Operations Management Research Homework Essay Sample

Introduction

Technological progress brought many changes to the way humans lived and, in particular, how they produced goods. The old ways of homesteading and self-sufficiency gave way to massive economies of scale. There was no other way, as the population soared and concentrated around economic and industrial hubs. Investigating what drove people to sacrifice their time to a company became as important as investigating nature itself. For the entirety of the value stream, all links of a given supply chain are populated by humans, which need to be managed as well as the tools they use. The way people work needs to be directed, and optimal working conditions need to be created to maximize value.

To answer this need for directing people and their work, numerous business people and academics developed the science of management. Management of tangible business processes, inputs, and outputs is done at the level of operations management. Operations management is connected directly to the value stream and is thus tasked to maximize its effectiveness and efficiency. Competent operations managers are essential to a profitable and stable business. They make the strategic decisions that set up a direction for the company for many subsequent years and design its entire mode of operation. Within their purview is establishing facilities, deciding on their layout, procuring and maintaining equipment, and deciding on products or services provided by the company. These decisions are precise what shapes the company, lays the groundwork for its culture, and dictate its position in the market.

Having done that, operations managers must maintain the business processes they set up. A business is run by performing persistent tactical and operational tasks, such as scheduling shifts, performing quality assurance, or managing inventory. Managing employees and projects are also within the scope of operations management, directly influencing the day-to-day life of regular employees. There is a strong case to be made that operations management is the single most crucial part of running a successful company.

All of these tasks can be given either to upper management or to lower-level management. However, the operations manager’s position combines the strengths of both while relieving the burden of both and allowing them to focus on tasks they are best suited for. Operations managers have a holistic outlook and a bird’s eye view of the entire company that allows them to make meaningful decisions that take everything into account. At the same time, they are involved with all the business processes directly enough to know what the real situation is, as well as the actual needs and capabilities of the company. They are directly connected to each functional department and possess tremendous insight regarding the company, the market, and, to some extent, the world.

Management Approaches

Such a vital and prolific profession as a manager has developed a multitude of different strategies and approaches, each focusing on a particular aspect of a business, and each seeking to achieve excellence through different means. Some of these novel approaches to management were created in Japan. The booming economy that exploded onto the international market with its expertly-made goods lent itself well for developing unique styles of management. A particular example is Just-in-Time, which is aimed at eliminating as much waste as possible and creating as efficient a workflow as possible. JIT has been characterized in the literature as being a management approach, a manufacturing approach, and even just a loose set of techniques. Its effectiveness outside Japanese corporate culture has also been debated. While experts do not agree on what JIT actually is, most of its core tenets have been shown to be effective (Mackelprang & Nair, 2010). The approach has been developed in Toyota in the 1960s, which means it is rooted in manufacturing complex physical machines. However, the ideas behind it can be extrapolated to a variety of different business models.

Primarily, JIT is aimed at eliminating as much waste and inefficiency as possible by optimizing the manufacturing process. An important step is establishing various automated systems and practices that minimize errors and catch them on the production floor, rather than the finished product. The floor itself is operated in a flexible way that facilitates teamwork and empowers high-skilled employees. JIT recognizes that workers are the source of all of the high-quality products, and thus the workers need to be respected and given a healthy environment to work in. Operating and striving in a competitive market requires continuous improvement, and JIT both incentivizes employees to improve the workspace and sets the workspace in such a way as to improve the workers. JIT values organization, tidiness, purity, cleanliness, and discipline, which are essential for a safe and productive work environment. The method encourages upholding business relationships with a smaller number of suppliers, which can draw focus on the quality of these relationships and subsequent services rendered to the customers. Having well-maintained supply lines can ease delivery, making it ‘just in time,’ as the name suggests.

As JIT is concerned with the production floors, supply lines, and functional department relationships, it is well within the scope of operations management. Implementing the method requires furnishing facilities with specialized equipment, creating an efficient layout that can support variability in number and specialization of employees, thus adapting to changes in demand. It also requires hiring and training high-skilled employees and managing their workflow. The effectiveness of the approach needs to be monitored in real-time to steer executive decisions regarding its full implementation. JIT allows operations managers to select best practices according to the company’s needs, for which they are uniquely suited. As JIT is a time-tested approach endemic to the Japanese car market, Nissan is likely to have tested or even adopted it already.

