Operations Management & Operations Research
At a recent recruitment event for the Master Program OML, one of the undergraduate students TBdk asked the question “I really don’t understand how I can write an OML thesis in the field of Human Performance Management. Can you explain this to me?” My key response was that Operations Management is not Operations Research. Of course, in an engineering school modeling plays an important role. It is one of the key aspects that distinguishes us from an Operations Management program in a business school. But what is the role of Human Performance Management?
reaching the system’s objectives. In all cases, humans manage the operational processes, so they are crucial in the actual decision making process. One of our postdoctoral fellows also considered the worker (executing the process) as a decision maker in his PhD thesis, hence blurring the distinction between execution and management.
Operations Management & Logistics as an engineering discipline deals with the modeling, analysis and redesign of operational processes to understand and improve performance. Performance is then traditionally defined in terms of timing, quality, and economic objectives. Recently, also sustainability has been well accepted as an important objective. In operational processes, humans play an important role. In many cases, they execute the operational process, hence humans need to be managed such that they contribute towards
From a program perspective, this implies that all graduates in OML need to have an understanding of what drives human worker behavior and human decision making, and how this can be influenced when redesigning operational processes. In the Master thesis, this provides for very interesting subjects to be studied. In a recent example in a chemical plant, delivery performance was very poor while utilization was extremely low. Any OR model would show that the performance could not be explained (as low utilization does not cause any queu-
Regardless of the perspective, humans play an essential role in actual operational processes. Human behavior thus needs to be taken into account when redesigning operational processes without any question.
01 Jan Fransoo (foto Bart van Overbeeke)
ing). However, the perceived workload was extremely high. Behavioral theory was used to investigate perceived workload, and eventually the planning and control process was redesigned such that perceived workload went down, and performance went up. Human Performance Management can hence be an excellent thesis subject in the OML program. At the same time however, it should be expected from the faculty involved that they match the student’s expectations to be studying matters related to the modeling, analysis, and redesign of business processes. In the end, students who are just modelers will never be managers, but managers who are not modelers, will never really understand the operations.
Program Director Operations Management & Logistics
maart 2011 SCOPE
SCOPE jaargang 2011 maart nummer (thema: Bedrijfskundig DNA)