Case Study Method in Management

Management education is mainly aimed at developing managerial skills in students. Amongst the various methods adopted in teaching management and management functions, the case study method developed in 1910 in U.S.A. and is now being propagated during the last decade or so, providing opportunities to both the teacher and the taught to promote managerial I understanding and competence, since it helps in contemplation and discussion of an actual situation. It is a wrong notion that the case studies are confined to management students. Cases may pertain lo any discipline, where skills for solving complex unstructured problems or preparing plans are required. The origin of case study methods itself can be traced to Harward Lawyers. Cases may describe problems facing individuals, groups, institutions or even Nations.

Through a case study one learns a broad range of skills and has many alternatives. Case studies encourage the practice and attainment of analytical and communicative skills. Case study method in management education allow a different kind of learning. It is close to the learn by doing’ approach.  Cases are intended to stimulate the reality of the manager’s job.  The material in the case provides data for analysis and decision-making. Cases require the student to make decisions about the situations presented and to defend those decisions. In real decision-making the student will have lo persuade superiors that his analysis and solutions are the best and hence the communication and interpersonal skills are vital to success in management. Cases provide the opportunity lo improve these skills.

A case is defined by Reynold as, “a short description in words and numbers, of an actual management situation”. It describes the present and past position of the situation and the problem that is posed. All the data are provided. A case consisting of the history of the situation may be small or lengthy. Small ones may be lacking particulars and hence, may be taxing with more assumptions than realities, while lengthy ones may not project the conflict correctly and therefore solution may seem easy because there are not many alternatives. All available information may not be sufficient and at the same time of analyzing a case, further information may have to be injected by reasonable assumptions about the unknown.

A written case study can be anything from 300 to 6000 words long. The length depends on the purpose for which it is being used, type of participants and availability of time. The parts of a case study generally are subject, setting, data and finally background of the case.

Types of Case Studies

  1. Informational type case studies: These, include a variety of items like working environment, inter-organizational context, coordination, activities, problem areas, history of events, inhibiting factors on, decision making, etc.. This type increases ‘awareness’ about the environment and helps in the decision making process. This also helps in the evaluation of consequences of a decision.
  2. Appraisal cases: These involve problem solving and decision making process.
  3. Historical cases: These involve research and educational interests.
  4. Project cases: These are radical educational processes involving interests.
  5. Live and experimental cases or Functional cases: Social welfare rehabilitation or introduction of ideas and analytical concepts form the basis for these cases: These types of cases help-to analyzing psycho/ social problems like drug addiction, alcoholism amongst workers, etc.

Objectives of Case Study Method in Management

The habit of logical thinking and conceptualization can be developed through a systematic study of cases. Analysis of cases studies enables arguing view points with peers and this again develops good communicative skills. The case study method in management studies helps in developing skills on alternatives and decision-making. Case studies develop ‘creative’ problem solving techniques.

According to Geofftaston the following six major skills areas are developed through case studies.

  1. Analytical skills: One learns to classify, organize, and evaluate the information handled. Using this information one attempts to understand the situation described. This is, however, fraught with the danger of not thinking logically when the information is taxing.
  2. Application skills: This is useful at a lower level where concepts and principles, are applied, e.g., discounted cash flow.
  3. Creative skills: When cases cannot be-solved by logical process alone creativity is a vital quality for a manager and is more useful in decision-making.
  4. Communicative skills: By writing well-constructed reports, analysis and by discussions, both written and„ oral communicative skills are developed.
  5. Social skills: Case discussions are essentially a social process. One learns to communicate, listen, support, argue, control oneself, etc.  In fact, there is a belief that case courses are more a study of human behavior than problem solving.
  6. Self-analysis skills: A case is always useful in application of the situation to oneself and one can analyse the situation with reference to oneself. Thus, it helps in self-improvement.

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About Abey Francis

Abey Francis is the founder of MBAKnol - A Blog about Management Theories and Practices - and he's always happy to share his passion for innovative management practices. You can found him on Google+ and Facebook. If you’d like to reach him, send him an email to: [email protected]

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