How to Solve a Case Study
HRMD 650: Organizational Development
How to Solve an Organizational Case Study – Case 1
A case study is a collection of facts and data based on a real or hypothetical business situation. The goal of a case study is to enhance your ability to solve business problems, using a logical framework. The issues in a case are generally not unique to a specific person, firm, or industry, and they often deal with more than one business strategy element. Sometimes, the material presented in a case may be in conflict. For example, two managers may disagree about a strategy or there may be several interpretations of the same facts.
In all case studies, you must analyze what is presented and state which specific actions best resolve major issues. These actions must reflect the information in the case and the environment facing the firm.
The case should not exceed six (6) pages in length, excluding the reference list.
STEPS IN SOLVING A CASE STUDY
Your analysis should include these sequential steps:
1. Presentation of the facts su
ounding the case. (~0.5 page)
2. Identification of the key issues. (~0.5 page)
3. Listing of alternative courses of action that could be taken. (~1 page)
4. Evaluation of alternative courses of action. (~1.5 pages)
5. Recommendation of the best course of action. (~1.5 pages)
Presentation of the Facts Su
ounding the Case
It is helpful to read a case until you are comfortable with the information in it. Re-readings often are an aid to comprehending facts, possible strategies, or questions that need clarification and were not apparent earlier. In studying a case, assume you are an outside consultant hired by the firm. While facts should be accepted as true, statements, judgments, and decisions made by the individuals in a case should be questioned, especially if not supported by facts—or when one individual disagrees with another.
During your reading of the case, you should underline crucial facts, interpret figures and charts, critically review the comments made by individuals, judge the rationality of past and cu
ent decisions, and prepare questions whose answers would be useful in addressing the key issue(s).
Identification of the Key Issue(s)
The facts stated in a case often point to the key issue(s) facing an organization, such as new opportunities, a changing environment, a decline in competitive position, or excess inventories. Identify the characteristics and ramifications of the issue(s) and examine them, using the material in the case and the text. Sometimes, you must delve deeply because the key issue(s) and their characteristics may not be immediately obvious.
Listing Alternative Courses of Action That Could Be Taken
Next, present alternative actions pertaining to the key issue(s) in the case. Consider courses of action based on their suitability to the firm and situation. Proposed courses of action should take into account such factors as the goals, the customer market, the overall organizational strategy, the product assortment, competition, and personnel capabilities.
Evaluation of Alternative Courses of Action
Evaluate each potential option, according to case data, the key issue(s), the strategic concepts in the text, and the firm's environment. Specific criteria should be used and each option analyzed on the basis of them. The ramifications and risks associated with each alternative should be considered. Important data not included in the case should be mentioned. Your discussion of the alternatives should include concepts from organizational diagnosis and change theory.
Recommendation of the Best Course of Action
Be sure your analysis is not just a case summary. You will be evaluated on the basis of how well you identify key issues or problems, outline and assess alternative courses of action, and reach realistic conclusions (that take the organization’s size, competition, image, and so on into consideration). You need to show a good understanding of both the principles of organizational diagnosis and the case. Be precise about which alternative is more desirable for the organization in its cu
ent context. Remember, your goal is to apply a logical reasoning process to this organization. A written report must demonstrate this process.
Microsoft Word XXXXXXXXXXChris Peterson at DSS Consulting.Ancona.Caldwell.doc
September 10, 2010
This case was prepared by Professors Deborah Ancona, MIT Sloan School of Management and David Caldwell, Santa Clara
University, Leavey School of Business.
Copyright © 2010, Deborah Ancona and David Caldwell. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-
Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license visit
y-nc-nd/3.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San
Francisco, California, 94105, USA.
Chris Peterson at DSS Consulting
Deborah Ancona and David Caldwell
Late Thursday afternoon, Chris Peterson was reflecting on the meeting she would have tomo
with her boss, Meg Cooke. The purpose of the meeting was to give Meg an update on the status of the
integrated budget and planning system her team had been working on over the last six months and
plans for the team to begin marketing this system and other new DSS consulting services to clients.
