The project website includes a great variety of case studies (http://www.eecsrc.eu/search/), through which pupils along with their mentor/ teach can exercise entrepreneurial skills; The majority of case studies are available in 5 languages (English, French, German, Italian & Spanish) and in certain cases teaching supportive material is also available. In this case you should send your request to the project administrator.
Analysing Case Studies
It will take a few practice cases before the team is able to work efficiently together within the 3 or 4 hour time limit.
How to Read a Case:
A case will usually take 45- 50 minutes to read from start to finish. When the group of pupils first receives the case they should read the first and last paragraph of the case to help determine the problem being presented. Knowing the problem while reading will allow team members to filter out the information they need in order to determine the best solution.
While reading, each team member should make note of key issues within the case, along with noting key pieces of information that will help them with their portion of the case. For example, if a member is given the role of presenting the analysis, they should keep notes on strengths and weaknesses of the company, industry information, economical conditions, etc. It is very important to note exactly where information is within the case, as the team will not have enough time to read it a second time. As the team becomes more familiar with reading cases they will soon learn what information needs their attention and what can be skipped over.
Some questions to consider while reading the case include:
(1) What are the ‘ideal’ outcomes? What is an ideal future condition? Are there different outcomes that people desire?
(2) What is the current status quo for the industry within the case country?
(3) Who are the key people? Who are the decision makers?
(4) What are the constraints on the actions of key people? What demands are imposed by the situation? Are they economic, personal, professional or due to some other factor? Remember, not even a president is all powerful, and must usually answer to a board or an electorate at some point.
(5) What information is lacking? If you had the chance to interview the critical players, what would you want to know? Who would most likely have the information you need?
(6) Do you know the timeline of critical events?
(7) Can you define the critical problem? Sometimes the immediate problem is only a symptom of a deeper problem.
How to Discuss a Case:
There are many different approaches to discussing a case, and the discussion must begin immediately after the team has completed reading the case. If a team member finishes earlier than the rest of the team they can begin preparing their slides. This will ensure that the team is utilising the three or four hours to its maximum. One person should be designated as the note taker and it will be their job to put all ideas that are mentioned on display (whiteboard, paper, etc). It is important to take down all ideas as this will help to narrow down the correct problem, solution and implementation.
Initially, the team could brainstorm and then begin filtering ideas and making a decision as to what the problem is and what are the possible solutions. During the discussion one person should be designated as the timekeeper to ensure that the team does not spend too much time on one topic. The timekeeper should continually let the team know how much time is left in the preparation period.
A good starting point for the team discussion is the main problem presented in the case. Once the problem is defined, the next logical step is to list out all the key issues presented in the case. These issues will help the person who is presenting the analysis, as it is their portion of the presentation that sets up the recommendation and implementation. Knowing the key issues allows the team to formulate a solution that will address most, if not all, key issues within the case.
After key issues, the team should develop alternative solutions to the problem. Only presenting one solution will show that the team did not fully discuss the alternatives, nor demonstrate that the one selected is the optimal solution. Every alternative should have advantages and disadvantages, with the final recommendation having the most advantages.
After the team has determined the alternatives and the recommendation, an implementation plan should be created. Items that are usually discussed include timeframe (how long will it take), cost (order of magnitude estimates), how it will solve the problem, and who will be involved (resources). Once the discussion has ended team members should begin to prepare their slides.
How to Divide the Work:
There are many different approaches to dividing up the work of preparing the case analysis. Each team member must have a role on the team. The natural roles that could emerge will follow how the cases are judged. These include:
(1) Introduction, key issues/ problem statement
(3) Alternatives and recommendation
(5) Financial analysis and conclusion
Key Issues / Problem – The key issues and problem statement within the case should be clearly stated.
Analysis – The environmental, economical, financial, and political factors of the case should be reviewed in terms of what is relevant to the key issues. The analysis should have an external and an internal focus in term of the organisation. One example would be the use of a SWOT analysis to review the organisation.
Alternatives – Normally 2-3 alternatives should be analysed. The recommended alternative should address the key issues and solve the problem stated.
Implementation – The implementation is an action plan that will be used to implement the recommendation. The implementation must fit the organisation and should be attainable. The implementation should address all areas of the organisation, for example, operations, marketing, human resources and finance. The plan should have a timeline along with a breakdown of the costs associated with the implementation.
Financials – All cases should address how the recommendations will affect the organisation financially. If the case does not provide any financials, students can still address how the plan will affect the entrepreneurs. Financials presented should be realistic and based on factual information found in the case.
The team members assigned to each section could be responsible for creating the slides, presenting and responding to questions on their section. Other team members are encouraged to help out where they can during the three-hour preparation time. It is the responsibility of the coach to provide guidance to the team with regards to approaching each role.
Normally teams take on the role of consultants, and thus, they may also wish to decide on a name that will be used consistently throughout each case, for example ‘European Consultants’. As consultants, it is assumed that the team is presenting their findings to the specific individuals in the case, or the board of directors. Once the 3 or 4 hour time limit passes, the monitors will not give teams extra time to make any final additions or changes to their presentation, and will ask for the memory stick immediately. Not having the slides in the proper order, or asking for 5 minutes from the judges to reorganise slides shows that the team was unable to complete their case analysis in the time permitted.
When practicing, coaches should follow these rules in order for the team to become comfortable with the time constraints and the strict rules of the competition.