MAN 3301 Human Resource Management Dr. Jerry Schoenfeld A Model For Analyzing Cases In Human Resource Management Purpose of Cases A case is a written description of events and activities that have taken place in an organization. Cases allow you to experience a different kind of learning – learning by doing. They are intended to give you an opportunity to actively experience the reality and complexity of the issues facing practicing mangers and human resource executives.
While other disciplines like physical science allow you to test theories in a laboratory, performing a case analysis allows you to apply human resource management theories to specific organizational problems. Completing a case analysis will help you develop your analytical and problem-solving skills. Cases enable you to analyze organization problems and to generate solutions based on your understanding of theories and models of effective human resource management (HRM). Both a “decision-maker” and an “evaluator” approach are used in cases.
In the decision-maker approach, the primary goal is to sort out information given and to propose a viable solution to the problems(s) identified. In the evaluator approach, the human resource management decisions have already been implemented, and the primary goal is to evaluate outcomes and consequences and to propose alternative solutions. For this case assignment you will be in the decision-maker role. Student Preparation of Written Cases There are any number of possible approaches to analyzing a case. The most important point to remember is that case analysis involves decision making.
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There is no absolutely right or wrong solution to a case problem. Your major task as a decision maker is to present a coherent and defensible analysis of the situation based on human resource management concepts and theories. Just as managers in the “real world” must persuade their colleagues and superiors that their proposals are sound, so must you persuade your fellow students and your instructor that your analysis of the case and proposed solution are the best. You should follow a few preliminary steps before preparing your written analysis. First, give the case a general reading to get an overall sense of the situation.
Put it aside for a while, then read it a second time and make notes on the critical facts. Case facts provide information and data on attitudes and values, relative power and influence, the nature and quality of relationships, the organization’s objectives and human resource management policies/functions, and other pertinent aspects of the organization. Keep two key questions in mind as you review the facts of the case: First, are there discernible patterns in the facts? Second, what can be inferred about human resource management practices in this organization from the facts presented?
You should attempt to classify, sort, and evaluate the information you have identified in this preliminary step. Once you have a clear understanding of the critical facts in the case, you can prepare your written analysis using the five-step model that follows. Written Case Analysis Model Please follow these five steps in your written case analysis. Please have a separate section heading for each of these five steps along with a brief introduction and conclusion. Your completed case should be no longer then 10 double-spaced pages using 12-point font. It should be well written and free of grammatical errors.
Step 1. Problem Identification. The first step in your written analysis is to explicitly identify the major problem(s) in the case in one or two clear and precise sentences. For example, “The major problem in this case is a 15 percent increase in employee turnover compared to last year’s rate. ” Herbert Simon, who received a Nobel Prize for his work on management decision-making, has defined a problem as “a deviation from a standard. ” In other words, one way to identify a problem is to compare some desired state or objective with the actual situation. A problem or series of problems may revent the organization from reaching its objectives or goals. A key point here is that in order to define a problem, there must be some type of standard for comparison. Possible standards include the organization’s stated objectives or goals, objectives or goals of competing organizations, or standards based on normative prescriptions from human resource management theory. Note: While you may be able to identify more then one problem in the assigned case. State clearly what is the main problem and complete subsequent steps in relation to this problem. Step 2. Identify the Causes of the Problem.
Before proposing alternative solutions, the decision maker must have a clear understanding of the underlying causes of the problem. HRM problems are usually embedded in a larger context. This means the decision maker must examine internal and external environmental factors over time to isolate causal factors. Causes of problems tend to be historical in nature. To formulate a solid understanding of the specific causes, you should search for root causes and use relevant course concepts and theories to better define them. The “question syndrome” approach may be beneficial here: Why did the problem occur? When did it begin?
