In Programs and Courses that make use of case studies, the Case Analysis Memo is a key deliverable.

After you read an HBS Case Study, crafting a 2-3 page Case Analysis Memo sharpens your critical thinking skills, communication skills, teamwork skills, leadership skills, and ethical reasoning skills.

I. SITUATION ANALYSIS

The goal of Situation Analysis is to assess the current state of the business and its environment (i.e. PEST and 5 FORCES INDUSTRY Analysis), focusing on identifying the key issue that the firm must address. Situation Analysis involves separating signal (i.e. what is important) from noise (i.e. what is unimportant) with an emphasis on changes in the business and/or in the environment. The best analysis implies an understanding of causal relationships; for example, “if we do X, then Y will occur.”

A. The key issue that will impact the focal firm’s ability to survive, thrive and grow is ______________________________________.

Note: This is sometimes described as the “managerial dilemma.” If you “misdiagnose” the key issue, you might end up recommending the wrong cure. When you finish writing your Case Analysis Memo, you and your Teammates should look at your recommendation in Section III and ask yourselves, “Does our recommendation address the key issue we identified in Section I? If not, then either you have mis-identified the Key Issue, or your Recommendation is sub-optimal.

B. Market Problem: What is the problem (or “gap” or “pain point” in the market that this company is addressing? (one sentence)

C. Solution: How is the company trying to solve the Problem? (one sentence)

Note: B. and C. help you clarify your understanding of what the market (i.e. the collection of customers) wants, and whether/how the company is addressing these wants.

D: Business Model: How does the focal firm makes money? (one or two sentences).

Note: Specifying the focal firm’s business model helps you to understand how the company makes money. This might seem like common sense, but many times recommendations that do not consider how the company makes money can result in an unfortunate decline in revenues. By asking you to specify the business model, I am trying to help you choose the right recommendation.

E. Key Success Factors: KSFs are the “essential ingredients that allow a company to sustain a competitive advantage.” Key Success Factors can be divided into two groups: THEN & NOW.

THEN

The key success factors that have supported the business model until the time of the managerial dilemma.

NOW

The key success factors that will be required for the focal firm to survive thrive and grow going forward; that is, from the time of the managerial dilemma and the implementation of your Section III Recommendation.

II. STRATEGIC OPTIONS

The goal of Strategic Options is to generate at least three mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive (MECE) options for addressing the Key Issue identified in Section I in a strategic manner. Each option should be a good option; frequently, one option is good, another is better, and still another is the best option. It is logical to wonder why not simply skip Section II and present the best option and recommendation in Section III. The reason is because the options must usually be vetted by top management teams who may have more information than even the authors of the options.

A. Strategic Option #1: Clearly specify the option.

PROS

  1. Reason Why this is a good option
  2. Reason Why this is a good option
  3. Reason Why this is a good option

CONS

  1. Reason Why this may not be a good option
  2. Reason Why this may not be a good option
  3. Reason Why this may not be a good option

B. Strategic Option #2: Clearly specify the option.

PROS

  1. Reason Why this is a good option
  2. Reason Why this is a good option
  3. Reason Why this is a good option

CONS

  1. Reason Why this may not be a good option
  2. Reason Why this may not be a good option
  3. Reason Why this may not be a good option

C. Strategic Option #3: Clearly specify the option.

PROS

  1. Reason Why this is a good option
  2. Reason Why this is a good option
  3. Reason Why this is a good option

CONS

  1. Reason Why this may not be a good option
  2. Reason Why this may not be a good option
  3. Reason Why this may not be a good option

III. RECOMMEND & DEFEND ONE OPTION

In Section III of your Case Analysis Memo, you need to pick the best option from Section II (here “best option” is defined as the option that is most likely to effectively address the Key Issue identified in Section I) and defend it.

Section III is the most important section of the memo. You should be specific, logical, and mindful of cause and effect in your reasoning. For example, recommending something because it will enable the firm to grow is a good recommendation, but, recommending, for example, that the “firm do X, at a cost of Y and with an expected return of Z, with risks M and N” is likely to make your boss say “Congratulations! You’re getting a raise!” (Note: Not every case offers enough detail to make this kind of recommendation).

A. Recommendation: “We recommend Option X: _____________________.”

  1. Reason Why #1
  2. Reason Why #2
  3. Reason Why #3

B. Risks/Limitations of the Recommended Option

C. Final Argument: Recapitulation of why this is the correct option and how it addresses the Key Issue.