Perhaps the logical development of JIT, Lean production, is also a management approach aimed at efficiency. Its primary aim is to eliminate waste by cutting out any processes that do not add value. The core tenets of Lean production explain that the product’s value is signified by the customer, who needs a specific product at a specific time, which means that there need to be as few obstacles on the value stream as possible. Having cut out all the inefficiencies and wasteful processes, Lean production ensures that high-quality product or service is made as quickly as possible. To ensure this efficiency, Lean is aimed at ‘pull’ production instead of ‘push,’ which means that products are made as the customers demand them, rather than made and pushed into the market.

This principle resembles JIT and appears to have been specifically aimed at reducing inventory costs. Lean is also aimed at creating a healthy workplace environment for employees and empowering them to bolster the company, while also making sure they do not make avoidable and mistakes. This approach mirrors JIT substantially, and operations managers are suited to test and adapt it for similar reasons. Just like JIT, Lean was developed in Japanese manufacturing plants and disseminated due to its apparent effectiveness.

Eliminating waste and minimizing mistakes is a common theme in managerial approaches. Six Sigma, developed at Motorola, is an approach that is aimed at bringing quality into the company culture. According to Six Sigma, mistakes, waste, and inefficiencies happen because of deviations from the ideal business process. Eliminating defects from the end product requires employees to eliminate these deviations. The end goal of Six Sigma is quite similar to JIT and Lean production: excellent quality delivered to the end customer efficiently, while also involving employees in satisfying and meaningful work. A novel principle that Six Sigma added was high-quality after-sale service, which is also seen as part of the business. That particular change is beneficial as the market shifts from goods to services, and value streams become much more than merely turning raw materials into consumer goods.

Another notable difference is the increased reliance on data and analytics. A large portion of the Six Sigma method is aimed at collecting data and analyzing it to recognize what the customers want, what the potential defects in the business process are, and what the best approach to remove them is. The data-driven approach can help the business operate at the best possible capacity with limited resources, manage space better, and scale operations according to available materials. Along with the reliance on data, Six Sigma also recognizes the importance of bringing benefits to highly trained workers and making higher-level management responsible for their own business. As Six Sigma is a particularly knowledge-based approach, it can help operations managers make informed decisions. Its all-encompassing nature can lend itself well to a pick-and-choose approach that could help focus on best practices and discard ineffective ones, according to the operations manager’s discretion.

Another management approach that facilitates a broad culture shift is Total Quality Management. Its central idea is very simple: delivering 100% of the quality possible in all possible dimensions. However, the road to get there that TQM proposes is multifaceted and complex. TQM is aimed at determining what the customer needs, and then providing it at the least possible cost, while eliminating waste, limiting deviations, and ensuring quality. TQM makes a point of involving the employees in this process as a common theme for all managerial approaches. The workers know the business, and they have unique insights that should be utilized. Aside from employee involvement, TQM’s unique focus is on cost management. Both high quality and low quality have their costs, which must be taken into account when developing a business and creating a product. Low quality can cost a company its customer base, waste time or materials on fixing defects, and involve a company in avoidable litigation and conflict with partners and contractors. At the same time, producing high-quality goods will incur costs through employee training, quality assurance, rigorous inspections, and paying salaries to the employees involved in quality assurance.

TQM directs a business through these costs by following the customer’s requirements and eliminating all possible inefficiencies. There is also a unique pressure of doing everything right the first time, as correcting mistakes is an unnecessary cost that can harm the company. TQM recognizes the value of effective management and warns against planning poorly. An effective operations manager is involved with both strategic and tactical decision-making, becoming the ideal vessel for implementing TQM.

Recommendations and Conclusions

The most important thing to consider with all of the approaches described above is that they are tools developed for a particular purpose. Running a profitable business is a complicated task that is contingent on a multitude of factors. For Nissan, in particular, these factors are unlikely to stem from poor plant organization or inefficient manufacturing and delivery processes. Nissan has had a history of poor performance, which stemmed from financial as well as cultural reasons. One of the most effective practices in the past was to reorganize its promotional and reward structure to favor performance over seniority (Ghosh, 2002). Another impactful change was a reorganization of relationships with business partners and decoupling them from costly Japanese tradition. Considering the effectiveness of that particular change within the context of Nissan and Japanese corporate culture, in particular, it becomes apparent that the most useful thing to do is to monitor performance and reward it, as well as viewing tradition with a critical lens.

Nissan’s primary business objective is to provide high-quality automobiles at competitive prices, and corporate traditions must be excised if they are an obstacle. Neither Lean nor JIT operations are necessary for Nissan to flourish, as it is incredibly likely that the best practices of these approaches are already adopted. To maintain effectiveness and efficiency, Nissan needs to value its high-performing employees and reward practical new ideas rather than tradition and complacency. Thus, data-driven solutions would be best to implement to facilitate growth. A savvy operations manager would do well to consider the most effective elements of Six Sigma and TQM and implement them selectively with employees and culture in mind. Workers have always been the most important and the most useful asset of any given company, and managing them well should be Nissan’s first priority.

