real life business situations
The use of cases as an instructional technique is practiced quite extensively in management education particularly in institutions like Harvard Business School. Cases describe real life business situations and provide the students the opportunity to engage actively in applying concepts, developing options and solving problems. Broadly the objectives of using cases for education are to:
1) Develop the ability to review a situation, apply management principles and concepts to identify underlying problems.
2) Illustrate how management knowledge can be used to analyze real life business situations.
3) Develop analytical and communications skills whereby ideas and opinions can be presented in a well deliberated manner – either orally or in writing.
4) Integrate, synthesize and contrast facts with managerial and technical knowledge to develop options, identify criteria to evaluate them and provide the basis for choosing a solution.
5) Develop a sense of perspective on practical business situations as they exist in the competitive environment.
Analyzing and Writing Case Reports
Along with the Harvard Business School note by Raymond Corey on the use of cases, given below are some guidelines for analyzing and writing up a case report. The written analysis should have at the minimum the following parts and additional sections where necessary. The report should be logically divided into different parts, following a logical order where each part is labeled and identified chronologically. Your report should reflect the effort that would be expected by an executive committee or the CEO of the organization.
Part 1. Executive Summary
The executive summary provides a summary of the situation, identification of the problem, the type of analysis done and the primary conclusions of the author/presenter. The executive summary should be written after the rest of the report has been completed. It is a synopsis of the main points covered in the report touching upon the highlights. While limited in detail it should reflect careful thought in identifying the critical components of the report. It should under no circumstances exceed two pages and should preferably be limited to a single page.
Part 2. Problem Identification
This section should present a brief treatment of the major problem or problems. It should include a concise statement of the major problem or problems you see in the case. Do not overreach and identify problems that are tangential. Note that the more problems you identify the more the solutions that you need to provide or the more complex a given solution is likely to be. Thus, you want to be careful about identifying too many problems. However, you must include all major problems in the case that affect an organization’s performance.
Some questions to consider while identifying problems is:
• Have you identified the underlying problem, or am I dealing with symptoms?
• If you have identified more than one problem, are they separate or related?
• Are you putting myself into the manager’s shoes and looking toward future actions? The idea is to keep the problem from recurring again.
• Are you overstating the problem? Making sweeping statements, such as, the whole company lacks structure when only one department may be problematic, would for instance be overstating the problem.
• How precise is your statement of the problem? An example: a firm is experiencing a surplus of inventory because too many people are doing the ordering, and they are not checking with each other before they order. If you said, “the problem in the firm is communication”, the statement would be too vague. Communication between whom? When? How often? With regard to what?
Part 3. Causes of the problem
This section should provide a detailed analysis of the causes of the problems you identified in section 2. A major objective is to illustrate clearly how you are using course concepts to better understand the causes of the problem. Show that you are applying course material! An example of application is using the IT impact framework (Fig 1.4) to analyze how an organization’s application of IT has evolved or how IT is used in an organization. Similarly other frameworks provided in the text can provide an organizing mechanism for your analysis. Please be sure to refer to the source of the framework you are adopting. This is where the bulk of your analytical skills will be brought to bear on the problem and is pivotal to your case analysis.
Some questions to ask when writing the causes of problems are:
• Have I applied the right course material?
• Do the causes I have identified relate to the problems identified earlier?
• When I draw conclusions or make assumptions, do I support these conclusions or assumptions with a sentence from the case or a quote or paraphrase from the readings or an example from class?
Part 4. Possible solutions
Any analytical approach requires a consideration of alternatives before presentation of the recommended course of action. Senior executives or your supervisors or clients would not only be interested in the solution but also the path you took to arrive at the conclusion. They would like to know if you have done your homework, investigated several possibilities, and analyzed their upsides and downsides.cks. By listing a number of possible solutions, you are proving justification to the reader that you HAVE done some investigation, and based on your findings, your solution is best. Therefore, this section should indicate alternatives and the criteria used to make a recommendation. Each solution should have listed the pros and cons which relate to it.
Some questions to keep in mind are:
• Do the pros and cons I have listed relate to the PROBLEM that has been identified?
• Are the alternative solutions reasonable or just set up to justify the final recommendation?
• Is the solution discussed in enough detail that the manager has an idea of what the possible solution entails?
Part 5. Solution and Implementation
This section should outline your recommended solution to the problem(s). The solution will be one of those listed as a possible alternative course of action. It should be specific, stating what should be done, by whom in what sequence. In short, it will include not only what should be done, but how it should be done. Stating that a combination of several possible solutions should be used is not enough. You must provide justification for your recommendation and also provide time-line for its implementation.
Some questions to keep in mind are:
Part 6. Justification
This section of your report should, using course objectives, tell why your solution and implementation will work. A major objective of this section is to show clearly how you are applying course concepts to arrive at a workable solution and implementation to the problem you have identified. Please stress the application of course concepts!! Therefore the course concepts are critical here as well as in Section III.
Some questions to consider are:
• Has the right course material been applied?
• Are the conclusions supported with appropriately referenced facts, quotes, and explanations from the case, readings and class activities?
• Does the justification recognize the pros and cons listed earlier?
• Read the guidelines folder
NB: Identify issues in the case study
Identify possible solutions (one of which may be what the case mentions, if in fact it does mention a solution)
select a solution and present a knowledge and fact based argument on why (may or may not be the solution that was presented in the case)
Provide an implementation plan
Do not summarize the case (summary should not exceed more than 2 paras)
Page limit is 5 pages (excluding cover and references for all case studies) —no need to provide me with a cover page I can do that myself. You must provide a reference page APA style.
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