What is Case Analysis in Strategic Management?

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Strategy Management

Strategic management has long been one of the central teaching and research subjects in most universities and other tertiary institutions. Given the complexity of the modem company, much of the research in this area has consisted of case studies aimed at achieving a greater depth of understanding of the complexities of the role and functions of top management.

Strategic management can be said to present a two-pronged approach to the study of the development of companies, one based on case studies and the other on population studies. These two approaches are being explicitly related to each other as inquiry is being made both for further understanding of reality and the understanding of the implications of emerging research findings.

One of the most difficult tasks in preparing a case is the structuring of the thought process to address relevant factors or forces confronting the particular organization. Students stimulate the policy or strategic management behavior of organizational executives through case analysis.

According to some scholars, a case brings out, in a factual form, the relevant issues, and circumstances interrupting the managerial behavior of organizations. It situates the case readers at the scene of the organization enlightens them on the particular issues and circumstances surrounding the organization. A student’s role in case analysis is essential to diagnose and assess the situation presented in the case and recommends the most rational actions relevant to the case by assuming the position of the executive.

The case method complements and enhances textbook materials and class lectures by directing attention to what a company has done or should do in a real business situation. Application of the case analysis method in business policy or strategy courses provides an avenue to develop and refine analytical skills.

It also provides an exciting experience by allowing the case analyst to assume the role of a business executive. When assuming this managerial role the case analyst (for example, a student) needs to consider all aspects of the organic business functions of marketing, finance, personnel and production, and the relevant concepts and constructs.

Also, the substantial importance is the consideration of the business environment, including the relevant factors that impact policy and strategic decisions. Cases usually include quantitative and qualitative information and data to assist analysis.

Excellent case analysis draws from skills learned in other business disciplines such as marketing, personnel, production, mathematics, statistics, accounting, quantitative methods, the behavioral sciences, and other cognate disciplines.

Guide to Case Analysis

Some useful hints that may assist in case analysis are discussed under the following sub-headings:

  • Preparing for case analysis.
  • Formulating the case analysis.
  • Communicating the analysis.

Preparing for Case Analysis

On the first encounter with a business policy or strategy case, attention should be concentrated on becoming acquainted with the situation prevailing in the organization. This should assist the case analyst to gain an insight into the organizational problem requiring, solutions, as well as obtain background information, data and other cognate variables or factors.

Suggestions for effective case analysis preparation include the following:

  • Allow adequate time in preparing a case.
  • Read each case at least twice. The first reading should give the case analyst an overview of the company’s special circumstances, and the relevant issues confronting the organization. The second reading allows the case analyst to concentrate on what he considers to be the salient issues and to understand the relevant information and data obtained.
  • Concentrate on the salient issue in each case. Remember that not every piece of information in a case for analysis is necessarily important.
  • Do not overlook exhibits. The exhibits or tables/graphs in each case should be considered as an integral part of the data for case analysis.
  • Adopt an appropriate timeframe. For example, if the case for analysis ends in 2018, the year 2018 should become the present year for the analysis of the case. Deciding for a case that ends in 2019 by using data that could not be available until 2020 defeats the purpose of the case analysis method.
  • Draw from your total knowledge. As the assumed policy/strategic decision-maker for the organization under study, the case analyst will need to consider all aspects of the business and industry. The case analyst will need to determine if the policy and strategic issues revolve around a theory studied in any of the organic functional areas of marketing, production, finance, and administration, or any of the other cognate disciplines, such as economics, behavioral sciences, mathematics, accounting statistics or other quantitative methods.

Formulating the Case Analysis

To formulating the case analysis, some scholars believed that the case analysis framework consists of the following:

Particular topics of interest include:

  1. An assessment of the structure conduct (or strategy), and performance of the industry and competition.
  2. An understanding of who the consumers/clients are, and why, where, when, how, what, and how much they buy.

The relevant questions include:

  • How do buyers buy in this industry or market?
  • Can the market be segmented? How? Can the segments be quantified in size, sales volume profit?
  • What are the requirements for success in this industry?
  • What is the nature of industry structure conduct, and performance?
  • Who are the competitors and what are their strengths and weaknesses?

The Organization

It is important to develop an understanding of the company’s human and nonhuman resources, its strengths and weaknesses, and the reason for its success or failure. Of salient importance is a comprehension of what the organization wishes to do.

