How do you Teach Operations Management in One Day      To 38 Divergent Entrepreneurs without Wasting Their Time           ...
Operations and worked for leading companies in India. Later on, he gave me a brief onthe content of the program, which was...
experience that asking entrepreneurs to read and write, while they are busy firefighting intheir business, is a sin. For t...
make sure that they have described their operations and got a few self generated thoughts,by the time the session finishes...
Then I intended to ask them what did they learn in business strategy and then help themin identifying role of operations i...
Once the business model is built, it becomes very easy to emphasize the role ofoperations. The emphasis here is that on da...
emotionally attached and tend to dive into too many things and try to juggle between this(24x7). This reduces their own ef...
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How do you teach operations management in one day


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Entrepreneurs are perpetually in operational mode, but giving them an overview of Operational Management is important. How do you conduct a full day session on Operation Management without wasting their time?

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  1. 1. How do you Teach Operations Management in One Day To 38 Divergent Entrepreneurs without Wasting Their Time Shridhar Lolla, PhDFirst DraftNeeds EditingWith this article, we move further into Operations.Key words: Entrepreneurship, Sustainable Growth, Operations, OperationsManagement, Operation Excellence, Business Excellence, Execution, BusinessTransformation, Change Management, Business Model Innovation, Leadership, SupplyChain, Distribution, Theory of Constraints, Lean, System Thinking, FocusingMechanism, Management Technique, TQM, Distribution, Productivity, Processimprovement, Goldman Sachs, 10k Women Entrepreneurship Development Program.________________________________________________________________________March 1st, 2012Professor Ranganathan (Prof Ranga), called me a month back and briefed about thisinteresting inclusive initiative : Goldman Sachs 10K Women EntrepreneurshipDevelopment Program. Now into its second year, the program is worlds premier programfor providing holistic management perspective to women entrepreneurs.He asked me if I would like to be the Resource Person for Operations Management andconduct a one day session for the 2nd Batch of Women Entrepreneurs.I told him that I am not a teacher and I do not conduct classes. But he said that theobjective of the session is to give an enhanced perspective to entrepreneurs aboutmanagement of their business. He said that he does not expect me to deliver a lecture andtalk all about Operations Management as taught in MBA schools; instead, if I could finda way to engage the team in the operational issues of their businesses and at the sametime cover an overview of Operation Management, it will help them in obtainingsomething of immediate use and also something that they get prepared for the futuregrowth.I agreed to him and said that I may not be delivering the whole lot of traditional model ofoperations, but a useful and actionable one. Prof Ranga himself came from a career in 1Copyrights ©2012, CVMark Consulting, All rights reserved.
  2. 2. Operations and worked for leading companies in India. Later on, he gave me a brief onthe content of the program, which was helpful.The 2nd Batch of Women Entrepreneurs enrolled in Bangalore region, comprised a classof 38 entrepreneurs, from as many varied domains; food, garments, ice-creams, herbalproducts, electronics, electrical, software development, construction, engineering, onlinesales, stockists, chocolates, education, floriculture, gift, media, training, bakery, beautyparlor, farming etc. Their businesses varied from a size of single entrepreneur to over 60full time employees, with a revenue of a few Lacs of Rupees to a few Crores of Rupees.The age of the organizations too varies over wide range.I have been now handholding entrepreneurs and promoters for almost a decade, but thusfar it has been mostly one to one interaction with one enterprise at a time. Managing 38entrepreneurs at a moment was a big challenge, especially in a discipline of "Operations"that forms crux of entrepreneurial behavior.Fundamentally, as I learnt from my own entrepreneurial experience and by handholdingothers, a new and small self-owned business is highly resource constrained. Andtherefore an entrepreneur is most of the time in operating mode. You would talk quite abit about business idea, strategy much before you really take a plunge. After wards, youare driven to building your organization brick by brick through learning by doing. Youactually do not get much time to sit separately, review your strategy and update yourbusiness plan. For resource (expertise, time and money) and your own managerialbandwidth being limited, you tend to grapple with numerous disruptions that come on theway to your progress. You are often 24x7 person. You are full of actions every day; andevery moment is something you and your team need to do. This is the native operationalcharacteristics. And that is why, entrepreneurs are most of the time in operational mode.What do I do and how do I manage expectations of such a diversity of audience on asubject that they live and breathe. Of course, I myself do not have an academic degree inoperations but needed to put my arms around the overall scope of operation managementwhile retaining the freshness that comes from my ongoing research in operationexcellence.I had a month and I did the needed preparation and it only added to my experience ofworking in operations. But the issue of diversity of audience still remained. I thought thatif I pick what is taught in books and MBA schools under traditional pedagogy or for thatmatter I cover their syllabus, it will be too generalistic ( and the consequence of theentrepreneurs never excusing me for wasting their time) and hardly anybody would beable to relate with their business. On the other hand, if I pick up a few case-studies, it willbe difficult for them to build workable concepts.I also knew that normally in programs like this, (and as in MDP programs), Facultymembers would normally give a framework or a set of instructions, and would ask theparticipants to use them when they get back to work. However, I knew from my 2Copyrights ©2012, CVMark Consulting, All rights reserved.
