From M&SOM Journal Editor

Writing a Truly Constructive Review can be Good for you too!

M&SOM is the premier journal for the OM research community in which each member plays multiple roles: author, reviewer, reader, and educator (influencing students and practitioners).   At the same time, the mission of M&SOM is to develop enduring knowledge that can lead to more efficient and effective processes for the creation and delivery of goods and services.   Therefore, when we review a paper for M&SOM, we should keep the mission of M&SOM and the OM research community in mind. As I reflected upon on different types of referee reports that I received as an author or as an editorial board member, I find one type of report tends to be most constructive.

What is a constructive review?   

By definition, a constructive review is a report that can help the author(s) to improve and/or to further develop the ideas/analysis/results presented in the article.  Indeed, it could be argued that all reviewers aim to be constructive. In my opinion, a truly constructive review is a report that reflects the referee’s examination of the article from the perspective of the author: if I were the author myself, what would I do to improve?  Are these improvement ideas: Feasible? Reasonable? Consistent with the goals of the paper?

A second important viewpoint is that of a reader: if the reviewer can put himself/herself into the shoes of the reader, s/he should be able to ask: what have I learn from the paper that I can build upon?

Thus, a truly constructive report will empathize with the author as well as with the reader.

Of course, the reviewer will look for whether or not the paper contains innovative ideas, relevant OM issues, and rigorous analysis. After all, this is what we expect from a reviewer.

How can a truly constructive review benefit the reviewer?

What’s in it for you, i.e. why should a reviewer to take extra efforts to write a constructive review?  The straightforward answer is to ask yourself the kind of review you would want if you were the author.  Besides the M&SOM meritorious awards recognizing excellent reviewers, writing a truly constructive review can help you to get more respect from the community.

I believe truly constructive reviews can encourage more submissions for M&SOM.  More importantly, it can help us to build a more vibrant research community!

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From M&SOM Journal Editor

Should MSOM Publish Technical Notes?

There is no correct answer: some journals publish technical notes and others don’t.

Based on what I learned from the letter written by Steve Graves (Graves (2009)), he did not think we should publish technical notes.  I agree with his view for two simple reasons.   First, if a short paper contains innovative and relevant OM ideas with rigorous analysis, we should not short change the author by labeling it as a substandard “technical notes.”  For example,  “The Prince” written by Machiavelli is a short book with thought-provoking ideas.  Second, I think the term “technical notes” conveys a wrong message for an OM journal that is committed to publish innovative, relevant, and rigorous OM research articles.

Instead of focusing on the length of a paper, we should perhaps consider “Value per Page” as a criterion.  

Reference

Graves, S.C., “A Letter from the Editor,” M&SOM, vol, 11, 1, pp. 1-3, 2009.

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From M&SOM Journal Editor

Can Review Less Generate More Progress?

The former executive editor of Review of Financial Studies Matthew Spiegel argued that “No published article is good enough to publish” (Spiegel (2012)).   I agree with him.  In my opinion, a journal serves the purpose of disseminating knowledge by publishing articles that contain new knowledge created by researchers.  To save our readers’ precious time, the peer review process serves as a screening mechanism.   To ensure each published article is “perfect,”  the review team spends a lot of time on making various improvement suggestions.  Unless there is a clear direction provided by the review team, some authors may abandon the process with disappointments.

Knowing no paper is perfect and no review process is ideal, I would reduce the number of review cycles and reduce the default number of required reviewers so as to attract more high quality submissions to M&SOM.  M&SOM takes pride in providing high quality reviews with short cycle times.  However, there is an opportunity for us to reduce the number of review cycles. Some reviewers are perfectionists who come up with additional demands during each review cycle.  There are occasions that certain demands do not seem to change the results or insights much; however, these demands can take up a lot of time for the author(s) to address.  To maximize the “return on investment of everyone’s time,” I shall work closely with the Associate Editors to make conscious decisions that can reduce the number of review cycles so that each submission will be accepted (or rejected) “in principle” after no more than two review cycles.   Also, I would like to reduce the default number of required reviewers from three to two.

We welcome your high quality submissions!

Reference

Spiegel, M., “Reviewing Less – Progressing More,” Review of Financial Studies, vol. 25, 5, pp. 1331-1338, 2012.

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From M&SOM Journal Editor

“Unexpected” Results are Required…….. or Not?

Do you require “unexpected” results as an acceptance criterion for M&SOM?  This is a common question I received from colleagues and some editorial members over the last few months.

