The case-study method is an effective tool in business education. It demonstrates practical business issues and the complexities of the business world with real-life examples. What happens when a case proves compelling in the classroom but then its protagonist receives public criticism for other activities?
Edward Norris had been an assistant commissioner of police in New York City and took a comparable job in the Baltimore Police Department, which faced a slew of problems ranging from dysfunctional organizational culture to deep-rooted crime. Norris addressed these problems successfully, and the case based on his story achieved the kind of robust classroom discussions that helped students master how to form and execute a plan of action when dealing with an extensive list of serious issues and instituting organizational change initiatives.
When Norris came under attack and spent time incarcerated, proponents insisted he was, nonetheless, the best commissioner Baltimore had ever had, while critics questioned everything about his tenure. Criticism also came from students of the case, who wondered if the drama called into question Norris’ change efforts.
Read more about how and why faculty continued teaching the Edward Norris and the Baltimore Police Department case in Gerry Yemen and Professor James G. Clawson’s “When Effective Cases Contain Contradictions and Paradoxes,” in the Darden School of Business /Washington Post “Case in Point” series.