Strategic Operations Management and Operational Research. A Reflective Analysis on the Student's Learning Experience

Term Paper, 2018

41 Pages, Grade: 80


Table of content


1. Introduction
2. Background and Context
3. Learning goals and expectations
4. Learning methodologies
5. What I learnt and how my coordination skills were enhanced
5.1. Coordinating Peers discussions
5.2. Reflective learning approach
5.3. Learning workshop and practice
6. What will I do differently going forward?
7. My actions and next steps
Appendices A:
A.1. Additional learning methods applied and their outcomes
A.2. Summary of my takeaway from the course




This paper consists of an end module assessment for the strategic operations management and operational research. It comprises of two important parts which respectively consist of reflective learning and critical analysis for a position of operations manager.

In the first part of the work the learner attempts to critically reflect on his learning, focusing on how the course enabled him to improve his knowledge of operations management and more particularly a skill of his own choice, coordination skill. Although coordination involves other more skills such as communication, by applying different learning approaches, it is clear that the learner's skills have improved considerably through this course, which allowed him to critically evaluate and improve the process performance both in the field of operations and in a larger organizational environment.

On the other hand, the second part of this paper attempts to use knowledge gained from the course to critically analyze a learner’s chosen job description for an operations manager which is attached on this work. We focused on analyzing the challenges that the incumbent is likely to face in the course of his work. Although forecasting, quality management, sustainability, market systems and resource utilization are important operational issues for the Operations manager, a number of challenges has been analyzed and solutions proposed in order to mitigate these challenges.

Key words: Operations management, coordination skills, teamwork, operational challenges, forecasting, sustainability, reflective analysis.


1. Introduction

This course explored the different operational processes, techniques, planning and control to develop students’ ability and skills in strategic operations management. In addition, the module focuses on operational research that includes varied and advanced analytical methods for better decisions (Khodabakhshi et al., 2013, pp. 1-2).

In the beginning students were requested to choose one personal skill that they wanted to improve during the course duration and a reflective analysis on how their skills were enhanced was part of the end module assessment. In this regard, and given my current professional context, I have chosen to develop my coordination skills, described by Weigand et al (2003) with a focus on communication, which together have greatly enhanced my teamwork competency.

The rationale for this choice of skill to be improved during this course was based on both my current coordination role and my entrepreneurial aspirations. As my employer is a leading empowerment agency in the humanitarian field, I was recently appointed to create and lead a Livelihood coordinating body in a Burundian refugee camp in Rwanda, and I really have to be a good coordinator. However, with my background in business development, I also recently established a small business consulting firm in Rwanda, hoping to soon lead a strong senior management team and oversee different organizational functions that strives to promote youth employability. For these reasons I found myself challenged by lacking skills to coordinate human interactions and integrate their time, energy, effort, ability, and available resources to meet a common organizational goal.

As a program coordinator and more specifically the future executive, I want to be good at building relationship between various company departments and its key external business partners (suppliers, colleagues, donors, etc.) and coordinate different activities. I believe like Akrani (2011) that coordination skills are important to help me successfully accomplish the much larger tasks that one might encounter. However, as the coordination involves a range of other professional skills described by Karen (2010), communication skills are paramount in my learning to support effective task coordination because I felt devoid of these skills.

This work reflects the way in which the coordination described by Weigand et al. (2003) has been improved throughout the course.

2. Background and Context

During the first few weeks of this course, I looked at different course materials available in the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). Based on Belbin's (1981) team behavior categories and Honey & Mumford's (1986) Learning Styles Questionnaire, I could then better understand the kind of person I live. Based on what I intend to achieve, I determined the kind of skills I need to develop. For example while being ready to lead and to coordinate, I have always found myself wanting to do everything alone, to have the final word, to manage my workload independently of the work of others and to ignore certain standards of cultural communication; which doesn’t allow me to bring people’s efforts together for organizational benefits. Feeling a lack and need for coordination skills, I discovered that my coordination success is closely tied to effective communication.

Leadership and management theorists describe coordination as an important management function that attempts to harmonize activities so that each organizational unit complements and enriches the work of another (Fayol, 1916). As in Thomas and Kevin (1993), all business functions are interdependent. Coordination is therefore a process of managing these dependencies between activities performed to achieve a goal. Van de Ven et al. (1976) defined coordination as “integrating or linking together different parts of an organization to accomplish a collective set of tasks”. More specifically in my own situation, it’s a tool for increasing the effectiveness of a collective endeavor.

