Editor's letter

Strategy & Leadership

ISSN: 1087-8572

Article publication date: 7 March 2008



Randall, R.M. (2008), "Editor's letter", Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 36 No. 2. https://doi.org/10.1108/sl.2008.26136baa.001



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Editor's letter

All managers can greatly benefit from reading thoroughly reported cases describing strategic initiatives and strategic-management tools and techniques in practice. This is because many of the innovative tools we report on in Strategy & Leadership are experimental, so managers need to know under what conditions they are appropriate, how they work in practice, how difficult they are to implement, and what their short- and longer-term results might be. These are insights every manager wants when considering the adoption of innovative management practices.

So why are there so few hard-hitting cases that supply in-depth analysis based on firsthand observation?

In fact, each segment of the strategic-management-advice industry – academia, business newsmagazines, consulting firms – has a problem delivering the kinds of cases that would most benefit their audience. There are specific reasons why it is so difficult to get anyone to allocate the resources needed – or have the courage – to produce ground-breaking, useful cases.

  • Business newsmagazines: Good case studies require a commitment of trained talent and time; they can’t just be patched together from newspaper clippings and a phone call or two. Business news organizations with expensive talent – such as Fortune and Business Week – have decided that they can get more return on their reporters’ time and talent from sexy stories of corporate chicanery than from covering a slowly evolving “how-to” process of innovative management practices. They need to see “how-to” cases as their most valuable offerings, well worthy of the investment.

  • Academics: Most B-schools won’t give tenure-track faculty credit for writing case studies, a policy that should be re-examined. Tenure committees need to reward case-study writers for investigative, research-based cases, not ones that are the sum of a lot of news clippings. A good case study requires unearthing and framing issues that real executives are grappling with.Another constraint is that corporations often require academics to sign confidentiality agreements before they will give them access to corporate leaders who can provide an insider’s perspective. These agreements, and hope of continued access, keep some academics from publishing cases that corporations consider unflattering and they may prevent cases that are fully honest from seeing the light of day. Academics need to maintain their journalistic independence. To do so, it may sometimes be necessary to publish a case using a fictitious name for the company and its mentioned officers.

  • Consultants: Because of their relationship to clients and the legal jeopardy that results from their access to proprietary data and insider information, most consultants are not in a position to write unvarnished case studies. As a consequence, many consultant-written cases are merely carefully sanitized puff pieces designed to attract clients. As an alternative, consultants could hire respected academics and talented business journalists to write research-based case studies useful to practitioners; doing so would, better serve their promotional needs.

As a result of these and other practices, managers seldom get to read about what actually happens when the theories of the great management gurus collide with reality or when hardworking consultants struggle to help companies implement innovative strategies. It’s everyone’s loss.

Strategy & Leadership continually searches for insightful case studies of strategic management tools and processes in practice, especially those by corporate managers. We hope that more academics seeking tenure will write and send us their solved, research-based cases for consideration by our distinguished peer review team of veteran top strategic managers and senior academics. We look forward to sharing the cases they select for publication with our readers.

Robert M. Randall Editor

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