BUAD 301: Case Analysis Shred (expanded)

BUAD 301: Case Analysis Shred (expanded)
Analyzing a business case involves time and effort. An effective analysis, or shred, is not quickly scribbled down a few minutes before class. The secret of any successful analysis is the integration of higher-level critical thinking skills, combined with a careful reading and interpretation of all the pertinent details within the case. A thorough case shred REQUIRES an analysis that probes beyond surface information, beyond what is obvious on a first or second reading.
Identifying and explaining each step is not always easy; sometimes there is no “right” answer. Nevertheless, each aspect of the case must be scrutinized. Remember, if the process were easy, we wouldn’t be practicing the shred. The long-term payoff, however, is well worth the labor today; far too many individuals in business do not take the necessary steps to “think through” problems, decisions, and consequences as evidenced by the numerous negative news stories resounding through the halls of corporate America. BUAD 301: Case Analysis Shred (expanded).


Step 1: Use the Short Cycle Reading Process to familiarize yourself with the case.
  1. Read opening and ending paragraphs
  2. Who? What Why? When? How?
  3. Take a look at the case exhibits
  4. Quick review of case subtitles
  5. Skim case body
  6. Read assignment questions and reflect on them

Step 2. Read the case completely, from start to finish. Re-read the case with a writing utensil in hand making notes either on the case itself or on a separate piece of paper. Read the case for a third time, underlining key terms, key players, key stakeholders, and key issues that must be addressed. The better you understand the elements and details within the case, the easier the problem-solving process becomes.
Step 3.  Complete the Short Cycle Process Analysis.

  1. Who? Name and position
  2. What? What are issues or problems?
  3. Why? Why are there issues. What contributed to the issues?
  4. When? Create a timeline for the case issues and contributing factors. BUAD 301: Case Analysis Shred (expanded).
  5. How? Evaluate the difficulty of the case analytically (what is your task?), conceptually (what theories or tasks will help resolve the issue?) and presentation (how difficult is the case? What info is relevant? What info is missing?)

Step 4: Reread and revisit the case with a close, careful reading and note taking.  Your notes on the case should focus on the details you will need in order to clarify the business problems faced by managers, the issues critical to solving the problems, the available resources on which managers can draw to determine an appropriate course of action, and which details included in the case can be delegated to background information.
Consider the following to help with your brainstorming/note-taking2:

  • Define and state the problem
  • Decide on the short-term objectives and the company’s long-term goals in this case.
  • List the pertinent facts of the case and analyze how they play a part in the problem.

Step 5: Specifically state the business problem(s) facing management. Typically, at least one fundamental business problem is present. Problems can include tactical issues such as how a customer can collect monies from delinquent accounts to larger and broader problems such as problems associated with a company’s cash flow. Keep in mind that you may identify more than one problem and in complex cases often address several simultaneous problems.BUAD 301: Case Analysis Shred (expanded).
List the different problems or issues you see and state them in the form of a question.

§  A question of fact asks whether something is true or false; the answer can be verified.
§  A question of value asks whether something is good or bad, desirable or undesirable.
§  A question of interpretation asks for the meaning or explanation of a term.
§  A question of policy asks what actions should be taken.

Develop a problem statement. After answering these questions, recognize the most significant problem and state it in one or two sentences. For example, “EK&G Products has low sales and high per-units costs, resulting in low profits.”
Step 6: Specify Goals/Objectives for the Managers Involved. Think about feasible/desired outcomes, as if you are the manager who must solve the business problems. Don’t restrict yourself to just thinking what the company ought to do, rather consider the most successful and desired outcome. The success of goals should be measurable.  For example, if a goal is to increase sales at EK&G Products, state it as a quantifiable goal:  Increase the sales at EK&G Products 10 percent by next quarter.
Step 7: Identify the Issues and Rank Them. Some issues are urgent and must be resolved immediately.  For example, if OSHA comes to your business and says you have a dangerous workplace, they shut your business down, that is an urgent issue that must be addressed immediately.  If OSHA sends a letter saying they will inspect your facility in three weeks, that is an important issue that needs your attention, but you have some time to resolve it. BUAD 301: Case Analysis Shred (expanded). Herein lies the heart of the case; if you miss the most urgent critical issue, you miss the opportunity to solve the case to the satisfaction of involved stakeholders. Identify the issues and then rank them least to most critical. Remember that

  • Some issues are interdependent
  • Some issues are more important than others
  • Each issue has a time dimension
  • Some issues are merely symptoms of larger or deeper problems

