The Ultimate Checklist for a Strong Strategic Case Study Script

STRONG STRATEGIC CASE STUDY SCRIPT

 

The Strategic Case Study Examiner will often highlight the differences between students who passed the most recent exam, and ones that failed.

For instance, stronger candidates:

produced a definition and followed through as to how it could be applied

provided a wide range of relevant and well discussed factors

Whereas weaker students:

struggled to find more than a handful of points from those available

were very generic, giving text book descriptions without reference to the case study material

So how to you make sure you are in the strong group and not the weak one?

It often comes down to three things:

  1. Coming up with enough points that actually answer the specific questions
  2. Explaining the implications of each point made (for the business as a whole)
  3. Illustrating how they apply to the situation in the scenario

But what if you’re struggling for ideas to address the specific questions?

And what if you don’t know how to explain or illustrate those points without wandering off track?

I’ve attempted to address both these questions below, by giving you a checklist of questions you should be asking as you go along.

These will get you thinking at the strategic level needed to both pass the exam itself, but also land more senior roles when it comes to job interviews.

Okay, so let’s look at each factor in turn…

  1. How to come up with enough (relevant) ideas

Question 1:  What is the requirement (and any sub requirements) actually asking for?

Question 2: How many marks do I estimate are available?

Question 3:  What common/business sense can be used here?

Question 4: What technical model/theory would help?

Question 5: What information does the scenario give me?

Question 6: What can I remember from the pre seen?

  1. How to explain and illustrate your points

Question 1: What is the underlying issue in the scenario?

An issue is something that requires senior management to take action or a make a decision.  And they want your advice before they go ahead.

Action – this is needed to solve a problem.  Such as dealing with exposure to currency risk or adverse publicity

A decision – this is required when assessing the viability of a strategic proposal.  Such as whether to go ahead with a joint venture project.

Question 2: What are the potential consequences?

This will tell you why each point you are making is important to the business.  And why the Board should be informed.

A good checklist here is:

  • Affect on the business model/strategic options (E3)
  • Impact on capital structure/profits/cash flow/share price (F3)
  • Amount of risk – to reputation, to quality, to customer relationships etc –  (P3)
  • Ethical implications (E3)
  • Management of change (E3)
  • Management of stakeholders (E3)
  • Any other business/commercial/industry issues

Question 3: What evidence can I use to illustrate my point?

Here you want to give examples to help the reader fully understand the relevance of your points.  You can use any of the following as evidence to back up your point, but make referencing the information in the scenario as your priority.

  • Relevant parts of the scenario
  • Relevant theory
  • Your understanding of the business from the pre seen
  • Real world industry examples

Let’s Walkthrough a Past Paper Question

How should we address potential adverse publicity (over taxi and delivery driver job threats) in our Corporate Social Responsibility Report?

  1. How to come up with enough ideas

Question 1:  What is the requirement (and any sub requirements) actually asking for?

  • What the likely adverse publicity would be
  • How to cover this issue in the CSR report

Question 2:  How many marks do I estimate are available?

  • There are two requirements in this 1 hour long section, so 15 marks each.

Question 3: What common/business sense can I come up with?

  • We need to pre-empt any adverse publicity before it goes viral
  • Build the case for autonomous vehicles before product launch
  • Those who face redundancy may protest
  • They may also highlight any health and safety concerns

Question 4: What technical knowledge could help me?

  • CSR reporting – GRI guidelines, need for balance, economic as well as social and environmental issues to be covered

Question 5: What information does the scenario give me?

  • The autonomous vehicles will have no driver – significant threat of vehicle accidents
  • We earn revenue based on a license fee per number of units sold
  • Vehicles will be sold globally so many countries (and their drivers affected). Therefore adverse publicity could be significant.

Question 5: What relevant information can I remember from the pre seen?

  • We have shareholders who will benefit financially from a positive NPV – economic factor
  • Autonomous vehicles and their software take a long time to develop
  1. How to explain and illustrate your points

 Question 1: What is the underlying issue in the scenario?

  • We need to take action to pre-empt any adverse publicity about our involvement in the project, using our CSR report.

Question 2: What are the potential consequences?

  • Risk to reputation with customers and wider public because of adverse publicity
  • Disruption to development work if industrial action occurs
  • Ethical implications of potential job losses
  • Shareholder wealth will increase should a certain level of units be sold

Question 3: What evidence can I use to illustrate my point?

Relevant parts of the scenario:

  • Costs of taxi and delivery services should come down without drivers to pay
  • Human error from drivers avoided
  • Fuel consumption and emissions may be lower due to more efficiency via the technology
  • The drivers who face redundancy may protest by causing traffic jams in city centres to draw attention to their concerns.
  • This technology will be phased in gradually because it will be too expensive to replace whole fleets of taxis and delivery vans and so many affected employees will have the opportunity to find alternative employment.

Relevant theory:

  • The GRI principle of balance suggests that the report should not present the new product as being wholly beneficial to every member of society.
  • But could include benefits such as creation of new jobs in the manufacture of autonomous vehicles and the associated products.

Understanding of the business from the pre seen:

  • Our shareholders invest in the company for a reason, to earn financial benefit.  This project is no different.

Real world industry examples

  • Automation of Southern Rail trains has caused adverse publicity for the company – industrial action has caused mass disruption to customers, and raised concerns over passenger safety

Conclusion

You can produce a strong strategic case study exam script by asking yourself the questions above.

They get you thinking strategically about a wide range of ideas.  And allow you to build upon those ideas with well developed arguments that are backed up with relevant evidence.  Therefore producing compelling advice to senior management.

As always, remember to:

  • Plan your answers first
  • Stick to the question being asked, don’t wander off topic
  • Think about how many marks are on offer and how many points to make
  • Divide your writing time equally between requirements
  • Use the scenario and the pre-seen information when responding to the requirements to avoid making answers generic
  • Consider Ethical implications (the examiner is hot on this!)
  • Don’t waffle – 2 lines to introduce your point, 3 lines to explain or illustrate it.
  • Keep an eye on the clock and move on according to your timings schedule
  • Practice your exam technique under timed conditions

Additional resources:

 

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