Strategic Case Analysis

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Strategic Case Analysis
Using the AMA (American Management Association) 8 step case analysis process
Compiled by: Deb Patten
1. The Basic Problem Solving or Case Analysis Process
2. Applying the Process
The Basic Problem Solving or Case Analysis Process
You have all engaged in the process numerous times in your life in general as well as in your
academic career. However, since you will be utilizing this process extensively in this course it is
appropriate to spend some time reviewing and discussing the process. Whether this process is
being applied to a simple, routine decision or an immensely complex decision the steps in the
process are the same. It is what one does within each of those steps that varies. To begin let’s
review the process.
Step 1 – Recap and analyze the relevant facts
In this step you take a look at the information you have and can gather that is relevant to the
situation. The relevancy component is key. Often cases that are presented in texts, and certainly
the information that is available through all of the sources out there today, contain “stuff” that is
related but not relevant. As a manager that is strategically analyzing a situation (case) the first
step is to figure out what you need to pay attention to and what you don’t. That is relevance. For
example, you are presented with a scenario that involves employees who are chronically late for
work and the information you have mentions that it is snowing. Is the fact that it is snowing
relevant or not? It may or may not be. It could just be extra “stuff” that is included. On the other
hand if this group of chronically late employees all happen to travel the same road that is
notorious for multi-car pile ups when it snows…then the fact that they are late when it is snowing
is relevant. This also points out that in many situations trying to work from only the facts
presented is not enough. The manager must be astute enough to recognize when additional
information is required, and what type of information, in order to assess the relevance of a
particular piece of data. At the same time he or she must know when to make the decision with
the information at hand. Often this step is concluded with a SWOT analysis, which further
extrapolates the most important issues out of the overall situation analysis. This helps to zero in
on the root problem.
Step 2 – Determining the Root Problem & Step 3 – Identifying the Problem Components
This is a crucial step and one that is often short-changed as we go about solving problems both
personally and professionally. It is imperative that once we have gathered, recapped, and
analyzed all of the relevant information we stop and articulate WHAT THE ROOT PROBLEM
IS about which we must now make a decision. This step is not a long drawn out explanation.
You should be able to state the problem in a sentence. It may then be necessary, and in the
comprehensive case or more complex situations a given, to elaborate on any identifying
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component portions of the problem. Often it is necessary to prioritize or identify which
components need to be addressed first, second, and so forth at this stage of the process.
Step 4 – Generating Alternatives (THE WHAT/Setting Objectives)
This is the brainstorming step if you will. It is here that a variety of alternative courses of action
are identified and articulated. All of these are of course related to solving the problem. This step
is where you list the strategies you might pursue. And this is an important point – if it isn’t here
you can’t choose it as your preferred course of action. While it isn’t possible to list every
possible course of action there should be a variety of things to do. This is where you put your
creative powers to work. In this part of the process, you should engage in brainstorming.
Remember that in brainstorming you simply generate ideas – save the evaluation of those ideas
for later. That isn’t to say in critical strategic case analysis you want to include every idea you
came up with in the report. In real world strategic planning I have seen reports that refer to the
process and that it generated a number of ideas that upon initial screening were determined as not
plausible or viable. What you are doing here is not a full analysis of everything. Rather you are
conducting an initial screening and narrowing the choices to those that seem most likely to
succeed at the outset.
Step 5 – Evaluating Alternatives
When the case analysis report is written up it often appears as if these two steps have taken place
simultaneously. That is not, or should not, be the case. Once you have narrowed the list you
should take the information you gathered and analyzed in the first step and apply it to these
alternatives. You should articulate what the most probable outcome will be based on the
information you have collected, your experience, education, and expertise. When it is written up
it is important to support your stated probable outcome. As an example it is not enough to say,
Do nothing – situation will not improve. While it is likely that this is true in many situations it
lacks credibility because you have not explained why this is the case. One other tidbit in regards
to writing this section up – make sure the alternatives are clearly differentiated from each other. I
would strongly suggest the use of headings in this type of writing – bold, underline, etc.
Remember in business writing you are trying to convey information and the reader needs to be
able to pick the pieces out quickly and easily when working back and forth through the report!
Step 6 – Choose an Alternative
This would seem rather self-evident. But you would be amazed at how often it is skipped. Even
in professional, real world reports. It is like reading a mystery novel and having the last page
missing or hearing a joke when the teller forgets the punch line. The reader is sitting there going,
okay and so now what? What are you going to do? Again this is one of those sections where you
simply and clearly state what the choice of strategies is going to be. After completing the
alternative evaluation it is often pretty straight forward, or at least appears to be. Keep in mind
that your readers are not as immersed in this as you have been. What seems patently obvious to
you, but may not be to them. Don’t assume – articulate the reasoning behind your choice.
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Step 6 is also the point where far too many people stop in the process. Strategy most certainly
involves the big picture approach. Up to this point in the process you have been essentially
focusing on the big picture. You have taken detailed information to determine what that big
picture should look like, but still big picture. In order to do the complete job, you have to work
through two more steps.
Step 7 – Implementation Plan (THE HOW)
The implementation plan portion of strategic case analysis is where you explain just how you
intend to make this wonderful idea you’ve just decided upon happen. This is where you outline
the tactical details. In the real world this stage will often involve operational action plans that
state the name of the person and a precise date by which certain tasks will be completed. In a
course based setting it isn’t possible to take it to that depth. However, it is necessary to complete
a basic tactical plan that outlines the major tasks that must be undertaken and a logical timeframe
within which they are to be completed. For example, let’s imagine for a moment that your
chosen strategy involves some type of expansion. Well, expansion takes money and the financial
reports do not show the organization to be particularly cash heavy. So in order to carry out the
expansion the firm must borrow money. Break that down into the necessary steps – i.e.:
determine amount needed within 2 weeks, determine if needed funds should be borrowed, a bond
issued, stock issued, etc. within 4 weeks, and so forth. This is a rudimentary example but it
should give you the idea. This portion of the business plan (strategic case) is often presented in
the form of a table with columns for the action, the area of the firm responsible, and a time frame
for completion. Without this section of the case analysis the plan is not complete; and often
neither will your work in the course be complete!
Step 8 – Alternative Choice
Finally, as with any plan, it is necessary to set up an evaluation point. How and when are you
going to stop to check on whether or not this strategy has been successfully implemented? Is the
firm getting the return expected? Obviously in the scope of a course you will not actually carry
out either the implementation or the evaluation of results. But you do need to state how and when
this will take place. You also need to state what action is suggested in the event the results are
not as desired. Would you start the process over? Would you choose some other alternative that
you’ve already identified and evaluated? That is part of the decisions you must make.
Applying the Process
Throughout the foregoing discussion there are some underlying assumptions. Within the context
of any course, this process is case based. That means you are given a base scenario – usually
from a text of some sort – and asked to analyze. For the final comprehensive case in an upper
level course you will do this with exceptional depth because they will be comprehensive in
nature. You will take what the case contains and go out into the world of information and
research. For the cases in lower level courses it will not be as intense because the cases will
focus more on specific portions of the strategic planning process. For example, the case may be
aimed at a lack of information when the strategy or alternative is to gain additional information
and how you would go about doing that.
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It is also important to remember that throughout this process, either in class or professionally,
that the source of information is documented. Failing to do this is not only wrong in so many
ways, but it strips away the credibility of what you are proposing right from the outset. Proper
documentation means indicating the source of information within the body of the work in a
consistent, recognized and approved manner AND including a complete list of sources at the end
of your work. If the work is not properly documented it does not meet the assignment criteria and
is subject to failure! Clear enough? Ok, enough said.
It was mentioned earlier that business writing is intended to provide the reader with information
he or she can use and so you want to make it easy to do just that. How do you do that? Here are
some suggestions and with all the writing you’ve done in your academic career you undoubtedly
have ideas of your own too!
• Use a table of contents and page numbers
• Use headings for large sections as well as to identify where key ideas start within the
body of the report
• Use charts and graphs where they convey information more clearly – particularly
statistical comparisons as an example
• Double space! This makes reading easier in long pieces of work and leaves space for
the reader to make notes.
• And now you would add?
1-What are three advantages and three disadvantages of a 360-degree appraisal system? ??As you name, describe, and discuss each be sure to support your discussion by citing from at least two other sources, other than the textbook. Your researched response is due by Day 2. (1page)
Be sure to cite your sources (at least two, other than the textbook) in APA style.

