The operational system is comprised of processes and associated functioning elements (e.g., plant, parts, people, partners, policies/practices) that transform inputs into outputs. While most people think of factories (or even hospitals!) when they think of “operations,” delivering customer value through operations is much broader and more general. In fact, every organization in every industry uses operations-based principles to plan, control or improve their business processes. Cultivating and leveraging operational excellence through efficient and effective operations is crucial to create and sustain a competitive advantage.
Consider a firm such as Dell Inc., which utilizes parts, people and customer information as inputs to produce individually configured computers as outputs. To accomplish this, a defined sequence of operating practices, such as order taking, parts insertion, soldering, assembly, and packaging, are carried out. Moreover, the operations function is not limited to manufacturing goods, but also encompasses the creation and delivery of services. For example, Manulife Financial uses process activities to identify clients, gather needed information, and write life insurance policies, along with many other financial products. Each service delivery process can be studied and improved using operations-based principles.
Our primary interest here is to identify and understand how the efficient and effective management of all operational efforts within the firm contributes to realizing value. Tactical decisions such as operational system planning and control are the basis for addressing broader managerial concerns such as quality and supply management. Collectively, these must contribute to an overarching operations strategy that should be aligned with the firm’s business strategy to deliver a clear, distinctive competitive advantage.
This Operations course has three related objectives. The first objective is to contribute to your general management understanding through exposure to fundamental operations management issues. By the end of this operations segment of Ivey Essentials, you should be able to:
- Employ appropriate operations tools, concepts, and analyses;
- Identify by name and function the major components of an operational system;
- Identify, define, analyze and propose feasible solutions to operations-based problems;
- Analyze the important quantitative and qualitative factors in specific operating situations and make appropriate trade-offs between them;
- Differentiate between critical and non-critical, and short- and long-term; recognize the pros and cons of operations-based solutions in practical situations. In short, develop informed judgments regarding operations system decisions; and,
- Formulate an operations strategy consistent with an overall business strategy while taking into consideration the cross-enterprise objectives related financial, marketing, and personnel.
The second objective contributes to Ivey’s mission of cultivating critical thinkers and problem solvers. You should significantly improve your abilities in the following areas:
- Discover and clearly define the problem(s);
- State and analyze the causal sequence of circumstances that may be contributing to such problems;
- Generate and critically evaluate a series of plausible alternatives for resolving these problems;
- Decide which alternative or combination of alternatives is the “best”; and,
- Develop an implementation program and action plan that provides the highest probability of resolving the identified problem(s) and contributes effectively to the organizational objectives and strategy.
The third objective is to dispel the myths surrounding operations and its associated technologies. During your business career you might not be directly responsible for managing an operational system, but you will deal with those who are. For example, consultants and investment bankers, while not directly working on a daily basis on the shop floor or service centre, are concerned with assessing the present, future or potential value of an organization’s operational system. In this regard, this course will assist you in developing the following abilities:
- Discuss problems, concerns or issues with operations and technical experts; Solve operational problems within your own jurisdiction;
- Identify the operations skills required in the people you must rely upon for assistance; and,
- Evaluate the impact of actions taken by operations for other business disciplines / functions of the organization and vice versa.