It is worth reiterating that case studies are prepared, analysed and discussed by students, teachers, managers, executives and even chief executives. Those preparing the case studies should keep in view the target groups and make them relevant to them.
Let us now take a close look at some of the dos and don’ts relating to case study preparation:
1. Keep in view the target group:
It is very essential that the person preparing the case keeps in view that target groups that will be using the case study. The level of presentation should be user friendly. The case study will be somewhat simpler and at a basic level when it is meant for students, beginners and junior-level persons.
On the other hand, any case study meant for the use of senior management, experts or chief executives should be pitched at a higher level to bring out the intricacies of business situations. For the latter group, the case study should have complexities that challenge their thinking.
2. Be clear about the focus of the study:
The focus of the study should be relevant to the target group. Any case study can cover varied dimensions of business, such as personnel management and conflict resolution, systems approach, marketing decisions, strategy formulation, behavioural aspects and so on. The approach followed and the technical words used, if any, should be relevant to the user group.
3. Use real-life events:
Case studies add value to the process of learning because they cover the practical aspects of business. They help understand everyday business-related challenges. Good case studies are those that bring real-life happenings into the classrooms for discussion and learning.
4. Substitute names and places wherever required:
Sometimes it may be necessary to substitute real name and places with imaginary ones to protect the interests of the people and organizations concerned and ensure confidentiality. What is important in a case study is the learning that it provides, not the people involved.
Even while avoiding the real names, the case writer should refer to the nature of the organization, functional roles and responsibilities, etc., so that essential details are not left out.
5. Include all relevant facts and figures:
For the case study to be meaningful, all relevant facts and figures relevant for analysis and discussion should be necessarily covered. If any details are left out, those using the case study may be forced to make their own assumptions.
However, it is also likely that some details are deliberately omitted so that the reader makes his/her own assumptions. Whenever required, case study presentations should give relevant tables, charts annexure, exhibits, etc.
6. Avoid unnecessary details:
Case studies should be crisp and focussed. Too many irrelevant details make the case study lengthy and drab. What is relevant is to bring out critical management issues and the dynamics of decision making in real-life situations.
7. List out study questions:
At the end of the case study list out the study questions. These questions should relate to the issues and options relating to the case study discussion. The questions listed should help the reader go deep into the situations narrated, apply his/her mind and come out with solutions based on logical reasoning.
Although the questions listed at the end would vary depending upon the nature of the case presented, some suggestive examples are as follows:
(a) If you were the personnel manager of the company what action would you take? Why?
(b) What are the options open to the business? Do you recommend diversification into new lines?
(c) Should the company focus on enlarging the customer base or on adding new products to the existing customers?
(d) What are the factors that have led to the failure of the new product?
(e) Has the company taken adequate measures to cope with the changes in its environment?
The questions at the end of the study should be thoughtfully formulated to bring out crucial or critical management issues and dilemmas and elicit well thought out responses.
8. State the essence of the case study:
It is essential that a brief gist of the case study is given (often at the very beginning). This will help the reader know the nature and focus of the study without going into the case study in detail.
The gist at the beginning will clearly indicate whether it is a marketing-related case study, or a personnel- management-related case study or a strategy-related case study and so on. But it should be really brief.