Newsletter – August, 2013

On My Mind

The Case Study approach can be useful during strategic improvement initiatives especially if there is an absence of baseline performance data or if the targeted process is not standardized. It involves selecting and analyzing a small number of insight-stimulating cases. You use judgment sampling to select the cases if you are trying to maximize acquired knowledge about some phenomenon of interest. For example, you might select a “successful” case and a “not so successful” case to shed light on the process and current performance. The “Max-Mix” strategy often works well to generate knowledge. Here you are attempting to maximize the mix of cases. Select the cases such that you have variation on as many relevant variables as is feasible. I once conducted a study involving six organizations to investigate horizontal interaction during strategic improvement initiatives. I used my judgment to carefully select organizations that I believed would help me maximize the knowledge gained on my research topic. There were organizations of different sizes; manufacturing and service organizations; public and privately-held organizations; for-profit and not-for-private organizations; and organizations located on the West Coast, Midwest, and East Coast of the United States. Once the cases are selected, then you collect data using surveys, interviews, focus groups, and/or observation techniques. Within-case analyses might lead to the identification of idiosyncratic traits and changes over time. Cross-case analyses can be used to identify similarities and differences across the cases and emergent themes. One drawback of the Case Study approach is that you cannot automatically generalize the findings from your cases to an entire population. However, your findings are strengthened if they “hold” across all of the variables and variable levels in your sample of cases. The classic book on the Case Study approach was written by Robert K. Yin and is titled, Case Study Research: Design & Methods. The 5th edition was just published.

Interesting Stories

Teamwork can be important outside of sports and save lives in some cases. Army Staff Sergeant Ty Carter will soon receive a Medal of Honor for his heroic efforts in Afghanistan. According to Rachel La Corte of the Associated Press, “Carter, 33, will be recognized at the White House on Aug. 26 for killing enemy troops, resupplying ammunition to U.S. fighters, rendering first aid and risking his own life to save an injured soldier pinned down by enemy fire.” In the same article, Staff Sergeant Carter was quoted as saying, “I might not be here today to speak to you … That day we were fighting as one team in one fight.” On another note, some people just seem to have a flair for the dramatic. Derek Jeter, the Captain of the New York Yankees Major League Baseball team, hit a home run on July 28 on the first pitch he saw after coming back from the Disabled List.

Company News

There is still time to register for the Fifth Annual Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference to be held September 17, 2013. The purpose of the conference is to assemble experts from various types of organizations in a beautiful setting to learn with each other how to improve organizations from a strategic perspective. The venue is the BayView Event Center in Excelsior, Minnesota. The brochure can be accessed by selecting the ANNUAL CONFERENCE button on the home page.

Intriguing Reads

Organizational strategy has been viewed from many perspectives including military history, industrial organization economics, evolutionary biology, and game theory. The book titled, The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist’s Guide to Success in Business and Life by Dixit and Nalebuff, is an excellent source for learning about organizational strategy from a game theory perspective. It contains several useful strategy frameworks and illustrative examples.