While there has been growing interests in researching how activities can be coordinated in different complex systems (Rumelhart, et al., 1986; Winograd & Flores, 1986; Huhns & Gasser, 1989; Malone & Crowston, 1990; Thomas & Kevin, 1993, ICVA, 2013; Maximilian et al, 2016), my goal is to understand its common themes. In the ICVA NGO Coordination Guide (2013), Joel & Peter (2018) and Maximilian et al (2016), it is very clear that coordination involves skills such as communication, organizing, time management, critical thinking, leadership, delegation, etc. In this reflective work, coordination is particularly described as a four-element management tool as pointed out by John (2013). These elements include:

1. Regular convening of departments or agency representatives,
2. Regular, structured information sharing and joint analysis and planning,
3. Provision of facilitative leadership and Delegation of decision-making,
4. Professional incentives, and accountability for results.

As it can be observed communication is a potential pillar for effective coordination and that’s why both are emphasized in my learning reflection as they equally pertain together to make me successful in a team assignment, as shown in the model below:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Mohamad & Brian (2017)

3. Learning goals and expectations

At the beginning of this course, I was expecting to discover different theories and discussions related to operational coordination within an organization and in conjunction with other partners.As a program coordinator and a future entrepreneur who is ready to lead my entire business and to coordinate interdepartmental and partnership activities, I found my weakness in coordination, especially in information sharing and meeting administration. Therefore the aim of my learning was to enhance my coordination skills with a focus on communication. Specifically, I wanted to improve important management behaviors such as:

- Obtaining and sharing information with teams (verbal and nonverbal),
- Convening and running regular coordination meetings with departments or other agency heads,
- Co-planning and running joint events with partners,
- Task sharing based on individual team member’s expertise, talent and passion;
- Delegating, providing facilitative leadership and motivating teams

4. Learning methodologies

After choosing a skill for improvement with an understanding of its role in my future career, I tried different learning approaches such as:

- Discussing with my peers via the USW’s VLE and different self-managed platforms (WhatsApp, Facebook, and emails) to get their insights into the topic;
- I read different journal articles which are very insightful;
- I watched tutorial videos on YouTube (Elisabeth, 2015);
- I used reflective learning to internalize my learning as advised by Boxer (1978);
- I attended a learning workshop, then;
- I tried to apply the learning to my professional work environment.

5. What I learnt and how my coordination skills were enhanced

5.1. Coordinating Peers discussions

Inspired by Annica and Ulrike (2011), I took the initiative to convene and facilitate peer discussions through special groups on self-managed platforms, namely Facebook and WhatsApp, to improve performance and cohesion of our team. This is like what John (2013) called Facilitative leadership, a leadership without authority which helped us to jointly analyze topics and help each other as a main goal. When all four peers were added on groups, we brought in different cultures and great diversity, which helped us to analyze subjects from different perspectives. While one of our peers didn’t participate, we discussed topics, shared resources, and offered insights to each other such that I probably couldn’t have gained broader understanding of my chosen skill if I didn’t maintain communication with my peers.

Knowing that I was working to improve my coordination, the group left me a coordinator role; so I drafted our group rules, agreed on regular discussion time and organized students-students tutorial sessions on skype. The role helped me to build relationship, keep thinking on how to direct discussions and motivate members to participate; which are important aspects of coordination (Satyendra, 2015). Working on individual assignment didn’t really prevent us from consulting with each other and doing peer reviews which culminated to my understanding of the entire course. By consulting members to elaborate and share discussions agenda, it improved my communication and unlike my solo work, it showed me the success of teamwork.

Similarly, I understood that departments/agencies need to coordinate their activities to successfully achieve departmental and eventually organizational goals (Silver, 2018). like we did a peer review, when doing a concept note for an event, I considered sharing it with my subordinates to get their inputs and it turned out to be comprehensive and appreciated by my senior leaders. I have therefore considered information sharing as an engaging, accountability and quality tool (John, 2013).

5.2. Reflective learning approach

Because learning and thinking go together (Mezirow, 2011, p.1), I noted the invaluable importance of the reflective practice of learning, which was complementary to the comments and advice I received from my tutor and peers.