  3. 3. experience that asking entrepreneurs to read and write, while they are busy firefighting intheir business, is a sin. For that matter, to anybody in operations.I reflected upon this. Soon a thought occurred to me if I could blend the two, theory thatcovers enough scope of Operations Management and the practice that the entrepreneursare doing. I thought of co-creating the one day session with them. Subsequently, Iprepared my presentation by referring some pedagogical content and books. When I wentthrough it, I did not like it a bit. It looked like I was going to teach undergraduatestudents. I slept over the slides for a few days.Operations is one of those things, that everybody does but very few people are able todefine unambiguously in actionable terms. Most of the people though, would be able todescribe the content well. No, I am not joking. If you get a chance and if you arefollowing the professional network groups in say Linked IN, like…. OperationalExcellence, Operations Management in Practice, Production Planning etc. , you wouldsee in each group, occasionally somebody asking… what is operations?, what is exactlyoperations?, what is operation management?, what is operation excellence?… whatconstitute operations?… And then you find a number of members pounding on toanswer the fundamental question. The answers would range from trivial to profound one,theoretical to practical one, novice to expert levels. But seldom any agreement takesplace on what is operations in actionable terms.A vast majority of people when asked about Operations would relate it to manufacturingorganizations as if the whole world is busy in manufacturing things. Even literature onOperations, talks very little about other areas of value creation than manufacturing.Further a strong viewpoint is that Operations is about managing people and cost. And asyou would notice, people who are responsible for operations are more busy cutting andsaving cost than achieving what is the objective of the business. Some of the books that Ipicked up at the IIMB library, I dumped them immediately for the very reason that theywere not clear about the objective of operations and how it is integrated to the Businessstrategy. Almost every alternate book either talks about cost saving or in a moresophisticated way about quality that reduces cost. I have not often found a discipline sopoorly taught and propagated.My confusion was getting compounded. First, how do I handle more than oneentrepreneur at one time; second, how do I handle and engage entrepreneurs fromdiversified businesses the whole day; and third, what do I tell them operations is aboutwhen they are anyway engaged into it, day in and day out. And the whole world isconfused about what is Operations. I also realized that if the session is less thanactionable then it would not go well.First thing first. What I did was, I took a practical angle and wanted to bring in actionsinto the class room and did not want to leave anything for entrepreneurs to work after theclass or when they go back to work. I decided to link operations to their business and 3Copyrights ©2012, CVMark Consulting, All rights reserved.
