5 Reasons Your Team Should Use Case Studies

Several years ago, the team I lead at LifeWay started using case studies to learn, adjust, and grow. The idea did not originate with the team or me. Plenty of others use this approach to learn and hone critical thinking skills. For example, Harvard famously uses a “case study approach” in their MBA programs.

We often assign a case study when something does not go as planned, when we have failed to execute as we had hoped. We also assign a case study when something goes so incredibly right that we want to crystalize it in the culture and spread it to other teams. The case study typically contains (1) an executive summary of what took place, (2) recommendations for the future, and (3) a thorough chronicling of what went well/wrong. One point person is assigned to lead the case study, coordinate the analysis, and report back to the team.

No, you cannot see our case studies. Some of them are painful reminders that we are still works in progress. We desperately long to serve the Church well but do not do as well as we would like at times. Some of them are celebrations, but they are loaded with proprietary information, so I cannot share them. But here are five reasons I use case studies with the team I lead:

1. To spread excellence.

To crystalize a value, the value must be celebrated. Case studies from one team on something that has gone incredibly well can inspire other teams. Though the work from each team varies, there are often transferrable principles that a case study can capture.

2. To learn together.

Case studies help leaders learn and leadership teams learn together. Leaders who stop learning will one day stop leading.

3. To engage in healthy self-evaluation.

Instead of reading about some other organization in some other context, you are evaluating your own. Instead of evaluating every other organization, it is wise to evaluate your own.

4. To repeat what should be repeated.

A case study helps the team capture not only the great result but also the decisions and actions that led to the great result. It is not enough to say, “Let’s repeat this great result.” Leaders must understand what led to the great results so the actions may be repeated.

5. To adjust what should not be repeated.

When things go wrong, there are typically elevated emotions and disappointment. While yelling about mistakes may make a leader feel better, the outburst will do little to ensure the mistakes are not repeated. A case study can move analysis of the problem from the emotional to the logical, where processes and systems can be evaluated.

And no, you still cannot see our case studies.