Guest Blogger: “Is Real World Application for Real?”

Some MBA students find there is no relevancy in what they learn in class and the practical world. Yes, I was one of these doubters until I was engaged by one of my professors in an operations management course at Lincoln Memorial University.  The end results was assisting a local nonprofit organizations, writing my first book, and being thrust on the expert stage.

Operations management (OM) should be important to nonprofit organizations too. With shrinking funds for programs and a more competitive environment, nonprofit organizations will need to rethink their corporate strategies for future success.

This reality means managing their operations more efficiently and shifting their traditional thinking to a more entrepreneurial approach. Unlike businesses that are driven primarily by profit, nonprofits use any monies earned to be put back into the organization to cover their own expenses, operations, and programs. In 2005, there will be approximately 1.4 million nonprofit organizations registered to the IRS according to “Non-profit market” by

My OM project called a “Real World Application” project was on the Tennessee Vocational Rehabilitation based in Maryville, Tennessee; it is one of these nonprofit organizations looking for more operational effectiveness in the future.

Tennessee Vocational Rehabilitation is a federal and state-funded program run by the Tennessee Department of Human Services Division of Rehabilitation Services to assist individuals of work age with physical and/or mental disabilities to compete successfully with others in earning a livelihood.

Based on the research data from the 2007 American Community Survey, approximately 12.8% of Americans between the ages of 21 and 64 have a disability.  In Fiscal Year 2009, the Division of Rehabilitation Services provided services to 30,289 individuals in Tennessee and 27,932 individuals met the eligibility criteria of the program. 

It is projected that 30,000 individuals will receive services and that 27,000 individuals will meet the eligibility criteria of the program and receive services during Fiscal Year 2011. Tennessee Vocational Rehabilitation in Maryville supplies automotive parts to Denso where I work. 

 The work usually requires a packaging or simple sub-assembly task while is a training tool for clients to learn work skills and experience. The average training length is 4 months.  However, I found all the staff being occupied with the daily routine and the primary mission of serving the clients. The  staff didn’t have enough time to observe and evaluate its capacity and capability. 

Also, the Center manager was afraid of committing to additional work and contracts due to the unique labor population and the number of clients being fluctuated.  My recommendations were to provide a tool to analyze the capacity frequently and to establish the fine balance of time-sensitive and non time-sensitive jobs to absorb the fluctuations. For instance, the center can prioritize and focus on the time-sensitive jobs for the Just-in-time customer due to high absenteeism.

Working with Dr. Green,  I published my results. My new book, Second Chance, provides nonprofit organizations with information about how to use
operations management tools to make them more efficient and better equipped to assist their clients and constituents in meeting their needs.

Nonprofit organizations like for profit organizations must find innovative ways to compete with others. This includes competing on several dimensions which are (a) cost or price, (b) quality, (c) speed, (d) delivery reliability, and (e) coping with change.   The concepts, theories, tools, technology or reading materials learned in the classroom are not to keep in a closet. 

They are to practice in a real world for an advanced career or a way to help organizations who need the knowledge and expertise. The support can be a time study, data analysis, plotting graphs for visual control, standardized work, material flows, and finally mock interviews for clients who were ready for job placement.

I just had to ask the very last question to a client during a mock interview at the center.  “How did you know about this center?  How did the experience at the center help you prepare for a job?” He answered without any hesitation, “It’s the best thing ever happened to me.  I get up every morning and cannot wait to come here. The experience gave me skills and confidence to find a real job. ”  He also appreciated his mother for finding out the program and encouraging him to pursue.

There are many other individuals with disabilities who can benefit from the service like the client who I interviewed.  How can we optimize the capacity to accommodate more clients without increasing the operation costs? I learned that I can make a difference, using my operational experience.

As a surprising result, I found a practical side of my MBA learning by helping others in the community. If we spend approx. 40 hours per week for a career
job, 2~3 hours a week of investment outside of the work seems to be very little.  However, you will be amazed by the positive impact you can make for the people who need help. 

Don’t underestimate your talent!  It can be fully utilized and appreciated outside of the classroom.  Pursuing a degree is an accomplishment, but we can even capitalize the talent and skills even further by reaching out.  It’s a genuine accomplishment.

