Another fun week and we were running the Littlefield Labs simulation in two of our operations management classes. First, in the Postgraduate Diploma class on Supply Chain Management, with a focus just on management of capacity with a scenario focused on queuing and leadtimes. Second, I run a scenario with my Global Operations Management class (in the Business Masters programme), focused on capacity management and the use of appropriate contracts given operational performance. It’s a great group of talented students so I’ve given them a reasonably challenging situation to keep them busy in the session. We run the in-class session over a 120-minute team-based learning (TBL) session, giving us plenty of time to get into the simulation. All the best to the students – it should keep them busy and entertained over the session!
This is the first day of a 24-month project to improve operations and supply chain management education – the nDiVE project (www.ndive-project.com and www.facebook.com/ndiveproject). In essence – the objective is to represent more data and information within a virtual environment to enable learners to better understand supply chain complexity, particularly where there is a separation of time and/or space between the cause-and-effect. This can be particularly pertinent in supply chain quality or health and safety.
Watch this space – it should be an interesting 24-month project improving operations and supply chain education.
We were talking about ‘lean’ and some of the associated benefits. Yes, it was an aside but still quite related to what we were talking about in regards to the production process decisions that need to be made.
I don’t often get into the culture stuff in my operations management (OM) classes – I find that they are often challenging enough, particularly where I have students that haven’t been at university in a while. Sometimes, however, it seems unavoidable.
Why do some implementations of ‘lean’ fail? Do the Japanese have some cultural advantages in making this work? The organisational behaviour and organisational change fall beyond the scope of my OM class, yet I’m no stranger to the concepts (see some of my publications on my staff page).
Simply having a manager decide “Right, we are going to totally change the way we run our operations” is NOT going to have a good outcome. Switching from the way many of our operations have been structured, to transition to a lean environment, represents a significant shift. Sure, implementing one or two tools or techniques can be easily accomplished, but it’s like ‘bolting on’ these techniques to our existing philosophy. Probably, it’s not going to work, and may even be harmful. To really make a success out of lean we need to drill all the way down to our culture and philosophy, which we probably have never even considered so explicitly before.
Like much of what I talk about in OM, congruence and alignment will be necessary to derive the benefits, fully. Simple words; yet, congruence is fiendishly difficult to achieve in a real operating environment.
Can we change the culture? Yes.
Can we do this easily? Not that *I* know of.
Hiring policies, effective candidate screening, intensive meetings and workshops, pilot studies to demonstrate feasibility and benefits, and time, time, time …. Changing the culture enough to implement lean is a challenging proposition. Even if you do succeed, a lean system is not going to be appropriate for every organisation in every situation. The key to success is matching the operations management approach with your business context.