Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


This course will address operations strategy by building on the concepts of (1) reengineering and process design developed by Dr. Michael Hammer, (2) manufacturing strategy as developed in the literature, primarily by people at Harvard Business School, and (3) supply chain design and 3-D concurrent engineering literature as developed in Charles Fine’s book, Clockspeed: Winning Industry Control in the Age of Temporary Advantage, Perseus Books, 1999.

The concepts there emphasize the necessity of integrating product strategy, manufacturing strategy, and supply chain strategy. As a result, each of these will be touched upon in the course.

Operations strategy typically examines how manufacturing and operations can be used as sources of competitive advantage. The old view of operations management as the task of maintaining a comparatively static production or service facility has given way to one characterized by a need for renewed flexibility, relentless improvement, and the development of new capabilities at the operating unit level. As the global curtain draws back to expose more and more operations to the mounting pressures of worldwide competition, there are fewer places for laggard operations to hide. The context in which the operations manager now works - a global context facilitated by a high degree of electronic interconnectedness - has changed to one that emphasizes innovative system design and dramatic operations improvement over simple administration.

As a result of this changing environment, the skills required of operations managers have changed as well. The tools of control are now overshadowed by the tools of systems design and operations improvement. Few operations exist today in which information technology (IT) does not play a central role.

In the domain of supply chains, the winds of change are also relentless. In many companies, supply chain decisions were once the domain of procurement managers, many of whom presided of the “intellectual ghettoes” of their companies. Today one need look no further than the remarkable impact of the supply chain design that IBM chose for its first personal computer two decades ago to understand that supply chain design is not a competency to be left to dullards. In fact, if one views supply chain design as the competency of assessing all other capabilities in the value chain – making choices about which capabilities should be invested in, which should be outsourced, etc. – then one might argue that supply chain design is the most important competency in the entire organization. (See Clockspeed, Chapter 5.)

This course takes the perspective that supply chain design can have this kind of impact and then attempts to understand how supply chain design considerations should interact with many other organizational functions, such as product design, operations strategy, logistics, business strategy, etc.

Grading and Class Project

The course will use readings, cases, and class discussions to build understanding of these issues. Course requirements are to show up prepared for class, to contribute to class discussion, and to work in a group to develop and deliver (paper and presentation) a class session on a topic related to the course. Course grades will be assigned by weighting class participation 50% and the group project 50%.

The class project will require a group paper (.doc file) and presentation (.ppt file) at the end of the term. Ideally we would like to find a day when we could devote a day (perhaps offsite) to do this (partly in exchange for canceling several classes during the term). This mode was used effectively in Spring 2002. 

Finally, we will devote a day in class where when each student/group will give a one-slide presentation on project ideas. More will be said on this in class.

Course Info

Learning Resource Types

notes Lecture Notes