Posts Tagged 'case study'

3 New Case Study Insights I Learned By Not Participating In Class

I’ll admit, last week I wasn’t able to prepare for my management course case study.  Luckily, every student drops his/her two lowest case study grades when the semester ends, so I decided to sit out the case discussion and drop that score.  I wanted to observe the case debate, so I stayed and watched my classmates banter about Cisco.  I observed a few new insights about case studies I hadn’t realized before; things I normally miss when I’m frantically crafting a rebuttal to a classmate’s statement that I only managed to hear half of.  So in no particular order, I present my (newly observed) case study insights:

  1. Not participating allows you to actually listen to the debate.  When I’m normally participating in a case, I divide my attention between listening to whoever is speaking and hurrying to craft a coherent response to any points he or she happened to make.  Therefore, I often only hear bits and pieces of my classmates’ statement(s), and end up crafting my response based on those limited pieces I managed to absorb.  Having had the opportunity to hear the entire case study dialogue helped clue me into the direction the professor was guiding the conversation.  There is a purpose to the questions he asks about the case, and the answers frequently require reference back to the assigned chapter we read.  Sitting back and listening to the case also helped reveal my next insight.
  2. The discussion can often get disjointed, but the professor always reels it back in.  I give our professor a lot of credit during the case studies.  There are some times when a classmate may have an answer to an earlier question in mind and then answers that previous question instead of responding to the professor’s recent query.  Other times, he or she may try to fumble through an answer, when it’s clear little time went into preparing for the case.  Whenever things start to get off track or out of hand, the professor always does a good job of circling the class back to the main discussion topics.  This helps keep everyone focused, and prevents us from spending 40 minutes arguing over trivial details.
  3. Your arguments must be well-crafted.  While observing the discussion, I witnessed the majority of the class disagree with one other student over a question the professor had asked.  The professor wanted to know whether the decisions an executive team made in the case succeeded because of their business skill or because of luck.  The majority of the class thought it was due to the executives’ skills, and they made sure to let their single opponent know how they felt.  The issue I observed wasn’t that the lone student’s argument was incorrect or his points weren’t valid.  His problem was that he didn’t clearly organize his thoughts before (attempted to) convey them to the rest of the class.  As an “outside observer,” I felt the lens through which he viewed the case was very different from the rest of the class.  But this student wasn’t able to recognize that difference between their arguments, tailor his response to illustrate that point, and then successful convey it to his classmates.  The two sides just talked past one another and never managed to get on the same page.  To me, this insight seems especially useful for prospective managers.  A manager cannot assume his or her employees are always aware of the perspective the manager has approached the problem or issue from – people cannot read minds.  Managers need to ensure they clearly convey their ideas, perspectives, and requests, so that everyone is on the same page and can work together to accomplish their goals.

The class only has two case studies remaining, and I’m excited for both of them.  Our discussions have recently started turning into engaging debates, with a lot of vigorous back-and-forth dialogue.  I’m hoping these last couple case studies provide as much useful insight as the previous six have, and those insights can be incorporated into my future managerial roles.

Here are some articles I found interesting this week:

“Wealth or Waste? Rethinking the Value of a Business Major” – Educators, universities, and even some businesses are beginning to question the effectiveness and value of business degrees.  If you’ve earned a business degree (undergraduate or graduate) do you feel your experiences have adequately prepared you to work and contribute in the business world?  Share you perspective in the comments section below.

“Microsoft’s Master Plan to Beat Apple and Google” – I love business strategy.  And it seems like it’s been a while since the marketplace had heard any significant positive news coming from Microsoft.  So I found this article about their strategies for overtaking Apple and Google absolutely fascinating.  Whether or not the strategies work, I’m impressed with the vision the company is exhibiting and the dramatic shift it’s taking with its products.


One MBA Student’s Spring Break Observations

Considering CSUF is on spring break this week, I expected (or at least hoped) for more relief from my MBA coursework.  That’s not the case.  I have a significant amount of work on my plate this week, but having the week off of class in the evenings should help alleviate some of the stress.  So for your entertainment, I am providing a brief summary of the work I need to complete over spring break.

My information systems course has a variety of assignments due next week.  On top of the weekly chapter I need to read and practice problems I should attempt, I also must complete a group project.  Our group must analyze a fictional cookie company, determine its optimal production mix, and decide whether to expand into new baking products.  Several of the group members worked through the computations on Excel and I am writing the summary report.  The report needs to be structured like a business memo, so it is taking a little longer to complete than I anticipated.  I am inserting charts and writing analysis as I go, but the charts in particular are taking a long time.  I’m sure I’ll finish putting this together and then find out there was an easier way to create the charts than my strategies.

My information systems management course also has several assignments due by next Thursday.  I have my standard assignments that must be completed, which include reading a textbook chapter and preparing for a case study.  The case study addresses whether Airtel, Ltd., an Indian mobile phone company, should outsource its capital expenditures for its information technology.  The case will tie in directly with the chapter that’s been assigned, but I will also be expected to incorporate topics from previous chapters as well.  Finally, I have to select one of the four previous case studies we’ve discussed during class, and turn-in a write-up that answers four questions tailored to the case.  I am leaning towards doing my write-up about the IBM case, but haven’t settled 100% on which one I will do.

I realize this wasn’t a terribly exciting post, but as you can tell I’ve got a lot of work to complete before next week.  Hopefully things go smoothly, but if anything exciting happens I’ll probably be writing about it in a future post.

Here is an article I read recently that I found quite interesting:

“From $3.75 an Hour to $1 Million a Year” – This inspiring article, direct from CSUF’s business blog, tells the story of Tchicaya Missamou, the owner/founder of The Warrior Fitness Camp, Inc.  Mr. Missamou escaped war-torn Congo and eventually ended up in the United States, where he has created a successful business and fantastic life for himself.  His story is inspiring, and definitely makes me want to do something with my own life.

What Are My Spring Semester MBA Courses Like?

Back in September, I published a post describing the two CSUF MBA courses I was taking during the fall semester.  Now that I am almost two months into my spring semester, I thought it would be appropriate to share some of my observations and advice about both of my current classes.

ISDS 514 – Decision Models for Business and Economics is taught by Dr. Pasternack.  Considering my current work experience is in the public sector, I’m finding the material in this course to be extremely relevant to business situations (time will tell if I end up needed it in a work setting, as we are learning specific decision models).  The majority of course time is spent taking notes and practicing problems for a variety of topics including linear programming, PERT and CPM analysis, decision trees, and later we will even be getting into forecasting.  Dr. Pasternack details the underlying concepts behind these models, but we learn how to do all the calculations in Excel (using Solver).  The amount of reading can vary from week to week, but chapters are assigned one at a time and can average around 25 pages or more.  The material in the textbook is a little dry to me, but there are numerous examples that help illustrate the homework problems and prepare me for the exams.  Homework is not graded, and the final course grade consists mainly of exams and a couple of group projects.  So far, I’ve especially enjoyed learning how to maximize production output and project schedules using Excel, and this course has been one of the first I’ve taken that begins to demonstrate how powerful a business tool Excel really can be when utilized correctly.

The instructor for MGMT 515 – Management of Information in the Corporate Environment is Professor Fraser.  This is easily my favorite course this semester, and that’s because of the case studies we do in class.  These case studies tie real-world business situations into the concepts we read in the chapters, which makes the class both extremely challenging and rewarding.  I haven’t ever experienced a course that required me to apply so many analysis tools to a specific problem (Porter’s Five Forces, business models, sustainable advantages, etc.).  On top of that requirement, the concepts we cover in the textbook must also be used to support any arguments we make during the discussions.  I find that if I don’t prepare enough, I feel lost and have a hard time keeping with my classmates’ back-and-forth discussions.  The final course grade will be determined by oral and written case study performance, in addition to attendance and a final exam.  I feel that Professor Fraser does a great job moving discussions along, and makes sure the students don’t get too bogged down on one single idea.  We explore multiple sides of each case, and I am finding it difficult to tackle a problem that seems to have so many solutions.  The case studies are teaching me how to apply the concepts learned in the textbook, develop arguments (and support them) using limited information, and then stand by my statements during discussions with classmates.  I think this course may end up being one of my favorites as CSUF even though I still have 3 more semesters to complete.

I’ve also been thinking about adding a new page to the Orange County MBA blog that provides some objective information about each course I’ve taken so far.  That information would include the average amount of reading per week, elements that make up the final grade, and the professor’s classroom teaching style, major concepts covered in the class, etc.  If you feel like this would be useful, or have a suggestion about how to tweak the idea and make it better, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Here is an article I read this week that I found interesting:

“Would You Invest in This Kid?” – This Harvard Business Review article explores the importance of intellectual property right protection in business investment and growth, and in particular why it will be important in developing nations (particularly those in Africa).