You should read these notes at the beginning of the semester and then study in depth specific sections as you work on various assignments during the semester. As you start work on each of the case briefs, you should review the Case Briefs section below. As you work on the full-length written case report, you should follow the format given in the Written Case Analysis Reports and Case Report Headings sections, and make use of the suggestions in those sections plus those in the Case Report Grading Criteria and Common Failings sections. There also are three sections regarding the participation assignment(s), which include both your participation in class discussions and possible short written assignments to support a quality class discussion and to help your learning. In addition to the sections in this document, there is a link in the following list to a separate module on specific questions/topics you should prepare for the case discussions.
Please don't ask me what is expected on an assignment before you have carefully studied the appropriate section that explains it.
|Written Case Reports | Case Report Headings | Case Report Grading Criteria | Common Failings |
| Class Discussions | Participation Grading Criteria | Written Assignments as Part of Participation Grade |
Each student will write three short written briefs on cases scheduled for discussion during the course. Everyone will do a brief on the Nike case, then one half of the class will do briefs on the Sun Microsystems and Lincoln Electric cases and the other half of the class will do briefs on the Terlato Wine and Vermont Teddy Bear cases. There are two major purposes for the assignments: (1) to give you additional practice in analyzing and developing conclusions from cases, and (2) to enrich our class discussions of each case by having part of the class be prepared in greater depth than usual.
A case brief is a short version of a full case analysis paper, containing four sections: (1) Current Strategies, in which you identify and critique their current strategies; (2) Diagnosis, with critical Issues, a S.W.O.T. table, and supporting discussion, (3) Recommendations, with a concise explanation of what the recommendations mean, why you are recommending them, and some major considerations in implementing your recommended strategies, and (4) answers to the specific questions given in the Questions/Topics for Specific Cases piece on my web site (if there are no specific questions for your case, then the fourth section is not needed).
Each brief (roughly 3-4 pages double-spaced or equivalent) must be handed in on the day we discuss that particular case in class. Late reports will not be accepted. The report should be clear, organized, and typed. No report covers, please - just staple the sheets, but be sure to write your name, class time, and the case name on the first page.
Your major written case analysis reports should follow the format given in this section. (See a separate section regarding case briefs.) Each report should have six first-level sections, corresponding to #1-6 in the format below. The format is structured to present the results of using the strategic management process outlined in the Strategic Management Model Section (which should be used whether preparing for a discussion of a case or producing a written report). Your written reports should each be a business management report that communicates clearly the major features of your diagnosis and recommendations. You should be writing from the standpoint of a consultant to top management.
1. Executive Summary
This is a concise summary (about one page) of the major problems/critical issues and your recommendations for addressing these problems/issues. This summary should be self-contained, i.e., should provide a busy executive with the most important information from the report, even if he/she never reads the body of the report. This is NOT a preface that merely introduces the report. Write this section after completing the rest of your report, even though it is placed at the beginning of the report.
2. Internal Analysis
3. Analysis of the External Environment
Scan and analyze important factors, trends, and probable future conditions to identify key opportunities and threats. As with the Internal Analysis section, it is vital that you go beyond mere description and add evaluation and conclusions. You might reference your summary SWOT table again in this section.
4. Integration of Major Strategic Issues
In this section, integrate the major findings from your analysis in the previous two sections, with a SWOT table and presentation of the Critical Issues. Your report must include a comprehensive SWOT table. You can either put it in the text in this section or in an appendix. If in an appendix, then refer to it here and in the sections on Internal Analysis and External Analysis, plus provide a summary of highlights from it at the beginning of this section. State clearly the major critical issues you have identified, summarize the reasons that led you to choose these as the major critical issues, and explain what is the issue. One good way to present them is in a numbered list of critical issues, each captured in a concise, meaningful phrase, followed by a paragraph to explain just what is the issue and to summarize why this issue is one of the critical few. You should be presenting a small number (typically two to about five) of issues (not actions, solutions, or objectives) that you think should receive particular attention by top management at this time. You may also discuss other issues, but please make it clear which you have chosen as the critical issues. Critical issues are usually major problems, weaknesses, or threats, but will more likely involve the interaction of several of these (e.g., a firm's current market position being challenged by an innovative competitor). Consider both short- and long-range issues.
5. Alternatives & Recommendations
This is an extremely important section of the report, which should be developed with much attention. It often is neglected or short-changed. It should have two or three subsections (at least the first two, with the third when necessary):
In each of these subsections, you should (a) briefly summarize their current strategies (you will have identified them in more detail in the earlier section on current mission, objectives, & strategies), (b) provide and evaluate a rich range of strategic alternatives available to the organization and (c) present your recommendations. The alternatives should be ones that can be considered reasonable in the context of your analysis/diagnosis, and that you think are worth serious consideration. This does not mean listing every textbook strategy, but does require identifying a range of alternatives for this particular business situation. Your evaluation should provide a balanced critique of the alternatives, as each relates to this particular situation, for example: issues and problems addressed and why; problems created; and how the alternative relates to the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of this business situation; and practicality. Be sure to consider implementation implications.
Then, you should clearly present your recommended strategies , including the rationale for your choices. Make very clear the distinction between strategies you considered and those you are finally recommending. These recommended strategic actions can involve replacements for, or changes in, current objectives and strategies. Check to ensure that your various recommendations are compatible. Explain how your recommendations have addressed all the critical issues you identified.