References

Ghosn, C. (2002). Saving the business without losing the company.

Mackelprang, A.W. & Nair, A. (2010). Relationship between just‐in‐time manufacturing practices and performance: A meta‐analytic investigation. Journal of Operations Management, 28(4), 283-302.

Alex Wissner-Gross “A New Equation For Intelligence”: Maximizing The Diversity Of Possible Futures

In his fascinating TED talk, “A new equation for Intelligence,” Alex Wissner-Gross discusses the way people can use intelligence, as a physical force, to maximize the diversity of possible futures. He elaborates on how future options can be kept open through the application of the study findings from the latest research in animal behavior, physics, and computer science. In such a case, the freedom of upcoming decisions is maximized by the intelligence, which Wissner-Gross (2013) likens to an engine called “Entropica” (5:38). This software can independently complete a series of complex tasks, such as earning money trading stocks, passing multiple intelligence tests, and playing human games using the overall function F = T ∇ Sτ. Therefore, this new equation of intelligence increases the possibility of making better decisions.

The TED talk covers wide-reaching and intriguing applications of this equation of intelligence. F stands for its force which acts to maximize forthcoming freedom of action, T represents the strength to maintain upcoming activities, while S denotes the diversity of probable accessible futures (Wissner-Gross, 2013). This TED talk presents many interesting ways this intelligence function can be used in the optimization of complex networks in biology and economics, but there are three key takeaways. The first one is that intelligence is a key component in controlling the universe through the application of the study finding from the researches on human behavior, physics, and computer science, by maximizing future options. The second is that it is crucial to consider anticipated outcomes, and goal-seeking is an essential part of maximizing future decisions, even if it means sacrificing today’s actions. Third, future freedom can be maximized by intelligence, which Wissner-Gross (2013) describes as a physical process that helps resist future confinement and allow diversity. Overall, it is an enthralling talk whose concepts can be applied in computer science, the philosophy of intelligence, biology, and economics, among others.

Reference

Wissner-Gross, A. (2013). A new equation for intelligence. [Video].

TED. 

Organizational Theories In Australian Football League (AFL)

Organizational theories attempt to explain how entities work and to appreciate the processes that produce certain outcomes within the corporations. Such theories tend to draw from various bodies of knowledge but they all illustrate the internal and external relationships between the stakeholders. Among the key models are organizational culture and practice theory. This essay applies these two concepts to the operations of the Australian Football League (AFL). A brief background to the AFL will be presented before applying the individual theories. The context of the essay is the current global pandemic of coronavirus (Covid-19), and the recommendation section will examine how the ideas can be used to handle the situation.

Background to Australian Football League

The AFL is the apex body administering and managing the rules of football in Australia. The mission of AFL is to support all football levels ranging from the junior to the professional/elite heights. The entity is operated as a not-for-profit organization meaning that all the surplus revenues are distributed across the constituent clubs. The composition of AFL includes football organizations across seven states and territories. It has 94 regional offices, 11500 teams, 2589 clubs, 180 community football staff, and 20000 coaches among others (“Australian Rules Football,” n.d.). The major function of the corporation is to manage the country’s football sport.

The organizational structure of AFL comprises six major divisions each handling specific aspects of the sport. The departments are finance and administration, football operations, marketing, and communications and broadcasting, game development, strategy and major projects, and commercial operations. The AFL operates in the football sector of the Australian sports industry that generates billions of dollars every year. All the rules followed by the sport are developed by AFL.

AFL does have its culture as will be discussed in the sections that follow. A brief overview is presented by Elzinga (2017) who states that most sports organizations operate just like any other company. It can be expected that such entities will struggle with similar issues faced by other firms. However, some unique aspects make sporting entities different from other enterprises. In this case, the AFL dwells only on the development of football rules and regulations. The clubs playing football are considered to be part of the AFL despite each of them having dissimilar management systems. Examining the culture of AFL will, therefore, entail examining the cultures of the Australian football clubs as well.

Organizational Culture

The term organizational culture is used to imply the tacit social order of a corporation. According to Groysberg, Lee, Price, and Cheng (2018), the term culture has no universal definition and can be a fluid concept used differently in various contexts. Culture comprises several components and has various characteristics that when applied to a firm could either inhibit or enhance organizational performance. For example, those businesses embracing characteristics such as proactive approach, commitment, risk-taking, and change can be described as innovative and they tend to perform well (Szczepańska-Woszczyna, 2015). Organizational culture determines the beliefs, norms, attitudes, and behavior of the members.

