The importance of operations management problems in service organizations
Christine M. Wright ∗ , George Mechling
Department of Management, College of Business Administration, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC 28723, USA Received 17 November 1999; accepted 21 September 2001
Abstract This article reports on the research to empirically determine which operations management problems are the most important to small service organizations. The authors asked managers of service organizations to rank a set of operations problems according to their relative importance using Q methodology. In this article, Q method is explained, signiÿcant factors are analyzed, and explanations are o ered for the ranking of the operations problems. The results indicate that forecasting, quality management, and resource utilization are important operational issues for service organizations. However, the results also indicate that facility location and layout, waiting line systems, and distribution requirements planning were for the most part unimportant to the respondent service organizations. In addition, Schmenner’s service typology does not provide an explanatory basis for the variations in the factor results. Lastly, the results are used to suggest operations management techniques that should be taught to students who are expected to work in service organizations upon graduation. ? 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Service organizations; Operations management; Q method
1. Introduction Service organizations have many problems and challenges that can be addressed by operations management methods. However, little research has been done to investigate the importance of the operations problems and the methods used to address these problems in the service sector. This paper investigates the ÿrst of these two issues; the operational problems that service organizations consider most important. The results of this research can then be used to address the second of these two issues; the operations management methods that would be most useful to service organizations in addressing these problems. This information can then inform educators as to what they should teach as they work to adequately prepare their students for successful careers in service organizations. Studies speciÿcally devoted to the employment of various operations management methods in industry have been conducted. Shannon et al.  reported a ranking of 12 such
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techniques by practitioners and academics combined in descending importance of usage. Thomas and DeCosta  and Forgionne  surveyed only practitioners who consisted of larger corporations in the US who ranked a number of methods in descending frequency of use. These practitioners also ranked the types of planning and decision-making issues, that these techniques were designed to support according to the descending frequency with which these issues were addressed. The research of Shannon et al. , Thomas and DeCosta  and Forgionne  focused on the importance or frequency of usage of techniques rather than the importance of the problems. In addition, they did not consider service organizations separately from manufacturing organizations. Literature concerned with the application of these methods to service operations issues appears to be generally limited to a speciÿc kind of application (e.g., [4 – 6]) or reports on deliverables devised and constructed for consulting jobs (e.g., [6 –8]). There is clearly a lack of investigation of operations problems that are important to service organizations. In our research, a typology was used to separate service operations into categories to test the importance of di erent operations problems in di erent types of organizations.
0305-0483/02/$ - see front matter ? 2002 Elsevier