Operations? That sounds like a lot of work.
Sure is. It isn’t as glamorous as leadership. You’re not psychoanalyzing the customer to death like marketing. Unlike finance, operations people aren’t heralded as company saviors. In fact, you’re often taken for granted in operations. I mean, isn’t closing the sale the hard part?
Afraid not. In reality, getting a product from point A to point B is the real work. It seems simple enough. You just call “the guy” and he picks up the order. And you can wipe your hands of it, right? Not exactly. For starters, you need to know the metrics to staff your operations. And there are so many questions. How many orders do you get each day? When does demand spike – and how you deploy resources to absorb that? What steps are required to fulfill an order –and can you configure your location to maximize speed and efficiency? How much stock should you maintain – and where?
Yes, operations is the science of juggling variables, containing costs, and mitigating risk. It can encompass production, modeling, storage, logistics, and service. Like any science, there is also an art to creating systems that eliminate bottlenecks and redundancies. And that’s particularly true when designing an operation for scale.
A MASTER TEACHER AT KELLOGG WILL TEACH ITS MOOC ON OPERATIONS
In a new MOOC, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management integrates the science and art of operations. It’s also co-taught by a master teacher, Gad Allon, who is among Poets&Quants’ Top 40 Professors Under 40. On March 30th, it launches “Scaling Operations: Linking Strategy and Execution.” Here, students can master that elusive and intricate balancing act that is the foundation of operations. Scale too fast and you could skyrocket costs without an accompanying return. Scale too slow and you’ll quickly be outflanked by more nimble competitors.
Forget stale PowerPoints. Unlike many MOOCs, the course will be driven by case studies, no different than a Kellogg MBA course. Even more, students will receive data from Kellogg’s corporate partners, so they can develop models and make decisions based on what they’d encounter in the world. With the boundaries between operations and c-suite functions fading, it pays for leaders to learn exactly how operations can become a true differentiator in their firm.
And that’s not all. This month, MIT will also apply the case study method to help learners understand how data analytics can help them better understand their customers and potential gaps and opportunities. For aspiring bankers, the University of Chicago is launching the second half of its asset pricing course, giving students a taste of what it’s like to study at one of the premier finance schools in the world. This is a chance to study for six weeks under one of Booth’s superstar professors, John Cochrane, who literally wrote the book on asset pricing.
ANOTHER GEM FOR MARCH: CORNELL’S AMERICAN CAPITALISM: A HISTORY
For a more international perspective, Italy’s best business school, SDA Bocconi, is offering a free MOOC on international leadership and organizational behavior, to help student navigate cultural minefields. And the University of Strathclyde provides a futurist perspective on business, examining how the knowledge economy, technology, ethics, and globalization are re-shaping the roles and challenges facing organizations.
And if you have never tried out a MOOC and would like to sample one this next month without having to do demanding statistics or accounting, check out Cornell University’s American Capitalism: A History. Over the eight-week course, which requires about four hours a week, two of Cornell’s historians teach the early beginnings of capitalism and how it has been shaped by favorable global trends, technological innovations, unique cultural values, millions of success individual stories…and dumb luck. As one reviewer put it: “It is a history not just of American capitalism but a history of America. The profs themselves were fun and easy to listen to and discussed history with an enthusiasm that was inspiring.”
In addition, you’ll find courses covering content strategy, entrepreneurship and job hunting this March. To learn more about these courses – and register for them – click on the links below.