  4. 4. make sure that they have described their operations and got a few self generated thoughts,by the time the session finishes.I prepared just a few fresh slides. Almost each slide would have a brief animated questionat the bottom "For Entrepreneurs", which they would need to answer with respect to theirbusiness, impromptu. A sufficient condition for getting the answer from the entrepreneurswas to make the session data free and avoid the need for them to refer their officedocuments.So as I would go on making the presentation, each entrepreneur would essentiallyreproduce the content of my presentation but written specifically for their venture. And Iexpected that I would pick up entrepreneurs randomly and ask them their answers and afew entrepreneurs would in turn ask me for clarification. The discussion between uswould then reinforce the concept I offer, and force the entrepreneurs to apply theconcepts into their business, then and there.When I started putting these questions on the slides, I myself felt amazed because itbrought a lot of clarity to myself on what I needed to speak. It looked good. In fact, thenit occurred to me that by doing so, I was solving the problem of handling the group aswell as the diversity. Regarding where do I start talking about operations, I thought of starting with what theylearnt in their previous session. The brief I was given was to Cover both BusinessExcellence and Operation Excellence. So I at least had Business Excellence as thestarting point.So I prepared my initial slides on defining business excellence. For this, I mentioned thatevery business has an objective, and on an ongoing basis, it must move closer to itsobjective. In order to reach closer to its objective, it must set measurable goals thatincrease with time and it must find a sustainable way to achieve these goals year on year.I also mentioned that for a company to be sustainable it must grow faster than thechanges, variability and noise in the system. In financial terms, its revenues must growfaster than its Costs. The Revenues will grow faster than Costs (or margins faster thanoperating expenses), if and only if, more and more clients come to the business. More andmore clients will come to them and their sales will increase if and only if, they have adecisive edge over their competitors.This decisive edge, can only be built by a process of ongoing improvement if theirorganization fulfills at least one significant need of customers in a large enough marketsegment, like no other significant competitor does. This process of ongoing improvementleads to business excellence.There were a few questions under the "For Entrepreneurs :" phrase. Entrepreneurs wouldbe expected to write why did they start their business and hence, their objective in twothree words. Then measureable goals.. then customer segment… then their unique valueproposition… 4Copyrights ©2012, CVMark Consulting, All rights reserved.
  5. 5. Then I intended to ask them what did they learn in business strategy and then help themin identifying role of operations in making business strategy work. It was very easy to saythat the role of operations is to deliver product or services as per business strategy underterms and boundaries conditions agreed there.But then, I must tell them that a business strategy drives other strategies includingoperation strategies. And I prepared a slide on "Operation Strategy which is the optionsmade by the operation team in product design, capacity, process, technology and supplychain, to support the Business Strategy.The next slide described Operations Management, whose role is to design and run asystem that delivers things or service within the design and boundary conditions stated inOperation Strategy. Of course, there was a "For Entrepreneur :" question, to describetheir design constraints and boundary conditions. I expected, such a description toactually, significantly improve their outlook and clarify the field of influence ofOperations.I then prepared a few slides showing graphics on the content of operation managementthat is there in almost all the books. I had to though tweak it a bit and cut down thecontent from being overwhelming.And then, I added a few slides on components of Operation Management that includedprocess, supply chain (inbound, in house and outbound), planning and control, qualitymanagement, maintenance management etc. at each slide there were "For Entrepreneurs:" questions.By this time I expected each entrepreneur to have fully described content of theiroperations. They were also to reflect on the design decisions they took in terms ofcapacity, layout and location.What remained then was, how these components of Operations work together and howthey are operated on day to day basis. For it is the integration and interactions betweenthe components that create a huge variability, incoherence and dilemma on day to daybasis.Here, I brought is Business Model as a tool that translates Operations Strategy into alogical linkage between the major building blocks of the organization, and gives a clearvisualization of the flow of value or money.At this moment, only part of the model that is relevant to Operations, as definedtraditionally, would be exposed to the entrepreneurs; and they would be asked to fillattributes of their business model into the building blocks. I expected a good debate here.since describing business model reverses the traditional thinking process ofentrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are often used to thinking inside out, however the BusinessModel description (as proposed by Alex Osterwalder and his over 470 co-creators of thebook the Business Model Generation), as it should be thought in opposite direction, thatis from market backward towards the supply chain. 5Copyrights ©2012, CVMark Consulting, All rights reserved.
