Finding the Right Organization Design Case Study

In my work I'm often having to choose a case study to illustrate points or practice on during workshops. FInding the right case study for a public program or an internal program can be difficult. A client asked for guidance notes on this. So here they are. They're adapted from The Art and Craft of Case Writing, William Naumes and Margaret J Naumes Good sites for buying case studies from are: Harvard Business Review, ecch, and Ivey.

People coming to an organization design program find it helpful to work with real examples and case studies. If participants are all from one organization then consider using a recent case study from their own. But remember there are pros and cons to this – particularly people may have a point of view on how it was handled v how it should have been handled. If you want to base the case on your own organization anther approach is to outline an OD project that is being thought about but not yet initiated. Then people can work with planning how it could be. Below are other points to consider when selecting a case.

Communication medium
What is the best method for presenting the case? Written report, video, slide presentation, webinar? Know why you are choosing this method?

• Is there a hook that draws people in and that they can identify with e.g. a particular issue that resonates, a situation similar to one they may have experienced (or think that they may)?
• Does the case contain the key issues and points learning points that act as vehicles for the program or training? For organization design work it should encourage discussion about organizations as systems, and also the way the issue/situation was addressed, and or resolved (or not). It could be something like a departmental merger, and acquisition of another company, a new leader joining who wanted to 'shake things up' to improve performance, a decision to downsize or upsize, entering a new market, a strategic change of direction e.g. from niche product to commodity product, or a culture shift?
• Can the case be linked to organization design theories and models? i.e. if we worked through it could it follow the OD methodology?

• Is there sufficient information for participants to work with it effectively e.g. facts, figures, context? How much will they have to assume or guess (or how familiar are they with the case)? NOTE: It is good to have some familiarity but if course participants were heavily involved or negatively impacted by the situation they may not be able to see it from a different perspective or suspend judgment on it.
• Is there more information than is needed? If so, why is it there – to add interesting details, to lend realistic complexity? (NOTE: you need to know why the detail is there).
• Are there personalities in the case that the participants can identify? (NOTE: is this ok in your situation?)
• Is the material organized in a logical way?
• Is the timing of events in the case clear?
• Does it need additional explanatory material like annual accounts?

• Is the case presented in the past tense (except for direct quotes)? NOTE: it is easier for participants to work with something in the recent past than something that is currently ongoing in their organization.
• Is the tone objective (i.e. no value judgments such as 'obviously', 'excellent manager', etc. unless they are in direct quotes)?