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 Closerware.com.
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.