Management and the Technology Professional

Suggestions for writing case study responses

Take a rigorous and disciplined approach towards scenario analysis. This is reflected in the following quote from Professor Malcolm P. McNair at the Harvard Business School:

"William James, a great teacher of psychology and philosophy at Harvard during the early years of this century, made the useful distinction between people who are tough-minded and people who are tender-minded. These terms have nothing to do with levels of ethical conduct; the toughness referred to is toughness of the intellectual apparatus, toughness of the spirit, not toughness of the heart. Essentially, it is the attitude and the qualities and the training that enable one to seize on facts and make these facts a basis for intelligent, courageous action. The tough-minded have a zest for tackling hard problems. They dare to grapple with the unfamiliar and wrest useful truth from stubborn new facts. They are not dismayed by change for they know that change at an accelerated tempo is the pattern of living, the only pattern on which successful action can be based. Above all, the tough-minded do not wall themselves in with comfortable illusions. They do not rely on the easy precepts of tradition or on mere conformity to regulations. They know that the answers are not in the book."

When conducting your analysis and writing your response, keep in mind the following checklist in order of importance, starting with the most important criterion first:

  1. Compelling, convincing and creative action or decision
  2. Compelling, convincing and relevant personal reflection
  3. Anticipation of consequences and application of relevant principles or techniques
  4. Organization of content to support the action or decision
  5. Relevance and quality of supporting information
  6. Knowledge of possible actions and events

Be careful about the difference between a general action and a specific action. Use a specific action to indicate or hint at your:

For example, question 3 from the 2007/8 exam paper is: "As the IBM engineer, would you choose to develop the device driver software entirely on your own or use the open source software?"

  1. A valid, but basic answer is: "I would choose to develop the device driver software entirely on my own". This answer does not indicate any further knowledge or analysis.
  2. Another answer might be: "I would choose to develop the device driver software because the GPL license terms would create a legal conflict. This conflict would not have been present if we could have found similar software that used a BSD license." This answer indicates further knowledge of a key difference between the GPL and BSD licensing terms. Although the question did not directly ask about knowledge of other licensing terms, bringing that knowledge into the answer in a relevant way provides support for your action.
  3. Another answer might be: "Reluctantly, I would choose to develop the device driver software on my own. In the past, I had worked on a product which required the development of a USB device driver. Although it was a small part of the complete product, it ended up being the critical path item for the whole product development process because it was very difficult to design an effective test plan for all the possible hardware configurations. At the start of this project, I would seek out help from colleagues who have experience with developing device driver software to reduce my risks." This answer brings in personal reflection to make the answer more realistic. This is in fact my actual experience, it is not made up.
  4. Another answer might be: "I would use the open source software with the GPL license, but, propose to the product manager that the device driver software be packaged separately from the BladeCenter QS20 product. The reason for the separation is so that the GPL license would only apply to the device driver software and not the BladeCenter product. IBM can still sell the BladeCenter product and include the finished device driver software as a convenience for their customers. Although the device driver for the BladeCenter would be available to the public with the GPL license, it would be of limited use without actually owning a BladeCenter server." This approach would increase the success of the product and creatively resolve the legal conflict with the license restrictions.

Creative actions are smart actions.

Unconventional or different actions are not automatically the same as creative actions.

Use in your writing:

Personal reflection can be applied to a variety of aspects involving decision and risk analysis. Use of relevant personal reflection makes an action or decision more realistic and more compelling. The examples below show that there are many opportunities to include personal experience without making up a story.

For example, question 3 from the 2007/8 exam paper is: "As the IBM engineer, would you choose to develop the device driver software entirely on your own or use the open source software?"

Avoid these practices: