How will you know if your action plan is working?

Analyzing a Management Case

At the outset, it is important to remember that analysis of a situation must precede an evaluation of it, and that both must precede any conclusions drawn about the problem or any decisions regarding the possible solution of it. This may seem obvious, but in too many cases opinions and conclusions run ahead of the analysis stage of any problem. Eager to find a solution and assuming they already understand the various parameters of the problem, many media managers rush to the end of the decision making process before paying adequate attention to the beginning of it.

Analysis implies an objective study of the widest possible array of facts that the manager can obtain. Often it requires going back and forth over these facts several times to get a real feel for the situation. Evaluation is an extension of analysis in that it is the state at which the manager’s opinions start entering into the mix. Indeed, after analyzing a steady stream of facts over and over, patterns begin to emerge that lead managers to form these opinions about what is really going on and why. One of the hardest things for managers to do, however, is to hold off this evaluation – this judgment – until as many of the relevant facts that can be observed are observed.

Jim & Diane Willis, in their text New Directions in Media Management, point out an excellent model to systematically attacking case studies:

o Go over various elements of the problem or situation several times until they begin becoming familiar to you and a pattern begins to emerge that encompasses all these elements simultaneously. This guideline helps prevent managers from prematurely focusing on only a subgroup of the elements needed for the possible solution. It also aids the manager in observing the big picture instead of just small portions of it.
o Suspend judgment. Do no leap to conclusions too early. The manager who forms opinions and jumps to conclusions to prematurely is often resistant to new, important facts that present themselves for consideration.
o Study the problem from various vantage points. For instance, the manager might consider the issue from the standpoint of the employees or from the company’s clients instead of from his or her own viewpoint.
o Produce more than one possible solution and devise a way to test all of them. If a manager feels strong pressure to achieve a possible solution, that person may be more solution minded than problem minded. Developing a second or third possible solution after the first helps to prevent the problem.
o Take a break when you are stuck. This is an extremely hard thing for all of us to do. “If only I stay with this problem a few more minutes, I know I can find a solution”, we say to our tired minds and bodies. It seldom works, and the therapy that comes from moving on to some leisure activity for even an hour or so works wonders.
o Talk about your problem with someone away from work whom you like and trust. Getting advice from someone who is not reporting to you at work is a good idea. Talking the problem over with someone is a good way to consider aspects of it that might not otherwise have been considered. It is harder to take shortcuts and leaps when discussing the problem with someone who will stop and ask you to explain the reasons for those shortcuts. In addition, talking a problem over seems to take away some of the loneliness of decision making and allows the individual to fear failure a little less because he or she has developed a comrade in arriving at that decision.
Here is the format to follow when evaluating case studies and how you will prepare your final case study to be presented for critique and a grade (point value for each in parenthesis):

o Abstract/Focus (15). What is/are the management issue(s) represented here? What is/are the central problem(s)? Is the problem short term or long term? Identify them accordingly (ST or LT) in the fact set that follows. Finally, what are the desired goals of management here? Write them down now.
o Fact Set (20). This is a continuation of the Abstract/Focus section that excerpts pertinent facts that may be affecting the problem. However, be sure to distinguish and label facts (F) and interpretations (I) so that you do not confuse them.
o Responsibility (10). Whose responsibility is it to make a decision on this problem or situation? Identify that person or persons now and state why they are responsible.
o Strategy (15). What strategy would you devise to deal with the problem? Why?
o Action Plan (20). How and when would you implement your strategy and who would do it? (By the way, it is often better to take on the short-term problem first, then the long-term problem).
o Evaluation (10). How will you know if your action plan is working? What sort of measurement or monitoring technique will you use?
o General Qualities (10). This category covers neatness, spelling, grammar, inclusion of a title page, and following the academically correct format throughout the paper.
Following these guidelines not only will help facilitate a thorough examination of the problem, but is also required when submitting your answer to the case study. A final word of instruction: Don’t be afraid to exercise your creativity in evaluating and designing possible solutions for case studies. What may at first seem to be a far out idea or solution may emerge as the soundest path to take.