  6. 6. Once the business model is built, it becomes very easy to emphasize the role ofoperations. The emphasis here is that on day to day basis, it is the role of operations toimprove flow of value cycle (creation, delivery, capture and invest). And this cycle mustbe faster and faster, and thicker and thicker with time. And thus, improving Flow of valuecreation and delivery, becomes prime objective of operations in order to build asustainable organization.I have found that when entrepreneurs are exposed to this concept, they realize the overallimpact of operations and its responsibilities. They also figure out how operationsintegrates different elements of business. And they immediately realize that the flow canactually get throttled at many places and on day to day basis the issues they face are theones that throttle this flow.When entrepreneurs fill in different building blocks of the business model Canvas, theygo through the experience of mapping their thinking onto the paper. When they do it,they see the integrated and big picture view, which they can share with their colleagues,which was earlier difficult to for the lack of an intuitive tool. More importantly, they startidentifying the misalignment between different blocks, which they could not see, when itwas only in their mind.This would be an exhilarating experience for them and then I would tell them thatbusiness model innovation is today considered the most potent competitive weapon. Andgive a few examples.The stage would then be set for launching deeper into their day to day 24x7 tussles inoperations. Here I would be presenting the 4 laws of operations, as propounded by EliGoldratt in his article "Standing on the shoulders of the giants".Here, I would spend some time to explain and handhold the entrepreneurs in thinkingabout the way they manage their work on day to day basis and how they can solve theirconflicts by setting up a system that helps them in not only managing but improving theoperation on an ongoing basis.The focus would be to tell them that at all time, operations must be worried abouteffectiveness and efficiency, but in right direction and right place, at right time. I guess alot of emotions pouring out here, as traditional practices would get questioned.I would mention about different best practices and methodologies like TQM, Lean andSix Sigma that organizations have used. But I would also tell them when they aresuccessful and when they are not.The first three laws of operations, help the organization in setting their direction right,improving their effectiveness, aligning the functions, removing local optima, reducinginventory and reducing cost all together.The fourth law says that managers and entrepreneurs have limited time, however, theflow of value (work orders) is disrupted in several many varied ways. It is physically notpossible for the entrepreneurs to spend their time on all these issues. However, they get 6Copyrights ©2012, CVMark Consulting, All rights reserved.
  7. 7. emotionally attached and tend to dive into too many things and try to juggle between this(24x7). This reduces their own efficiency dramatically.Reduction in their efficiency means delay in decision making and delay in decisionmaking means delay in actions in operations.Additionally, organizations is like a chain, and at a moment, the weakest link determinesstrength and limits growth of the organization. Hence, I would expose the fundamental ofbottleneck management as a way to get quick improvement in performance (capacity,throughput, lead time), with minimum cost and effort. I would in fact provide ageneralized Focusing mechanism (Theory of Constraints) for the entrepreneurs to allowthem to realize that operations is not about firefighting but a systematic way of runningand improving performance of the business…… This would be the final slide andsummary would follow thus……. In order to build a sustainable business (excellence) entrepreneurs and their teamsmust use a focusing mechanism to find the weakest links in their operations on anongoing basis and employ the relevant improvement techniques to strengthen these links;all these, without exhausting too much of their limited resources and without taking toomuch of risk. By doing so cost issues will automatically be taken care of……. As I prepared the slides, I also rehearsed them.I reached the training center in time. As I entered the class, entrepreneurs were still takingtheir seats and Prof Ranga was jokingly complaining to the ladies, "I am verydisappointed, I send emails and some of you do not respond at all. I wanted a feedbackfrom you on last session. What happened?"I heard amongst the noise, "We have a lot of firefighting to do in our office, who getstime to read all emails and reply…. "I knew what she was saying… entrepreneurship is all about actions, and operations too isall about actions…. Asking entrepreneurs to read and write on something that is notrelated to the sales order they are chasing to deliver NOW, may be futile and …..sinful.I took it from there … and flashed my slides.The preparation seemed to have worked well.Here is the link for summary slides presented during the daylong session.Clet:02-12__________________________________________________________________CVMark handholds business leaders in creating organizations that are built to transform.For developing, innovating and executing your business model, call Tel: +91 94480 70081 or Email details to : .CVMark Consulting, #2304, Nandi Park, Gottegere, Bannergatta Road, Bangalore 560083, INDIA Web: 7Copyrights ©2012, CVMark Consulting, All rights reserved.