Determine the symptoms which require immediate attention.

A case analysis is designed to help students sharpen their analytical skills. The strongest way to analyze a case is to apply a variation of the scientific method. This method of analysis is simply a logical approach that usually includes seven steps:

Step 1: Problem Definition. A case seldom involves one clear cut problem. The task is to: • Determine the symptoms which require immediate attention. • identify the fundamental issues and causal factors giving rise to these symptoms. It is important to separate the immediate problems from their more basic sources. For example, immediate problems may be a high rate of absenteeism, while the more fundamental issue may be a poor motivational climate. How students define a problem determines how they go about solving it. A short term solution for absenteeism is likely to be different from solutions which attempt to deal with motivational climate. Clearly define the problem in a short phrase.

Step 2: Justification for Problem Definition. In this step students should review what information they have. Students will need to make some inferences to fill in gaps. Clearly label what is inference and what is factual. Do not be afraid to assume, but clearly state the assumptions are being making. Students should make assumptions on the basis of their knowledge of what typical managerial practices are like, and they should be consistent with the facts students have about the case. Managerial decisions are always based on limited information. In fact, practicing managers find that many of their decisions must be made quickly on the basis of limited information. Explicitly address the following four information factors: a) what information is known, b) what information is unknown, c) what assumptions will the student make because of the missing information, and d) why those assumptions are reasonable at the time of writing the analysis.

Step 3: List Alternative Courses of Action. Be creative. Students should jot down ideas as they occur. Students should list as many ideas as are possible, without evaluating them or censoring anything. They can always be deleted later. The point is to let students imagination take over. Each alternative should be numbered and get its own separate paragraph.

Step 4: Evaluate Alternatives. Students should look critically at the alternatives they came up with in Step 3. Analyze the alternatives regarding their costs, potential benefits and risks. The more examples of costs, potential benefits and risks per each alternative, the higher the grade will be. The benefits must be described as “potential benefits”. Address the quantity level (e.g., high, medium or low) of each cost, potential benefit and risk.

Step 5: Review. Students should reread their notes and think. This may be a good time to let the case sit for a while. Students should go back to it later when they have had a chance to digest all the data.

Step 6: Draw Conclusions, Make Recommendations/Decisions. Students should select the alternative or alternatives they would recommend and fully explain/justify the logic behind the choice. Include specifics about the implementation of the recommendation: who should do what, when, and how. Source: Myers, T. & Myers, G. (1982). Managing by communication: An organizational approach. New York: McGraw Hill.