An Introduction to Operations Management

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Course Date: 29 September 2014 to 24 November 2014 (8 weeks)

Price: free

Course Summary

This course will teach you how to analyze and improve business processes, be it in services or in manufacturing. You will learn how to improve productivity, how to provide more choice to customers, how to reduce response times, and how to improve quality.

Estimated Workload: 5-7 hours/week

Course Instructors

Christian Terwiesch

Christian Terwiesch is the Andrew M. Heller Professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He also is a Professor in Wharton’s Operations and Information Management department as well as a Senior Fellow at  the Leonard Davis Institute for Health Economics. Professor Terwiesch is the co-author of Matching Supply with Demand, a widely used text-book in Operations Management that is now in its third edition. For his teaching in Wharton’s MBA program, he has received numerous teaching awards.

Professor Terwiesch has researched with and consulted for various organizations. From small start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, he has helped companies to innovate and to improve their business processes. Most of his current work relates to healthcare. Recent projects include the design of patient centered care processes in the VA hospital system, the impact of emergency room crowding on hospital revenues at Penn Medicine, and the usage of ICU beds in the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In the innovation space, recent projects include the management of the clinical development portfolio at Merck, the development of open innovation systems, and innovation tournaments for large healthcare organizations.

Course Description


Remember the last time you went to a restaurant. What did you expect from that restaurant? You wanted to find something on the menu that you liked, you wanted the meal to be prepared according to high quality standards, you wanted to get it quickly and didn’t want to pay too much money for it. Now, remember the last time you went to a doctor’s office or a hospital. What did you want the doctors and nurses to do? You wanted them to provide the right care for you, you wanted the care delivered with great quality, you wanted to get the care quickly, and you (or your insurance) didn’t want to pay too much for it.

Put differently, the management skills that you need to run the operations of a restaurant are the same that you need to run a hospital. And these are the skills you will learn in this course. Specifically, you will learn how to improve productivity, increase responsiveness, provide more choice to the customer, and deliver higher quality standards. In short, you will learn how to analyze business processes and how to improve them. Along the way, you will learn about topics such as Lean Operations, Six Sigma, and the Toyota production system, you will hear about bottlenecks, flows rates, and inventory levels. And, much, much more.

Click below for the other Wharton Foundation Series courses:

An Introduction to Marketing
An Introduction to Corporate Finance
An Introduction to Financial Accounting


  • Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class?

    Contingent on academic performance, you will get a Statement of Accomplishment stating that you completed this course. However, no certificate will be given from Wharton / Penn and successful completion of this course does not make you a Wharton / Penn alumnus.

  • What resources will I need for this class?

    You will need access to a spreadsheet program, some paper, and a pencil. Nothing more.

  • What is the coolest thing I'll learn if I take this class?

    You will look at the world with different eyes - you will start to detect bottlenecks, identify productivity wastes, and come up with ideas to improve business processes. A known side effect of these skills is that you might drive friends, family, or co-workers crazy when you point to their improvement opportunities...

  • What does a typical class look like?

    In a typical video session, I will introduce a small case to outline a problem in an operation. That could be a hospital, a restaurant, a bank, a call center, or whatever other setting. We will then use the setting of the case to discuss various performance measures as well as what one might want to do to improve the operation.

       For more information on Penn’s Open Learning initiative, please go to:


The course is broken up into six modules:

  1. Introduction
  2. Process analysis
  3. Productivity
  4. Responsiveness
  5. Quality
  6. Product variety
There are two tracks in this course, an academic track and a practitioner track. For the academic track, the final grade is determined based on five homework assignments and a final exam. It is also possible to complete the course via a practitioner track, which requires the completion of a real world application project.


The class will consist of lecture videos, which are between 7 and 12 minutes in length. Many of them contain 1-2 integrated quiz questions per video. There will also be standalone homeworks that are not part of video lectures. The course ends with a final exam. For the practitioner track, students need to complete a course project along the way which, in each week, applies the learnings from the modules to a real world problem. 

Suggested Reading

Although the class is designed to be self-contained, students wanting to expand their knowledge beyond what we can cover in this one-quarter class or who want more practice problems, more in-depth explanations, or more math should look at the following book: 
 Cachon, Gerard, Christian Terwiesch, Matching Supply with Demand: An Introduction to Operations Management , 3rd edition, Irwin - McGraw Hill, 2012 (ISBN 978-0073525204, 507 pages)

Course Workload

5-7 hours/week

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