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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Case Method

For a large bank of management cases and management anecdotes, refer:

History of Case Method
  • Case method was first thought of and adopted for imparting business and management education by Harvard Business School around the time the school started graduate program in business.
  • In absence of the text books in business management in those days, practitioners of business management were interviewed and detailed accounts of what these managers were doing were written as business case studies.
  • These cases were then used as a training material by the professors at the institute. The cases were presented to the business school students who would then be required to study the cases, understand the problems and dilemmas presented in the case, discuss the issues and come out with alternative decisions and solutions.

What Is Case and What Is Case Method?

  • Business or management case studies give an account of real life business and management situations which put forward a dilemma; the reader is brought to a cross-road. He has to analyze the dilemma situation and solve it. Thus, cases investigate contemporary issues in real-life business situations.
  • Therefore, preferably, cases should be based on actual situations and experiences in an organization, based on studies undertaken in the organization or on information extracted from consulting projects or published articles and events in business magazines and newspapers. Cases should include actual information of the organization and the actual events including interviews, observations, data, industry records, historical facts etc related to the organization and the industry.
  • For better simulation of the exact real life situations in a case, detailed annexure or exhibits to the case are often attached. Normally, they are: history of the organization, organization structure, its products and markets, its financial statements, plans, schedules or time-lines, biographies, multimedia documentation of interviews etc.
  • These cases are systematically developed, constructed and written. While developing a case, its learning objectives are kept in mind. Cases are developed by faculty, consultants, management authors, working managers or even students and are published in textbooks, on the Internet and as an internal literature of an organization or a business school.
  • They are then given to the students of business management education in a large majority of institutions these days for doing analysis and presenting the solutions to the issues and dilemmas emerging in the case.
  • Such a method of study and analysis of a case is considered as an effective way to train the students of business schools. This method can also be used in other disciplines like law etc with required suitable modifications.
  • This method aims at improving management student's analytical, decision making and problem-solving abilities.
  • While many of the students might not have the opportunity of the diverse real life organizational and business situations, the cases provide the students with the simulated experience of organizational problems in a relatively short period of time.

“Case Method” Process: How Does It work?

  1. Students of management and business students are presented with a case by the faculty/professor.
  2. The students assume the role of a decision-maker while reading the case, understanding the situation and identifying the problem narrated in the case.
  3. For analyzing the case, students read the case several times. The initial reading may give them a general understanding of the case, the actors in the case, the organization, the industry and some idea about the problem(s).
  4. On subsequent readings, students look for the problems and issues involved in-depth and try to establish cause-effect relationships at the root cause level.
  5. They also think about the alternative courses of actions or solutions in order to finally present their suggestions or recommendations.
  6. They often meet in small groups before the class to warm up and discuss their findings with other classmates.
  7. In the class, the professor guides them and questions them on their understanding of the case and the problems therein and also on their analysis and recommendations. This facilitates the students to probe further, revise their thinking of issues, compare still more different alternatives and finally suggest more convincing courses of actions or solutions in light of the company's objectives.
  8. The professor’s role is primarily that of guide and facilitator and therefore, he does not do much of talking. He steers the discussions on the case by making timely and pertinent remarks as the case unfolds. The professor makes sure that the students do much of the talking and interactions.
  9. Discussions in the class room take place in several small groups. Exceptionally, discussions may also be coordinated in one large group. As many groups or as one single group, the students decide on the solution(s) and also, the proper course of implementation suggesting a time line. The case method should help students see themselves as the implementers, the executives and not just as consultants of theoreticians.
  10. The professor may conclude the case discussions by presenting the students as to how the company actually analyzed and solved the problem.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Case Method

  • Case method allows diverse thinking on the same issues from various angles and many alternative solutions to the problems get generated. This experience can be very enriching.
  • Diversity of opinions and discussions over them facilitate development of flexibility, conflict resolution and consensus building among the students.
  • Students learn to communicate and also to assert when required.
  • They learn participation in problem solving.
  • Their critical thinking, decision making and problem solving skills get honed up.
  • They become good presenters.
  • They learn to use data and information and quantitative techniques. This helps them to become data and fact based managers.
  • Some students with mindset of believing in one best solution or answer to a problem may feel uneasy with case method as they see so many solutions emerging after the discussions as if there is no right or wrong answer to the case.
  • Some students who are shy of communication and presentation or public speaking do not like case method as it necessarily requires lots of discussions and interactions.
  • Fear of being ridiculed for their thoughts and ideas may discourage some students from effective participation in case method.

For More Guidance, Assistance, Training and Consultation


Also refer: (Prodcons Group); (Training Programs by Prodcons Group); (Productivity Consultants)

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