Research goals and approach
My research explores how boundedly rational policies interact with characteristics of operational processes to determine long-term productivity, quality, and profitability. In a way, my work can be though as taking the behavioral concepts of Cyert and March (A behavioral theory of the firm, 1963) down to the production floor. My core premise is that to understand operations we require an integrated understanding of the social systems that produce and consume products and services, as well as the technological characteristics of the systems that delivery them. Methodologically, my research is phenomenon driven, thus I spend a great deal of time working with managers, doing fieldwork, and collecting data. I use simulation models to formalize the representation of the behavioral and technological complexity of the situations I study.
Although the main role of the fieldwork that I perform is to collect data for the articulation and testing of hypotheses for "traditional" research papers, through the years I've made an effort to turn fieldwork findings into best-practice research papers or into pedagogical cases.
My dissertation work formalized the behavioral and technical interactions in the context of service operations (where the social dimension of the production process is more salient than in manufacturing) and articulated an endogenous theory of erosion of service quality. The main academic work coming out of my dissertation (MS '01, w/Sterman) has been cited as an exemplar of research in organizational behavior and service management, and the managerial articulation of the findings (CMR '01) has been republished three times: once in journal format and twice as part of an edited book. More recently, in a series of papers with H.C. Howard Chuang, we explored the impact of staffing levels in retail operations (JOM '15 w/Chuang; POM '16 w/Chuang & Perdikaki; POM '16 w/Chuang & Liu). Over the years I have developed some cases (e.g., HBSP '02, '03) and simulation tools (Forio '02, '06; IJSIM '08 w/Bean) to transfer the insights from this work into the MBA classroom or executive education settings. I am still working to expand this research stream by expanding the model framework to include financial pressures (HSS '10 w/Sterman) and formalizing some of the empirical findings into a decision support model.
The methodological developments of my dissertation were captured in a series of papers oriented to the system dynamics modeling community – EJOR ('03) and SDR ('01,'04). Since 2005 I have been working in further developing tools to formally link structure and behavior in SD models (SDR '06, SRBS '08 w/Kampmann; ECSS '09, '17, '20 w/Kampmann; EJOR '10 w/Saleh et al; SDR '13 w/Duggan; SDR '16; SDR '18 w/Naumov). The SDR '16 was awarded the 2019 Jay W. Forrester Award for the best written contribution to the System Dynamics field in the preceding five years.
I am also exploring the strategic implications of my dissertation findings in service operations. Specifically, I am looking at firms with aggressive growth rates and the transition that some manufacturers are making to bundle services with their products (my theory predicts faster erosion of service quality in both settings). On the "growth rate" front, I already explored the unsustainable growth rate of the dot.com retailers (SDR '03 w/ Sterman & Giese), and I am currently working on the generalization and formalization of the findings from this work. On the transition from product manufacturers to service providers, a paper articulating a process theory for the transition (IJSIM '03 w/Kallenberg) has become the most cited paper in this domain. We recently confirmed empirically one of the core postulates put forward by that work (JBTBM '12 w/Gebauer & Brann). IMM '17 (w/Kawalkowsky & Gebauer) presents a summary of how those ideas have shaped the research agenda in this space.
Since 2004 I initiated a research project to identify and explore the effects of individuals' bounded rationality and biases in replenishment decisions. To date, this initiative has yielded two papers that explore the organization's internal efforts to remove these biases (POM '09, JOM '11 w/Watson). I am currently working on testing some hypothesis with experimental data (w/Gon¨alves), and analyzing data from an industry partner (w/Watson). Earlyl into this effort we realized the impact of the retailers' operational performance on replenishment decisions and we expanded the scope of the project to address these issues. In particular, we are developing optimal policies for inventory audits to maintain inventory record accuracy (WPS '17 w/Chuang & Kumar; WPS '17 w/Chuang).