Who's Running This Operation?

By Simons, Jacob V. | Southern Business Review, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

Who's Running This Operation?


Simons, Jacob V., Southern Business Review


In 1999, the Bureau of the Census documented approximately 35,125 businesses in the 58-county region of southeast Georgia. Each of these businesses provides some combination of goods and services by transforming labor, capital, material, and information inputs into outputs that have value to their customers. This transformation process is called the company's "operations". Since, by definition, all businesses conduct operations, they must also employ people who manage those operations.

However, a review of business degrees granted within the state of Georgia reveals that few degree programs exist to produce operations managers and that only a small handful of graduates emerge from those programs each year. According to the University System of Georgia's (2004) Student Information Reporting System, 5,751 bachelor's degrees in business were granted by Georgia's state universities in FY03. Only 16 of those degrees (0.28%) specialized in operations management. By contrast, approximately 12.4 percent specialized in accounting, 18.6 percent in finance, and 19.8 percent in marketing.

An obvious question would seem to be "If not those educated in operations management, who's running the operations of businesses in our region?" The answer to this question has important implications for business executives faced with hiring decisions, educational institutions seeking to provide relevant programs, and students seeking to become qualified job candidates. Accordingly, the objectives of this research were to determine a) the educational backgrounds of current operations managers and b) the relative contribution of their education in helping them meet the challenges of their jobs.

Literature Review

There is substantial recognition of the importance of the operations management function in business (Andrew & Johnson, 1982; Skinner, 1973), whether in manufacturing (Taj, Hormozi, & Mirshab, 1996) or in service industries (Armistead, Johnson, & Voss, 1986). Consequently, there have also been many studies of operations management education throughout the world (Ala, 1987; Bahl, 1989; Basnet, 2000; Berry, 1979; Berry, Watson, & Greenwood, 1978; Bregman & Flores, 1991; Chase 8 Zhang, 1998; Goffin, 1998; Hill, 1987; Machuca & Luque, 2003; Morgan, 1989; Raiszadeh & Ettkin, 1989; Wild, 1984; Wood 8 Britney, 1988/1989). Most of these studies, however, have focused on the content of operations management curriculum. In other words, these studies have started with an existing or presupposed degree program and worked forward in time to consider how to make that program more helpful to future operations managers. By contrast, the proposed study starts with current managers of operations and looks backward at the educational and other preparatory experiences that led them to their current positions.

The disconnect between the number of operations managers and the production of operations management majors by universities is not unique to Georgia. For example, as part of a process of on-going improvement, AACSB International (the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) expects its accredited members to seek input from multiple stakeholders and to use various forms of assessment to determine how well they are serving their customers (AACSB 2005). This is typically done through surveys of current students, graduates, and employers of graduates. However, such methods are limited to assessment of customers that have already been served. These customers may or may not be representative of the region's businesses in general. By targeting existing operations managers, regardless of any prior affiliation with the author's university, the current study addresses a known need of business that is apparently NOT being directly addressed by targeted programs.

Methodology

A single-page survey completed by the person most recently hired into an entrylevel operations management position in target organizations was used. …

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