15.760A | Spring 2002 | Graduate

Operations Management


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 3 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Class Discussion

In a typical session, one or more students will be asked to begin each discussion by addressing specific questions. If you have thoroughly prepared the case or reading, you should have no difficulty in handling such a lead-off request. After a few minutes of initial analysis and recommendations, the discussion will be opened to the rest of the class.

As a group, we will try to build a complete analysis of the situation and address the problems and issues it presents. We will also talk about the implementation of those recommendations. Frequently the final portion of the class will be a lecture/discussion of concepts and techniques brought out in the case or reading but useful in a broader range of situations.

To help reduce stress, but to maintain a classroom of well-prepared students, we will select lead-off speakers on odd-numbered class days (as numbered in the course outline) from the first half of the alphabet (last names A-L). Last names M-Z will be chosen on the even numbered days.

Most managers spend very little time reading and even less time writing reports. This is especially true for managers in operations-intensive settings. For this reason, the development of speaking and listening skills is given a high priority in this course. The classroom should be considered a laboratory in which you can test your ability to present your analyses and recommendations clearly, to convince your peers of the correctness of your approach to complex problems, and to illustrate your ability to achieve the desired results through the implementation of that approach.

Some of the criteria that we will use to judge effective class participation for grading purposes include:

  1. Is the participant a good listener?
  2. Are the points made relevant to the current discussion? Are they linked to the comments of others?
  3. Do the comments show clear evidence of appropriate and insightful analysis of the case data?
  4. Is there a willingness to participate?
  5. Is there a willingness to test new ideas, or are all comments “safe?”
  6. Do comments clarify and highlight the important aspects of earlier ideas and lead to a clearer statement of the relevant concepts and issues?

Written Assignments

In preparing the three written case analyses, please adhere to the following guidelines:

  1. Work individually or in groups of two or three students. No groups of four will be permitted. We discourage individual work on the written assignments as we have found that groups develop significantly better solutions.
  2. Hand in one copy of the case write-up for each group.
  3. Written assignments are to be turned in the classroom on the day they are due.
  4. Please keep a copy of your write-up for your own use during class discussion.
  5. Written assignments must be less than 1500 words in length, accompanied by up to 6 supporting exhibits. This is a firm constraint.
  6. Exhibits should contain specific types of analysis, such as financial analysis, break-even charts, cost analysis, process-flow analysis, etc. Exhibits should contain any relevant supporting information that is too detailed for the body of the paper. Exhibits must not be simply an extension of the text.

We will not distribute written solutions to the write-ups, but rather will rely on the class session associated with the case to bring out the most important issues. The case write-ups will be graded using the following criteria (a version of these criteria will accompany your graded assignments):


  1. Does the paper contain analysis of the major issues?
  2. Does the analysis incorporate properly the relevant tools?
  3. Are assumptions made in the analysis stated explicitly?
  4. Does the analysis isolate the fundamental causes of problems in the case?

Recommended Actions

  1. Are the criteria for choosing among alternative recommendations stated?
  2. Are the criteria appropriate?
  3. Is the plan of action integrated in a logical way and linked to the analysis?
  4. Is the action plan specific, complete and practical?
  5. Is it likely that the recommendations will achieve their intended results?


  1. Are the analyses in the exhibits done correctly?
  2. Do the exhibits support and add to the text on key points?


  1. Is the paper too long?
  2. Is the presentation of professional quality?
  3. Is the paper logically consistent and effectively structured to sell its recommendations?


The grading of 15.760 will be based on the following weighting scheme:

Class participation: 30%
First case write-up: 20%
Second case write-up: 25%
Third case write-up: 25%

Class participation will be determined by the faculty on the basis of your comments in each class session. We are highly biased towards comment quality as opposed to comment quantity. The case write-ups will be graded using the criteria listed above.

Course Materials

We respect your limited time and have only selected “required” readings that we feel are essential to your understanding of the course material. We will not ask you to read long descriptive passages or endure pages of mathematical derivations. We have also included a few “optional” readings which we believe will enrich your educational experience, but are not required as preparation for class discussion.

The course materials are:

Goldratt, E. M., and J. Cox. The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement. 2nd revised ed. North River Press, 1992.

Brassard, Michael. The Memory Jogger. Goal/QPC, 1988. (Distributed in class)

The 15.760 course packet.

Some of you will be interested in supplemental reading (or will want a text for your bookshelf). We encourage this and suggest two texts. The Schmenner text is presented without much analytical complexity, while the Nahmias text further develops the analytical concepts of the course.

Schmenner, R. Production/Operations Management. 5th ed. Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992.

Nahmias, S. Production and Operations Analysis. 2nd ed. Irwin, 1993.


The required books for this course are:

Goldratt, E., and J. Cox. The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement.

Brassard, Michael. The Memory Jogger. Goal/QPC, 1998. (Distributed in class)

Goldratt, E. M., and J. Cox. The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement. 2nd revised ed. North River Press, 1992.

Supplementary readings (optional) may be found in Production/Operations Management by R. Schmenner and in Operations Management, Production of Goods by McLain, and Thomas.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2002
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes