Where managing people fits into the discipline of operations management

OUP have produced a 30 page review of our book and its market, along with detailed feedback from  academics that have adopted it as their set text for their teaching.  We are very grateful for this.   The report identified which chapters from the text were most ‘used’, and those that were least ‘used’.   As a result of this feedback, we are going to modify the structure of the book to assist colleagues to fit it into their OM curriculum.

But one of the least used chapters is not going to be greatly modified, because we believe it is fundamental to the discipline of OM – designing jobs and managing people.  Now to be fair, we suspect that many of our OM colleagues do not cover this topic because it is covered in other subject areas, with modules on the behavioural sciences and/or human resource management.  Whilst this may be true, we want to explain why we think this topic needs to be given an operations management perspective.

At the heart of OM is the concept of managing processes to achieve desired outcomes (or deliver order winners).  Processes are conducted by machines or people or a combination of both.  Machines are considerably more reliable than people, so making sure people are able to do their work effectively is fundamental.  So why might a person fail to perform to the required standard?   There are four reasons:

  1. Poorly designed process – the worker is unable to perform the work because of the design of the process or the tools needed to do the job are inadequate.  It is clearly the  Operations Management function that is responsible for this.
  2. Inadequate operator – the worker does not have the necessary intellectual/technical skills or physical characteristics needed to perform the task.   Whilst the Human Resource function may organise the employee recruitment and development process, Operations Management should have some input to this.
  3. Failure to communicate standards – poor performance may result from the worker not being trained to the required standard.  Again, although training may be organised by HR, most on-the-job training will be done by operations staff.
  4. Lack of motivation – employees may under perform due to their attitude to the work they are doing.  This is a a big area that relates to pay and rewards, conditions of service, organisational context and so on.  Expertise in this area may rest with HR, but many aspects of this – providing leadership, feedback and praise, the right organisational climate – are delivered by Operations Management.

So in our view it is important that students of OM understand this.   We do not want students leaving college thinking that Operations Managers manage processes and HR Managers manage people – because it’s not true!

By the way, items 1 to 4 above are a checklist that should be worked through when dealing with an underperforming employee.   All too often managers leap to the conclusion that the employee is poorly motivated, before checking that they have the right person, in a job that’s doable, trained to the right standard.

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This entry was posted in Chap 11 Jobs and people, Operations Management and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Where managing people fits into the discipline of operations management

  1. The ‘classic’ undoable job is the reception desk, where the receptionist is expected to deal with a customer and answer the phone promptly. This cannot be done if the phone rings at the same time as a customer arrives at the desk!

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