WRITTEN ANALYSIS
Your group must (1) prepare a PowerPoint presentation for the class to use as discussion and (2) prepare a written analysis that discusses the issues in the case. The paper should be 5-6 pages (excluding references and appendices), so be concise. The presentation and the paper are due the day we discuss the case. There are no exceptions to these deadlines. There will be a mechanism for peer evaluation for the paper and presentation.
Developing a Good Written Analysis (5-6 double-spaced pages + exhibits)
A Succinct and Selective Situation Review—Not a Detailed Rehash of Case Facts Begin with a brief situation review—perhaps a third to a half page in length—that demonstrates your understanding of the situation facing management and serves as a logical springboard to detailed analysis and recommendations. Don’t waste effort on indiscriminately rehashing case facts (remember that the instructor has also read the case). Thorough and Thoughtful Analysis Devote 50-70% of your paper to careful analysis and interpretation of the information and data in the case. Address any additional topics that you perceive as significant. When you undertake quantitative analysis, be sure to clarify where the data came from, how you manipulated these data, and (if necessary) what assumptions you made. Spell out the implications of the numbers that you have generated. Feel free to attach exhibits to your paper, documenting quantitative analysis and displaying the results in either numeric or chart form (but only include exhibits that add value to your analysis). Well-Reasoned Recommendations Plan to devote 25-40% of the paper to your conclusions and recommendations. Reason well with the data and insights from your analysis. Consider the trade-offs. Ensure that each recommendation follows logically from your analysis. Don’t introduce brand new ideas that have not previously been discussed in the analysis. Defend your chosen course of action.
The Case Presentation
Each group will have about an hour for presentation and discussion for one case during the course of the semester. Keep the presentation portion to about 30-35 minutes and the rest will be discussion and debate. Prepare a PowerPoint presentation with the key issues highlighted. You may have one or two main presenters, or everyone can present. Just be sure that each group member has done the work and can answer questions or the entire group suffers. This is obviously due the day of the case assignment.
The case method requires you to integrate, analyze, and decide. This is very similar to what you will be asked to do throughout your professional career. Those of you that develop the ability to integrate, analyze, and act have the greatest potential for success in business. Each case provides you with the practical experience of convincing others of the soundness of your reasoning. Above all, the case method provides a very nonthreatening approach to help you develop these, and other, skills. Finally, please remember that the more you put into each case, the more you will get out of it.
Case Orienting Questions
The following questions are presented to assist you in your analysis of each case. You are expected to incorporate answers to these questions into your analysis, since they provide the essence of each case. ZENITH PET FOODS 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. How would you describe the household dog food market? How might one segment the dog food market and where does Show Circuit fit? How might Show Circuit be positioned in the dog food market? What is the market potential for Show Circuit? What are the marketing program economics of Show Circuit? What does an appraisal of the introductory promotion program tell us? Should the promotion program be accepted, rejected, or modified? SKIN-TIQUE CORPORATION 1. Based on Soft and Silky’s sales performance through 2002, results from the focus group studies, and the performance of analogous products, should the aerosol container concept be pursued further? 2. What are the economics of the 5½-oz. tube container, 5½-oz. aerosol container, and the 10-oz. aerosol container? 3. “Assuming” the research firm’s four forecasts for the combined products shown in the case exhibit are reasonable, what incremental contributions can be expected in 2003 for each forecast? 4. What are the pros/cons of commissioning the test market recommended by the research firm? 5. What action would you take in this situation? CRAFT MARINE CORPORATION 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. How would you characterize the U.S. boating industry? How is the boat purchase decision made? What is the role of advertising in the boating industry? How would you characterize Craft Marine’s competitive position? How would you prioritize Craft Marine’s advertising objectives for 2002? How much should Craft Marine spend for advertising in 2002? How much should Craft Marine spend on each item in its 2002 advertising budget? GOODYEAR TIRE AND RUBBER COMPANY 1. How would you characterize the competitive environment in the tire industry in 1991? 2. What is Goodyear’s relative competitive position within the tire industry? 3. Does it make strategic sense for Goodyear to broaden its distribution beyond company-owned and franchised Goodyear tire retailers as a matter of channel policy? Why? 4. What are the strategic implications of broadened distribution of Goodyear-brand passenger tires through Sears Auto Centers? 5. What effect, if any, does the number of brands and specific brands sold through Sears have on the distribution decision? Why? 6. Should Goodyear broaden its distribution through Sears Auto Centers? If yes, what brands or models should it sell through Sears? THE CIRCLE K CORPORATION 1. 2. 3. 4. How would you characterize the convenience store industry in 1990? How would you characterize Circle K’s situation? What are the pros and cons of the announced turnaround strategy or Circle K? What is the likely sales and profit impact of Circle K’s announced turnaround strategy and your assessment of the strategy’s potential success?
FRITO-LAY, INC: SUNCHIPS MULTIGRAIN SNACKS 1. How would you characterize the snack chip category and Frito-Lay’s competitive position in this category? 2. What specific challenges and risks do Frito-Lay face in marketing SunChips and what are the implications of each? 3. What insights can be drawn from Frito-Lay’s prior experience with multigrain snacks? 4. What conclusions can be drawn from research on SunChips’ consumer acceptance and sales potential prior to the Minneapolis-St. Paul test market? 5. What is your assessment of the SunChips’ test market results? 6. Given your assessment of the test market results, what actions should Dwight Riskey recommend to Frito-Lay’s top executives?
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