A case is a written description of an organization (or any of its parts) covering all or some of its aspects for a certain period of time. It sets forth the events and organizational circumstances surrounding a particular managerial situation. Most cases contain information about the organization’s history, its internal operations and its external environment. Though there is no standard order of presentation, many cases include information about the industry, the competitive conditions, the products and markets, the physical facilities, the work climate, the skills and personality of managers, the organizational structure, together with the financial and quantitative data relating to production, marketing, personnel, and so forth. Cases may relate to profit seeking government or public service organizations. Despite its known deficiencies, the case method is widely used by universities and professional institutes throughout the world, especially for imparting knowledge and developing skills in the area of corporate strategy or strategic management. A good case places students in a realistic situation where they can practice making decisions.
Though a case may contain plenty of information, in some cases running into several pages, there is no such thing as a truly complete case. Students often say (or complain) that they have too little information in the case. While this may be true, it should be appreciated that, many a time, managers in the real world too have information which can hardly be described as sufficient. In fact, a manager has far less opportunity for study and interaction with others as a student has. The managers cannot afford to delay making decisions until they are satisfied with the quality and quantity of available information. Such a time, perhaps, may never arrive. Like a real world manager, a student of corporate strategy must make a decision, making best use of whatever information is available and making assumptions about whatever is unknown or is not available.
Case study is often termed a method, a technique, an approach to social reality and a mode of organizing data in terms of some chosen units. According to Pauline V. Young, a fairly exhaustive study of a person or group is called a life or case history. In this sense, a comprehensive study of a social unit is that a person, a group, a social institution, a district or a community, is called a case study. Expressed somewhat differently, it is an approach which views any social unit as a whole. This approach includes the development of a unit, which may be a person or a family or other social group, a set of relationships or processes or even an entire culture. Case study is, thus, a technique which considers all pertinent aspects of a situation employing as the unit of study. It tries to understand the interplay of various complex variables and considers the extension of similar logic to the total phenomena.