Operations Management
Dr. Kristl Davison, Department of Management, University of Mississippi

In my classes I typically use Bloomberg Businessweek articles to supplement the textbook and other teaching materials.  Typically, I examine the emailed Instructor's Guide to see if there are any articles relevant to the courses I teach.  I also go through the hard copy of the magazine to see if there are additional relevant articles that I can incorporate into my classes.  I am frequently updating the articles that I assign in my classes, and adding new ones as the semester progresses.  Questions from these articles also frequently appear on exams in the courses.

I have added the following new articles to MGMT 371 (Principles of Management) this year to enhance the students' learning:

  • Weinstein's (2009) "We Need an Ethics Czar" discusses how to promote ethics in organizations.
  • Bakers' (2008) "Managing by the Numbers" discusses how teams can be composed based on database of skills and other characteristics.
  • Coy et al.'s (2010) "The Disposable Worker" addresses trends in hiring that causes more employees to be contingent workers.  

In MGMT 494 (Compensation), I supplement the lectures with recent articles from BBW to keep students abreast of current national trends and legal and political issues relevant to the field of compensation, especially as they relate to issues of benefits, CEO pay and unemployment.  For example, I used the following articles:

  • "Investor 'Say on Pay' Is a Bust" (2011) deals with the shareholders' voting on executive compensation.
  • Innovations in health care and health insurance are discussed in "The Doctor Will See You Whenever You Want" (2011) and "The Simplest Rx: Check on Your Patient" (2011)
  • "To Boost the Economy, Help the Self-Employed" (2011) addresses issues of taxation and health care coverage for self-employed individuals.

In MGMT 582 (Employee Relations), I will use the following recent articles this semester:

  • "The Supreme Court Gets the Wal-Mart Ruling Right" (2011) focuses on the class-action sex discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart.
  • "The Gender Gap in Government Job Cuts" (2011) discusses layoffs in the public sector.

Additionally, in the spring of 2012, I plan to use BBW articles in a new way in my MGMT 493 (Strategic Management) courses.  I plan to assign students difference topics from the course (e.g. Ethics, Corporate Governance, Corporate Strategy, etc.) and then require them to find a BBW article from the last year that is relevant to the topic.  Students will be required to present a short summary of the article to the class and explain how it applies to the course material for the topic.  I believe that this will help students to understand how the course material is applies in actual businesses.  

In sum, I use a variety of Bloomberg Businessweek articles to help illustrate management principles in my classes. I use some of these articles as part of my lectures, some to start class discussions (e.g., by posting several relevant questions from the article on slides), and some as cases or case supplements. In particular, I have found the use of Bloomberg Businessweek articles as cases/examples and as starting points for class discussions to be helpful in enhancing student understanding of course concepts. However, I have also used some of the shorter articles to increase student knowledge of terms and concepts, as well as to elicit their current knowledge of the material.  I find that students’ responses to the questions about Bloomberg Businessweek articles indicate their understanding of how the course material can be applied to real-world situations.

Dr. Rich Gentry, University of Mississippi

This year, I will be asked to develop and teach a course in small business management to follow-up my new prep in venture finance.  One of the major problems in teaching students these courses is the ruts that students often find themselves in as regards to legitimately new ideas.  There are only so many bar concepts that will work.  

In both of these courses, I will be asking students to generate business ideas.  For the venture finance course, I will be asking them to create financial statements for a new business.  For the small business course, I will want more complete plan for launching a new business.  Both of these capstone assignments depend on the ability for students to think creatively.  I will be using the "Etc." section in Bloomberg Businessweek to support two brainstorming assignments in order to encourage students to really push themselves.  

The first exercise is called "Assumptions" and relies on students bending the assumptions of traditional businesses to think of new ones.  The classic example of this game involves restaurants.  Students are asked to put down everything about a restaurant that that they assume is normally true.  The standard answers are things like "plates, menus, lights".  The more mundane the better because I can show them a BBW article about a restaurant that does not have menus and prices - it is an upscale set menu who makes money off scale 1.  The first exercise will be for the students to find an article about an unusual and strange business from BBW, list is assumptions and then create a concept by twisting one of those assumptions.

The second exercise is "Blue-Sky" thinking.  This one starts with a need and goes to the most extreme before coming back to an idea.  For example, casual Friday for many work environments is mundane and has acquired a uniform all its own - polos and jeans.  Wouldn't it be great if people could wear whatever they wanted to those days?  The blue idea would be to create an environment here employees where whatever they want (Padagonia).  Coming back to earth slightly is to acknowledge that people have constraints on looking too sloppy - Maybe we could make clothes that are not sloppy but not something your dad wears on the golf course 2.   For this assignment, students will a unique product idea and take its use to the most illogical extreme.  

1 "Next Up in Fine Dining:Pay in Advance"  Bloomberg Businessweek March 31, 2011
2 "Office Hoodie"  Bloomberg Businessweek September 12, 2011

Dr. Samantha Fairclough, University of Mississippi

I use Bloomberg Businessweek in both of my classes (MGMT 493 - Management of Strategic Planning and MGMT 587 - Organization Theory).  In particular, I apply it two specific situations:

1.     In both classes I ask students to work in pair groups to explain and present an article on a company, as a vehicle for illustrating a concept in strategy or organization theory.  I suggest to the students that they look at BBW as an excellent source of informative, relevant and up-to-date articles upon which to base their exposition and presentation.  Each pair of students explain their chosen article in a ten-minute presentation, and write a summary of the article and its application to the management concepts we have been discussing in class.  

