An Introduction to the Case Method
For many of you, this will be the first course using cases that you have ever taken. The fact that this form of learning is new to you will naturally cause you some concern, and early on, some difficulty. Your casebook has a number of articles as well as ten “stories” about companies called cases. These cases give you the chance to look at the present situation facing an organization, and after a systematic analysis, make recommendations that will produce a change in the results or outcomes. While you cannot be certain what that outcome will be, through the discussion and critique of your suggestions by fellow students and your professor, projections can be made about the foundation for the probable success of your recommendations. In this course you will have the opportunity, through cases, to see how well you can assess and address a marketing issue or problem. The role of the case course is to provide you with the opportunity to utilize the knowledge you have gained to this point to evaluate and make recommendations to enhance the performance of real organizations. This is not a substitute for real world experience in a job with an organization, but it is the type of learning that helps prepare you to begin using the business knowledge you have acquired.
Because the process of learning through case analysis may be new to you, we will devote much of this discussion to providing you with a framework to use in analyzing the cases found in your casebook. Such a framework is useful not only in analyzing cases in casebooks, but also in considering business situations described in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Fortune, and Forbes. In reality, most articles about companies in magazines and newspapers are mini-cases. The cases in your text tell stories, including facts, opinions, projections, results, expectations, plans, policies, and programs. As readers, we need some way to structure the information presented in a way that makes it more useable. Analysis frameworks provide a means to accomplish this end.
There are several benefits in having a framework to use for analyzing situations. The first is that a framework provides comprehensive coverage of the topics and issues involved. Without a framework, the analyst may overlook some issues. For example, a person might not consider the various effects of the economic environment facing the organization at a given point in time. Recommendations made without this consideration may not be appropriate, and they may even lead to the failure of the organization. Another benefit of a framework is ease of communication. When everyone uses a similar framework to analyze cases, the terms each person uses person have similar meanings. This is a huge advantage in discussing cases in and outside of class. A final benefit is consistency of analysis. A framework provides a blueprint to approach situations consistently every time. This is a great aid in getting started and conducting the analysis effectively and efficiently. Using the framework repeatedly will make you very proficient with it. In fact, experience shows that students continue to use this framework in their jobs long after SOURCE: Ferrell, O. (2005). South-western Cengage Learning. Retrieved 12 04, 2007, from Companion Website - Student Resources: www.swlearning.com/marketing/ferrell/ferrell3e/how_analyze_case.doc
graduation. They continue to get these benefits, and in times of crisis, the framework gives them something to rely on in dealing with difficult situations.
The framework presented in the remainder of this discussion is certainly not the only one that is useful in analyzing cases. We also cannot claim that it is the best framework. As long as the framework provides you with the benefits outlined above, you feel it suits your needs, and you use it consistently, the case analysis process will be...