Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Case Study Method in Business Administration - Management

Important Points from

An Introduction to the Use of Cases

Arthur Stone Dewing
Article in Book, 1931

Cases should be used as education method in business education with the clear consciousness that the purpose of business education is not command of established precedents as in law or uncritical allegiance to experience of others, but the development of ability to think through the facts and come out with some intelligent solution. In business this solution must have adequate profit and therein lies the individual success and contribution to the economic prosperity of the country.

Teaching by case method results in the class in a combination of possibilities, probabilities and expedients. Possibilities are based on combination of intricate facts presented in the case (when coupled with various theories in diverse subjects of business management), probabilities refer to reactions of others in the class, and expedients are the various proposals and acts by the presenter to bring about the responses in other that lead to a definite end (agreement with his proposal).

Thinking happens when one is confronted with new situations and thinking prompts action. Cases provide thinking opportunity to students.

Important Points from

Because Wisdom Can't Be Told

Charles I. Gragg
Harvard Alumni Bulletin, 1940

Benefits of The Case Study System

The case study system in business administration course initiates students into ways of independent thought and responsible judgment. Case studies provide real current situations and place the student in an active role to decide the business action and to present it to a peer group of students for their accepting the same. The peer group may act various roles of superiors, peers, and even subordinates when they criticize the decision from various angles. It provides the student presenter the occasion to deal constructively with their contemporaries some of them being elders to him and may be having experience in that business. The faculty is also one critic.

Case studies force students to actually make decisions which can be implemented by them. Thus the learning becomes active. Lectures are passive learning unless they are followed by exercises. But the exercises may not provide the type of environment that case study provides wherein the student who made the decision has to present to rest of students and get their agreement or modify his decision in response to the comments and suggestions by others.

Business management is both technical and human matter. Business administrators and managers have to understand how people in various roles in the total business system - Suppliers, Producers, Sellers, Consumers, Investors, Bankers, Government agencies, Media - will react to specific business actions. Case study method provides an opportunity to the students to observe the reactions of his fellow students to the proposals that he made as a part of case presentation.

The case method also presents an opportunity to learn from others and modify thoughts. This provides a group discussion platform to agree to certain features of a proposals and to disagree with certain parts of proposals and make an effort to arrive at a consensus.

Case Provides Raw Material

Case provides the raw material with which the student develops his decision. The case class is not meant for absorption of knowledge alone but it forces the student to think independently using his accumulated knowledge up to that point in time and present it to other without any fear or shyness.

Business education has to provide the ability to see vividly the potential relationships between the facts of the situation related to both things and people and make judgment. The judgments have to be communicated to other organization members to initiate agreement and action.

Business education has to accelerate the progress of a candidate to a position of responsibility in comparison to a person who enters business without MBA. Hence the objective of business education has to be to prepare the student to occupy a position say within five years which the person without MBA may take 10 ten years.

The lecture method may also provide similar inputs. But a dynamic process wherein the student himself takes the decision and feels confident about it is much more powerful than the passive learning.

The case method may bring out some innovative solutions from the students with which all the members of the class including the faculty members may be in agreement. This calls for real appreciation of the presenter and such appreciations will make students more confident in their real life assignments. They develop the ability of creative problem solving.

Case Studies Do not Provide Real Experience with Profits and Losses - But They Provide Simulated Experience without the Risk

There are some critics who say the case does not provide the exact replica of the real situation and students do not actually implement their decisions and incur profits and losses. Gragg agrees with the criticism and states that anything except experience can be exactly like experience. But the case method provides a training period where risk is eliminated. The student gets acquainted with process of making real decisions without risk to himself. In the course of his education, he is provided the opportunity to live through a number of diverse real situations which if he has to experience in real life would take a life time. Through the case study training, he develops analytical and synthesizing experience that will provide a basis for comparison when he is asked to do a real life problem and implement it.

Important Points from

Tough-Mindedness and The Case Method

Malcolm P. McNair

From an address given on February 25, 1953 at the first meeting of participants of 23rd Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School

Case discussion is an exercise in decision-making. For learning through case discussions, tough-mindedness is necessary to analyse the facts and issues following logical paths of reasoning and judgment to come out with appropriate decisions and conclusions. The toughness is intellectual to persist with the learning effort till an adequate comprehension is made of the situation described. How much effort the student has to make depends on his reaching that comprehension.

The instructor's job is to see that men in the class settle down to a tough-minded analysis and do not become content with a superficial analysis.

The principal value of case method is not facts and theories accumulated. No doubt the student will accumulate them by digging the case and other materials available to him in library (and presently on internet). But value accrues in the power that they will develop in digging now for the digging they have to do in actual situations. The mastery of decision making is the purpose of the entire case based curriculum. Case method provides you the power to analyze a new situation, to formulate an actionable program for positive outcome, and carry out the program through people.

Businesses can hire many people who solve problems that have one right answer. But the pay more to people who have the capability to find the best solution appropriate to the situation when many alternatives are possible.  This requires creativity, judgment and leadership to implement the solution.

The essence of profit is managing risk and uncertainty. The human spirit must always try to do good things without shunning the risk of failure. (We say there must be expected profit in a venture not the possibility of loss. Possibility of loss is always there and we must bear the loss always psychologically as well as the ability of ours to live within reduced means.)

Updated 4 February 2017, 28 January 2017

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