Appendix A – The Case Method of Analysis
Although you probably have already been exposed to the case method in your other classes, lets review the case method of analysis. In the traditional case method, case questions do not accompany the case. You, the student, assume the role of a manager or consultant and therein take a generalist approach to analyzing and solving the problems of an organization. This approach requires you to develop your own case questions so-to-speak in that you utilize all of your prior learning in subject areas, as well as this course, to analyze the case without receiving specific directions from the instructor. It is therefore strongly suggested that you prepare for the case prior to class discussion, using the following recommendations: allow adequate time in preparing the case, read the case at least twice, focus on the key issues, adopt the appropriate time frame, and draw on all your knowledge of business. You should also reread the case during and after doing your case analysis before finalizing it. You will be surprised how often you find that you missed something.
The Case Report. A case tells of an incident or a series of incidents occurring in a business. Case problems are designed to give you an opportunity to apply the theoretical principles you have studied to a true-life situation. It is essential in problem-solving that a problem be clearly recognized and understood. This is because a problem or issue not defined is one that cannot be solved. To assist you, the following four steps may help you think through your problem in a logical manner and then permit you to prepare your report.
1. Recognize the real problems or issues. Read the entire case to get an overall impression of what it is about. Read it again and list in brief form all the key facts, assumptions and sentiments. Next, examine the key facts and try to isolate symptoms (indicators of a problem or issue but not the problem or issue itself), which call attention to the problem or issue and its possible causes. For example, customer complaints are a symptom that may be triggered by numerous factors described in the case such as product failure, poor customer service, use of illegal immigrants by suppliers, massive employee layoffs, etc that are causing those complaints. Make sure to separate symptoms (effects) from the actual sources (causes).
2. Determine what principles of business strategy from this course and outside sources that are involved. Ask yourself, what material from the text would apply to this case. Your analysis of that case should focus on using the material in that chapter, although you may find that material from other courses and outside sources you have taken may also be applicable.
3. Evaluate the causes and the principles (as in #2 above) and then plot possible courses of action available to you to correct the situation. List all possible actions that occur to you . . . even the ones that seem downright impractical. Sometimes these prove most helpful in bringing to you a different view or approach that is practical. Then go back and study each possible action in terms of: What are the chances that this action will cure the problem? How can it do this? Can I really put this action into operation? What hurdles do I face in putting it into operation? Where does it leave me if it fails? Does it bring in new problems of its own even if it succeeds?
4. Make your final selection of the action or actions you intend to use. Not every problem has a “complete” or single solution. It is also possible that any one of several solutions may work.
Presenting your case analysis. Everything done thus far has been “think” work. You have tackled your problem and you have a recommendation to make. Your problem now is to present your analysis and solution strategy in such a manner that it will be given careful attention. Above all, you want to have the wisdom of your decision recognized so make your report neat, clear and easy to read. Do not forget to reference all sources referred to in your analysis.
A suggested format (though by no means the only one) is: (3 slides)
1. State the basic problem in terms of what has been happening and the principles involved. Avoid telling or repeating all the petty details. Describe the material from the course and outside resources that supports your analysis.
2. Indicate briefly the possible approaches you considered.
3. Indicate in detail the steps you choose to take. Tell exactly what you intend to do. Tell why you believe this action will solve the problem. Point out the difficulties you anticipate and the actions planned to deal with them.
In short, to tell what you intend to do is only half of the task – the story. The other half requires you to tell why you think it makes sense to do so.
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