It started as the final assignment for our EWMBA 204 – Core Operations class. It ended up as a three-day addiction and obsession. It took over all discussions on the EWMBA 2014 Facebook page. Several throwdowns, challenges and a nail biting finish later, the winner was crowned at 11:05PM yesterday night. It was over… the Littlefield Technologies simulation was complete.
Littlefield Technologies is an online simulation of a high-tech factory that brings together all the concepts from EWMBA 204. It runs for continuously for 3.5 days simulating an entire production year at the factory. In teams of four, we became the operations managers of the factory, making decisions regarding inventory purchases, factory capacity and capital investments, order sizes and contract types; all with objective of ending the simulation with the highest possible cash balance.
The simulation really brought home everything that we learnt through the semester. It also challenged us to use our core analytical skills in accurately predicting demand, supply and factory utilizations. With the simulation running continuously, it became an obsession to refresh the internet browser every few minutes to check on the status of our factory. Some of us stayed up into the wee hours of the morning just to make sure out factory stayed on track. Many strategies, regressions, moving averages and trendline analyses later, we ended up in 10th place. Oh well!! We did not end up on top, but we learnt a lot. The Littlefield simulation turned out to be one of the most exhilarating experiences in the EWMBA so far.
And now, time to head back to the non-simulated world …
That’s all folks!!
Some of the second and third year students I’ve interacted with regard this 3rd quarter of year 1 as the most grueling one (academically) in the program. Both Finance and Operations courses are fairly intense. The curriculum requirements include several problem sets and cases, other than the midterm and final exams. In fact since the weekday cohorts started 4 weeks ago, we’ll have our mid-term exams next week. The silver lining here is that we’re getting a preview of disciplines that are essential for the functioning of any organization. And, any aspiring business professional needs to be very comfortable with both of these.
The other day we had a Finance case on the Lockheed TriStar program. This multi-billion dollar defense project from 1970s ran into cost-overruns and had revenue projections which were fairly unrealistic. (This is just a plain text read of the case, not my expertise of analyzing multi-billion dollar boondoggles 🙂 ) You’d wonder that if it was evident to every MBA-student who’s solved this case in the past decade, then why Lockheed executives didn’t realize this. Of course, not everything is black-and-white. Some of these financially unacceptable ventures are green-lighted for socio-political and strategic reasons. I can’t help but draw comparisons with the current banking-bailout. But let’s leave that for some later time. Anyway, working on such real-life cases has been really exciting.
Btw, one month into the quarter, I finally understand this finance profession joke:
Said the epitaph of a naïve banker “He who lies here wanted all his relationships to be NPV positive”
Operations Management is no less interesting in principle (as I realized after working on an NYPD scheduling case problem). Have you ever felt that the other “queue” is faster while waiting for security checkin at an airport or standing in a line at Starbucks? All of this scheduling is (can be) done via complex scheduling models. And it was news to me that in the common case, having a single queue is faster than the multiple queues we see in our daily lives. A big part of this story is apparently, perception. One line appears to be too long and 5 small lines, while slower, give us the feeling of being served faster!
The summer quarter elective list was released recently. Taking classes in the summer may be an NPV positive decision and will certainly optimize scheduling for future semesters, but I am hoping that socio-psychological reasons will prevail in the end. And I will be able to spend the summer months re-introducing my “fun” side to friends and family. Wait, I dare not day-dream; it’s just too far to be real at this time.
Some of you may have read the recent Business Week article about simulations and case studies. Our Operations class has had its fair share of simulations during the last 8 weeks as Deanne mentioned earlier. Simulations provide a refreshing alternative to case studies since you have to make real decisions that will affect the outcome of your group’s performance.
This week’s class allowed Deanne and me to both share in the opportunity to try managing a supply chain for beer. Our combined class allowed the cohorts to get together and socialize a bit too. Although we had read about the bullwhip effect in our book, there’s nothing like a hands-on scenario to see how the theory really works out. I got to play the part of the retailer, seeing true demand, and how the fulfillment of demand gets all out of whack when your buddies up the supply chain start guestimating what they think you want. The chips represent individual cases of beer that need to be moved through the supply chain and we physically moved supply between each level of the chain. The aspect of having real beer during the game made it all the more entertaining.
While first year weekenders are still enjoying the fresh powder on the slopes and visiting far away places, I concur with Deanne – the first year evening folks are back in the full swing of things.
Before class even began, we received an email from our Operations professor reminding us read the case study about cookie manufacturing for day one of class. To transition from the discussion of the syllabus to the case study, Professor Terry Hendershott showed us a clip of the Cookie Monster himself. Yes, C is for cookie, and if you take a big bite out of a cookie, it really does look a lot like the letter C.
The expectations for finance were similar. Three chapters of reading for the first class and all before we had even returned to Haas. There is no doubt that the semester has started up for the first years.
This weekend is already packed with Haas events. Saturday is the Haas Winter Careerfest – a day of learning how to network, how to brand yourself for the internet, and much more. I expect to see some of the second and third years as well as full timers participate this weekend as well. After the careerfest is the finance discussion session. And then don’t forget Sunday – an all day Statistics workshop to help us brush up in preparation for the many problem sets for ops and finance. It’s one packed weekend.