Well, well, well, well, well.
I must admit that whilst watching a rerun of The Finale episode of “The Office (U.S.)”, I was inspired to write this series of posts.
The first five words above were uttered by Kevin Malone when he meets his old manager, Dwight Schrute, for the first time after being fired from work for accounting mistakes.
But what does this post have to do with the price of eggs? Allow me to explain…
After marking many mock scripts over the years, it dawned on me that some students are still unclear about what is expected of them when they face a case study exam question. Perhaps it’s the time constraint, knowledge gaps, typing abilities, unknown expectations, etc. For whatever reason it may be, wouldn’t it be a great idea to find out what constitutes a good answer?
Hence, the 5 Wells of a Good Answer was formulated. (Note: Now you see the link back to the “well, well, well, well, well” phrase.)
So what are the 5 Wells? A good answer is….
- Well planned
- Well constructed
- Well informed/applied
- Well supported
- Well timed
I’m not re-inventing the wheel here as you’ve probably heard all these points before. Rather, I am reinforcing their importance.
Let’s tackle our first: Well planned.
Planning is essential to any case study exam. Think of putting together an answer as if you were building a house. Ensuring that you form a long-lasting sturdy abode, the first order of business is laying out a solid foundation. In a CIMA case study exam, this would mean doing the following:
- find the requirements of the question;
- think of some theories and models that you could use;
- work out some key points that you’d like to raise.
Because steps 2 and 3 are inter-linked, they are almost always done simultaneously.
Let’s try the above steps in an example.
I’ve tried to not overcomplicate the situation by focusing on only one requirement in a “simple-enough” example. There is also no need to refer back to a pre-seen material because below question does not relate to one. While this post will show you how I perform a basic planning exercise, you should know that active participation (meaning you try it!) is extremely encouraged.
Please read the following email from the boss.
Step 1 – find the requirements of the question
From above, the requirement can easily be identified as “what do you think of this proposal?” This meant that we would need to look at some of the ideas contained within the proposal. This is our direction. And we are off to start on our key points.
Step 2 & 3 – think of some theories/models and work out some key points
We are able to use any relevant theory as there is no outright mention of a particular theory or model in the question. This may be a good thing or a bad thing. Good if your technical knowledge base is broad and up to date, which means you’d be able to identify something in the scenario that will help you think of a theory. Bad if you’re suffering from knowledge gaps.
The above scenario alluded to the competitive environment and a proposed strategy. For me, this seems to call upon a SWOT analysis, wherein there is an emphasis on Opportunities and Threats. (Mind you, you can use any number of relevant environment/strategy theory since you are not tied to a specific one).
Some of the key points I’d consider discussing are:
- Threat = underperforming shops possibly caused by tough competition
- Threat = closing shops may lead to loss of brand visibility (reduced physical presence)
- Opportunity = selling online may prove successful if this is what customers want
- Threat/Opportunity = customers visiting shops less will make us less customer facing and focused, but more convenient perhaps
- Opportunity = offer of e-commerce and new software will provide technological advancement and boost our competitive advantage
So the key points don’t look like much right now, but we will need to address the second Well before it takes proper shape. Perhaps it is best to leave this as is for now. You are free to try your hand at the sample question and see how much more key points you can raise for discussion. I’m sure you will be able to find more.
I hope this has helped a bit. I shall see you next week for the next part of the exercise.
Well! One down, four to go.