The case-study method may be new to you. Experience has shown
that case studies bring interesting, real-world situations into
the classroom study of agribusiness marketing, finance and management.
As you discuss cases with your fellow students, you will learn
that decision making is often a confrontational activity involving
people with different points of view. Most important, you will
learn how to work toward consensus while tolerating legitimate
differences of opinion.
Decision making is what managers do. The decisions of managers
directly influence revenues, costs, and profits of an agribusiness
firm. If you are to be successful in an agribusiness career, you
must learn to be a good decision maker. You must develop the ability
to apply classroom training in business and economics to agribusiness
problem solving so that you can learn how to (1) make decision
making easier, (2) improve the analytical quality of decisions,
(3) reduce the time required to make decisions, and (4) increase
the frequency of correct decisions.
After completing a few case studies, you should find them an interesting
and rewarding way to learn. You will soon discover, however, that
case studies require an approach that is different from normal
homework assignments. Each case can have more than one right answer
depending on how the problem is defined and which assumptions
are made. Students commonly spend several hours preparing the
solution for a case assigned for classroom discussion. The time
you spend working on case studies will be well spent because it
will prepare you to confidently take on a position in agribusiness
in which decision-making challenges face you each day. Success
in your career will be the real reward for the work you do in
preparing case studies.
ATTACKING THE CASE
Your first reaction upon reading a case will probably be to feel
over whelmed by all the information. Upon closer reading, you
may feel that the case is missing some information that is vital
to your decision. Don't despair. Case writers do this on purpose
to make the cases represent as closely as possible the typical
situations faced by agribusiness managers. In this age of computers,
managers often have to sift through an excessive amount of information
to glean the facts needed to make a decision. In other situations,
there is too little information and too little time or money to
collect all the information desired. One definition of management
is "the art of using scanty information to make terribly
important, semi-permanent decisions under time pressure."
One reason for using the case-study method is for you to learn
how to function effectively in that type of decision-making environment.
When assigned a case that does not contain all the information
you need, you can do two things: First, seek additional information.
Library research or a few telephone calls may provide the necessary
facts. Second, you can make assumptions when key facts or data
are not available. Your assumptions should be reasonable and consistent
with the situation because the "correctness" of your
solution may depend upon the assumptions you make. This is one
reason that a case can have more than one right solution. In fact,
your teacher may be more interested in the analysis and process
you used to arrive at the decision than in its absolute correctness.
In some cases, the case writer(s) have provided questions to guide
your analysis; in other cases it is up to you, the case analyst,
to decide which questions are relevant in defining the problem.
This too is by design. In an actual agribusiness situation you
will have to decide which questions to ask, and certainly no one
will give you a list of multiple-choice answers. This is why it
is suggested that you not limit your analysis to the questions
at the end of a case.
The Seven Steps of Problem Analysis
Using an organized seven-stem approach in analyzing a case will
make the entire process easier and can increase your learning
The course instructor may require a written or an oral report
describing your solution to the case. The high quality of your
analysis or the brilliance of your insights will do you little
good if your solution is not expressed clearly. The teacher is
more likely to accept your solution even if he or she does not
agree with it, if you are able to identify the issues, explain
the analysis and logic that led you to choose a particular alternative,
and lay out a good plan for implementing the decision.
You probably will be asked to write reports for at least some
cases. The following guidelines will help you write an effective
case analysis. First, in business communications a short report
is usually considered better than a long report. This does not
mean that in your report you can skip key points, but rather that
you state relevant points clearly and concisely. Do not include
Second, the report should be well written. It should be typed
and not contain spelling or grammatical errors. The report
you hand in for class should be equivalent in quality to a report
you would write for your boss, a senior manager of an agribusiness
company. In the early years of your career, particularly in a
large firm, you are likely to become known for the quality of
your written reports.
A well-written report would contain the following elements:
In some instances the instructor may specifically require an oral
report on a case. One student or a team of students will be assigned
an oral report in advance. In many classroom situations, each
student must be prepared to discuss any aspect of a case if called
upon or to comment on ideas presented by other students. It is
not uncommon for a large portion of the course grade to be based
on the frequency and quality of a student's oral participation
in classroom discussions. Preparation of an oral case report should
include the following:
Sometimes the teacher will assign a full-case presentation. In
that situation you go through the presentation point by point.
In a class discussion setting, however, even though you must be
prepared, you will almost never make a full-case presentation.
You will be asked to present pieces of your presentation. For
example, you may be called upon or volunteer to present your conclusion.
You are likely to be interrupted, and count on being asked to
defend your statements.
The analysis of case studies may be among the most challenging
assignments given to a student. Cases are not just "busy
work" given to fill up a student's time. Approached properly,
case analysis can be extremely beneficial in preparing you for
a career in agribusiness management by giving you a chance to
develop decision-making skills in the classroom so that you will
be better prepared to meet the challenges of your after-graduation
By preparing solutions to cases studies, you will be exposed to a variety of agribusinesses, management roles, and business situations. Your decision-making skills will be enhanced as you sift through large volumes of information to identify problems, determine corporate goals, define relevant alternatives, and develop plans to implement decisions. You will hone your ability to apply analytical tools in true-to-life agribusiness situations. By preparing reports, you will learn how to express yourself succinctly, both orally and in writing. You will also develop the ability to defend the logic of your analysis and conclusions. These are all valuable skills for a future agribusiness manager and will help you go a long way in a rewarding career.