Case Analysis

 

 Gambling on a Career-Case Analysis

As you cleaned up your desktop at the end of the day, you paused for reflection about the day’s events.  The day had not started very interestingly, but it had sure picked up!  A state policeman who had been terminated from his job for refusal of a direct work order had come in to see if you would represent him in a wrongful discharge suit against his employer.  After listening to his story, you were left feeling unsure about the case.  He had said that he would go along with whatever you decided – that if you did not think his case had merit, he would not seek counsel elsewhere. Here are the facts as related to you.

 

Last April, Joe Benn, an eight-year veteran of the State Police and a member of the  Baptist faith, was fired for refusing a one-year plain clothes assignment at a casino in the state.  The job entailed monitoring activity at the site.  Benn claims this forces him to choose between his job and his religious convictions.

 

In your office, Benn stated, “I believe that there is no way for me to work at the casino and not be involved with gambling.  You are part of the process.  You’re there to facilitate it, to regulate it and enforce the regulations of it.  And that involves me in the process of it.  This job isn’t about protecting anybody other than the state getting their money from the gambling boats.”

 

He continued, “We are going to answer to the Lord some day for our actions.  I would much rather answer to Him and have Him tell me what I did was right than do what Superintendent Smalley tells me.”

 

I have three small children and my wife stays at home to take care of them.  I am the breadwinner.  The thing at the back of my mind is ‘Don’t lose your job, don’t lose your job, don’t lose your job.’  But I had to stand for what I believe in.”

 

After Benn had left, you called the State Police office and talked with a representative who told you, “This is about him refusing a direct order from the superintendent. The department has the utmost respect for people’s religious beliefs and has worked in the past with individuals to accommodate that.  In fact I can give you examples.  We have changed work schedules to accommodate religious days and also an individual whose religion called for them to wear a certain type of clothing.  But there is a point the department cannot go past, and this is an example of that.”

 

There is a state law that requires a trooper to be aboard the casino boat before gaming can commence.The process for selecting this monitoring position at the casino first consisted of asking for volunteers from the troopers serving in the region the casino was in or the regions touching that region.  If there was not enough volunteers, then all qualified troopers in these regions were placed in a pool and the number necessary were pulled by random drawing. This process was communicated well in advance of the actual selection.  Benn has not discussed not being included in the pool in advance of the selection.  Benn’s name was the first one pulled.

 

The representative also shared that Superintendent Smalley had met personally with Benn to see if a compromise was possible, but Benn flatly refused to discuss anything that involved him being assigned to the casino.  Benn had offered to take any other assignment or to transfer to another district (This was after he knew he had been selected). The representative said, “We have a responsibility to provide protection to the citizens of the state, and having him work somewhere else is not a reasonable accommodation.”

 

You know the law.  You are aware that federal law states that an employer is required  to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs of an employee unless doing so would create an undue hardship.

 

Benn had brought with him a few supporting affidavits.  Here are some selected quotes

 

From John Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Center, a conservative law center, “They (the state police) have to show that accommodating him will cause an undue hardship.  If they can’t show that, then they will lose as a mater of law.”

 

From Rev Bud Standish, pastor of Benn’s church, “I think it would have been a defeat of his godly testimony in the eyes of many people.  It certainly would have hurt his testimony in my eyes, thus making him a less effective church member and church leader.”

 

What will you tell Mr. Benn to do?  What will you do?

Written Case Analysis Model

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 prevent 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.

It is important to remember that problems reside in the present. The problem is here and now!

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 causes of the problem.

The process of identifying the causes 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. Select Criteria. Your decision criteria serve to allow you the opportunity to evaluate each of your alternatives using the same measures. Many of the criteria that you will utilize in making HR decisions are qualitative in nature. There is a short list presented in your packet. In reality, all of these come into play. But importance to any problem will be different, which will require you to prioritize these for each different case. We will prioritize this list and use the most important three for each set of alternatives.

Step 4. 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 problem(s) and cause(s) identified. You should attempt to develop at least three possible alternatives. For many cases, you may be able to 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.

Step 5. Select the Best Alternative. Indicate the alternative you have chosen to solve the problem. It is important here to justify why you chose a particular solution and why it will best resolve the problem(s).

Step 6. 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 problem 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. It might be helpful at this point to assess your decision making style. Complete the following assessment.

Decision-Making Styles

There are various decision-making styles, including reflexive, consistent, and reflective. To determine your decision-making style, answer the questions in the following SelfAssessment. .

Select the answer (1 to 3) that best describes how you make decisions.

A: Overall I’m ____________ to act.

1. quick 2. moderate 3. slow

B. I spend __________ amount of time making important decisions as/than I do making less

important decisions.

1. about the same 2. a greater 3, a much greater

C. When making decisions, I ________ go with my first thought.

1. usually 2. occasionally 3. rarely

D. When making decisions, I’m ________ concerned about making errors.

1. rarely 2. occasionally 3. often

E. When making decisions, I ________ recheck my work.

1. rarely 2. occasionally 3. usually

E When making decisions, I gather ________ information.

