Printer Friendly

Case studies correlation analysis for business management teaching.


Cases describe actual business situations design to fit a particular unit or units of class time and to focus on a certain category of organisation problems (like production, marketing, finance or human resource) (Corey, 1996).

Out of each case come out important ideas. Taken together, a series of cases should help develop key concepts that can be applied in specific managerial situations. But dealing with a series of cases witch is rich in management issues, because of the richness this can be difficult cases to teach and also to comprehend by the students. To surpass these problems, after a teaching approach involving a series of five cases for business management, we consider a correlation analysis using the affinity method and a relationship matrix to point out and correlate the key issues from these cases.


2.1 Business case study

A business teaching case study is a description of an administrative situation that is specifically intended to be the basis of a class discussion. Sometimes referred to as Harvard-style cases, these cases typically have a number of distinguishing characteristics (Grandon, 2006).

First, while many cases document the outcome of some decision, the best teaching cases usually motivate discussion that includes deciding what the manager needs to do.

Second, the situations examined tend to be complex, and multi-faceted. Just as few business decisions can be reduced to a single function, few good teaching cases attempt to present a business situation as if it were strictly a "production" or "marketing" or "information systems" problem.

Third, there is rarely a single "right answer" to a case. There are certainly better answers and worse answers, but good teaching cases do not come with ready-made solutions.

2.2 Characteristics of a case study

For this paper we are interesting in what is the purpose and topics of the case and what its expected relationship to other cases is.

The case types in relation to other are: independent (stands alone case), comparative (to be use with one or more other cases) and cumulative (as part of a multi-case). Here are some questions to be answer if cases are comparative or cumulative, like: "What is the source of the other cases?" and "What role should the case play?" (Grandon, 2006).

Also, there is to determine the sequencing options for each possible business topic: complete or staged (naturally breaks into a series of stages). When is used a series of cases to address topics that are correlated and are better understand this way, there is also a problem with the complexity and multitude of issue to analyze. To resolve these problems we propose here the use of the affinity diagram and the matrix of correlations


The Affinity Diagram organizes a large number of ideas into their natural relationships using a team's creativity and intuition. It can be use when confronted with many facts or ideas in apparent chaos, when issues seem too large and complex to grasp (Tague, 2004). The purpose of applying this method is to get a structural presentation of issues. The diagram can resolve complex problems, with many facts to consider and so it fit our paper objective of analysis.

We want here to organize and correlate ideas, concepts and business problems that comes out from a set of case studies. We apply the affinity method at a group of 12 researchers after they were taught five cases in a apparently unimportant order, so that they should be objective.

Creating an Affinity Diagram suppose a relatively simply 5 step process (Balanced Scorecard Institute): 1--generate ideas, 2--display ideas, 3--sort ideas into groups, 4--create header cards, 5--draw finished diagram.

We present the finished diagram in figure 1. The issues discovered and sort into groups are presented in the following:

1. Support activity: 1.1. Management system: 1.1.1. Type of management system; 1.1.2. Development strategies; 1.1.3. Organisation system; 1.2. Human resources management: 1.2.1. Human resources strategies; 1.3. Technology: 1.3.1. Level of technology; 1.3.2. Investments in technology; 1.4. Supply channel: 1.4.1. Make or buy inputs.

2. Primary activities: 2.1. Logistics: 2.1.1. Type of logistic networks; 2.1.2. J.I.T. vs. stocks; 2.2. Production operations: 2.2.1. Complexity of production processes; 2.2.2. Flux/batch organisation; 2.2.3. Make-to-stock vs. make-to-order; 2.2.4. Vertical/horizontal integration level; 2.2.5. Flexibility; 2.3. Marketing and sales: 2.3.1. Market share; 2.3.2. Local vs. global market; 2.3.3. Adaptation to clients needs; 2.3.4. Sales trends; 2.3.5. Products diversity; 2.3.6. National and international presence; 2.3.7. Low-cost and diversification of products; 2.4. Services: 2.4.1. Services.

