Academic journal article Journal of Supply Chain Management

Professional, Research, and Publishing Trends in Operations and Supply Chain Management

Academic journal article Journal of Supply Chain Management

Professional, Research, and Publishing Trends in Operations and Supply Chain Management

Article excerpt


At the 2014 Academy of Management Annual Conference in Philadelphia, a panel discussion was held on "Trends in Operations and Supply Chain Management." The panel consisted of a group of experienced scholars tasked with presenting their views on important issues facing the operations and supply chain management (O/SCM) academic profession. They touched on a wide range of topics, many of them bigger than just O/SCM and relevant to business schools, universities, and the groups that they work with. We asked four of these scholars to each prepare a short essay on this topic that we could use for distribution and debate with the community of O/SCM scholars globally. What follows is the outcome of this "virtual roundtable" of debate and discussion.

One of the most commonly raised topics in this discussion was that of "relevance," or more specifically, criticism that a growing lack of relevance of our academic research to managerial practice existed. In fact, this is a common theme across the Academy, seen in articles such as "Connecting Scholars and Business" (BizEd Editorial Staff, 2014a) and "Reconnecting with the Business World: Socially Responsible Scholarship" (Tsui, 2015). The latter was written by a former president and editor at the Academy of Management who asks (p. 38): "How long will taxpayers, private and public funding agencies, and society at large tolerate these self-serving, inward-looking 'castle in the sky' research practices?" Others also have raised the question of whether we adequately consider multiple stakeholders when determining the "impact" or "contribution" of our scholarship (Aguinis, Shapiro, Antonacopoulou & Cummings, 2014; BizEd Editorial Staff, 2015a; Shinn, 2014). While some suggestions for solutions to this lack of relevance have been made (BizEd Editorial Staff, 2014c, 2015b; Sullivan, Roche, Thomas & Triantis, 2014; Voss, 2010), few help scholars to balance the competing demands of tenure and none have recently been specific to the O/SCM domain.

In a related theme, much of the discussion in our virtual roundtable was concerned with pressure to increase the rigor in our research that did not also take into account the importance (and challenges) of creativity. Many felt that too much focus on a single method or narrow questions had limited our research but that care was also needed to ensure rigor did not become a casualty in the rush to increase relevance. Our contributors suggested creative approaches that provide solutions to these somewhat counterintuitive forces, such as seeking out rather than shying away from complexity, more use of "big data," using alternative and multiple methodologies, taking risks, and networking with more and different scholars.

The third major theme was that while O/SCM is viewed as being a very tactical domain, management executives and business schools are only willing to spend time on strategic issues (BizEd Editorial Staff, 2014c). As Morgan, Levitt and Malek (2007, pp. 2-4) observe:

   ... senior executives regularly retreat to ... elegant
   conference centers where they plan the Next Big
   Thing, leaving the grunt work of execution to the
   lower echelons. And that is precisely where strategy
   goes awry.... Executives have a tendency to think of
   this kind of work as being too 'tactical' to take up
   their precious time. Nothing could be further from
   the truth ...

Steve Brown, Editor at International Journal of Operations and Production Management agrees:

Very few Chief Executive Officers really understand the strategic importance of operations within their own organizations.... they perceive operations as little more than a set of highly routinized, repetitive, narrow tasks... The consequence of this can be catastrophic. Business schools send out MBAs and other business graduates armed with a view of operations merely as a technical, 'solution-fixing', low-level function rather than as part of the strategic remit of the organization. …

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