“If I gain a wholistic understanding of why projects succeed and fail, then I can take measures to encourage success, but I’m not sure of how to conduct this kind of investigation.”
I don’t know. Living out with the wild creatures doesn’t seem like my cup of tea. But I’m glad someone is doing it. My wife and I love watching the films, but don’t need the dirty and danger part. It’s a good thing that while studying Integrated PM you rarely need to live with the Lions. Can you imagine hiding behind a rock or bush building a case study for someone?
The case and field study method is used to intensively study the background, status, and cultural interactions of a given business unit: an individual, project team, program, or enterprise.
- Many of my clients have benefited from a study of past projects to define a set of common project life-cycle stages.
- An in-depth study of an individual working in a specific job role who either excels above others, or is consistently a low performer to explain the anomalies.
- An intensive study of a "project team" culture and communication styles in a business unit.
- A study of projects within a portfolio examining the interconnections of state variables and objective dependencies.
Characteristics: Case studies are in-depth investigations of a given business unit resulting in a complete, well-organized picture of that unit. Depending upon the purpose, the scope of the study may encompass an entire project life cycle or only a selected segment; it may concentrate upon specific factors or take in the totality of elements and events.
Compared to a survey study which tends to examine a small number of variables across a large sample of units, the case study tends to examine a small number of units across a large number of variables and conditions.
Strengths: Case studies are particularly useful as background information for planning major capital projects and programs. Because they are intensive, they bring to light the important variables, processes, and interactions that deserve more extensive attention. They are a part of strategic planning, may pioneer new ground, and often are the source of fruitful hypotheses for further projects. Case study data provide useful anecdotes or examples to illustrate more generalized statistical findings.
Weaknesses: Because of their narrow focus on a few business units, case studies are limited in their representativeness. They do not allow valid generalizations to the enterprise or beyond where they came until the appropriate follow-up research is accomplished, focusing on specific hypotheses and using proper sampling methods.
Case studies are particularly vulnerable to subjective biases. The case itself may be selected because of it's dramatic, rather than typical, attributes; or because it neatly fits the researcher’s preconceptions. To the extent selective judgments rule certain data in or out, or assign a high or low value to their significance, or place them in one context rather than another, subjective interpretation is influencing the outcome.
- State the objectives. What is the unit of study and what characteristics, relationships, and processes will direct the investigation?
- Design the approach. How will the units be selected? What sources of data are available?
- What data collection methods will be used?
- Collect the data.
- Organize the information to form a coherent, well-integrated reconstruction of the unit being studied.
- Report the results and discuss their significance.
The case study is a perfect launching point to provide focus in further studies and for establishing internal common grounds in programs.