Nigel Slack, Alistair Brandon-Jones and Nicola Burgess: Teaching ‘Responsible Operations’

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Pearson’s author webinar series “Memorable Teaching Moments”.

Nigel Slack, Alistair Brandon-Jones and Nicola Burgess talked about the need for sustainable operations and dived deeper into how they have incorporated fresh content on the topic into the upcoming edition of their textbook Operations and Process Management.

Slack, Brandon-Jones, Burgess: Teaching Responsible Operations
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Unpacking “Responsible Operations” is an exciting academic topic, but complex and controversial in all its urgency and importance, with a range of academics taking different sides on whether they should incorporate it into their teaching.

Nigel Slack (Emeritus Professor of Operations Management and Strategy, Warwick Business School), Alistair Brandon-Jones (Full Chair Professor in Operations and Supply Chain Management, University of Bath School of Management), and Nicola Burgess (Professor of Operations Management at the School for Business and Society, University of York) exposed the different layers and aspects of teaching sustainable operations, and how they have weaved “responsible” content within their series of best-selling textbooks.

They revealed tips on how academics can use this content to spark interest and engagement amongst students and shared their own experiences from the classroom. Finally, Nicola presented the new case study about UK-based charity organisation Fare Share, which will be included in the upcoming edition of Operations and Process Management (coming March 2024) and as part of the updates in the eTextbook of best-selling Operations Management, 10th edition.


How much responsible content should we have in our courses vs core Operations Management?

The need to promote responsible operations in academic teaching today has resulted in a significant transition for the webinar team, both in the shaping of the content across the different editions of their texbooks as well as their teaching of the discipline. Nigel Slack gave an overview of how the topic of sustainability in OM has changed the ways operations run over the recent years and, in consequence, how their viewpoint of sustainable and responsible operations has shifted, thereby influencing the layout and content they produce.

One of the key aspects of teaching responsible operations is the great interest students have in the subject and its context within operations. Having said that, according to Nicola Burgess, the link between studying responsible operations and the actual topic is equally important to establish this engagement, as there is a risk of being regarded as an add-on topic.

As a way to tackle this, the team has created “Responsibility Boxes” throughout the chapters, instead of a single chapter at the end of the book, weaving the subject through the content and, therefore, encouraging students to shape a similar viewpoint – which, to their experience, has proven to be very effective in terms of student engagement.

Acknowledging the controversy between academics – those who incorporate responsible operations into their teaching and those who avoid it because they feel it detracts them from the core OM issues and techniques – Nigel stresses how crucial the decisions they make are in structuring a course:

“There's a spectrum is what I'm saying. And I think what we all have to do individually is decide where we want to be on that spectrum because it has important pedagogical effects on how we structure a course and how much sustainability issue we include within it.

– Alistair Brandon-Jones, Professor in Operations and Supply Chain Management


“Responsibility Boxes” and student engagement

Following Nicola’s point of how engaging students find the topic, Alistair Brandon-Jones shared his experience with the students, showcasing a different approach to how he leverages the content about responsible operations – included in the latest edition of their book. 

Specifically, Alistair used the responsible operations examples in the text to create a short Pre-Course Reflection Assignment, prompting the students to express their thoughts on the social, environmental and ethical issues outlined in the examples.

The result was a series of very enthusiastic responses to the assignment, where the students not only engaged with it but also commented on their peers’ responses, sparking a debate and discussion around the topic and creating a mindset they then brought to class. Alistair also used this content material that came directly from the students to create a discussion as part of his lecture.

“Any individual case box that we have in these chapters can really be leveraged to generate either a pre-class assignment, be assessed or unassessed, generate some energy and debate, generate a mindset of discussion and critique and then also can be leveraged in a class setting”

– Alistair Brandon-Jones, Professor in Operations and Supply Chain Management


The case of Fare Share – revolutionising the ways of redistributing food surplus

Nicola Burgess spoke in more detail about the new case study that will be included in the upcoming 7th edition of Operations and Process Management, focusing on UK-based charity Fare Share. The charity has adopted a model of redistributing healthy food to nearly 11.000 charities, which has been rendered as surplus by the retailers and rejected from the human supply chain.

Given this rejection is not due to the quality of the food but because of different factors such as incorrect packaging and labelling or order cancellations, this charity has brought a social picture to the forefront – larger than rejected food redistribution.

As Nicola reveals, many of the volunteers in this charity come from different backgrounds, including many who are currently out of work and might not be able to afford food themselves. Furthermore, Fare Share has not only revolutionised the ways of eliminating surplus food waste but also retains a strong ethos and respect towards the dietary needs and requirements of the individuals upon donations.

How can one place the above case within the context of teaching? According to Nicola, encouraging student motivation about an issue they care deeply is key to their engagement.

“What we're doing here is we're getting students to think through in a more systematic way, about what quality means in the context of Fare Share and helping them to apply their knowledge of our work in theory and frameworks.”

– Nicola Burgess, Professor of Operations Management

This “radical culture” of dealing with food waste and hunger as Fare Share CEO, Dan Slatter, puts it, where “those with the least get the best”, is an innovative approach and a fantastic talking point within the classroom. According to Nicola, by touching on topics they would feel passionate about, students are also challenged to think more holistically about quality management and responsible operations.


Operations and Process Management, 6th edition is available at our online store in Print and eTextbook formats (New edition coming March 2024!)

Operations Management, 10th edition is available at our online store in Print, eText book and Revel formats. Order your free samples of the textbooks today.

Sukhninder Panesar: Equity and Trusts, 5th edition Revel®

Operations and Process Management, 6th edition is now available at our online store in print and eBook formats (NEW edition coming in March 2024!).

Sukhninder Panesar: Equity and Trusts, 5th edition Revel®

Operations Management, 10th edition is available at our online store in print, eBook and Revel® formats.

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