Operations

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How to Manage Alliances Strategically

  • Research Feature
  • Read Time: 19 min 

Companies that lack the resources and knowledge to undertake key strategic growth initiatives often seek partners who can fill in the gaps. The skills that make such alliances work, however, aren’t well understood; executives often make flawed assumptions that prevent the partnership from achieving its goals. An integrative, holistic framework for alliance management helps executives avoid these pitfalls and create value via strategic alliances.

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The 2016 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize

  • Research Highlight
  • Read Time: 2 min 

This year’s winning article is “Accelerating Projects by Encouraging Help,” by Fabian J. Sting, Christoph H. Loch, and Dirk Stempfhuber. The authors examine project planning and execution challenges and describe a case study of a company that designed a help process to encourage workers to seek and provide mutual assistance. The Beckhard Prize is awarded annually to the authors of the most outstanding MIT SMR article on planned change and organizational development.

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Navigating the Leadership Challenges of Innovation Ecosystems

Certain kinds of product or process creations involve not just one player but many to ensure success. Organizations working toward this kind of innovation need to think about the project’s innovation ecosystem, which includes identifying co-innovators, structuring project leadership, and potentially modifying how success is defined. “All these things need to be negotiated within the coalition” notes Ron Adner of the Tuck School of Business — a process that’s often under-appreciated or ignored.

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Second Thoughts on Second Sourcing

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 4 min 

Multi-sourcing can lessen the risk of supply chain disruption. But it introduces new risks of its own. Companies should explore five questions before moving forward: Are all the sources in the same geographic area? What will it cost to develop a second supplier? How compatible is the alternative source? Are the additional CSR risks worth it? And will primary suppliers start holding back their new innovations?

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Integrating Sales and Operations to Create Higher Value for Customers

  • Research Highlight

Professor Theodore Stank, co-author of “Integrating Supply and Demand” from MIT SMR’s Summer 2015 issue, joined contributing editor Steven Paul to present his research on how some companies have bridged the perennial divide between demand generation and the supply chain in a way that maximizes the value to their customers and to themselves. Professor Stank described how to avoid having sales generation become disconnected from the operations required to fulfill that demand.

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Do You Know What Really Drives Your Business’s Performance?

Although intuitively appealing, strategy maps and models such as the service profit chain have a common pitfall: They encourage managers to embrace general assumptions about the drivers of financial performance that may not stand up to close scrutiny in their own organizations. A more rigorous analytic approach called performance topology mapping may help managers avoid these assumptions, as well as the strategic mistakes they promote.

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Monitor, Measure, Incentivize: Is Management as Simple as That?

Nicholas Bloom, William Eberle Professor of Economics at Stanford University, conducted an extensive study of 30,000 US factories, and found that two practices, underpinned by innovative software and IT systems, stand out in highly effectively managed operations: monitoring and incentives.

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Free Webinar: Integrating Sales and Operations

  • Blog

On May 12 at 1 pm ET, Professor Theodore Stank, co-author of “Integrating Supply and Demand” from MIT SMR’s Summer 2015 issue, joins contributing editor Steven Paul to present his research on how some companies have bridged the perennial divide between demand generation and the supply chain in a way that maximizes the value to their customers and to themselves. Professor Stank describes how to avoid having sales generation become disconnected from the operations required to fulfill that demand

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Navigating the Patent Minefield Through Consortia

Bringing high-tech inventions built on patented technologies to market can be complicated and risky. The threat of added costs from patent infringement lawsuits has led technology companies to pool their talents — and patents — in technology consortia. Joining a tech consortium requires managers to weigh intellectual property value against the value of future collaborations and assess the consortium’s pros and cons for innovation, competition, and market creation.

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Remapping the Last Mile of the Urban Supply Chain

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 6 min 

There are many reasons to believe we are on the crest of substantial progress with even the most challenging of last mile deliveries. Innovative models such as smart locker systems, the use of electric vehicles, and on-demand fleet services such as UberRUSH are being explored. The MIT Megacity Lab is helping identify customer-specific insights about how supply chains deliver products to urban customers and finds that autonomous delivery vehicles, while still years from wide-scale implementation, hold game-changing promise.

