A Guide to Case Analysis: Core Concepts and Analytical Approaches

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A Guide to Case Analysis
I keep six honest serving men (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When; And How and Where and Who. Rudyard Kipling

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STRATEGY: Core Concepts and Analytical Approaches

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n most courses in strategic management, students use cases about actual companies to practice strategic analysis and to gain some experience in the tasks of crafting and implementing strategy. A case sets forth, in a factual manner, the events and organizational circumstances surrounding a particular managerial situation. It puts readers at the scene of the action and familiarizes them with all the relevant circumstances. A case on strategic management can concern a whole industry, a single organization, or some part of an organization; the organization involved can be either profit seeking or not-for-profit. The essence of the student’s role in case analysis is to diagnose and size up the situation described in the case and then to recommend appropriate action steps.

Why Use Cases to Practice Strategic Management?
The foregoing limerick was used some years ago by Professor Charles Gragg to characterize the plight of business students who had no exposure to cases.1 The facts are that the mere act of listening to lectures and sound advice about managing does little for anyone’s management skills and that the accumulated managerial wisdom cannot effectively be passed on by lectures and assigned readings alone. If anything had been learned about the practice of management, it is that a storehouse of ready-made textbook answers does not exist. Each managerial situation has unique aspects, requiring its own diagnosis, judgment, and tailor-made actions. Cases provide would-be managers with a valuable way to practice wrestling with the actual problems of actual managers in actual companies. A student of business with tact Absorbed many answers he lacked. But acquiring a job, He said with a sob, “How does one fit answer to fact?”

The case approach to strategic analysis is, first and foremost, an exercise in learning by doing. Because cases provide you with detailed information about conditions and problems of different industries and companies, your task of analyzing company after company and situation after situation has the twin benefit of boosting your analytical skills and exposing you to the ways companies and managers actually do things. Most college students have limited managerial backgrounds and only fragmented knowledge about companies and real-life strategic situations. Cases help substitute for on-the-job experience by (1) giving you broader exposure to a variety of industries, organizations, and strategic problems; (2) forcing you to assume a managerial role (as opposed to that of just an onlooker); (3) providing a test of how to apply the tools and techniques of strategic management; and (4) asking you to come up with pragmatic managerial action plans to deal with the issues at hand.

Objectives of Case Analysis
Using cases to learn about the practice of strategic management is a powerful way for you to accomplish five things:2 1. Increaseyourunderstandingofwhatmana ersshouldandshouldnotdoinguidingabusiness g tosuccess.

2. Buildyour skillsinsizingupcompanyresourcestrengthsandweaknessesandinconducting strategicanalysisinavarietyofindustriesandcompetitivesituations. 3. Getvaluablepracticeinidentifyingstrategicissuesthatneedtobeaddressed,evaluatingstrategic alternatives,andformulatingworkableplansofaction. 4. Enhanceyoursenseofbusinessjudgment,asopposedtouncriticallyacceptingtheauthoritative crutchoftheprofessoror“back-of-the-book”answers. 5. Gainingin-depthexposuretodifferentindustriesandcompanies,therebyacquiringsomething closetoactualbusinessexperience.

A Guide to Case Analysis

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If you understand that these are the objectives of case analysis, you are less likely to...
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