Gal Raz, Associate Professor, Operations Management and Sustainability (with Emma Coelho, HBA ’21)
Large-scale testing was an essential part of COVID-19 control at the pandemic’s onset, but the ability to execute was influenced by issues such as government mandates and shortages of labour, supplies, and expertise.
Gal Raz and Emma Coelho’s case on the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority’s COVID-19 response explores the fundamental operations problem of capacity management and the impact on society in light of multiple challenges and perspectives. It outlines how the head of the health authority wondered how she could better position the organization to combat COVID-19 in the long term while securing enough supplies. Through the case, Raz says the students learn about Canada’s health-care industry and how to manage a complex process and its capacity to support the goals of an organization.
“The students learn about the impact of making capacity decisions on the system, the patients, and the overall public living in the province,” he said. “One of the interesting insights from the case is that a key constraint faced by the testing facility is actually based on a decision by the provincial authority and how much it believes in the validity of the testing.”
Through the case discussion, the students learn how to make better managerial decisions in uncertain situations. Since the students also learn that organizations may make internal decisions that could limit their success, the case helps them to develop high-level strategic thinking that is helpful in being part of a board and an organizational structure.
“I enjoy teaching this case because it is both very practical and very strategic,” said Raz. “I love writing cases that combine both quantitative and strategic factors and students have to look at all the dimensions when addressing the decision at hand.”
The fact that the case focused on a real-life issue that they were all familiar with made it that much more compelling. When teaching the case in the Executive MBA program, Raz said some medical professionals in the class could comment directly on the case based on their own personal experiences.
“I always cherish those moments as they make the discussion lively and help everyone understand more about the context of the problem and what managers that face it are trying to do to address it,” he said. “The fact that this is a decision that directly impacted their lives because they all went through the pandemic and saw the importance of testing to get out of closures makes it even more interesting.”