Recognize the causes of performance problems in a hospitality operation

Assignment and Evaluation Descriptions

Assignment 2: Case Analysis and Write-up (Individual)

This assignment is aimed at sharpening your ability to recognize the causes of performance problems in a hospitality operation. You will identify the aspects of the strategic planning process that contributed to these problems and develop strategies for addressing the problems that exist. Estimated word count: 1,500

Overview

Cases are an excellent method of analyzing the effectiveness of past strategic decisions, identifying gaps or problems and recommending solutions. During the semester, we will discuss a hotel-related case study in class. In addition to classroom discussion, you will analyze the case individually and hand in as a written case write-up.

Case Synopsis

[A new hospitality industry case study will be selected for this term’s class; you will be provided with the details of the case study on the day of Session #6.]

Case Preparation

While there is no one definitive “Case Method” or approach, there are common steps that most approaches recommend to be followed in tackling a case study. It is inevitable that different Instructors will tell you to do things differently, this is part of life and will also be part of working for others. This variety is beneficial since it will show you different ways of approaching decision-making.

When you are doing the detailed reading of the case study, look for the following sections:

1. Opening paragraph: introduces the situation

2. Background information: industry, organization, products, history, competition, financial information, and anything else of significance

3. Specific (functional) area of interest: strategic planning, marketing, finance, operations, human resources, or integrated

4. The specific problem(s) or decision(s) to be made

5. Alternatives open to the decision-maker, which may or may not be stated in the case

6. Conclusion: sets up the task, any constraints or limitations, and the urgency of the situation

Most, but not all, case studies will follow this format. The purpose here is to thoroughly understand the situation and the decisions that will need to be made. Take your time, make notes, and keep focused on your objectives.

Your case writes up should summarize the following steps:

1. Defining the issue(s)

2. Analyzing the case data

3. Generating alternatives

4. Selecting decision criteria

5. Analyzing and evaluating alternatives

6. Selecting the preferred alternative

Defining the issue(s)/Problem Statement

1. What appears to be the problem(s) here?

2. How do I know that this is a problem? Note that by asking this question, you will be helping to differentiate the symptoms of the problem from the problem itself. Example: while declining sales or unhappy employees are a problem for most companies, they are, in fact, symptoms of underlying issues that need to be addressed.

Analyzing Case Data

1. Why or how did these issues arise? You are trying to determine cause and effect for the problems identified. You cannot solve a problem that you cannot determine the cause of! It may be helpful to think of the organization in question as consisting of the following components:

1. resources, such as materials, equipment, or supplies, and

2. people who transform these resources using

3. processes, which creates something of greater value.

2. Now, where are the problems being caused within this framework, and why?

1. Who is affected most by these issues? You are trying to identify who are the relevant stakeholders to the situation, and who will be affected by the decisions to be made.

1. What are the constraints and opportunities implicit to this situation? It is very rare that resources are not a constraint, and allocations must be made on the assumption that not enough will be available to please everyone.

1. What do the numbers tell you?

You need to take a look at the numbers given in the case study and make a judgement as to their relevance to the problem identified. Not all numbers will be immediately useful or relevant, but you need to be careful not to overlook anything. When deciding to analyze numbers, keep in mind why you are doing it, and what you intend to do with the result. Use common sense and comparisons to industry standards when making judgements as to the meaning of your answers to avoid jumping to conclusions.

Generating Alternatives

This section deals with different ways in which the problem can be resolved. Typically, there are many (the joke is at least three), and being creative at this stage helps. Things to remember at this stage are:

1. Be realistic! While you might be able to find a dozen alternatives, keep in mind that they should be realistic and fit within the constraints of the situation.

2. The alternatives should be mutually exclusive; that is, they cannot happen at the same time.

3. Not making a decision pending further investigation is not an acceptable decision for any case study that you will analyze. A manager can always delay making a decision to gather more information, which is not managing at all! The whole point of this exercise is to learn how to make good decisions, and having imperfect information is standard for most business decisions, not the exception.

4. Doing nothing as in not changing your strategy can be a viable alternative, provided it is being recommended for the right reasons, as will be discussed below.

5. Avoid the meat sandwich method of providing only two other clearly undesirable alternatives to make one reasonable alternative look better by comparison. This will be painfully obvious to the reader and shows laziness on your part in not being able to come up with more than one decent alternative.

Key Decision Criteria

A critical concept to understand, they answer the question of how you are going to decide which alternative is the best one to choose. Other than choosing randomly, we will always employ some criteria in making any decision. Think about the last time that you make a purchase decision for an article of clothing. Why did you choose the article that you did?

Key decision criteria should be brief, preferably in point form, such as:

1. improve (or at least maintain) profitability,

2. increase sales, market share, or return on investment,

3. maintain customer satisfaction, corporate image,

4. be consistent with the organizational mission or strategy,

5. within our present (or future) resources and capabilities,

6. within acceptable risk parameters,

7. ease or speed of implementation,

8. employee morale, safety, or turnover,

9. retain flexibility, and/or

10. minimize environmental impact.

Evaluation of Alternatives

If you have done the above correctly, this should be straightforward. You measure the alternatives against each key decision criteria. Often you can set up a simple table with key decision criteria as columns and alternatives as rows, and write this section based on the table. Each alternative must be compared to each criterion and its suitability ranked in some way, such as met/not met, or in relation to the other alternatives, such as better than, or highest. This will be important to select an alternative. Another method that can be used is to list the advantages and disadvantages (pros/cons) of each alternative and then discussing the short- and long-term implications of choosing each. Note that this implies that you have already predicted the most likely outcome of each of the alternatives. Some students find it helpful to consider three different levels of outcome, such as best, worst, and most likely, as another way of evaluating alternatives.

Recommendation(s)

You must have one! Business people are decision-makers; this is your opportunity to practice making decisions. Give a justification for your decision (use the KDC’s). Check to make sure that it is one (and only one) of your Alternatives and that it does resolve what you defined as the Problem.

Structure of the Written Report

While different Instructors will require different formats for case reports, but they should all have roughly the same general content. For this course, the report should have the following sections (1-6) in this order:

1. Title page – title, your name, our course name/#, date, running header, and word count.

2. Problem (Issue) statement – What is (are) the problem(s) that require attention?

3. Data analysis – discuss why these problems occurred.

4. Alternatives analysis – what alternative option(s) do you see available?

5. Identify any key decision criteria – if several options exist – how are you going to decide between different solutions?

6. Recommendations.

Optional Sections

· Action and Implementation Plan (not always needed – especially in short cases – but good value-added).

· Exhibits (again, only if needed).

Please see the Schedule for the assignment due date.

Technical Specifications 

· Correct sections (1-6) used in the report, in order.

· Students will incorporate best practices from course theory and required readings in their analysis.

· 3 additional external sources (not including the readings) are also required.

· APA 6th edition format and writing style

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