In the AFL, organizational culture is more visible from the operations of the clubs than it is within the AFL offices. However, it can be noted that the main motive of developing the football rules and regulations is to protect the interests of the stakeholders, including the clubs, players, coaches, and referees among others. According to Wagstaff and Burton-Wylie (2018), organizational culture in sports is viewed from a psychological stand. There the governing bodies (such as AFL) have a primary duty of protecting and supporting the mental and overall wellbeing of the workers and members. The players are the core employees, though managed by the clubs, and the best practices and the cultures of these clubs are set by the AFL.

An overview of the corporate culture at work within the AFL can be seen from practices such as career management. Australian football, according to Pink, Saunders, and Stynes (2015), has a culture of successfully supporting dual career development for the players. Such cultures are evident at the club level where despite maintaining an effective on-field performance the clubs also oversee the development of other skill sets that can help the players outside the sports sector. However, Pink, Saunders, and Stynes (2015) emphasize that even with such arrangements, football always comes first. The players are encouraged to explore personal meaning, with the clubs seeing it as an ethical responsibility to help them do so.

At the club level, however, the most apparent culture is the learning one for both the players and the managerial staff. Several studies have examined the learning culture both in sports in general and in the specific context of AFL. Football is among the high-performance sports that present athletes with massive learning opportunities and experiences. As the key employees in the industry, their performance and productivity are at the core of the organizational operations. The players tend to invest time and energy in competitions and training for prolonged periods (Barker-Ruchti Barker, Rynne, & Lee, 2016). Learning also tends to evolve with time depending on the current demands and the changes in the teaching methods adopted by the coaches.

The learning culture is also seen with the development of the coaching staff within the AFL. According to Mallet, Rossi, Rynne, and Tinning (2016), the competitive nature and turbulence of the coaching environment mean that the greatest concern for coaching development is how the coaches learn the trade. The AFL and the individual clubs are all regarded as learning institutions for the coaches with each of them having different learning cultures. However, some learning cultures were deemed to be less supportive of the coaches, something that resulted in the creation of a dynamic social network (DSN) for supporting the coaching candidates. The authors highlight that the learning culture for the coaches is defined by the AFL and the football sport itself and is characterized by dynamism, urgency, and extreme uncertainty depending on the matchday results.

In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the culture of caring for the wellbeing of the members is reflected by the organization’s efforts to implement safety rules to be followed. Rescheduling fixtures and enacting new quarantine protocols have become the key regulatory function of the AFL (Guardian Sports and Agencies, 2020). Updating the rules and implementing punitive measures for non-compliance have also become a norm (“AFL Coronavirus Rules,” 2020). However, it is hard to expressly detail the learning culture within the AFL in the context of Covid-19. As a novel pandemic, the rules are also new precautionary measures and AFL has an opportunity to learn from the effectiveness of the rules and the global practices elsewhere. Major leagues are resuming around the world and the AFL has the chance to learn and teach the stakeholders the most important safety rules and measures.

Practice Theory

Practice theory is one of the most criticized theories because it is an arbitrary construct. According to Schmidt (2018), the arbitrariness of the practice theory is made obvious by considering the authors that have contributed to the development of the theory. All of the theorists have a different opinion regarding practice theory and seem to use arbitrary concepts such as communities of practice and actor-network among others. It is particularly interesting to note that all the theorists deemed to contribute to the theory, define different terms, thus making the general idea of practice theory blurred. In the context of this essay, the term practice theory will be used to imply the practice-oriented work performed by individuals as described by Lammi (2018). Practice, as a context, explains what people do from setting the objectives to the preparation of activities and to the actual performance of the activity.

Applying practice theory in sports, specifically in the AFL, the practice can be seen as coaching-determined considering the time put in it and timthe e in which the sporting skills are practiced. As the simplest of the definitions offered by Lammi (2018), what people do in football is play the game utilizing the necessary skills and confined by the rules of the game. Strategy and skills are developed through coaching and practice, actions seen as preparation for an activity that will be performed on the field. The term deliberate practice can also be used to imply the actions by the AFL and the individual clubs to actively develop players until they become the professional elite players to be a part of the AFL. Australian football has entailed a collection of bodies jointly implementing various strategies and programs to enhance the game (“Australian Rules Football,” n.d.). The cooperative efforts to monitor player participation and to develop players can all be seen as deliberate practices by the AFL.