1. little 2. some 3. lots of

G. When making decisions, I consider ________ alternative actions.

1. few 2. some 3. lots of

H. When making a decision, I usually make it ________ before the deadline.

1. long 2. somewhat 3. just

I. After making a decision, I ________ look for other alternatives, wishing I had waited.

1, rarely 2. occasionally 3, usually

J. I ________ regret having made a decision.

1. rarely 2. occasionally 3. often

To determine your style, add the numbers that represent your answers to the 10 questions. The total will be between 10 and 30. Place an X on the continuum at the point that represents your score.

Reflexive Consistent Reflective

I0_______________16________________23________________30

A score of 10 to 16 indicates a reflexive style; 17 to 23 indicates a consistent style; and 24 to 30 indicates a reflective style. You have determined your preferred personal decision-making style. Groups also have a preferred decision-making style, based on how their members make decisions. Changing the I to we, you could answer the 10 questions to refer to a group rather than to yourself.

Reflexive Style A reflexive decision maker likes to make quick decisions (“to shoot from the hip”), without taking the time to get all the information that may be needed and without considering all alternatives. On the positive side, reflexive decision makers are decisive; they do not procrastinate. On the negative side, making quick decisions can lead to waste and duplication when a decision is not the best possible alternative. The reflexive decision maker may be viewed by employees as a poor manager if he or she is consistently making bad decisions. If you use a reflexive style, you may want to slow down and spend more time gathering information and analyzing alternatives. Following the steps in the decision-making model can help you develop your skills.

Reflective Style A reflective decision maker likes to take plenty of time to make decisions, taking into account considerable information and an analysis of several alternatives. On the positive side, the reflective type does not make decisions that are rushed. On the negative side, tic or she may procrastinate and waste valuable time and other resources. The reflective decision maker may he viewed as wishy-washy and indecisive. If you use a reflective style, you may want to speed up your decision making. As Andrew Brentson once said, “Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go on.”

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 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 results. Many of the cases and incidents in this packet were in the process of being studied and resolved at the time the pieces were written. Consequently, the real life outcomes were not always available. Although some of the cases will include what happened, no case is intended to illustrate either right or wrong, effective or ineffective solutions to human resource management problems.

CASE WRITING TIP

Create a file in MS Word (or whatever word processing program that you use) that looks like this:

Problem

Causes/ Issues

Criteria

Alternatives

· Alt 1

· Alt 2

· Alt 3

Analysis

Pros and Cons of Alt 1

Pros and Cons of Alt 2

Pros and Cons of Alt 3

Select / Implement

References

Save this under a file name like casefile or whatever. Just save it in your case folder. Then each time it comes to writing a new case study, pull up the file, rename it as the current case ( case1, case2, etc. – Do this so that if the machine autosaves, your master will not be overwritten!) and fill in all the spaces. Define the problem, etc. You will ensure that all pertinent areas are touched upon in your case study.

The Problem

“There is nothing worse than the right answer to the wrong question” – Winston Churchill

And the same can be said of problem identification. Misidentify the problem and when the smoke clears……. You still have the same pesky problem to deal with again. All you have done is expend valuable and finite resources. And what do you have to show?

The Dictionary definition of a problem is “a question proposed for solution; a matter that is perplexing or difficult.” The definition of a cause is “a person or thing that brings about an effect or result.” These are clearly different. What happens if we solve a cause? Have we solved our problem? What happens if we identify a cause as our problem? Will we be able to arrive at the most efficient response?

*** One important thing to remember- PROBLEMS ARE IN THE PRESENT, not the past or the future!! So define it that way, in that tense.

A point of importance here is that people recognize and assimilate information using different senses. Some people need to read information, some people need to hear information to understand it, and some people need to visualize data to process and understand it.

For visual learners, one tool to help with problem identification is called The FACT Map. To utilize this tool:

1) Isolate each fact in your scenario. Write these on a sheet of paper, chalkboard, etc. For ease of viewing, draw a circle or rectangle around each fact.

IMPORTANT – DO NOT INCLUDE ASSUMPTIONS!!!

2) Go to a fact. Compare this fact with each of the other facts by asking “ Did Fact 1 cause Fact 2 to happen?” If NO, switch the two and ask “Did Fact 2 cause Fact 1 to happen?” If you can say YES to either, draw a line between the two facts and point an arrow away from the causal fact toward the other.

3) Repeat until you have paired and compared all the facts.

4) Your problem will be dealing with the fact:

a) the arrows point toward

b) where “the arrows end”

(If there are two facts, you may be confronted with multiple problems. Try and consolidate. If not possible, prioritize and solve one at a time.)

c) if there are no connecting arrows, look for the central fact.

PROBLEM LEVELS and Solutions – A General Rule

Problems will occur at one of these four levels:

1. Intrapersonal 3. Organizational

2. Interpersonal 4. Environmental

It will be helpful for you to recognize in which level your problem rests. You can more effectively marshal your available resources and apply them to that point. You may solve a Level 1 problem by attacking it with a Level 3 response, but you will not usually be effective by going the other way. If you have an organizational problem, you will not effectively solve it at Level 2. (It is usually better to be more global.)

 

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