Thoughts on ways to improve the management of professional services firms

Monday, December 04, 2006

Creation & Use of Case Studies - Training 2

This post completes the three part series on the use of case studies.

In the first post I looked at general issues associated with the creation and use of case studies. The second post focused on the creation of case studies for use in training. This post extends the training analysis.

Review of Case Study

Once the material has been prepared, it should be reviewed. The following questions adapted from from "Analysis of a Draft Case in Education" by Judith Kleinfeld( University of Alaska, Fairbanks, John Boehrer, 1999) should help you here.


1. Does the case offer a challenging decision to make or reflect on?

2. Is the problem balanced, with no single right answer or obvious solution?

3. Does the case provide contrasting perspectives on the problem?

4. Can the problem be analyzed through different frames? Is the case a good structure for applying, testing, or formulating theory?

5. Is the problem significant in the field? Does it raise issues that transcend the story?

6. Is the problem rich and subtle? Does it have multiple dimensions, e.g., interpersonal, organizational, political, policy, or ethical?

Intended Audience

1. Is the case engaging and thought-provoking? Does it capture the reader on an emotional, as well as an intellectual, level?

2. Would reader identify or empathize with any perspective in the case, especially that of the person or group facing the problem?

3. Does the case raise questions or issues that readers will want to think about and discuss?

4. Is the case appropriately difficult with respect to defining the problem, generating solutions, and/or applying analytic concepts and techniques?


1. Does the case seem believable and authentic?

2. Does the case tell a story, and avoid analyzing or editorializing about it?

3. Does the case have a concise, engaging opening that sets the scene, presents the problem, and introduces the decision-maker?

4. Does the case contain sufficient background information that enables reader to grasp the situation? Does the case have grist for the analysis?

5. Does the case tell the story in a clear time sequence, with rising and falling action, climax, and drama?

6. Is the writing lively and well-paced, without cliches, confusion, or unnecessary complexity"

Additional Virtues

1. Does the case present models of professional thinking - analyzing and thinking about a problem contextually, using frameworks in sophisticated and appropriate ways?

2. Does the case suggest alternative strategies for addressing problems?

3. Does the case provide valuable information about a professional setting?

Case Revision Worksheet

Once the case becomes a ‘stand-alone’ document, the user (program trainer/facilitator) would the need to consider the following questions in preparation for delivery. This material is drawn especially from John F. Kennedy School of Government Case Program, 1999.


1. Why do I want to use this case in this course? (Course Objective)

2. What skills, knowledge, or attitudes do I hope to develop in the course participants through the process of discussion? (Learning Outcomes)


A stand-alone case may have more issues than what are to be dealt with in the course. It is important to highlight for readers what will be teased out from the case. It would not be necessary to change the case itself, but it is important to focus the attention of the user from the start.

1. What issue(s) does this case offer for exploration?

2. What perspective(s) do I want the participants to adopt when considering the issues?

3. What analysis do I want the participants to do that will further the course objective(s)?

4. What concept or theory might be relevant to this analysis?


1. How is this case to be used?

  • As example in lecture
  • As a scenario to which illustrates of particular issue or process
  • As a model from which a theory is developed
  • As basis for discussion and problem-solving…

2. What questions will generate the analysis and/or decision-making users will complete?

3. What analysis do I want the participants to do that will further the course objective(s)?

4. What are the questions (& sequence) I plan to ask?

5. What process options will I use?

  • formal presentation
  • informal presentation
  • seminar/open discussion
  • paired
  • small group work
  • role play
  • Q & A


What adjustments need to be made to the case document prior to distribution to readers?

1. How might the case be re-written so that I can teach it to achieve my objectives and the determined learner outcomes?

2. What is unclear/confusing/incomplete?

3. What needs to be added/taken out?

4. Do any perspectives need to be further developed?

5. What structural changes are needed? e.g., what decision point(s) do I want? where? Should the case break into parts (A) (B) ... ? What activities/timing are relevant for each segment?

Note on Copyright

The case study material is drawn from an Ndarala Group Guide prepared for the use of member professionals and clients. It is copyright Ndarala but may be copied with due acknowledgment. Incorporated material drawn from other sources should also be acknowledged.

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