2-if you were considering a job offer, which elements of total compensation would be more important to you: base pay, incentives, or benefits and services? Why? What are the implications of your answer for employers seeking to attract people like you to work for them? ??(1page)
Be sure to cite your sources (at least two, other than the textbook) in APA style.

3- WEEKLY REFLECTION
Please take about ten to fifteen minutes to respond to the questions below about this week’s class. Thanks for taking the time to do this. What you write will help us make the class more responsive to your concerns.
1. At what moment in class this week did you feel most engaged with what was happening?
2. At what moment in class this week were you most distanced from what was happening?
3. What action that anyone (teacher or student) took this weekend did you find most affirming or helpful?
4. What action that anyone took this week did you find most puzzling or confusing?
5. What about the class this week surprised you the most? (This could?be about your own reactions to what went on, something that someone ?did, or anything else that occurs).
Adapted from Stephen D. Brookfield, Ph.D., used with permission. See http://www.stephenbrookfield.com/Dr._Stephen_D._Brookfield/Home.html

4-Case Analysis: 360 Degree Appraisals Case Study
6. Read the case study on pages 349 – 350.
7. Provide an analysis of the case (3 pages).
8. Use ether the AMA 8-step case analysis tool or the one shown in the syllabus.
9. Submit your paper in MS Word format to the upload link contained in the Week 5 Red Assignment folder.

 

 

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