2.    In addition, I play a game with my class called "Managerial Football"' which is a fun alternative to review class just before students take their midterm or final examinations.  I divide the class into two teams, and give each team a mini-football.  A student on the first team is required to answer (correctly) a question posed by me in order to "pass" the ball to the next person on their team.  If they answer correctly, they pass the ball and I ask a further question of that person holding the ball.  However, if a question is answered incorrectly, I turn to the other team and ask their ball-holder a question.  Again, if they answer correctly their ball can be passed on, and I ask another question of the person holding the ball.  When the ball is passed on, and I ask another question of the person holding the ball.  When the ball is passed through the hands of every team member, that team scores a "touchdown".  In this game, I use questions from the class textbook, but every 5th question is a general knowledge question, either from the most recent edition of BBW, or from my extensive trivial knowledge… Members of the winning team get a prized - this time it was a chocolate bar.

Dr. Mark Bing, University of Mississippi

I use Bloomberg Businessweek magazine in my courses, primarily MBA606, Organizational Behavior (OB), to enrich my students’ understanding of current business trends and the application of OB theories to improving workplace productivity via innovations in human resource (HR) functions. I am using Bloomberg Businessweek in MGMT383, Human Resource Management (HRM), as well as in MBA606.

Articles are assigned to my students in MGMT383 to help them understand how technology is changing the workplace, and how valid HR selection practices are good for business and for abiding by legal requirements (e.g., EEOC compliance). When introducing these articles I give a thorough lecture on their implications for understanding current business trends and basic HR principles. However, in the MBA classes I also connect the content of Bloomberg Businessweek articles to the classic and current articles in OB that provide the theoretical and scientific evidence than explains why the HR innovations described in the Bloomberg Businessweek articles actually work to improve productivity.

For example, the Bloomberg Businessweek article by Conlin (2006), “Smashing the clock,” describes how Best Buy eliminated face-time requirements at the corporate office due to excessive employee burnout. In brief, two HR professionals at Best Buy found a couple of department managers who were desperate to keep high-performing staff members that wanted to quit because of a severe lack of work-family balance. The imbalance was arising from on-site face-time requirements and commutes that prevented enough family time. The two HR professionals cooperated with these department managers to start a Results Only Work Environment, or ROWE. Before conducting this HR experiment they came up with bottom-line productivity metrics for the employees to track their productivity and thus the impact of ROWE. Employees in these departments were then given the autonomy to work whenever and wherever they wanted. Some even ended up taking customer calls and processing orders on a laptop while hunting from a deer stand. The bottom-line productivity metrics and other measures indicated in pre-post analyses that burnout plummeted along with turnover, and productivity increased dramatically. The ROWE experiment spread, greatly decreasing turnover and increasing employee productivity. This article allows me to enhance the students’ understanding of (a) basic principles of stress, employee productivity, and job redesign (e.g., the Job Characteristics Model), (b) how technology is reshaping jobs, (c) the value of bottom-line employee performance measures, and (d) the value of program evaluation via pre- and post-test designs to make sure HR innovations improve productivity rather than harm it.

Specifically, Best Buy’s experience from the BBW article is used as a business example for how modern technological trends (e.g., email, home computers, cell phones, text messaging) can be used to redesign jobs for increased autonomy to greatly decrease employee stress, which increases productivity and decreases costly turnover. It provides an example of a basic principal of stress—a lack of control over one’s environment due to a lack of autonomy greatly increases stress and strain. I recently followed up on Best Buy’s ROWE, and the two HR professionals that served as ROWE’s champions left Best Buy to establish their own consulting company. They have now implemented ROWE at The Gap, which was struggling to keep its best leaders who were experiencing far too much work-family imbalance. This article on The Gap was also obtained from BBW. Thus, the original article has helped me to provide the MBA students with a current business example as to how technological advances are setting new business trends in terms of job redesign and the performance of work itself. I forwarded the recent 2009 Businessweek article on this new application of ROWE to the MBAs, and will use it along with the other Bloomberg Businessweek articles to enhance PMBA606 in spring 2010 .

The Baker (2008) article from Businessweek, “Managing by the numbers,” helps me to communicate to the MBA students how productivity metrics and data analyses are a critical foundation for making better business decisions. This article describes how IBM utilizes complex and extensive databases on employee behaviors (even minute-by-minute behaviors of travel times, cell phone calls, emails—and who is carbon copied and who is not kept in the loop) to evaluate employees’ social networks, and to gather data on who works well and with whom. As this database also contains employee occupation, education, certifications, past work history, etc., it can be used for assembling work teams that need certain combinations of cross-disciplinary skills among current employees who are known to work well together. Thus, this micro-level employee database-tracking technology is being applied to improve decisions about team composition, which should result in less team conflict and enhanced team performance. I tie this information to Michael Lewis’ “Moneyball” book, in which he explains how extensive data collection, in terms of individual baseball player performance and more precise metrics on player performance, was used by the Oakland A’s to purchase undervalued players, assembling a great team at a very low cost with superior decision-making based in empirical data and subsequent data analysis.

All of these examples are tied together to explain how data tracking and data analyses are important trends in the modern business world, simply because they allow managers to truly test their business assumptions and beliefs, and whether or not HR innovations truly result in workplace improvements. As the Businessweek article on IBM’s “Managing by the numbers” shows one of the latest trends of data acquisition and analysis, I am able to use it to explain that data acquisition is becoming easier and more automated, and thus improving business decisions with data analysis is becoming more and more important, not less so. The companies that do it better will ultimately outperform their competitors. These concepts are also reinforced with a hands-on data analysis assignment in the MBA course using real-world HR data.

In sum, I use several Bloomberg Businessweek articles in my courses to enhance student learning of various trends in modern business. These articles also improve classroom discussions because they provide up-to-date business examples on how organizations use HR changes and innovations to increase employee productivity and company profitability.


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