The fit between the organization and its internal and external environments is the main association considered in case analysis. This association is the aim of situation analysis because it is an interpretation of where the company presently stands. Relevant questions to be considered by the case analyst include:

  • What are the organization’s mission, objectives and unique competencies?
  • What is the company’s product or service to the market? How can it’s past and present performance be characterized? What is its potential?
  • What is the situation in which the executive or organization finds itself?
  • What variables have contributed to the present situation?

A Plan of Action

The case analyst should be prepared to isolate possible lines of action based on the above situation analysis. In most cases, many alternative lines of action are possible and each alternative should be thoroughly and reasonably considered.

Each line of action also has costs and revenues associated with it. The costs and revenues should be carefully calculated based on rational and realistic estimates.

The relevant questions include:

  • What policy or strategic actions are available to the company?
  • What are the costs and benefits associated with each policy or strategic action (quantitatively and qualitatively?
  • Is there any difference between what the company wants to do should do, can do and must do?

Potential Results

The likely results of all lines of action should be scientifically and reasonably evaluated. Based on this rationale and scientific evaluation of the results, one line of action or strategy should be recommended for implementation.

The evaluation should give reasons for choosing the best line of action or strategy and why the other options were rejected.

Communicating the Case Analysis

Three methods for communicating case analyses include:

There is no correct method for organizing a case analysis. However, it is advisable to think about the case analysis report as consisting of three major parts:

The first part should contain a paragraph that defines the problems and specifies the constraints and alternatives available to the organization. The section should provide a carefully developed assessment of the industry, market and customer/client behavior, the company, and alternative lines of action. This part should be the major part of the ease analysis report. It should not contain a restatement of case information/data. Rather, it should contain an evaluation of the facts, quantitative detail information, and management perspectives.

The third or last part of the report should consist of a set of rational and feasible recommendations.

Although there are many formats for case analysis reports, the following general guidelines may be useful:

  • Be Specific on Recommendations: The case analyst should develop specific recommendations logically and be sure that the recommendations are well sustained by preceding analyses. The reader/audience will want to see how the analyst’s reasoning leads to the recommendations, ‘and how well ideas are developed and supported.
  • Do not Overlook Implementation: An analyst’s case analysis will be well received if it discusses how the recommendations should be implemented. The specific courses of action needed to achieve the objectives proposed by the analyst should be spelled out.
  • State the Specific Assumptions: Strategy cases, like all actual business situations, involve insufficient information. It is important, therefore for the case analyst to state any assumptions made in the analysis. The case analyst should not assume that the audience/reader will be able to deduce them without assistance.
  • Avoid Merely repeating the facts Presented in the Case: Analyze the pertinent issues involved in the case and logically build towards your recommendations.
  • Use Headings or Labels: For example when analyzing the strengths of the company in the case include the heading, ‘Strengths’.
  • Discuss Options or Alternatives: Follow the proper policy and strategic management sequence by (a) identifying options or alternatives; (b) evaluating each option or alternative and (c) recommending the best option or alternative in the case analyst’s opinion.
  • Use Topic Sentences: The case analyst can assist the reader or evaluator of his report by putting the topic sentence first in each paragraph, and following with statements that directly support it.

The following suggestions may be relevant when making an oral presentation of a case analysis report:

  • Use your own words. Refrain from memorizing a presentation.
  • The most advised approach is to outline the key points to be covered.
  • Rehearse your presentation.
  • Use visual and other aids where possible.
  • Be prepared to handle questions from the audience.

The case method in business policy or strategy offers the analyst the opportunity to develop his analytical skills and to understand the relations of the organic business functions. It also enables the analyst to develop valuable skills in time management, group problem solving, and creativity, organization of thoughts and ideas as well as human interaction. These skills are relevant in case analysis. The analyses of these cases show how to organize a written case, and the nature and scope of the analysis, which include both quantitative and qualitative types.

Format for Case Analysis The Strategic Audit

There is no one best way to analyze or present a case report. Each instructor has personal preferences for format and approach. Nevertheless, this approach is based on a strategic audit. The approach provides structure and is very helpful for the typical student who may be a relative novice in case analysis.

Regardless of the format chosen, be careful to include a complete analysis of key environmental variables especially of trends in the industry and of the competition. Also, look at international developments as well.

 

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