GUIDE TO CASE ANALYSIS
Preparing a Written Case Analysis:
Preparing a written case analysis is much like preparing a case for class discussion, except that your analysis must be more complete and put in report form. Unfortunately, though, there is no ironclad procedure for doing a written case analysis. All we can offer are some general guidelines and words of wisdomthis is because company situations and management problems are so diverse that no one mechanical way to approach a written case assignment always works.
Your instructor may assign you a specific topic around which to prepare your written report. Or, alternatively, you may be asked to do a comprehensive written case analysis, where the expectation is that you will (1) identify all the pertinent issues that management needs to address, (2) perform whatever analysis and evaluation is appropriate, and (3) propose an action plan and set of recommendations addressing the issues you have identified. In going through the exercise of identify, evaluate, and recommend, keep the following pointers in mind.For some additional ideas and viewpoints, you may wish to consult Thomas J. Raymond, "Written Analysis of Cases," in The Case Method at the Harvard Business School, ed. M. P. McNair, pp. 13963. Raymond's article includes an actual case, a sample analysis of the case, and a sample of a student's written report on the case.
Check to see if the firm's strategy is producing satisfactory results and determine the reasons why or why not. Probe the nature and strength of the competitive forces confronting the company. Decide whether and why the firm's competitive position is getting stronger or weaker. Use the tools and concepts you have learned about to perform whatever analysis and evaluation is appropriate. Work through the case preparation exercise on Strat-Tutor if one is available for the case you've been assigned.
In writing your analysis and evaluation, bear in mind four things:
a. You are obliged to offer analysis and evidence to back up your conclusions. Do not rely on unsupported opinions, over-generalizations, and platitudes as a substitute for tight, logical argument backed up with facts and figures.
b. If your analysis involves some important quantitative calculations, use tables and charts to present the calculations clearly and efficiently. Don't just tack the exhibits on at the end of your report and let the reader figure out what they mean and why they were included. Instead, in the body of your report cite some of the key numbers, highlight the conclusions to be drawn from the exhibits, and refer the reader to yourcharts and exhibits for more details.
c. Demonstrate that you have command of the strategic concepts and analytical tools to which you have been exposed. Use them in your report.
d. Your interpretation of the evidence should be reasonable and objective. Be wary of preparing a one-sided argument that omits all aspects not favorable to your conclusions. Likewise, try not to exaggerate or overdramatize. Endeavor to inject balance into your analysis and to avoidemotional rhetoric. Strike phrases such as "I think," "I feel," and"Ibelieve" when you edit your first draft and write in "My analysisshows," instead.
By all means state your recommendations in sufficient detail to be meaningful get down to some definite nitty-gritty specifics. Avoid such unhelpful statements as "the organization should do more planning" or "the company should be more aggressive in marketing its product." For instance, do not simply say "the firm should improve its market position" but state exactly how you think this should be done. Offer a definite agenda for action, stipulating a timetable and sequence for initiating actions, indicating priorities, and suggesting who should be responsible for doing what.
In proposing an action plan, remember there is a great deal of difference between, on the one hand, being responsible for a decision that may be costly if it proves in error and, on the other hand, casually suggesting courses of action that might be taken when you do not have to bear the responsibility for any of the consequences. A good rule to follow in making your recommendations is: Avoid recommending anything you would not yourself be willing to do if you were in management's shoes. The importance of learning to develop good judgment in a managerial situation is indicated by the fact that, even though the same information and operating data may be available to every manager or executive in an organization, the quality of the judgments about what the information means and which actions need to be taken does vary from person to person.Gragg, "Because Wisdom Can't Be Told," p. 10.
It goes without saying that your report should be well organized and well written. Great ideas amount to little unless others can be convinced of their merit this takes tight logic, the presentation of convincing evidence, and persuasively written arguments.
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