We are pleased to welcome Matt Merrick as Kellogg’s new Associate Dean – MBA Operations. In this role, Matt partners with Kellogg’s Senior Associate Dean – Curriculum and Teaching, while overseeing day-to-day operations across all of Kellogg’s full-time, part-time, MSMS, joint degree and certificate programs. His scope includes admissions, academic experience (registrar, advising, experiential learning), student life and career outcomes.
Some of my highest impact learnings as a graduate student have been around productivity. One of my professors in the first couple of weeks described getting your MBA as a two-year course in decision making and trade-offs. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve written about what my process has looked like. And today, I thought I’d attempt to pull out three productivity principles that have become apparent to me in the past year.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about why queues form. The one line answer is that they form because of statistical fluctuations and dependent events. The concept is simple: if your presence at a meeting is dependent on the previous meeting, and the average time in the meeting is variable, it is likely that you’ll have people waiting for you, on average.
There’s a really cool application of this principle when it comes to checkout lines in stores and supermarkets. Multiple line checkouts are woefully inefficient.
In my last MBA learning post, we dove into the idea of managing queues by managing our utilization. In that post, we briefly discussed why queues form. Today, I’d like to dig deeper into that question.
So, why do queues / delays occur? They occur due to a combination of statistical fluctuations and dependent events. In simpler terms, statistical fluctuations can be described as variability. If we go back to the analogy of the ice cream stall, it is unlikely that the queue is exactly five people through the day. There will be times when the queue will be long and then times when it will be short. These differences are statistical fluctuations.
I’ve been sharing a run of operations learnings of late as a part of this series. This has been surprising as I never considered myself a fan of the subject. However, thanks to a combination of a professor (Gad Allon, who last week was named Kellogg Professor of the Year) who’s more than managed to pique my interest and a realization that learning to manage business operations isn’t very different from managing life operations, I’ve enjoyed my time studying operations. And today’s topic is managing queues.
Managing queues is particularly interesting as we all experience, and generally dislike, queues.
Gad Allon, professor of managerial economics and decision sciences, was named the 2015 L.G. Lavengood Outstanding Professor of the Year Award on Friday.
The award, named in honor of former Kellogg Professor Lawrence G. Lavengood, is voted on by graduating students of Kellogg’s Full-Time and Part-Time programs.
“As an aspiring operations expert and life-long learner, Professor Allon continues to inspire me and those around me with his passion for operations, his drive to continuously improve and his desire to help others learn,” wrote one student in their nomination for Allon.
In our Operations Management class, we discussed how Wilson tests the durability of its tennis balls. It does so by subjecting them to pressure and checking for signs of contortion in the shape of the ball.
It isn’t possible for Wilson to put each ball through hours of tennis hitting and then confirm it is ready for sale. So, it works with a proxy measurement. It is unclear if customers can tell the difference between a tournament standard ball and a non-tournament standard ball. Perhaps professional tennis players can.
There isn’t necessarily an issue with this proxy. It seems to have largely worked out OK for them. But, it is a proxy measurement nevertheless. And, it is foreseeable that there might come a day (if it isn’t already here) when the distance between the proxy and the needs of the customer grows and Wilson fails to adapt simply because it is optimizing for the wrong thing.
Proxy measurements such as the Wilson durability test are critical in Operations. Proxy measures are critical in our life’s operations, too. They’re our attempt at simplifying a complex world and making our lives easy to navigate.