In reflecting on my personal experience, I tried to critically evaluate my learning based on the course objectives. Again as Boxer (1978) advised, I explored the value of my past experience relative to my own context, to other managers’ experience and eventually tried to create design criteria for strategic options within a problem context capable of commanding a consensus between the managers. As mentioned by Leisha (2018) and the UEFAP (2018), I much emphasized on self-efficacy by trying to think deeply about what I do and learn from other managers’ experience.

With this approach I chose a few scenarios and tried to coordinate by communicating through phone calls, conversations and verbal interactions, meetings, and other media that teams use to negotiate their goals, make decisions, and update each other about task status. This helped me to reflect on important people personalities and appreciate the planning processes which resulted in a change and adoption of new management behaviors, especially by recognizing different types and directions of communication that are key elements of effective coordination (Mike, 2018). My reflective moment was really very productive since I was able to internalize how I can better coordinate using verbal, nonverbal and written communication across teams as on the below diagram:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Mike (2018)

After reflecting on the best practices in coordination, I tried to apply my learning to my work environment as the head of our Livelihood coordination body. I found communication very essential for coordination because, for example, the 7 NGO members were involved in Livelihood but there was a lot of duplication of work. This was due to communication gap and at our next coordination meeting, I followed Armstrong (2014)’s advice to early convene the meeting, share the provisional agenda and convey a concise message that created opportunity for dialogue. John’s (2013) idea of regular agency representatives’ meeting was accepted by the team and our regular agency coordination meeting was scheduled on every Tuesday.

In order to encourage joint situation analysis and planning, I referred to the UNHCR livelihood strategy to communicate the common goals. To properly communicate, I tried to use non-judgmental language, recognize diversity and the perceived power imbalance as well as adapting to different individual cultures as advised by Joel & Peter (2018). As result, NGOs have agreed to regularly share with me reports on their activities, including lists of their beneficiaries who benefit from different trainings, distribution of non-food items, business grants, etc., so that I can make a common database for our regular reference. While we agreed an open cooperation and collaboration among agencies, I committed myself to share, via emails, the real-time data, including minutes of our coordination meetings, upcoming events, and Agencies’ updates or progress on their interventions. I found that this doesn’t only foster inter-agency relationships but also mutual understanding as Galbraith (1994) said. Beyond regular information sharing I also proposed division of labour according to each NGO specialties and because the camp is divided into villages, we assigned each NGO to a specific village. This is expected to reduce work duplication and increase coordination efficiency as supported by Malone & Crowston (1990) and Weigand et al. (2003).

5.3. Learning workshop and practice

My learning was consolidated by a learning event that I was tasked to coordinate. At the end of our budget year, my organization invited all staffs, partners and clients for a learning event that took place at one of our field offices with an aim to celebrate the achievements, share past experiences, challenges and discuss how departments, partners and clients can better work together in the future. This three days event was marked with presentations, speeches, exhibitions, a series of thematic workshops, performance, etc. It was a very excellent opportunity to link my theoretical learning with the professional practice. I had to lead planning teams, propose & invite participants/presenters, bring and coordinate the planning processes up to the event and to the sharing of the final report.

I followed Maximilian’s (2016) guidance to start by defining a proper objective so that different teams can be brought together for a clear common goal. Our first planning meeting allowed discussions that led to common understanding of deliverables and task division. As in Akrani (2011), I tried to motive and build team spirit by positive words and tried to improve inter-organizational relationships. More importantly since my organization works in different districts of Rwanda and with different partners, finding dates for our joint face-to-face meeting wasn’t such an easy thing. Reflecting on the Mike’s (2015) communication direction (Diagram above), I realized that we had introduced a shared calendar with the senior management team but that I also had to implement it with other teams and junior partners to improve coordination and communication by avoiding frustration of date clashes. I tried my best to foster interactions and keep teams in constant communication using emails, phones and WhatsApp group in order to ease content sharing and mutual understanding of the work. By doing so, I assumed I was saving four hours per week which proves my coordination efficiency. This was argued by Carolin (2018) who mentioned that shared calendaring not only offers opportunity to be respectful to the work of colleagues but also contributes to effective planning.

