Business Case Analysis

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Developments in Business Simulation and Experiential Learning, Volume 31, 2004

THE CASE BRIEF A Model for Case Analysis, Writing and Discussion John Washbush University of Wisconsin-Whitewater washbusj@uww.edu ABSTRACT
The session addresses a common problem in undergraduate case discussion and writing—the tendency for students to reiterate lengthy lists and discussions of facts of the case without effectively identifying key facts while failing to adequately addressing their implications. The case brief, using the basic problemsolving model, provides a carefully structured approach for the student to more precisely define key facts, identify valid strategic problems, and more pointedly define, discuss and recommend relevant courses of action. In addition to describing the model used in the brief, the session will interactively demonstrate an exploration of a short case using the case brief format. Each of you will write a case brief. It should not exceed five pages (typed, singlespaced). The brief is to conform to this format: Diagnosis (key facts) Bullets Statement of the problem Sentence Identification of alternatives Bullets Recommendation and rationale Paragraph Diagnosis is defined as a process of defining and using key case data. Analogous to the process of medical diagnosis, the objective is to determine what essential concerns are suggested by stating and analyzing these data. The Statement of the Problem requires the student to define, not what is wrong, but what is or are the significant strategic concern(s) that management must resolve. Please CAREFULLY observe these points in preparing case briefs: I. Discuss the following points in the Diagnosis section consistent with the information provided in the case: a. Type of business b. Divisions (if applicable) c. Markets and products d. Current mission and strategy e. Industry analysis Market share data on companies in the industry (1) Competitive dynamics  5 Forces Model of Competition analysis  Competitive changes and trends  Key success factors in the industry f. Marketing management g. Operations (Production) management (technology used and degree of sophistication) h. Financial management 1) Capital structure (equity & debt) and trends 2) Profitability analysis (surplus revenues for nonprofit organizations)  Profit Summary (gross, operating, and net)  Identify divisional profitability for diversified company  Trends in profitability 3) Cash Flow (is there evidence that a healthy portion of cash inflows is supplied by normal business operations?) 4) Assessment of the company’s financial situation

SESSION OVERVIEW
The objectives for this session are (1) to define the structure and use of the case brief and (2) to illustrate the use of the case brief via exploring a short strategic case. The session is intended for (1) persons who instruct undergraduate and graduate business policy courses and (2) persons who use strategic cases for management training.

THE CASE BRIEF CONCEPTUALLY
The case brief is based on the Dewey problem-solving model (felt difficulty, investigation and diagnosis, problem identification, stating and exploring alternative responsive actions, selection, implementation, evaluation). By their very nature, case analyses cannot follow this process beyond selection and defense of proposed actions. However, the experience of the presenter is that most business students who attempt strategic case analyses are far better at documenting the facts of cases than effectively identifying and exploring the strategic implications of those facts. The case brief is specifically designed to tightly direct and restrict the student’s approach to the facts of the case. Although not evident in the model that is described in detail below, I place emphasis on the problem statement, specification of alternatives and the recommendation put forward. These points of emphases are addressed when I introduce this model and in the way I grade. The model...
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