Harvard MBAs: Here’s How Many Cases They Read in Two Years

Harvard Business School

Harvard MBAs: Here’s How Many Cases They Read in Two Years

Harvard Business School is famous for its case study method. The teaching style challenges students to analyze and solve real-world business problems while collaborating with a diverse group of classmates.

“It’s an intense discussion format and one that requires students to communicate with sensitivity about potentially challenging topics,” Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting, says. “This immersive learning experience provides valuable insights into the thorny issues facing today’s corporate culture.”

Over their two years at B-school, HBS students read a whopping 500 cases—with topics ranging from finance to sustainability. Students of HBS’ MBA Class of 2023 recently sat down with Harvard’s MBA Voices and highlighted some of their favorite cases.


For Furman Haynes (MBA 2023), the case that made the biggest impact was the “QuikTrip” case, which features a CEO trying to find the right growth strategy to expand his chain of convenience stores.

Haynes and his classmates discussed an operating model that incorporated new measures, such as efficient scheduling, cross-training initiatives, and optimal store layouts. In turn, employees could focus more on providing a better customer experience for QuikTrip customers.

“This led to increased profits, a re-investment in their workers, and higher employee retention when compared to competitors,” Haynes says. “It was fun to find a virtuous cycle within a business model that has nothing to do with the network effects of a tech platform.”

Haynes says the case highlighted the importance of focusing on businesses that employ frontline workers.

“These companies often use operating models that fail to meet the needs of the employee, whether that be because of unpredictable scheduling, zero cross-training, or unsustainable job design,” he adds. “These organizations achieve short-term financial success but long-term it results in hiring and retainment crises.”


In the case study of “Erik Peterson (A),” students discuss the problems that a recent MBA grad faces when he joins a company and has a difficult time managing people.

Kevin Huang (MD/MBA 2023) says the case was the most impactful for him because it highlighted the importance of interpersonal skills and working well with others.

“A lot of us are trained to be individual contributors from a young age,” Huang says. “Prior to coming to HBS I focused on my individual performance, my test scores, and how well I did in school. The Peterson case made me realize that career success from a managerial perspective is less about individual contribution and performance and more about team-based collaboration.”

Huang himself came to HBS thinking his education would be in hard skills, such as accounting and finance. But if business school has taught Huang anything, it’s the value of building interpersonal skills and collaboration.

“I attribute Peterson’s failures to his individual contributor mindset and it’s something that I think would have gone differently had he switched his mindset prior to stepping into a managerial role,” he says. “The case represented a fundamental switch in terms of how I think about myself as a leader in my career for the rest of my life.”

Sources: Harvard Business School, Stacy Blackman Consulting

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