Case Study Assignment
Possible Points Criteria
10 Complete problem identification.
5 Explanation of the causes of the problem(s).
20 Solutions/actions recommended to problem(s).
5 Is the assignment properly typed?
1. Double spaced
2. One-inch margins
3. Proper APA-formatting, with references and in-text citations.
5 Does the written assignment demonstrate the use of proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation?
50 Total Score
Each student is required to read the enclosed instructions prior to starting the Case Study. After reading this material, you should be better prepared to attack the “Outside the Box in the Food and Beverage Division” Case Study on pages 302-303 in your textbook. Follow this Assignment Evaluation Criteria to earn the most possible points on this Case Study.
Guidelines for Case Study Analysis
Please carefully review this Case Study handout for a detailed description of conducting a case study analysis. Follow the Grading Rubric on the Assignment.
Some general case guidelines include:
• Cases turned in after the due date and time will be considered late and points will be deducted from the assignment.
• References must be cited using APA guidelines for all supplementary information used.
• Length: 10 – 12 pages, double-space, 1-inch margins, size 12 font.
What is a Case Study?
A strategic case study is best described as a well-orchestrated short story that presents essential information and data on corporate operations. As opposed to a finance or production or marketing case which presents material primarily on one functional area only, a strategic management case takes a holistic view of corporate operations from the perspective of the firm’s board of directors and/or its senior executives. There rarely are “correct” answers to most business problems (“it depends”). However, there certainly are wrong answers… It is your responsibility to come up with what you think is the best solution, having considered all possible repercussions of your recommendation.
Are there different types of case studies?
In general, there are three types of strategy-oriented case studies.
1. The first type is the problem-oriented case study. In these cases, senior management is faced with a set of circumstances that require them to make a series of strategy-oriented decisions. Sometimes the problem to be solved, or the strategy issue to be resolved is obvious. In other cases, one needs to determine what the problem is before looking for a solution. In both instances, the student-analyst is required to make several judgments about the actions to be taken, along with a justification for these actions.
2. The second type of case study presents overall information on a corporation without presenting a problem or issue that needs to be resolved. As opposed to the problem-solving case, these cases are usually designed to give the student a top-down view of corporate operations: the businesses that it is in; the markets that it serves; the technologies that it uses; its financial condition; its organizational structure, etcetera, as a way of providing the student with a senior-level perspective on corporate operations. In these cases, the student-analyst is required to show an understanding of how the corporation is organized, how it operates, and provide some rationale explaining why the corporation operates in the manner set out in the case study.
3. The third type of case study presents information on the leadership style of the firm’s chief executive officer. In these cases, specific information is usually provided on the actions that he may take, or already has taken, to change or otherwise modify the corporate culture; corporate and divisional level organizational changes; and human resource management concepts and practices. Information on training programs within the company, “employee-empowerment” practices, and executive selection procedures are very often part of this type of leadership-oriented case. As with the second type of case study described above, the student-analyst is required to show an understanding of the rationale for each of these separate strategic policies and actions, and how these contribute to the overall strength of the corporation.
There may be other types of strategy case studies but virtually all of them will fall into one of the three categories described above. Some case studies will contain segments that incorporate information and data relevant to each of the types described above. However, for purposes of this course, the overall focus of the case study will fall quite distinctly within one of the three categories noted above.
Living with the information set out in the case
Make every effort to live with the material presented in the case. The one exception of this rule is that you are required to do some additional research on the company or industry featured in the case study at hand. Be cautious that the research information you are using is only up to the date of the actual case study (i.e., financial statements must be from the time frame that the case was written). A word of explanation is essential here. When presented with a case study, whether it is a strategy, manufacturing, marketing, finance, or another type of case, many students try to make judgments on matters for which no information or data has been provided!
The best way to avoid this error is to review what you have written (or the notes that you have made on the case) and ask yourself a very basic question; what information is in the case that supports the judgments or conclusions that I have made? Very often, the answer will be “very little,” that is to say; you were being intuitive as opposed to objects in your approach to the project at hand! A good case analysis is an objective one in which you don’t reach for solutions or judgments for which there is no basis in the material with which you have to work.
Looking for a central issue or problem
Study hint! Be patient and read the case through once in its entirety before taking notes and trying to make judgments about the material that is set out in the case. After you have done that, push yourself to come to an understanding of why the author wrote the case and his/her teaching goal for it. In other words, see if the case fits into one of the three categories noted above. By doing this, you will get a better handle on the case, and be better prepared to discuss the strategy-oriented material set out before you. Asking yourself a series of questions will also help. For example:
• Does the case present a problem or series of problems to be solved?
• Does the case present an overview of the role of the CEO in bringing about change?
• Does the case present a more generalized view of the scope and content of the businesses and markets that the firm is in?
Once you have come to a reasonable conclusion, you can more readily absorb the material in front of you and maximize the learning process that is the basic goal of any case study.
General hints, clues, and suggestions
There are several methodologies useful in the analysis of strategy-oriented cases that are normally incorporated into strategic management texts. Having read the case through once, make a quick check through your textbooks to see if the information at hand fits into one of these conceptual frameworks. If a methodology fits the facts as they are presented in the case, use it! If nothing else, this will provide you with a convenient and justified way of presenting and analyzing the case’s content. As a student, you can’t be faulted for using a tried and true methodology.
