Friday, February 19, 2010

Why the Case Method Works?

At SSE, I'm taking a course in Leadership that is segregated into three modules - leadership, decision making and professional service management. I'll admit the decision making module has lacked applicability to the business world. However, the professional services management module has been very interesting and informative.

Prior to business school, I worked in a PSF (professional services firm) and after school, I'm set to join another PSF in a different realm. So maybe this is why I'm interested. Part of the module included various assignments that essentially add up to reading Managing the Professional Service Firm by David Maister in its entirety. Some of the information seems like common sense to me though I'd likely have difficulty articulating it on my own.

One of the anecdotes in the book regarding motivation struck a chord. The author was describing how to achieve excellence in client service. He compared this to losing weight - "They know and want the goal, they believe it is worth the effort, they know what to do - but, like all human beings, they are very bad at incurring short-term discomfort to achieve a long-term goal. People are terrific at postponing diets. Do they feel guilty? You betcha! Are they likely to change? Not unless they're forced to!" He proceeds to explain that guilt alone doesn't change people, but the right degree of embarrassment does. Then he gives the example of having your weight announced to tell a group of people, the same people every week. May create some self-discipline and motivation, huh? Finally in order to achieve excellence his opinion is that a system must be designed that doesn't simply leave individuals to their best intentions.

I connect this to the case method because in undergrad, I did what it took to get decent grades. Be it cramming for a final or pulling an all nighter to finish a paper I had a month to write. I think each of us understands the pitfalls of procrastination and the rewards of doing a little work daily instead of leaving it until the last minute. Yet, until the system changed for me, a la the case method, I didn't have the motivation for the daily work. There's enough risk of embarrassment that while at times people gamble that they won't be the 1 in 67 that is cold called, for the most part, work is done and the entire class is better off for it. In contrast, I've found myself reverting to bad habits at SSE. While I could blame it on the bookstore, I should be finished with Maister's book instead of on page 200. In my opinion, the case method is an incredible system that helps elevate the learning potential of the students. Without Darden I never would have realized what I was missing.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry


david said...

I'm glad you liked the anecdote. Naturally, I'm delighted to hear that Darden is still using my material. Who's your professor for the Leadership course?

JulyDream said...

@david - I'm actually studying abroad at the Stockholm School of Economics, where Andreas Werr is my professor teaching Leadership in Professional Service Firms. I'm not sure for which classes your material is used at Darden. Thank you for stopping by!! :)