Skip to content

059: Operations (II)

Five ways to keep your systems running.

Jeremy Finch
Jeremy Finch
4 min read
059: Operations (II)

Here are my takeaways from MBA Operations Management class:
Tangible ways to get systems running efficiently.

Generalizable to ~most settings.

Here's part I :

058: Operations (I)
What exactly is “Operations Management”?

Five takeaways :

Identify bottlenecks
Expect variability
Preserve slack
Beware overcorrections
Invest in people

1  Identify bottlenecks

A system's capacity is constrained by its weakest component: A single pinch-point can reduce vital throughput.

Bottlenecks exist everywhere: In roads, airport security queues, production lines, plumbing systems, supply chains, software architecture etc.

When inputs arrive faster than processing speeds, buildups accumulate. Wait times increase. Performance suffers.

By alleviating the constraint - or redesigning the system - its impact can be reduced.

  • Locate it: Identify root causes. Ask why.
  • Then, add capacity: Direct resources there.

2  Expect variability

Some things are predictable. Others are more random.

In any case, assume that things will go astray.

"Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth".

But a resilient system can help you land on your feet.


3  Preserve slack capacity

In services businesses, utilization (X axis) and wait time (Y) have a non-linear relationship. When employees are busy / distracted, logjams can occur, quickly.

What this means =
Don't run things at max capacity.

The inverse is also true: By adding a bit of margin back into the system, you can quickly relieve pressure. Some breathing room can make a huge difference.

Slack capacity absorbs shocks upstream.

  • Go slow and be patient: Humans and machines need downtime.
  • Rest. There's value in trading some short-term output for long-term resilience.

4  Beware overcorrections

Why do people hoard toilet paper? Why do stocks jump 500% overnight? What makes soccer goalies dive on penalty kicks, instead of staying centered?

Humans are emotional creatures.

We extrapolate meaning from noise.
We react, instinctively.
We over-correct.

These tendencies get us into trouble (myself included).


5  Invest in people

Operations Management people like to use a lot of quant models and math.

But no formula can tell you how to create a meaningful, authentic experience. The human tradeoffs are as much art as  science.

Beyond the heady jargon, my takeaways =

  • Have a clear, motivating mission. And core values (real ones).
  • For common, predictable stuff: Create systems that enable easy decisions with minimal effort. Remove hindrances.
  • For everything else: Empower people to use good judgment.

Easier said than done.

What are your Operations insights?


Related :

099: Parenting Thoughts
Reflections on becoming a dad.
063: Team Dynamics
A summary of “The Four Player Model”.
058: Operations (I)
WTF is Operations Management?
054: MBA - Intro
Curious what people learn in b-school?

Season 2BusinessCollaborations