If the case write-up is problem-oriented, and you are being asked to solve the problem, avoid the “boss is a dumb syndrome.” Most senior executives know what they are doing, and why they are doing it. More often than not, they choose a reasonable course of action for the company based on the facts (economic and market conditions) as they then know them. Don’t try to second guess them. Rather build on what they have done as a way of enhancing your background and skills. If the case write-up is more general in its scope and content, prepare a summary outline of the case using, where relevant, headings such as leadership style; human resource policies; markets and marketing policies; technological issues; globalization trends; mission statements; etcetera. If there is no “problem” to be solved, the best approach here is to do (a) an analysis of the contents of the case while (b) assessing the probable teaching goals for the case assumed by your instructor.
Given all of the above, it is safe to assume that there is no one right answer to case analysis. At best, some answers or solutions are reasonable given the data and information at hand, but they are only reasonable if there are information and data that can be used to back up your conclusions. This means that you need to do a reality check on yourself and your work from time to time. Compare the facts as presented in the material in the case with your completed analysis. Do the facts support your conclusions? Are you sure? This latter point leads to a final one. You can learn a lot from your peers, if only you will discuss their work and yours with them. The reality of most case write-ups is that they contain an awful lot of complex material and data that is not as easily analyzed and understood as one would like. Moreover, any serious analyst brings his/her background to the case study. If s/he is a finance person, s/he will look to the numbers first as a way of getting at the required case analysis. If s/he is a marketing person, s/he will look to marketing policies and practices first and probably concentrate on them. Since you are neither expected to nor can you know everything that you would like to know, getting into a work session with your peers can be a time-saving way of maximizing the learning process (and your grade). Try to find time for it before you set your final ideas, analyses, and solutions into the concrete. Remember, this is what you will be expected to do once you are in the corporate world. Why not take advantage of the time and freedom that you now have to get an early leg up on the stresses, strains, and benefits of working in a group of interested (and interesting) people.
Note: The aforementioned material and ideas have been acquired and adapted from http://mars.wnec.edu/~achelte/howto.html (Links to an external site.). Please refer to this website for more specific details and examples on preparing case studies.
Preparing cases studies
One of the most difficult tasks in preparing a case study, or resolving a problem, is to think strategically. Your thinking process must address relevant forces confronting the organization in question.
On your first reading of the case, concentrate on becoming acquainted with the situation in which the organization finds itself. The first reading should provide some insights into the problem(s) requiring resolution, as well as background information on the environment and organization.
Then read the case again, taking careful notes and paying particular attention to key facts and assumptions. At this point, you should determine the relevance and reliability of the quantitative data provided in the context of what you see as the issues or problems facing the organization. Valuable insights often arise from analyzing two or more bits of quantitative information concurrently.
There are three pitfalls you should avoid during the second reading. First, do not rush to a conclusion. If you do so, information is likely to be overlooked or possibly distorted to fit a preconceived notion of the answer. Second, do not work the numbers until you understand their meaning and derivation. Third, do not confuse supposition with fact. Many statements are made in a case such as, “Our firm subscribes to the balanced scorecard concept of strategic management.” Is this a fact, based on an appraisal of the firm’s actions and performance, or a supposition?
Naturally, it helps to approach a case analysis in an organized manner. I prefer you to use the format discussed below.
1. Situation Analysis:
What is happening in the case? What are the relevant pieces of information? The purpose of this section is to provide the logic that leads to the definition of the problem. It is analogous to the diagnostic process engaged in by medical practitioners, before making a judgment regarding the nature of the disease. It is therefore critical that you use a deductive process of identifying and analyzing elements of the situation that lead to your definition of the problem. The more rigorous your analysis, the more precise and defensible will be your problem definition.
2. Problem Definition:
If you have done a good job in the first section, this section should simply be the conclusion of the thinking process in the first section. All you need is a sentence or two stating the problem in as a precise fashion as possible. The brevity of this section should not lead you to believe that it is an unimportant section. It is, in fact, the core of your overall presentation. An incorrect definition of the problem will most definitely yield solutions that are not particularly helpful. To continue with the medical analogy, consider a doctor performing brain surgery to deal with headache symptoms when all that was necessary was a new prescription for eyeglasses.
3. Analysis of Alternatives:
Now that you have a sense of what the problem is, list and examine the various options to fix the problem. Provide the reasoning you use as you examine the evidence and identify solution possibilities.
Using some intellectual process (e.g., a cost/benefit analysis), rank order the options you identified in the previous section. Provide a sense of their respective strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, & threats (SWOT). Finally, imagine yourself in the role of a manager making a detailed recommendation to a superior. Think of possible questions and objections that may come up, and think of how your recommendation may be implemented.
1. Two common errors to be avoided are:
• Do not simply restate case information (the instructor has read the case many times) – this is a waste of precious space and time. Only include information that is relevant to your specific argument.
• Do not hide important information in an appendix. The text of your document should stand alone and the reader should need to refer to an appendix for detail.
2. Case analysis papers should be between ten to twelve double-spaced pages in length. There is no limit on the number of exhibits and appendices you may include in your analysis.
3. Make sure you use your very best writing skills. Remember, this is a graduate-level course and your work will be evaluated at the graduate level. You may want to ask the UNT Writing Center for assistance if you feel unsure about your writing skills. They will be more than happy to help you.