May 2nd, 2007 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

I have read my last Harvard Business School case.  Hooray!  Somehow it was fitting that a few hours before the class Professor Kirsch emailed us to let us know we wouldn’t be discussing it due to all of the other things we would be covering in class. 

If you’re unfamiliar with Harvard cases, they are one of the primary tools used to teach business school students around the world.  They all have a fairly similar structure, consisting of about twelve pages of text and about ten pages of exhibits.  The goal is to provide as complete a package as possible with all of the background information necessary to inspire a classroom discussion.  The length of the discussion varies from professor to professor and in my experience has ranged from twenty minutes to six hours.  The latter was pretty brutal especially considering that it took place in class after we turned in our analysis of the same case, which we’d been working on for two weeks.  That’s called doing a case to death.

A common characteristic of the cases is the human content that is provided as a frame around the usually dry background material.  The authors must have some instruction to put in material that the reader can relate to on a personal level.  It usually starts something like this:

Bob “Brownie” Macmillan (HBS 96), the chief marketing officer of Shady Biz Graphics, had spent most of his Saturday afternoon scouring the porcelain toilet bowls in his 50s era ranch home.  He found cleaning rust stains to be just the kind of menial labor that he needed to take his mind off his troubles.  In two days, he was scheduled to present a report to the board of directors regarding the butt whooping that Shady Biz had been handed over the past six months by its main competitor, Granata Sclerata Design.  Bob’s team had spent most of the last month coming up with a bold new marketing approach that centered on the Shady Biz mascot, Trenchcoat Timmy.  The new trade dress had shown a high level of appeal in focus groups, but was it the right approach?  If the board was unhappy with Bob’s approach, he knew he’d have a lot more time to spend cleaning commodes in the next few months.

Needless to say – I am so glad to be done with case analysis.