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THE CASE METHOD

 

            Cases allow you to apply the techniques you have learned to the facts presented, generally more complex, realistic situations than normal exercises and problems.  Each case requires problem recognition and definition, in addition to problem solving.  This process requires a great deal of time and thought but is an excellent method of learning that is used in almost all graduate schools of business.

 

            Follow the Executive Memo format given below.  The memo is not to exceed three double spaced typed pages with normal margins please.  Untyped memos will be penalized; only three pages will be graded.  Your analysis of the problem is to be appended to the memo.  There is no limit to the number of pages of analysis that may be appended to the case, nor is typing required.

 

EXECUTIVE MEMO FORMAT

 

Executive Memo

 

To:                   ________(1)______

 

From:               ________(2)______

 

Problem definition          (3)

 

Problem solution including substantiating reasons      (4)

 

Possible Alternative course(s) of action      (5)

 

Appendix - all analysis, qualitative and quantitative     (6)

 

(1)            The memo will usually be addressed to the person in the case posing the problem, or to some other person (s) he has delegated; or to the controller, C.E.O. or other suitable person.  The person will vary depending on the viewpoint you wish to take and should be tailored to the circumstances of the case.

 

(2)            You can choose to role-play one of the persons in the case; to be a consultant called in by one of the persons in the case; or to be yourself, either now or in a few years time.  If you decide not to "play" one of the characters in the case, you must specify your background as well as name, examples 1) consultant, degree in Engineering (Economics, History etc.) and Masters degree in System Analysis (MBA, Chemistry).  2) Outside CPA.  3) Internal auditor etc.

The important thing here is that the writer's perspective causes her/him to define the problem differently from another person, which in turn will have a significant impact on the chosen solution.

 

(3)            The first part of the memo should be ONE sentence specifying the problem; it may be in the form of a question.  Most cases describe a situation.  It is up to you to identify the central problem in the case.  It is important to discern a singular problem or issue, rather than getting side tracked by specific sub-problems

 

(4)            Your solution to the problem should be stated briefly in a paragraph, or broken down by numerical listing of important parts.  Be sure to include a proposed course of action as part of you solution.  What is the person you are addressing to do Monday morning?  The solution must be based on a numerical analysis, which should be appended. Your text should describe and explain the substantiating reasons justifying your course of action, then refer to the appendix for the calculations.  Do not say, “Look at the calculations in appendix” and leave the reader to draw their own conclusions.

 

(5)            Usually there are alternative courses of action that have some merit.  Try to identify at least one alternative course of action and specify why it is inferior to the proposed solution.

 

(6)            All calculations on which you based your decisions should be included in the appendix. Do not say in the memo “This is how I did the calculations  .........” All such descriptions should be in the appendix.  Verbal or qualitative analysis can also be included.  There is no page limitation on the appendix.

 

A Few General Pointers

 

a.                Conciseness

Most major points in a paper can be explained in one sentence.  Supportive evidence may take more than one line, but don't "pad" your main point (it may confuse what you're trying to get across and it generally reduces the impact of the point).

 

b.               Relevance of Historical Data

No historical data from the case should be incorporated into the Executive Memo unless it is directly used to substantiate a major point in the solution.

 

c.                Organization

A well organized paper with sub-headings or in outlined form is easier to read and normally will present your case more succinctly.

 

d.               Caveat

 

Read critically and do not believe everything you read in case materials or from any other source.  People have biases; distort facts, and downright lie.

 

Grading

 

           The following will be weighted in grading your memo.

 

1.               Problem selection.  It is the problem selected the most central problem or one with less immediate impact on organization?  Is the selected problem easy or difficult to solve?

 

2.               Consistency.  Does the problem and solution articulate well with the perspective of memo sender and/or memo recipient?

 

3.               Quantity of analysis.  Brownie points - but only a few - for hard work.

 

4.               Quality of the analysis.  Thorough penetrating analysis requires understanding and using all information, reinterpretation of facts as presented, choosing appropriate quantitative techniques, testing various assumptions (sensitivity analysis).  Equal in importance with clarity.

 

5.               Clarity of presentation.  Is the problem and solution expressed clearly?  Keep your sentences simple.  Grammar, spelling and punctuation should be checked.  Don’t use long words where a short one will do, and don’t use two words when one is sufficient.  USE THE SIMPLE PRESENT TENSE WHENEVER POSSIBLE.  Avoid repetition at all cost!  Turgid expressions and time-wasting diversionary clauses such as the following will result in a low grade: -

 

Another point of concern comes with…

When looking at a case like this…

In cases such as this one…

The ramifications of this are quite profound…

Let me move now to the aspect of…

Another aspect that should be considered is…

As mentioned earlier…

To begin with…       In the first place…

For this reason it has…

The reason for this problem is due mainly to…

Finally it is important to suggest that…

The major problem I am confronted with is that…

It is a well known fact that…   It is quite clear that…

It is easily seen that…       The basic fact is that…

Another inequity arising out of this practice is the fact that…

Looking at p.6 of the appendix one can see that…

Another point is that…     Another thing to note is that…

It seems urgent that…

It seems to me as an outside viewer that…

(In general all phrases ending in "that" are suspect!  Get on with the main point.)