Identify major implementation issues and present a specific implementation plan (for one of your major strategic recommendations that involves change). Note: you should have presented and explained your recommended strategies in before you start on implementation. The implementation plan should identify major barriers and issues in implementation, and then describe key action steps necessary to implement a/the strategy changes you are recommending. The plan should be as specific as is reasonable in light of available information and space limitations, and should demonstrate awareness of the major implementation barriers and issues.
Include copies of key research material you used, including industry financial data (with sources cited); details on financial analysis; and anything else that would clutter the main text. Be sure that any appendices are referenced in the body of your report.
In addition to following the format above, you should keep in mind as you prepare your report:
It is important that you have multi-level headings in your case reports, that (a) are consistent
and (b) are intuitively reader-friendly. There are many workable formats; however, the following
is one I often use (i.e., first-order headings are centered, all bold caps, followed by a blank line
before the text starts; second-order headings are left-adjusted, all bold caps, followed by a blank
line before the text; third-order headings are left-adjusted, with bold initial caps, and text could
start either on the next line or after a blank line). Applied to a case report, the headings look like
For each of the components below, I will consider the criteria summarized under each heading below (and elaborated upon in the earlier report section) plus consideration of (a) depth and scope of analysis, (b) extent to which you interrelated, integrated, and added value to the various pieces of information in the case to develop insights and sound conclusions, rather than merely describe what was already stated in the case, (c) appropriate use of models and concepts from the field of strategic management and from various courses in your program, and (d) quality of your conclusions and recommendations, heavily determined by your supporting logic and rationale.
Component 1. Internal Analysis: Identifies, analyzes, and evaluates the mission, major objectives, current strategies (especially corporate-level & competitive), organization performance, and the five functional areas (including functional strategies where significant).
Component 2. Analysis of the External Environment: Analyzes and evaluates relevant elements of the general and competitive environments, and their implications for the organization and its strategies.
Component 3. Integration of Major Strategic Issues: Integrates the major findings in the analysis to identify clearly and discuss the critical issues that must be addressed by management, and for which recommendations will be made. Clearly states and describes the critical issues (as issues, rather than actions). Shows clearly (here and/or in earlier sections) why these were chosen as the critical few issues. Includes a comprehensive SWOT table (usually in an appendix, but well integrated in the text).
Component 4. Alternative Strategies: Presents and evaluates alternative strategies, including major strategic options open to the organization, that can be considered reasonable in the context of this analysis. Provides a logical and balanced analysis of the options.
Component 5. Recommendations & Implementation Plan: Proposes specific recommendations and a plan for implementation. Gives recommendations for Corporate Level Strategy, Competitive Strategy, and (possibly, if needed) Other Strategies (when needed), and shows how all the critical issues identified are addressed adequately by the recommendations. Clearly presents the rationale for choices of the recommended strategies. Demonstrates in-depth understanding of what the recommendations mean. Anticipates major implementation issues and barriers, then identifies a credible series of action steps to deal with them.
Component 6. Report: This is a competent business report from the writer, as a consultant, to the CEO of an important client organization. It communicates clearly and is appropriate for the CEO of the organization. The report is organized well, it is internally consistent, and there is a logical flow of analysis and points. It is well-written, edited, and proofread, resulting in correct grammar, spelling, word usage, punctuation, etc.. It makes effective use of multi-level headings (clearly formatted to show the hierarchy) and data displays. (Fancy production values are not a factor in the grade.)
Your preparation and involvement in class discussions and activities is an important element in both your learning and that of your peers. Therefore, both preparation prior to class and regular, active participation in class discussions (whether in the full class or in smaller groups) are vital, expected, and rewarded. It is important for each participant to have the important facts of the case and an analysis well in hand before the discussion begins. Showing evidence of prior analysis and thinking plus contributing to the progress of the overall case discussion are valued, rather than taking up a lot of "air time" with monologues loosely connected to the flow of the discussion. Occasionally, you may be asked to show preparation by writing in-class, briefly and informally, something from the reading assignment.
The instructor is a discussion leader, not a lecturer or major contributor of facts and analysis. The students will present the analyses and solutions, as well as critique them. Students are expected to be well-prepared to present analysis and discuss any aspect of each case on its scheduled date. Active, constructive dialogue and debate are expected. Occasionally, you may be asked to show preparation by writing in-class, briefly and informally, something from the reading assignment.
1. Showing evidence of adequate preparation (e.g., have read and understood the assigned material, have done case analysis and brought specific diagnostic conclusions plus recommendations)
2. Contributing to the joint learning of the class (through appropriate, relevant comments that relate to and build on what others are saying. (This means that a shy person with fewer, but good and relevant, comments may demonstrate greater contribution than a verbally fluent, aggressive extrovert who offers frequent comments that are often impromptu and marginally connected to the flow of the class discussion.) On the other hand, I can't know of your preparation and contribution to joint learning when you don't say anything!
There may be various short written assignments that will be factors in your participation
grade; in such an event, the assignments will be given in class. These may include:
1. Find an article that describes an organization's current strategies and/or changes in strategy. Then write up (one page maximum) (a) the key elements in the strategy, and (b) a critique of the strategy, including potential advantages and disadvantages/problems of the strategy. Turn in a copy of the article with your written page. Such an assignment is intended to help you (a) recognize strategies and (b) think critically about them. If this type of assignment is given in this course, you should make use of the Critical Thinking module.
2. You will prepare and turn in various portions of the first written case as we go through the material (a critique of current strategies, a short financial analysis, a Porter five-force analysis of the industry environment, a SWOT table, and critical issues).
3. Others to be given during the course, some of which may be in-class, unannounced.
|Last modified August 15, 2009||Copyright 1984-2009 Rex Mitchell|