It's a matter of case study

HIGHER EDUCATION

It's a matter of case study

ANALYSE THIS Case study analysis should be begun by determining the ‘scope’ of the topic.

Management pedagogy has seen significant changes in learning through case studies and the use of case study discussions as a method of executive recruitment. Case studies are models based on corporate or social situations. The build-up of the case study is dependent on the knowledge, perception, outlook and inquisitiveness of the writer. But is is often his/ her imagination, comparison and futuristic thinking that shapes the piece.  

Case studies are an integral part of academic learning and may be divided into categories such as:

*Finance, operations, sales & marketing

*HO, legal issues and organisational behaviour

*Social and ethical issues

*Strategy, innovation & future

Most case studies involve more than one of the above categories in the effort to understand, reflect, analyse and finally list the learning outcomes. These common guidelines may help you in forming a solution for the given situation.

Scope of study

Whether the study encompasses issues involving past history and/ or people behaviour and/ or external factors and/ or internal factors or whether it is relevant if viewed as part of a category above determines ‘scope’. For example, if the case study is about the annual or quarterly results of a company, it is a financial case study, though the implications on the aspects of marketing, operations and HO exist. The issue lies in focusing your attention towards the finance point of view.

Ownership of the case study denotes the field or area of management to which the perception is attributed.

Identifying the problem

This is the most difficult part of any case study discussion. Your first reading reveals it to be a simple issue, whereas it may not be so if you see it from the point of view of the person who offers the solution. For example, if the case study is on the topic — “government bans on stem cell research result in low annual profits for XYZ”, the following questions must be put forth and key problems must be identified.

*Is the ban justified? —Government policy is the problem.
*Why ban a research in the first place? — Is that research unethical?
*Does the scope of the ban threaten the existence of the firm? — Strategic issue.
*Is there any internal factor in addition to the external factor of the ban? — Is the company hiding something? Poor governance may be the problem.
*What is the immediate financial future of the company in the next 1-2 quarters? — Financial problem.

There is no end to such questions. Once you read the case study and find answers to the above, the problem seems to emerge. Such as:

*It is a financial case study involving low profits.
*It is an ethical/ legal issue involving government policy and society.
*It is a scientific/ technical issue involving the nature of research, etc.

Cause of the problem

Identifying the cause becomes fairly easy once you fully understand the scope of the study and identify the problems. In the case of stem cell case study, the cause of the present problem may lie in public opinion about stem cell research and policies. The ban could be due to:

*Past history of unethical methods in the field.
*Outcome of the research may lead to societal imbalance by benefiting a few.

Setting objectives

In any case study discussion, dissect the problems impartially, as a professional manager. Taking sides is fine but with relevant logic, facts and figures.

Setting objectives gives you direction in finding the solution. The above problem requires ways in which the company may convince the government to lift the ban by modifying its research methods to match public opinion without compromising on the objectives of the research.

Execution

Your solution must be implementable. There is no better way to state your case than to take a real-life example that covers facts and figures and prove that your solution will survive the test of time. Such a presentation demands you to analyse the cause, situation, opportunity and threats from all angles.

For example, if the case study given is ‘Rise in Petrol Prices Imminent’, stating an alarming situation with foreign exchange, etc., how would you approach the problem?

Execution must include long-term perspectives — of whether your solution covers the possible unforeseen situations within the data given. There is no need to stick to known, conservative solutions if your own innovative, novel idea is presented with relevant logic.

Summarising

After you go through the above steps, view the entire study  objectively. Attend to minor details and present your views as a neutral observer. Finally, a case study is about learning, in being able to connect the learning experience with the objectives of a particular case study. 

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