The Case Method at the Harvard Business School: Papers by Present and Past Members of the Faculty and Staff

By Malcolm P. McNair | Go to book overview

A logical extension of the idea that cases may be of interest to business executives as well as to students envisions the possible use of cases in leadership training programs in industry. In the next paper,* A. Zaleznik looks at some of the problems involved in this kind of educational activity as conducted by conventional methods and speculates on the feasibility of a case approach.


The Possibilities of the Case Method in Supervisory and Executive Development in Industry

A. ZALEZNIK

If the generation of businessmen of the late 19th century could observe today's industrial society, they would undoubtedly marvel at our technical achievement. They would, however, be even more astounded at all the talk, plans, and programs associated with the idea of "improving human relations" in industry. Not the least source of their amazement would be the "back to school" movement. Business management today is much concerned with supervisory and executive development. Executives are leaving their jobs to return to school, and schools are being established within companies for continuing in-plant training of supervisors and executives.

Many varieties of training programs are to be found: in economics, in technical subjects, in company policies, and, of course, in human relations. Although problems exist in these first three types of training programs, the last one mentioned--training in human relations--appears to present the widest range of challenging possibilities and controversial problems.

Human relations training programs seem to encompass many topics. They may include courses in psychology which deal with the definition of terms and the identification of so-called characteristics of individual behavior. Other courses teach "principles of supervision" and attempt to tell supervisors how to behave in certain situations. For instance, in connection with disciplinary problems, the supervisor is told never to reprimand a subordinate in public: "Always call the subordinate into your office and issue the reprimand privately." Still other courses are based on the "pep talk." The intention here is to stimulate the trainees to go back and do a "real" job for the company. Executives and supervisors are lectured to, they are conferred with, and they engage in case discussions and role playing.

____________________
*
The material is adapted from A. Zaleznik, Foreman Training in a Growing Enterprise ( Boston: Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, Division of Research, 1951).

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