Operations Management – Hayes and Wheelwright Essay

The Hayes and Wheelwright model (Slack et al, 2009) is a useful way to classify the operations function of an organisation. Select your own organization, or an organization with which you are familiar, and identify at which stage of the Hayes and Wheelwright model you would currently place the operations function. Justify your positioning by drawing on relevant theory and practice.

This paper discusses the operations strategy and management of the construction division of Larsen & Toubro Limited – the leading engineering, construction and technology conglomerate of India with an international presence in over 40 countries. I have spent 10 years working with the construction division in various capacities including a rewarding 5 year stint in the corporate head office reporting to the Vice President.

Operations function is perhaps the most important function in most organizations, be it a product manufacturing or a service oriented company. The day to day operations, when considered in their totality actually reflect and in turn also constitute the organization’s long-term strategic direction (David Barnes, Operations Management: An International Perspective, 2007). This is in other words the operations strategy impacting the overall business strategy or the corporate strategy.

Hayes and Wheelwright’s Model

The Hayes and Wheelwright four stage model summarizes the operations contribution to overall strategy.

In stage 1 the operations function is reactive and internally focused. Its best contribution is to avoid any big mistakes.

In stage 2 the operations function aligns ideology with the best in the market and tries to adopt these. Its forward looking and willing to learn even the hard way and is externally neutral. In stage 3 the operations function is comparing notes with the best in the industry and also has reached a respectful place within the cross-functional company matrix and the other departments look to it for guidance. The operations function is internally supportive.

In stage 4, the operations function is providing the foundation for competitive success by being innovative, proactive, and flexible, forward looking and correctly anticipating future, in short being one step ahead of competition.

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