ATD Blog

Not Another Case Study

Monday, August 25, 2014

I see it all the time—a good learning program that could be so much better if it incorporated a simple case study.

One thing I hear regarding why case studies are not used more in learning programs is that they’re too difficult to write. Some have told me that participants tend to get lost in them. Others say they take too long for participants to process, and time is of the essence when it comes to learning programs. Yet case studies, when written well, are one of the most powerful learning methods we have in our instructional design toolkit. And the reality is, it’s not that difficult to write a good study that’s just the right size and captures the attention of your participants.

So, how do you do it?

I’m always listening to what’s going on around me and looking for material for my workshops. Last week I was at my local hardware store. Yes, here I was again, ordering materials I knew nothing about, so that my husband could do the repair. We were once again fixing something in the house.


I entered the store and found my way to the lumber order-taker and put in my order for two 4x4 posts. The gentleman behind the counter quickly took my order and my money, and advised me where to go in the lumberyard to pick up my two posts. So I headed that way and there I stood for 15 minutes while a gentleman on a motorized pallet mover transported items around the lumberyard. I finally got his attention, gave him my receipt, and listened while he explained that what I needed was behind some pallets, and he would have to move them around for me to get my posts. So I said, “OK.”


Forty-five minutes later, I drove away with my posts. That got me thinking: What went wrong here? Why was the customer service of the lumber department so darn efficient inside the store and so inefficient outside? Why could this be happening? Is there a process missing? What could this hardware store do to guarantee that their customers do not wait 45 minutes to an hour for a product they just purchased? Has something like this happened to you?

There you have it: a relevant, current, happened-to-me case study. We simply have to look around us—the mechanics of putting the case study together is the easy part. 

That’s what we’ll talk about in our three 90-minute sessions on the Essentials of Developing Case Studies. Check it out! The next workshop is online beginning October 9, 2014.

About the Author

Barbara Greenstein, principal of Human Resource Prescriptions, is a performance improvement specialist providing proven and creative ways to improve human performance in the workplace. By identifying issues and opportunities for improvement, she helps organizations large and small meet their planned goals.

Barbara is highly regarded for her facilitation and instructional design skills. With over 20 years of experience in the training and development field, her mission is to help clients put the systems in place that will help them manage effectively in today's changing business environment while ensuring optimal performance and job satisfaction for all employees.

Prior to becoming an external consultant, Barbara's corporate experience included training and instructional design for Burger King Corporation, Pizza Hut, and Electronic Data Systems (EDS). She completed her undergraduate work in consumer affairs and management at Florida International University and received a master's degree in human resource development, as well as graduate certificates in instructional design and total quality management (TQM) from Marymount University.

Barbara is an adjunct professor for the master's program in human resources at Chapman University in San Diego. She has also served as a facilitator for the University of San Diego's master's program in executive leadership program. In addition, she is a Certified Performance Technologist (CPT), a certification awarded through the International Society of Performance Improvement (ISPI) and the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD). Barbara is past president of the San Diego chapter of ASTD and an active member of ISPI.

Be the first to comment
Sign In to Post a Comment
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.