Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


The course takes an operations point of view to look at companies and industries in the service sector. The course will be primarily case based and will include cases from industries and sectors such as fast food, retailing, government, health care, financial services, internet services, humanitarian services, entertainment, hospitality. Cases will be supplemented with lectures and readings, with some guest lectures as well.


The recommended prerequisite for this course is 15.760/15.761 Introduction to Operations Management. However, students who have not taken 15.760 should be able to get up to speed with not much difficulty.

Intended Audience

This class is for anyone interested in operations and/or the service sector, with a focus on second-year MBA students, particularly those aspiring to careers in (1) operations, (2) service sector, (3) entrepreneurship, (4) strategy, or (5) management consulting. A working knowledge of operations, which, for many firms, employs the greatest number of employees and requires the largest investment in assets, is often indispensable for general managers and entrepreneurs.


Class participation 35%
Final project 25%
Case submissions 40%

Class Participation

You will be graded on your contributions to create and enhance a positive learning environment for this course. This includes enhancing the atmosphere and quality of classroom discussions, as well as interactions outside the classroom. Grading will be based on the quality and impact of your contributions, not primarily on quantity (although a minimum amount of the latter is necessary to deliver on the former).

In a typical class session, one or more students will be asked to begin the discussion by addressing specific questions, found in the Assignments section of this course. If you have thoroughly prepared the case or reading, you should have no difficulty in handling such a leadoff request. After the leadoff initial analysis and recommendations, the discussion will be opened to the rest of the class, sometimes with cold calling mixed in. Some of the criteria for judging effective class participation include

  1. Relevance,
  2. Insightfulness (in analysis, observation, or questions),
  3. Constructiveness in the context of the class discussion flow,
  4. Depth of analysis,
  5. Clarity and brevity.

Please plan to attend class on a regular basis and come to class prepared to participate fully.

Final Project

The final project for this course is an opportunity to apply course concepts and to perform an in-depth analysis of operations strategy issues that are of interest to you. You may do this in a team (up to three people). More information can be found in the Projects section of this course.

You should make very clear what part of your write-up is based on your own thinking and what part summarizes pre-existing outside sources. Please cite all significant external sources used for your report. This applies in particular to papers you may have written for other classes, to documents you may have received from the company you are analyzing, interviews with industry experts, etc. Building on external sources is by no means a "bad thing"–solid work is typically aware of and builds on what others have done. Ideally though, you should take this external information and add the filter of your own critical thinking and the concepts studied in this class to synthesize it, critique it, etc.

Case Write-ups

There are approximately 20 cases in this course. Each person should write up three of these during the term. The first case write-up is worth 10% of the course grade, and the two subsequent cases are worth 15% each. A write-up is three-page analysis of the case, guided by the Assignment Questions, any Readings for the session, and any ideas discussed previously in the course.

Electronic versions of the write-ups are due by noon of the day of class. Write-ups should be done individually. Please do not discuss with others (in or out of the class) the cases you choose to write up. Also, please do not seek outside (i.e., Internet) sources related to the details or analysis of the case.

Course Workload

My expectation is that you will spend approximately nine hours per week in total for this course. Your weekly schedule should plan for roughly

  • three hours in class,
  • three hours doing individual reading and case preparation before group meetings,
  • three hours for group discussions to prepare the weekly case assignments and/or the ongoing final project.

Course Textbooks

The required text for this course is:

Fine, Charles H. Clockspeed: Winning Industry Control in the Age of Temporary Advantage. Reading, MA: Basic Books, 1999. ISBN: 9780738201535.

There are some textbooks that discuss operations strategy that may be of interest:

Slack, Nigel, and Michael Lewis. Operations Strategy. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002. ISBN: 9780130313867.

Hill, Terry. Manufacturing Strategy: Text and Cases. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1999. ISBN: 9780256230727.

Miltenburg, John. Manufacturing Strategy: How to Formulate and Implement a Winning Plan. New York, NY: Productivity Press, 2005. ISBN: 9781563273179.

Hayes, Robert H., Steven C. Wheelwright, and Kim B. Clark. Dynamic Manufacturing: Creating the Learning Organization. New York, NY: Free Press, 1988. ISBN: 9780029142110.

Garvin, David A. Operations Strategy: Text and Cases. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1991. ISBN: 9780136389170.

Other business books that may be of interest to students taking this course:

Hammer, Michael. The Agenda: What Every Business Must Do to Dominate the Decade. New York, NY: Crown Publishing Group, 2001. ISBN: 9780609609668.

Hammer, Michael, and Steven Stanton. The Reengineering Revolution. New York, NY: Harper Collins, 1995. ISBN: 9780887307362.

Pine II, B. Joseph. Mass Customization: The New Frontier in Business Competition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1993. ISBN: 9780875843728.

Womack, James P., Daniel T. Jones, and Daniel Roos. The Machine that Changed the World: The Story of Lean Production. New York, NY: Harper Collins, 1991. ISBN: 9780060974176.

Klein, Janice A. Revitalizing Manufacturing: Text and Cases. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1990. ISBN: 9780256068092.

Buy at MIT Press Dertouzos, Michael L., Richard K. Lester, and Robert M. Solow. Made In America: Regaining the Productive Edge. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1989. ISBN: 9780262041003.

Cohen, Stephen S., and John Zysman. Manufacturing Matters: The Myth of the Post-Industrial Economy. New York, NY: Basic Books, 1988. ISBN: 9780465043859.

Laseter, Timothy M. Balanced Sourcing: Cooperation and Competition in Supplier Relationships. New York, NY: Jossey-Bass, 1998. ISBN: 9780787944438.