Step 8: Consider Relevant Information and Underlying Assumptions. Accept that most of the information included in the case will not be useful and that you will never have as much information as you want to produce a solution. Such is life; unfortunately, not all of life’s problems have neat, tidy endings. Make a list of significant facts and events, e.g., with a small number of sales, the unit cost soared to over $250.  Find and list what effect marketing dynamics, competitive factors, foreign competition, government regulations, etc., have on your organization?  What factors in the organization are crucial?  Has a merger had an effect on the organization’s culture?  What about internal issues, such as just-in-time manufacturing, quality assurance, or human resource management?  How do these operations affect the organization’s competitive advantage?  What are your resources?  Your investments, facilities, cash flow, ROI, and budget are the bottom line of strategy formulation and influence your analysis.
Identify the relevant facts in the case and consider them carefully. Separate facts from assumptions. Recognize further that need to subjectively interpret and assume other evidence not directly stated. Support your underlying assumptions with information and facts found in the case.  Don’t confuse cause and effect; distinguish between facts, assumptions, and opinions.  Find factors that the company or management can control.  List your assumptions, e.g., A target market is not clearly defined.
Step 9: List Possible Solutions to the Problem.  Solutions are strategies you will use to resolve the problem and reached the stated goal. There is always more than one solution to every problem. Listing possible solutions is a form of brainstorming which will later allow you to assign values to your ideas. e.g., find a small segment of retail stores or customer-intensive food service locations and market to that segment.  As you identify solutions, list Pros (advantages) and Cons (disadvantages) to each.  Consider the following- BUAD 301: Case Analysis Shred (expanded).

  • Write three alternative solutions to the problem and evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each.
  • Is one solution less expensive than another? Will one solution be more effective than another? Will one idea work more quickly?
  • What criteria must you fulfill to accomplish each solution?
  1. Analyze and evaluate alternatives; limit list to those with superior payoff. Relevant data bolsters the discussion of pros and cons of each.
Decision Criteria
Cost Time Ease of
  1. Select the preferred alternative: Predict outcomes and choose the most reasonable solution.
Alternative A Best Possible Outcome
Most Likely Outcome
Worst Possible Outcome
Alternative B Best Possible Outcome
Most Likely Outcome
Worst Possible Outcome
Alternative C Best Possible Outcome
Most Likely Outcome
Worst Possible Outcome

Step 10: Choose the best solution and recommend the action you can support with evidence. Show why the ideas you thought superior will work. Use logic and reasoning as evidence, e.g., EK&G should examine the viability of the entire XYZ venture.  If XYZ is a feasible product, EK&G should develop a business plan to include how to achieve increased sales in one or two markets. Be as specific as possible as the defense of your ideas lies in the details. BUAD 301: Case Analysis Shred (expanded).
Step 11: Decide How to Implement the Best Solution. Having solid ideas are not enough, you must know how to put them to work. Implementation of your solution requires a plan of action.  Identify the required, specific actions, a time line, resources, personnel, impact on the organization, and a way to measure results.  An example of an action statement follows: Commissioned sales reps should aggressively pursue sales to restaurants and bars throughout California to stimulate sales and increase production to reduce the per-unit cost. Practical application of ideas is what is most helpful to managers.


Step 10:  Explain How to Communicate the Solution. How should the message be communicated and to whom? Consider the needs of your target audience and the needs of stakeholders. Think as well about timing.
More Information.  For the most part, the information given in the case is all you will have, and you must make do with that.  Do not alter the facts in the case.
A “right answer.”  Case studies are often based on real companies and real events.  No one can say for certain what would have happened if your ideas or other “better” ideas had been implemented. BUAD 301: Case Analysis Shred (expanded).  Although some ideas are clearly better than others, many different ideas or approaches will work.  Some of the very best ideas may not have been used or thought of by the companies. 
An explanation of what “actually happened” in the case.  It doesn’t matter.  What is important is to bring your own thinking and analysis to the case.  This process leads to students learning how think through cases step by step, rather than jumping to a “right” answer.
A single discipline focus to each case.  Authentic business problems are rarely, if ever, one dimensional.  Cases may have central problems related to many different business dimensions including accounting, finance, operations management, human resources, marketing, or communication.
That your response will solve all the problems in the case.  Try to focus on the most urgent, most important underlying problems first.  Although you may wish to identify issues for further thought, you cannot and should not try to solve all the problems in the case. BUAD 301: Case Analysis Shred (expanded).
In summary, your task is to read, identify, and understand the business problems in the case.   By identifying, ranking and exploring the critical issues it contains, you should be able to propose a workable solution with pros and cons, explain how to get it started and how to communicate it to others within the business.
Note:  The above outlined steps are meant to assist you with the writing applications associated with the cases. Most students tell me that one of the hardest aspects of writing is “getting started” and “overcoming writer’s block.” A detailed case shred incorporates the brainstorming, prewriting, and preparation stages necessary for the production of a memo or letter draft. Thus, the case shred is an organized, logical, and systematic means for eliminating those obstacles that stand in the way of “getting started.”
2 Vogt & Fuller CSUF, 2002-used by permission
BUAD 301: Case Analysis Shred (expanded)

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