The major benefit of the case approach as an educational method is that it actively involves course participants in the analysis of real-world problems and in the development of realistic solutions. It does not call for the “single, true answer” but rather provides an opportunity for the exploration of all the uncertainties, contradictions, and conflicts that surround real-world events. As such it provides a basis for group discussion, i.e., the exchange of differing points of view.
The cases used in this course represent actual events even though in some of the cases the real names of the companies, countries, and places portrayed have been disguised. Some cases are short, others long, but they all pose problems, issues, and settings, or combinations of the same, that have occurred and can be understood only through careful analysis.
The cases may appear to be fragmented or lacking in information. This is by design because managers never have complete and systematic information available. The overwhelming majority of their decisions are based on incomplete, fragmented, and even contradictory information.
The information presented in the cases is quantitative and qualitative. A good analysis is based on the careful evaluation of both and includes all relevant organizational functions. The reason for this is that organizational decisions are not made in a vacuum and a certain course of action best suited for a given functional area may very well lead to sub optimization for the organization as a whole.
As for the cases in this course, they put the reader in the position of a manager interacting with people. The students in this course need put themselves in the position of the people involved in the cases (take on the manager’s role), and sort out the business issues and cultural issues involved in that situation, and plan action.
While there is no “best way” to analyze cases, this outline, provided by Dr. Tom
Morris of the University of San Diego, represents an approach that can result in a complete and systematic analysis. For this reason, we will use the Executive Summary format (Exhibit
1) for writing cases, and I will use the Case Evaluation Matrix (Exhibit 2) for grading them.
The Executive Summary Format
The Executive Summary format for writing of cases is commonly used in business as a preface to long, complex proposals. Most business executives do not have the time to read complex proposals, especially when the proposals span many disciplines such as R&D, finance, marketing, manufacturing, transportation, import/export, etc. But business executives can and will read a concise two or three page summary which provides the essential elements of the proposal. It is important for students to be able to write a concise summary of a complex business issue as a part of their preparation for the business world.
The Executive Summary format is particularly good for evaluating student cases because it is structured and concise. Some students find the limitations of three pages to be difficult because they feel it does not allow for a complex development and expression of ideas, particularly if the case is long and/or complex. It is not intended to be an exhaustive analysis of all possible alternatives, but rather a concise, focused summary with the alternatives only mentioned to insure they received consideration. In general, any issue, no matter how complex can be summarized into three pages if the case is reduced to its most essential elements. Exhibits, tables, financial analysis, etc. may be included as attachments and are not typically included in the three-page limit.
I. Introduction & Problem Statement
The introduction is used to provide some general background from the case, and introduce the particular issue that is the primary focus of the case. Students use the introduction as a sort of “warm up” for structuring their approach to the case. It is usually a single, short paragraph and we