By Carol Bryant
Kathryn Zuckweiler knows operations management, whether she’s teaching graduate students about the topic or writing journal articles.
She applies her knowledge about operations management to topics ranging from optimum class size in web courses to hospital project implementation.
“The principles that underlie everything I do are processes. I’ve looked at process improvement. I view most things as a process,” she said. Each process is broken down into steps, and the steps are analyzed to see if improvements can be made.
For example, quality is a process, because there is a process to follow to improve quality.
Fair staff workloads for teaching Web classes
Zuckweiler, associate professor of management at University of Nebraska at Kearney, has taught a number of classes online and blended her teaching pedagogy and operations management knowledge to write “Methodologies to Determine Class Sizes for Fair Faculty Work Load in Web Courses,” published in the International Journal of Distance Education Technologies.
In the paper, two approaches to determine fair class sizes for instructors who teach Web-based courses are presented. Some instructors are concerned that the additional time needed for teaching an online course not detract from their other obligations as professors to participate in research and service activities. The paper was intended not only to help professors but to also assist department chairs in creating equitable instructors’ schedules.
The first approach is called the simple index adjustment method. The assumption is that the time it takes for the “3 Ps” of teaching (preparation, presentation and processing) should be equal between a traditional lecture course and a Web course.
An Index Adjustment Statistic is calculated by dividing the total instructional time for a Web course by the total instructional time for a traditional course and multiplying the result by 100. The allowable Web class size is then determined by dividing a representative traditional class size by the Index Adjustment Statistic.
The second approach uses a multiple regression model that incorporates the dependent variable of class size and the independent variables, which are tasks involved in teaching Web courses that are more time-consuming than instructional tasks for traditional courses.
Examples of tasks that may be more time-consuming for Web-based instruction are responding to students’ emails and dealing with technology problems. Although the article notes that “any multiple regression model is limited and can have unique technical problems that can render its application questionable,” the model is useful in determining “fairness” of class size.
Data was collected from nine semesters of an introductory management information systems course that was taught in a traditional setting and a Web-based setting. Using the first approach, results suggested that the maximum “fair” size for a web-based course was 152 students – compared to 212 students in a traditional lecture-based course. Using the multiple regression model, the maximum “fair” size for a web-based course was 205 to 213 students, compared to almost 209 students in a traditional lecture course.
“The substantial difference in the estimation of a ‘fair’ class size between these two models is, in the judgment of the authors, quite appropriate,” according to Zuckweiler. Instructors with less experience in teaching Web courses “should be allowed some form of instructing time adjustment to be ‘fair,’” including proposed reduction in class size as that form of adjustment.
As instructors gain experience teaching Web courses, the amount of time that they spend responding to students’ emails can decrease. Instructors who teach Web courses may also have time savings because they may not have to drive to a university to teach the course or for office hours, Zuckweiler said.
Do Just-In-Time Management and Lean Management Differ?
Zuckweiler co-authored “Just-In-Time Management Or Lean Management: Is There Really A Difference” that was presented at the Mountain Plains Management Conference. The paper compares principles that define “lean management” and “just-in-time (JIT) management” through a survey of 172 operations managers and a review of journal articles published during an 11-year period. The term “just-in-time management” originated in Japan in the early 1970s, whereas the first book devoted to lean management was published in the early 1990s.
“Lean management appears to be the current term for the principles of JIT management,” the article said. Lean management may involve a more “inclusive” approach to operations management, where “inclusive” suggests incorporation of the customer, supply-chain, and newer information technology into lean management, but “JIT management’s origin lends itself to
a more narrow production shop-floor environment.”
“Based on our results, we feel there is virtually no difference between the principles of JIT management and lean management,” according to Zuckweiler. “Further, we feel this makes a reasonable case that ‘lean management’ is a superfluous term that should not supplant the JIT management term in books and article.”
The article “was a little controversial,” Zuckweiler said. When it was presented at a conference, some people in the audience were upset that the article saw few differences between the two concepts.
Operations Management in hospitals
Because operations management is most often developed for manufacturing, a study about project planning for hospitals was completed, in part, to shift from a manufacturing environment to a service environment. Zuckweiler’s research, “An Empirical Evaluation of Hospital Project Implementation Success,” was published in the Academy of Health Care Management Journal in 2010.
Operations management literature contains a number of studies about project critical success factors, but the studies have not focused on hospitals. Zuckweiler’s article focuses on whether critical success factors identified in previous research apply to hospital implementation projects and what factors are perceived to be most important during each phase of a hospital implementation project. Project managers were surveyed from hospitals throughout the country.
Typically, a project implementation is considered successful if the project is completed on time, within budget, and according to specifications. Critical success factors are key areas that must be
successful for an organization to do well.
Ten critical success factors were identified that are important for project implementation success: project mission, top management support, client consultation, project schedule, personnel, technical tasks, client acceptance, monitoring and feedback, communication, and troubleshooting. The article concludes that project mission, project schedule, monitoring and troubleshooting are significant predictors for project success. Although critical success factors studied in prior research are similar for hospital implementation projects, they are not identical.
“There were some areas where hospitals diverged from best practices for project implementation” in manufacturing environments, she said.
Because the surveys were anonymous, she doesn’t know whether any of the staff members surveyed implemented changes as a result of the article.
However, “the article is being cited in other articles,” Zuckweiler said.
Sidebar: Filling several roles
Zuckweiler joined UNK’s faculty in 2005 as an Associate Professor of Management and has been Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research since August 2012. She splits her work time between teaching and her administrative position. She received a bachelor’s degree in American Cultural History from Whittier (Calif.) College; a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Houston; and a doctoral degree in Interdepartmental Areas of Business from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
She is from Omaha and grew up in Colorado Springs. After receiving her bachelor’s degree, she had difficulty finding a job, so went back to school to earn a master’s degree in business. She took an operations management class as part of her graduate program and ended up focusing on operations management for her master’s degree. Zuckweiler was interested in becoming a project manager for an industry, but one of her instructors suggested that she pursue teaching.
Zuckweiler signed up for the doctoral program and “really never looked back. I really like what I do,” she said. “Operations management just makes sense to me.”