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Tips for Reading and Understanding a Case Study for Effective Executive Summary Writing

Quickly Read and Familiarize Yourself with the Case

Reading and fully understanding the issues presented in the case is essential to writing the executive summary. The amount of information presented in the case can often be overwhelming – one of the common mistakes that students make when writing the executive summary is failing to address the key issues in the case. Therefore, it is very important to read the case at least twice to ensure that you understand the issues presented and focus on the key issue. Here are some suggestions for preparing for case discussions:

1.Read the case once quickly in order to familiarize yourself with the basic facts of the case and the nature of the problem the manager faces.

2.Don’t forget to study any exhibits, tables, graphs etc. at the end of the case (this may or may not apply to your specific case).  Often there is an important part of the story here or information that may limit the parameters under which you can make your decisions.

3.Diagnose what the problems are in the case and what decisions need to be made – both major decisions and supplemental decisions.  What is the single most important problem or decision to be made?  What is the underlying cause of the problem?  What are the less important problems and the causes underlying them?  Is there anything that links these problems together?  Support your diagnosis with facts from the case.

4.Usually there will be a text chapter that goes along with the case. Concepts from the chapters should be applied to the case.  The purpose of the case analysis is to apply these concepts, not to express your personal opinion regarding the issues in the case. Clients, managers, and decision-makers will be very skeptical of recommendations that are based solely on your opinions. They will be much more receptive to diagnoses and recommendations that are thoroughly researched and based on solid evidence (empirical findings from peer-reviewed journal articles). Think about how the readings relate to the case and how you can use the concepts in the readings to help with your diagnosis or solutions to the problems in the case.

5.Develop an appropriate, specific action plan and set of recommendations.  How would you solve the problems in the case?  Be prepared to back up your solution with facts and reasons why it is an effective solution to the problem.  Again, it is critical that you incorporate the concepts discussed in the textbook, powerpoints and discussion boards. In order to be useful, your recommendations should be specific and concrete such that they present a definite plan of action and can be implemented given the constraints of the organization.

Study Any Exhibits, Tables and Graphs

6.Making a decision or pursuing a course of action can often have implementation issues or repercussions for other parts of the organization or impact other people or processes in the organization.  Identify what these repercussions are and any further actions or decisions that are needed to address these issues.

Preparing the Written Case Analysis (Executive Summary) 

There is a 12 page max on the executive summary, not including the bibliography pages. The final executive summary should be organized according to the key components below. Each section of the executive summary should contain a heading identifying that section (“Background,” “Problem Identification,” etc.). The key components of the executive summary are as follows:


a.Provide a short description of the background.  Include details about the context of the case.

2.Problem Identification

a.Explicitly identify the major problem(s) in the case in a short, clear, and concise manner. One way to do this is to compare some desired state or objective with the actual situation.

b.Consider both immediate and long range problems.

c.Identify the indicators, symptoms, etc. that suggest there is a problem(s).

d.Consider the relevant information (if provided) that describes the opportunities and challenges that exist in both the internal and external environments.

3.Identification of Causes of the Problem(s)

a.Prior to making recommendations or proposing alternative solutions, you should have a clear understanding of the underlying causes of the problem.  OB issues are usually embedded in a larger context.  This means you must examine internal and external environmental factors over time to isolate causal factors. Answering questions such as the following may help in identifying causes of the problem:  Why did the problem occur?  When did it begin?  What effective OB practices should the organization pursue?  What has the organization failed to do?

b.The issue that needs to be addressed is simply:  What is/are the root cause(s) of the problem(s) defined in the ‘problem identification’ using an appropriate theoretical framework from the book (if applicable) and supporting facts?

c.You must incorporate information discussed in the textbook and powerpoints. Recommendations should be based on concepts discussed in the course, not your personal opinions. 

d.When evaluating the usefulness of your recommendation, address the advantages and disadvantages associated with each with regard to criteria such as time constraints, cost, feasibility, alignment with the organization’s goals, HRM capabilities, and environmental opportunities/threats.

e.If relevant, address any implementation steps or action plans.  In this section, you want to specify, what should be done by whom, how, when, where, and in what sequence.  For example, who should implement the decision?  To whom should it be communicated?  What actions need to be taken now and in the future?  How should you monitor or evaluate the implementation of your solution to ensure the problem(s) are corrected?  What are the follow-up steps?

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