The learning culture mentioned above can also be described using the practice theory. The concept of “learning in sports coaching” described by Stodter (2018) covers all the pedagogical practice, a deliberate effort by the AFL and the individual clubs to teach players and coaches to improve their skills of the game. In the Covid-19 context, the practice theory can be examined in terms of what the AFL and the clubs do to protect the stakeholders from the pandemic. Besides the regulations, there is not much more seen from the league leaving a huge gap for the examination of the applicability of the theory.

Recommendations

The recommendations presented herein pay attention to the deployment of organizational culture and practice theory to improve the current situation regarding the Covid-19. As expressed above, the learning culture is particularly useful in protecting the players and members from the pandemic. Besides the learning culture, however, it is recommended here that the AFL should implement the safety culture within the organization and across all the clubs. By definition, a safety culture is a construct used within organizational contexts to improve their overall safety (Cooper, 2018). Implementing a safety culture will involve a major organizational change targeting the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of all the people within the AFL. A culture is practiced by the people who are also responsible for its maintenance. Making the players and coaches and other AFL staff responsible and accountable for the safety decisions will improve the overall well-being of the league. Considering that the pandemic comes with specified standard guidelines, behaviors such as sanitizing and social distancing can become incorporated as the key elements of the safety culture.

The second recommendation focuses on applying the practice theory to develop a practice that caters for the health and safety of the AFL workers. It would begin by the health departments and personnel working closely with the AFL and the clubs to develop standard practices that ensure the players and staff are not exposed to Covid-19. Just like the football skills are developed through coaching players and developing the talent from junior to elite levels, the same can be applied to health issues. Nowadays, players are trained to interact in ways that do not place them at the risk of contracting the virus or spreading it to other people.

Conclusion

Organizational theories are used to explain the workings of companies mostly in the form of standard behaviors and practices. The essay has described the AFL using the organizational culture and practice theory. It has been expressed that even though the AFL functions like ordinary corporations, there are unique elements that make a special case for the application of these theories. The major distinction is that the AFL is not a stand-alone entity but rather one that incorporates all the clubs. The organizational culture and practice theories are best observed from the club level where distinct cultures and practices try to embrace the overall culture and practice dictated by the AFL.

References

AFL coronavirus rules breached by Collingwood coaches Nathan Buckley and Brenton Sanderson. (2020). 

Australian rules football: Australian Football League. (n.d.). 

Barker-Ruchti, N., Barker, D., Rynne, S., & Lee, J. (2016). Learning cultures and cultural learning in high-performance sport: opportunities for sport pedagogues. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 21(1), 1-9. Web.

Cooper, D. (2018). The safety culture construct: Theory and practice. In C. Gilbert, B. Journé, H. Laroche, & C. Bieder (Eds.), Safety cultures, safety models (pp. 47-61). Frankfurt, Germany: Springer.

Elzinga, D. (2017). 12 AFL clubs use Culture Amp: This is what we’ve learned. Web.

Groysberg, B., Lee, J., Price, J., & Cheng, J. Y.-J. (2018). The cultural factor. Harvard Business Review. Web.

Guardian Sports and Agencies. (2020). Uncertainty continues as AFL faces further fixture upheaval with new SA Covid-19 rules. The Guardian. 

Lammi, I. J. (2018). A practice theory in practice: Analytical consequences in the study of organization and socio-technical change (Doctoral thesis, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden). 

Mallet, C. J., Rossi, T., Rynne, S. B., & Tinning, R. (2016). In pursuit of becoming a senior coach: The learning culture for Australian Football League coaches. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 21(1), 24-39. Web.

Pink, M., Saunders, J., & Stynes, J. (2015). Reconciling the maintenance of on-field success with off-field player development: A case study of a club culture within the Australian Football League. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 21, 98-108. Web.

Schmidt, K. (2018). “Practice theory”: A critique. In V. Wulf, V. Pipek, D. Randal, M. Rohde, K. Schmidt, & G. Stevens (Eds.), Socio-informatics: A practice-based perspective on the design and use of IT artifacts (pp. 105-137). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Stodter, A. (2018). Learning in sports coaching: Theory and application. Sports Coaching Review, 7(2), 216-219. Web.

Szczepańska-Woszczyna, K. (2015). Leadership and organizational culture as the normative influence of top management on employee’s behaviour in the innovation process. Procedia Economics and Finance, 34, 396-402. Web.

Wagstaff, C. R. D., & Burton-Wylie, S. (2018). Organisational culture in sport: A conceptual, definitional and methodological review. Sport & Exercise Psychology Review, 14(1), 32-52. Web.

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