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Leveraging Smart Data and Internet of Things to Realize Mass Customization

  • Research Highlight
  • Read Time: 1 min 

In an on-demand webinar, Wolfgang Gruel and Frank Piller detail new experiments in personal transportation. Gruel and Piller say that transportation customers are on the cusp of having seamless travel experiences that synchronize all transit options: schedules, traffic conditions, and personal preferences. But making this vision a reality requires knitting together previously independent systems — in part through smart data and the Internet of Things.

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Mass Customization and the Do-It-Yourself Supply Chain

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 5 min 

With the help of third-party developers, customization is shifting from the producer to the customer. While Industrial Age customization did enhance options for different customer preferences, those options were hardwired into a firm’s supply chain in ways that preserved efficient scale. Customers could choose only from those options that a firm had already programmed to deliver through established supply chains. Digital Age customization allows customers options outside the boundaries of a firm’s traditional supply chain.

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Building a Better Car Company With Analytics

Using data and analytics to understand the complexities of modern business has become not only common, but essential. Gahl Berkooz joined Ford Motor Co. in 2004, eventually becoming head of data and governance and a member of the company’s global data insights and analytics skill team. Berkooz became acutely aware of how important analytics is to the company’s ability to thrive in the global marketplace. “What it boils down to,” he told MIT SMR’s Michael Fitzgerald, “is that we know how to make decisions. It’s about finding the opportunities to bring data and analytics to make better decisions.”

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Is It Time to Build Your Own Platform?

If you really want to create value, forget about burning platforms and start building them. A platform, explain professors Geoffrey Parker and Marshall Van Alstyne, and Sangeet Choudary, founder and CEO of Platform Thinking Labs, in Platform Revolution: How Networked Markets are Transforming the Economy and How to Make Them Work for You, is a “business model that uses technology to connect people, organizations, and resources in an interactive ecosystem.”

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Where Digitization Is Failing to Deliver

It has become a truism that the pace of work is faster than ever, as digital technologies speed up communication and operational processes in a story of unending progress. But increased speed has not translated into increased rates of productivity growth. Since 2004, growth rates have slowed not just in the US but across the world. Chad Syverson, J. Baum Harris Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, explains what the implications are, and why the benefits of new technologies are not straightforward.

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Why Learning Is Central to Sustained Innovation

Many managers think they can create better products just by improving the development process or adding new tools. But it’s skilled people, not processes, that create great products. So-called “lean” organizations invest heavily and continuously in the skills of product developers, and rather than developing single products, they think in terms of streams of products. By making people the backbone of the product development system, companies can achieve a triple win: increased innovation, faster time to market, and lower costs.

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Learning the Art of Business Improvisation

The ability to innovate and rapidly respond to changes in the business environment is critical to competitiveness and success. Improvisation and experimentation combined with focus and flexibility are needed to identify new business opportunities and effectively execute projects. But while improvisation may seem to be spontaneous, managers can foster it through the deliberate development of certain processes and capabilities in an organization’s culture, team structure, and management practices.

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Tech Savvy: February 26, 2016

Peter Drucker defined the work of business leaders by three principal tasks: delivering financial results, making work and workers productive, and managing a company’s social impacts. Technological advances have transformed — and continue to transform — the world in myriad ways since Drucker published that definition in 1974. But technology hasn’t changed Drucker’s tasks. Instead, it is giving rise to new and better ways of executing them. This new column aims to help you identify big ideas and new tactics at the intersection of technology and management.

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Enough Health Care Data for an Army: The Million Veteran Program

The holy grail of medicine is therapy that is customized for the patient. But to get there, health care researchers need huge amounts of data to help identify which genes affect health. The Million Veteran Program has tapped one of the largest cohorts available — U.S. military personnel — to obtain the dataset, but managing the security of this sensitive data is a challenge. In a Q&A, two of the project’s lead scientists, J. Michael Gaziano and Saiju Pyarajan, explain the process.

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