3. Strengths and weaknesses: 3.1. Success factors; 3.2. Competitive advantages.

4. Juridical/legally form: 4.1. Owners; 4.2. Nationality.

5. History: 5.1. Types of start-up; 5.2. Firm's size; 5.3. Firm's age; 5.4. Types of industry; 5.5. Organisational culture.


The first two groups (support and primary activities) are very much like the activities in the Porter's Value Chain model (Porter, 1985). Value Chain activities are not isolated from one another. One value chain activity often affects other ones. Linkages exist between primary activities and also between primary and support activities in order to create value. Thus we consider that our analysis is accurate (that because our study group know previously about Porter's model).

The last three groups come naturally when study a business case and helps better understand and correlate the cases.

We analyze finally the order of groups to be presented and discussed in a series of cases: it comes out that first it should be considered the last three groups (3, 4 and 5) and second the first two groups (1 and 2) to go to an in-depth analysis.


After developing the affinity diagram, we consider further a correlation analysis using a relationships matrix (Taucean & Tamasila, 2004) to point out and correlate the key issues from the five cases: C1 to C5 (see figure 2 and 3).



The symbols used in figure 2 represent correlation value: A = 1 (low correlation), O = 3 (medium correlation), * = 5 (high correlation). In this figure we have shown an example from one individual from brainstorming group. We present in figure 3 the results synthesis from the entire group of research.

The results show that correlations exist for each of the 5 cases with a relative medium value (from 2.31 to 3.31 out of 5). Also, we can see that the highest correlation value (4.50) is for pair C1-C2 and the lowest value (1.75) is for pairs C2-C5 and C3-C5. This may lead to the fact that the first two cases should be presented together (maybe in comparison) or one after another. Also C5 case is less valuable from correlation point of view and can be eventually excluded from the series (unless is the only one that present a particularly business topic). Thus the order of this series of cases can be: C1, C2, C4, C3 and C5.


The benefits of the case study teaching approach come out easily from our research. A set of cases often helps clarify the issues associated with a particular problem or problems. It can increase student's knowledge and experience on many subjects by dealing intensively with problems in each field.

Out of each case comes out important ideas and knowledge. Taken together, a series of cases should help develop key concepts that can be applied in specific managerial situations.

Correlation analysis can be made by using affinity diagram method and a relationship matrix, to point out and correlate the key issues from these cases. There are also other instruments that we can recommend to be used further in this matter (brainstorming, cause-and-effect diagram, QFD).


Corey, R.E. (1996). The use of cases in management education. Note no. 9-376-240, Harvard Business School, Boston

Grandon, G. (2006). Writing Case Studies Checklist, Informing Faculty, Vol. 1, No. 1, May 2006, pp 1-22, Available from:, Accessed: 2009-04-10 Porter, M.E. (1985). Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance, Free Press, ISBN 978-0684841465, New York

Tague, N.R. (2004). The Quality Toolbox, Second Edition,

ASQ Quality Press, pp. 96-99, ISBN 978-0873896399 Taucean, I.M. & Tamasila, M. (2004). Optimization of production decisions using relationship diagrams. Scientific Bulletin of "Politehnica" University of Timisoara, Transactions on Management. Engineering Economy. Transportation Engineering, Tom 49, pp 25-34, ISSN 1224-6050

*** (2009) Balanced Scorecard Institute, Affinity Diagram, in Handbook for Basic Process Improvement, Available from: affinity.pdf Accessed: 2009-04-10
COPYRIGHT 2009 DAAAM International Vienna
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Taucean, Ilie Mihai; Tamasila, Matei
Publication:Annals of DAAAM & Proceedings
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EUAU
Date:Jan 1, 2009
Previous Article:Residual life establishment of welded joints of construction steels.
Next Article:Temperature and speed influence on plastic deformation strength of high speed steel.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters