A Guide to
I keep six honest serving men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When;
And How and Where and Who.
— Rudyard Kipling
A Guide to Case Analysis
In most courses in strategic management, students use cases about actual companies to practice strategic
analysis and to gain some experience in the tasks of crafting and implementing strategy. A case sets forth, in
a factual manner, the events and organizational circumstances surrounding a particular managerial situation.
It puts readers at the scene of the action and familiarizes them with all the relevant circumstances. A case on
strategic management can concern a whole industry, a single organization, or some part of an organization;
the organization involved can be either profi t seeking or not-for-profi t. The essence of the student’s role
in case analysis is to diagnose and size up the situation described in the case and then to recommend
appropriate action steps.
Why Use Cases to Practice Strategic Management?
A student of business with tact
Absorbed many answers he lacked.
But acquiring a job,
He said with a sob,
“How does one fi t answer to fact?”
The foregoing limerick was used some years ago by Professor Charles Gragg to characterize the plight
of business students who had no exposure to cases.1 The facts are that the mere act of listening to lectures
and sound advice about managing does little for anyone’s management skills and that the accumulated
managerial wisdom cannot effectively be passed on by lectures and assigned readings alone. If anything had
been learned about the practice of management, it is that a storehouse of ready-made textbook answers does
not exist. Each managerial situation has unique aspects, requiring its own diagnosis, judgment, and tailor-
made actions. Cases provide would-be managers with a valuable way to practice wrestling with the actual
problems of actual managers in actual companies.
The case approach to strategic analysis is, fi rst and foremost, an exer