This packet details the steps necessary to produce a case analysis that may be required for work in business and technology courses. This packet is not intended to replace instructor guidelines and should not be used in that manner. The packet’s intended use is as a supplement to classroom instruction on assembling a case analysis. Therefore, it contains only general information that must be tailored to fit specific guidelines as required by your discipline and by your instructor.
This packet is subdivided into five sections:
Definition: A case analysis is used to achieve a business goal. It is a hypothetical, yet realistic, business situation that is developed to give the student a sense of the types of business situations a manager or business owner may encounter on a daily basis; a case analysis prompt usually includes information on the business’s employees, goals and values. The situation requires a decision to be made and a solution to be proposed. Through careful consideration and examination of the information, students personally determine what the best remedy for the problem that the business is facing will be. There is no single solution to the problem, but there is an array of plausible solutions that depend strictly upon the characteristics of the person (people) involved in the decision-making process.
Audience: Although the course instructor will be reviewing the case analysis, he or she is not likely to be its target audience. The case itself gives the student some direction toward the primary audience of the case analysis. The primary audience is usually a business owner or executive committee, and the student’s responsibility is to write his/her case analysis in a way that is appealing to this primary audience.
Purpose: Cases provide the student with more than rote memorization of facts. They give the student background, so that when placed in similar circumstances, he/she will know how to effectively evaluate the situation and arrive at a potential solution. Case analysis helps students to acquire two skills:
- Applying theories to real situations
- Generating solutions to real problems
What is the primary goal of a case analysis?
- Realize that there is a vast amount of information that is included in a typical case. Do not become overwhelmed.
- Read the case carefully and make marginal notes when necessary.
- Familiarize yourself with information from general to specific.
- Identify the primary audience for case analysis.
- Determine what the actual problem is and recognize its causes.
- Prioritize by establishing which factors will be most important in influencing the business; identify its goals and values.
- Develop some possible solutions, based on course concepts, to the problem at hand.
- Decide which solution will be the best choice to solve the problem.
- Select a recommended solution that leaves other alternative solutions open as backups.
- Meet with other class members after preparing your own case. It often helps to discuss different points of view and obtain feedback.
- Participate in class discussions that challenge your analysis.
- Write the final draft of the case analysis.
- Check over this final draft for grammar and punctuation errors.
- Use the checklist provided here to make sure that all main parts of the case analysis are addressed.
What do you consider to be the most crucial step(s) in the process of your case analysis? Why? Justify your response(s).
Six Steps for Problem Analysis
Remember these six steps for problem analysis as defined by Professor Edward G. Wertheim, College of Business Administration, Northeastern University
Step One: Comprehend the Case Situation
Step Two: Define the Problem
Step Three: Identify the Causes
Step Four: Generate Alternative Solutions
Step Five: Make a Decision
Step Six: Take Action
http://web.cba.neu.edu/~ewertheim/introd/cases.htm (Material no longer available at this link.)
The most important thing to remember when organizing the format of a case analysis is that the format should be reader-friendly because in business writing there are many different types of audiences involved. A typical case analysis includes a brief introduction, clear paragraphs, comprehensive topic sentences and good transitions. Subheadings may be used to clarify breaks between sections.
I. Introduction consists of only one paragraph – the executive summary. This paragraph contains the following sections
a. Summary of the problem presents concise information in a professional manner.
b. Recommended solution states the proposed solution, but does not go into detail.
II. Analysis is divided into several subsections that provide clear and logical organization in how the problem was recognized, what the problem is and what the diagnosis of the problem is.
a. Problem recognition addresses what leads you to believe that there is a problem and what will happen if the problem is not solved.
b. Problem definition specifically describes what it is that you want to improve. This section clarifies the primary problem and gives a brief definition of what you are trying to do in the process of solving it. This section should conclude with a set of objectives mentioned in list form. Do not discuss causes or alternative solutions in this section.
c. Problem diagnosis explains and examines the causes of the problem. Remember to look beneath the surface at underlying factors that may trigger the problem.
III. Synthesis is divided into subsections that outline possible solutions, the recommended solution and an execution plan.
a. Solution generation discusses alternative solutions developed to meet goals set in the problem definition stage. Possible solutions are listed and explained.
b. Solution choice/recommendation determines the single best solution for the problem and explains why you think this is the best way to solve it. Criteria used to arrive at the recommended solution are mentioned and their importance is emphasized.
c. Implementation plan describes what changes must take place in order for your recommended solution to be successful. Give relevant details in this section, including who will be involved, the amounts of time and money that will be involved, what actions will be taken and how the new plan will be received.
IV. Graphics section consists of tables, graphs or charts that simplify and organize information for your readers. A graphics section is optional in most case analyses, and graphics are not always viewed in a separate section. Sometimes graphics are incorporated into the introduction, analysis and synthesis sections. It is best to check with your instructor to determine how he/she would prefer the graphics to be labeled and organized.
- What are the three main parts of your case analysis likely to be?
- How have you focused on defining the problem and proposing a solution in your case analysis?
- Analyze the case using course concepts
- Recognize and identify the problem
- Determine the causes of the problem
- Direct my analysis toward the assumed audience
- Use appropriate theories to arrive at my recommendation
- Leave alternative solutions open in case of initial failure
- Write a detailed implementation plan
- Use logical organization and clear language
- Include appropriate subheadings where needed
- Follow appropriate format guidelines as indicated by my instructor
- Check for grammar and punctuation errors
- Review the graphics section for formatting mistakes
- Accept the fact that there is not one perfect solution
Wertheim, E.G. A model for case analysis and problem solving. Retrieved from Northeastern University’s College of Business Administration Web site at http://web.cba.neu.edu/~ewertheim/introd/cases.htm (Material no longer available at this link.)
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