Although it wasn’t easy to cultivate the culture of respectful and constructive criticism of each other’s work/ideas, in addition to encouraging openness across teams, I realized that effective coordination depends on effective communication as my success was more based on mutual adjustments such as informal and unstructured communication, to facilitate exchange of information about organizational status and departments updates and pool their efforts for a common goal and action. Like Van de Ven (1976), “whenever the work of individuals is interdependent, they must coordinate to achieve success”. Likewise, from my observation business departments work to achieve a common organization goal and they can better achieve it if they work together. I couldn’t have been successful if I didn’t have a broader picture of the work to be done, understood my team and properly defined roles according to one’s strengths and mainly communicated effectively with everyone to keep team spirit. Like Robert et al. (2012), I learnt that all tasks that involve uncertainty or interdependence require a great deal of interpersonal communication among the team members.

Finally, I held meeting with my team to understand their feedback and most of them reflected what Robert and his colleagues (2012) mentioned about the division of labor, appreciating the clarity with which I communicated their individual tasks, how I facilitated the sharing of information among departments, encouraged a joint work and I realized that something has been improved on my side. I found coordination very much linked with effective communication. These two together with all of the theoretical concepts associated with them weren’t new topic to me but the translation into action was the most challenging, which the course has solved. I am so glad to have enhanced my coordination skills by practically tackling its elements which include planning, organizing, controlling, leading, motivating and communicating.

6. What will I do differently going forward?

As in other companies, at Save the Children International where I am fully employed, the work is done in teams and I supervise one of them. However, to carry out the project, I realized that we do not just do each other's job in the best possible way and, in this regard, I learned that I need to consider the skills and abilities of my team members rather than focusing heavily on position titles in assigning the tasks. I want to encourage teamwork so that tasks may be done by the people who are most knowledgeable, talented or most capable of them. In my entrepreneurial venture, I will use gained coordination skills to ensure that departments are working together for a common organization goal.

While I thought that good teams whose coordination is easy are homogeneous, literature has shown me the importance of diversity in building a successful organization (Scott et al., 2018). Like Plowman& Michele (2013), I will recognize the importance of diversity in the workplace to enhance innovation and creativity because of the broader range of unique experiences and backgrounds inherent to team members. Using the team models, I will try forming better working groups, encourage collaboration, interactions and team spirit, as well as to ensure that each major track of activity is assigned to a team leader. More than ever, I will ensure that team leads meet at least once per week, to review the overall plan, the progress made to date in each business line and the challenges that have arisen. Moreover, as I aim to learn and apply new coordination skills related to operations management, I intend to be open-minded and try new approaches, be objective and consider the views/opinions of others; not just mine.

Although I am used to mid-term coordination, Parker (2011) advised me to start it from the start and to ensure proper planning, continuity and have direct contact with my subordinates to avoid misunderstanding or misinterpretation for effective implementation. More importantly, I will ensure reciprocal relations since departments are seen to be interrelated within organization, so analysing the effect of my action/decision to other people or departments will be a great contribution.

7. My actions and next steps

I am ready to gain more knowledge and experience in coordinating operations in both the nonprofit and business sectors and I will be using my takeaways from this course. I intend to register for my organization's online training on project coordination and attend professional workshops to improve my skills, and try to apply the learning to my daily work routine to successfully manage my future entrepreneurial ventures.


Building on my knowledge of the two previous key functions of a business (Finance and Marketing), I read William (2015) to understand the operational competitive advantages based on the five quality categories described by Slack and Lewis (2011): cost, quality, dependability, speed and flexibility. Most importantly, I understood how operations, finance and marketing interact to improve the entire organization. I believe that effective coordination skills will help me improve the relationship between these departments within the company and key external business partners to successfully help my organization achieve its strategic goals.

As a social entrepreneur aspiring to a senior executive position in the nonprofit and business consulting sectors, development of management skills, especially coordination is essential because I need to understand and effectively coordinate the three business functions including operations. I am pleased to have been able to improve my strategic coordination, critical and reflecting thinking with the support of advanced analytical decision-making tools. In reflecting on my experience, there is clear evidence that my ability to evaluate operational processes, techniques, planning and control systems has improved together with my chosen skill, coordination.


Excerpt out of 41 pages


Strategic Operations Management and Operational Research. A Reflective Analysis on the Student's Learning Experience
University of South Wales  (Business School)
Strategic Operational Management and Operational Research
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
Operations management, coordination skills, teamwork, operational challenges, forecasting, sustainability, reflective analysis.
Quote paper
Dr. Sixbert Sangwa (Author), 2018, Strategic Operations Management and Operational Research. A Reflective Analysis on the Student's Learning Experience, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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