© 2011 by Noriko Chapman

Please comment on Ms. Chapman’s points.


Noriko Chapman helps social causes as an industry expert.

Noriko Chapman is the mother of two children. She lives in Maryville, Tennessee.  She is a Production Control supervisor in the Instrument Cluster Division of DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee, Inc. She worked at DENSO specializing in production planning, new products start up, service parts operations, supply chain and warehouse operations for 16 years and for 2 years as a full- or part-time translator at the beginning before the first Tennessee DENSO plant was built. Given the fact that she was raised in Japan, she wrote a chapter “Japanese Practices in an Autoparts Plant” for the book, Effects of Japanese Investment In a Small American Community by Scott Brunger and Young-Bae Kim.  Her Maryville College undergraduate research paper, “A Dramaturgical Analysis of Japanese Organization Behavior” won an undergraduate award by North Central Sociological Association.  She is currently attending Lincoln Memorial University MBA program and now serves on the board of directors for the Tennessee Department of Human Services, Division of Rehabilitation Services.

Model the Way

World hurdler, Jackie Coward (University of Central Florida, West alumni)

Track does not lie. Watching our children compete with the Knoxville Track Club, I learned this important lesson. An athlete needs to have substance, and coaches need to be proficient in their strategies.  All the smoke and mirrors in the world will not change an individual’s time or measurement.

Likewise, leaders emerge and falter by the examples they set before the team. Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge, evaluated over hundreds of high performance organizations to determine how they were successful. One of the ingredients was managers ‘model the way.’ In fact, leaders set the right example. I saw this example symbolized in two athletes at West High School.

The West High School Track Team has built a solid name for itself, with All-American hurdler Jackie Coward at the helm.  While many people around the area figured West would faded into the wilderness with the graduation of Coward, West got better by creating a talented and deep squad.  Coach Mike Crocket and Coach Greg Allen led a group of young and gifted athletes who were inspired to compete for a state champion. Over the last decade, the girls track team has been pretty amazing: 2006 AAA State Champion, 2007 AAA State Runner-up, 2008 Champion, 2009 AAA State Runner-up and 2010 AAA State Champion. Yet, I attribute their success this year to the two team captains, Aurielle Sherrod and Patavia Lowery.

Aurielle Sherrod, Prepxtra Track & Field Female Athlete of the Year

Going into her senior year, Aurielle was one of the top sprinters in the state. In the early track season, she got a hamstring injury: “I knew it was really bad.” It would hamper her all season. In fact, it was questionable how she would perform at state with little practice. The critics were wrong. Aurielle won the 100 and finished seconded in the 200 meters. She also led the Lady Rebels to wins in the 4 x 100 relay and a second place finish in the 4 x 200 relay. She refused to let her setback prevent her from success. She was voted the Prepxtra Female Track Athlete of the Year. With a 3.9 GPA in high school, Aurielle heads to University of Alabama – Birmingham on an academic scholarship.

Patavia Lowery, Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame’s Female Athlete of the Year

Patavia could be the mascot for overachievers.  Since 7 years old, she competed with the Knoxville Track Club and has been characterized by her hard work ethics.  Entering high school, her goal was to make it to state. Unfortunately, things didn’t happen as quickly. It would take her junior year to make it there. Loaded with a host of unproven talent, West High was looking for something special. At state, Patavia won the 800 meters, anchored a bronze finish in the 4 x 800, and helped provide West with another dominated performance and its 3rd State Championship. At the annual Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame Banquet on August 5th, she was selected as one of the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame’s Athlete of the Year.  Patavia will be joining South Carolina State University on a full track scholarship and will bring her Tennessee work ethic to this program. Clearly, these ladies set the example for excellent at West. The team responded.

Sadly, many managers are unable to inspire today’s workforce toward greater performance. Manager guru Peter Drucker argued for several decades that managers must understand their employees as well as their customers. Few executives listened. Drucker concluded, “Business tends to drift from leadership to mediocrity. And the mediocre is three-quarters down the road to being marginal.” Yet, emerging leaders need to know how to rekindle such emotions in the workplace. Setting an example is one of these keys.

 How do leaders foster the proper examples in organizations?

 © 2010 by Daryl D. Green