Where does it occur? Where doesn’t it occur? What effective HRM practices should the organization be using? What has the organization failed to do? What are the antecedents of the problem? Posing these questions will help you to probe beyond the symptoms to the root cause of the problem. The process of identifying the cause of a problem is very much like hypothesis testing. You should set forth possible causes and then test them against the facts in the case. In writing this section, it is important to present a plausible discussion of the causes so as to convince the reader that your analysis is correct. Step 3. Alternative Solutions.
This step involves developing alternative solutions and evaluating their contributions to resolving the problem(s) identified. Proposed alternatives should be consistent with the problems(s) and cause(s) identified. You should develop at least three possible alternatives in addition to those offered within the case. You may propose more than three. List each of your alternatives and the advantages and disadvantages associated with each. Keep the following criteria in mind as you evaluate your alternatives: time constraints, feasibility, cost, contribution to meeting the organization’s objectives, and possible negative side effects.
Developing a list of good alternatives involves creativity and avoiding preconceived attitudes and assumptions. It may be useful to brainstorm possible solutions before weighing their advantages and disadvantages. Note: Your alternatives should cover the entire domain of human resource management functional activities. However, it is important that you do not combine various activities into one alternative. For example, you should recommend that the hospital pay more, offer more benefits, overhaul their selection process, and provide more training all within one alternative.
Step 4. Select the Best Alternative. Indicate the one alternative you have chosen that “best” solves the problem. It is important here to justify why you chose a particular solution and why it will best resolve the problem(s). Again, I recognize that doing more then one alternative would be better. But if you have to choose just one alternative (and you must choose just one), which one offers the greatest potential benefits toward addressing the problem(s). Step 5. Implementation Steps. Now that you have a solution, you must develop appropriate action plans to implement it.
In this section of your written analysis, you want to specify, as much as possible, what should be done, by whom, when, where, and in what sequence. For example: Who should implement the decision? To whom should it be communicated? What actions need to be taken now? What actions need to be taken later? If you recommend that the organization revise its performance appraisal process, give as much detail as possible on the content of the revisions. Finally, in this section you should also indicate follow-up procedures to monitor the implementation of your solution to ensure that the intended actions are taken and that the roblem is corrected. While these steps have been presented in linear fashion, case analysis does not involve linear thinking. You will probably find yourself thinking about all of the parts of the analysis simultaneously. This is perfectly normal and underscores the complexity of decision-making. To present a clear written analysis, however, it is important to write up your report in the analytical form just described. As you gain experience with the case method, you will end the course with a better understanding of both your problem-solving ability and effective human resource management practices.
Pitfalls in Analysis Amateurs at case analysis often encounter the pitfall of jumping to a conclusion, which in effect bypasses analysis. For example, a student may readily observe some overt behavior, quickly identify it as objectionable and, therefore, assume it is a basic problem. Later, with some dismay, the student may discover that the prescribed action had no effect on the “problem” and that the objectionable behavior was only a symptom and not the actual problem.
Another common mistake is for students to reject a case because they think there is insufficient information. All desirable or useful information is seldom available for analyzing and resolving actual problems in real organizations. Consequently, managers must do the best they can with the information available to them. Furthermore, the main issue in solving the problems of many organizations is to determine what additional and relevant information is available or can be obtained before adequate analysis can be made and appropriate action taken.
If additional information is available, the manager must decide whether it is worth getting, whether it is meaningful and relevant, and whether it can be secured in time to be useful. Thus, an apparent lack of information in cases is actually a reflection of the reality that students must learn to accept and overcome. Students occasionally search for the “right” answer or solutions to cases and sometimes they ask their instructor what actually happened in a case. Although some answers or solutions are better than others, there are no “right” answers or solutions.
What actually happened in a case is usually irrelevant – the focus of case study should be on the process of analysis, the diagnosis of problems, and the prescription of remedial action rather than on the discovery of answers or end results. Many of the cases were in the process of being studied and resolved at the time the pieces were written. Consequently, the real life outcomes are not always available. Although some of the cases do include what happened, no case is intended to illustrate either right or wrong, effective or ineffective solutions to human resource management problems.
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