Overall, Chris was quite pleased with the work her team had done. The team had been formed as part
of a strategic change, including a somewhat controversial re-organization at DSS. The changes and
new structure had created dissatisfaction and a fair amount of anxiety among many of DSS’s
consultants, but Chris felt her team had overcome their concerns to become a very effective group.
They had worked together well, avoided the conflicts that often plague these kinds of teams, and
generally maintained a high level of motivation and satisfaction. Most of all, Chris was proud of the
work her team had done. They had created a budget and planning system that the team believed
would be em
aced by DSS’s clients. The team had not gotten much support from other groups at
DSS in developing the system, so team members had done much of the technical work on their own
that would have normally been done by support people in the company. Despite this, Chris was very
pleased with the system and looked forward to sharing her team’s accomplishments with Meg.
DSS Consulting was formed in 1997 to provide administrative support to small school districts
primarily in the mid-west and mountain west. The company was founded by three retired school
district administrators to help small school districts that had limited staff deal with difficult and
somewhat specialized administrative problems, such as negotiating labor agreements or setting up
CHRIS PETERSON AT DSS CONSULTING
Deborah Ancona and David Caldwell
September 10, 2010 2
During the late 1990s, DSS grew rapidly as small school districts faced more complex challenges and
pressures to cut costs, particularly in administration. In response to this growth, DSS organized itself
into four practice departments—Procurement and Systems, Information Technology, Contract
Negotiation, and Facilities Planning—to deal with different types of engagements. Business came
primarily through contacts the five founders had developed. Once DSS was engaged, the project
would be refe
ed to the head of the appropriate practice group who would assign consultants to the
By 2005, a number of changes had begun to affect DSS. First, the founders were cutting back their
involvement in the company. As a result, management decisions were being passed on to new leaders,
including people hired from other consulting companies. In addition, since much of DSS’s business
was generated through contacts established by the founders, their reduced involvement was creating a
need for new marketing strategies. Second, the types of problems for which districts were looking for
help were becoming more diverse and often didn’t fit clearly into a specific practice area. The
increasing complexities districts were facing were both reducing the need for the relatively
straightforward projects DSS had been working on and creating demands for new types of services.
Finally, state standards for school districts were diverging from one another, so that certain issues
were more important in one region than in another. All of these changes led to stagnation in revenue
growth for DSS.
Because of these changes, the founders decided that a shift in strategy would be necessary for DSS to
continue to grow and be successful. As a first step, they promoted Meg Cooke to the position of Chief
Operating Officer. Meg had joined DSS in the Contract Negotiation group about four years earlier
after spending time with a larger east coast firm. Two years after joining DSS, she had been promoted
to head the Contract Negotiation group. The founders and Meg had concluded that if DSS was to
continue to be successful, it would need to expand beyond its traditional customer base of small
districts and offer services to larger districts much more than it had in the past. They felt that
accomplishing this would require developing new services and reorganizing into a more cross-
functional, customer-focused organization. A major part of the strategic change involved reorganizing
DSS from a purely practice-oriented functional structure to a hy
id structure. Most of the
consultants would now be assigned to new cross-functional teams that would be responsible for
marketing and delivering services to districts within a particular geographic region. The practice
groups were maintained to provide specialized expertise to support the cross-functional teams in their
work but with many fewer staff members than in the past.
The new cross-functional teams were given two responsibilities. Over the long run, the teams were to
uild relationships with the school districts in their regions and provide a full range of DSS consulting
services to those districts. The teams were also to develop new consulting offerings in response to
district needs. The expectations were that the cross-functional teams would eliminate the functional
CHRIS PETERSON AT DSS CONSULTING
Deborah Ancona and David Caldwell
September 10, 2010 3
“silos” that constrained the services DSS could provide and help DSS develop services that could be
sold to larger districts. Both these were seen as crucial steps in the plan to grow DSS.
Chris Peterson and the Southwest Region Team
Chris Peterson joined DSS in XXXXXXXXXXShe started her career as a high school teacher in a small school
district in Iowa. When