Case Writing

A case study is a detailed investigation of a single individual or group. Case studies can be qualitative or quantitative in nature, and often combine elements of both. The defining feature of a case study is its holistic approach-it aims to capture all of the details of a particular individual or group which are relevant to the purpose of the study, within a real-life context.
While writing a Case, remember that unlike an essay, the freedom of expression and ideation here is confined by the parameters defined by the case material. Hence, pay very close attention to the information provided, the choice of words and the environment suggested by the tone of the material.
Steps for effectively handling a case
  • Understanding the case - the PACER approach
    • P- identifying the PROBLEM
    • A- generating ALTERNATIVES
    • C-CRITERIA for evaluation
    • E- EVALUATING the alternatives
  • The Written Structure
    • Introduction:State the Problem indicated by the case. Following are the tips for writing a good introduction.
      1. State the problem indicated by the case
      2. Identify and state key points that support your interpretation of the problem
      3. Save time by keeping your introductory paragraph brief
    • Body Paragraphs: Discuss the A-C-E.
      Each Body Paragraph must:
      1. Begin with defining the dimension to be discussed
      2. Next, state the Criteria that needs to be considered
      3. Mention the Alternatives and Evaluate them on the basis of the identified criteria
    • Conclusion: This part includes the Recommendations to help prevent the problem.
      1. This is in the nature of a solution, but NOT a distinct solution
      2. Re-state the problem briefly-then, provide your recommendations
      3. Emphasis again is not on providing an answer so much as on a stream of thought
Writing an Effective Case
Keep the following in mind in order to write an effective case:
  • Domain is defined by the parameters of the case
  • Read the entire case very carefully, paying attention to the choice of words
  • Explore the relevant dimensions of the case
    • Individual Level
    • Company Level
    • Business Level (e.g. health, infrastructure)
    • Internal v/s External
    • Routine v/s Non-routine
    • Regulatory v/s Ethical
    • Task-oriented v/s People-oriented
  • Weigh the pros and cons and the various trade-offs between two or more choices
  • Break down the complex problem into small, distinct pieces.
Solved Case: Public Sector Company
In a public sector company the workers are very lazy and do not do their allotted jobs in the stipulated time. The vice-president calls the manager and questions him about the situation.The manger says that the workers are bored with their jobs and their salary is not adequate. He is not willing to take any decision. What should the V.P. do? Who is at fault? Devise a solution.
  • Some of the facts of the case are:
    • Public sector company
    • The workers are very lazy and do not do their jobs in allotted time
    • VP questions manager
    • Manager's Point of View:
      1. Boredom due to repetitive nature of work
      2. Inadequate Compensation
In management terms this is problem seen typically in theory X Managers, where they assume that workers are inherently lazy and are only focused on compensation. The solution lies in creating an enabling environment for the workers and using theory Y, which says that workers want responsibility and want to grow. A person is not only motivated by money by other factors also.
  • Problem / Definition
    • Poor Work Culture
    • Lack of  Belongingness to Co.
    • Incapable Top Management
    • Poor Operational Control
  • Alternative Generation
    • Establish Standards for the productivity of workers
    • Check if the working conditions & environment are proper
    • Fire / black list / issues warning to poor performers
    • Increase / review the salary of workers
    • Incentives for Workers for meeting targets
    • Rewards and Recognition for High Performers
    • Accountability of Middle & Top Management
    • Job Rotation/Enrichment For workers
  • Criteria for Evaluation of Alternatives
    • Company productivity – examine every solution considered
    • PSU – will firing workers possible
    • Company Culture – what is the existing company culture like
    • Morale of Workers- whether firing of workers will lead to lower productivity
    • Cost to Company of Decisions
  • Evaluate Alternatives
    • By Giving Incentives for Meeting Targets the company is just ensuring inefficiency
    • Rewards and Recognition for High Performers would motivate workers to work better
    • Also, by exposing poor performers we can send warning to workers to improve their habits
    • Fix more responsibility of the manager – direct ownership – future growth in the organization should be decided
    • keeping in mind the factory performance
    • Firing Workers is not an immediate solution as it will send bad vibes and further de-motivate the workers.
  • Recommendations
    • More Accountability to be set for The Top and Middle Management
    • Fix established Standards for worker productivity
    • Rewards and Recognition for High Performers
    • Warning to Poor Performers
    • Regular Check by V.P.
  • Checkpoints while writing the case
    • Confuse Symptoms as Problem Definition.
    • Jump to a conclusion at the start – typical conclusion would be to fire workers
    • Worry about not having specific industry knowledge – if you don't know what a PSU is, assume and then answer.
    • Worry if you are not able to completely solve the case. Remember - the structure of thoughts is as important as the final result.
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