To educate myself, I asked my colleagues why they asked me this question to begin with.  Apparently, there is a perception that publishable OM papers must contain surprising results.  This perception is not exactly baseless: many OM researchers now claim their papers contain results that are surprising, unexpected, counter-intuitive, unanticipated, etc.   

Unexpected results are certainly intriguing, but it is “beauty in the eye of the beholder.”  I wonder whether  “unexpected” results are truly that “unexpected.”   For example, when I read a paper that examines dynamic interactions among multiple players who engage in transactions that involve moral hazards, information asymmetry, hidden agendas, dynamic games, mechanism designs, etc.  The analysis of these kind of articles is highly sophisticated and is usually based on certain simplifying assumptions.  I often wonder if my measure of “unexpectedness” is due to my limited capability to anticipate the results correctly, my limited understanding of the subject matter, or my limited understanding of the implications of certain simplifying assumptions.

As I ponder over the issue of “unexpectedness,” I would argue that unexpected results are not required as an acceptance criterion for M&SOM.  Instead, we should require each paper contains meaningful knowledge that can lead to more efficient and effective processes for the creation and delivery of goods and services.”   My argument can be easily justified: it is the original mission of M&SOM.

What is meaningful knowledge in OM? 

The mission of academia is to create knowledge (via research) and to disseminate knowledge (via teaching and practice (e.g., consulting)).   The OM academic community needs to think about creating a body of knowledge (innovative and/or practical OM ideas) that is either testable (in terms of hypotheses, experiments, etc.), verifiable (in terms of empirical evidence), applicable (in terms of usability by practitioners), or extendable (in terms of applicability in other contexts).  After reading a paper, I often ask myself: “did I learn something new and/or something meaningful to me as a researcher and to a potential practitioner?” The answer to this question should definitely go beyond unexpected results.

Ultimately, our OM research community must work together to build a body of OM knowledge for our end consumers (the practitioners) even though we share our findings with our colleagues and our students along the way.  A body of OM knowledge is essential: it defines who we are! 

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From M&SOM Journal Editor

How is M&SOM Journal different from Management Science, and Operations Research?

Many of us including myself have been wondering about this question for a long time…..   In my view, this question should be addressed as two sub-questions:

  1. Why is it important for MSOM to be different from MS and OR?

MSOM is an OM journal and it should continue to position itself as the premier OM journal.  As such, it is important to differentiate MSOM from MS and OR because MS is a multi-disciplinary journal and OR focuses on operations research methodologies.

Regarding the difference between MSOM and OR, I think OR is a collection of tools that enables us to examine certain OM issues in a scientific manner and to articulate our thoughts in a logical manner.  Over the last few decades, OR tools have been instrumental in advancing our understanding of many OM issues.  At the same time, the limitations of various OR tools have restricted us from exploring more complex OM issues.  I strongly believe that understanding real and complex OM issues should come before research methodologies especially when the impact of OM research is ultimately measured by the way we affect how practitioners think and do.

  1. How to make MSOM different from MS and OR?

To serve our OM community comprising researchers, students, and practitioners, MSOM should publish OM papers that are relevant, rigorous, and innovative.    Before MSOM printed its first issue in 1999, I was excited to serve on the first editorial board especially because MSOM was originally intended to publish new frontiers of Operations Management research that Management Science or Operations Research will not publish.  With this original intent in mind, I would like to start a new dimension of MSOM (in addition to Manufacturing/Service Operations):  Innovative Operations.

What is Innovative Operations?  I think there are many Innovative Operations happening every day. How does Uber utilize data about its customers and drivers to achieve operations excellence?  How should company leverage social media to improve operations? How does mobile technology improve farmer’s productivity and welfare in emerging markets?  How can information transparency curb air pollution in China?   If we publish an exciting portfolio of articles in MSOM that deals with Innovative Operations as well as  Manufacturing / Service Operations, then we can clearly differentiate MSOM from MS and OR.

Being different and being more focused, MSOM will become the preferred outlet for innovative, relevant, and rigorous OM research!

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M&SOM Review

Collaboration and Multitasking in Networks: Architectures, Bottlenecks, and Capacity

MSOM Review for article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/msom.2014.0498

Itai Gurvich, Jan A. Van Mieghem

Motivated by the trend towards more collaboration in workflows, we study service and manufacturing networks where some tasks require the simultaneous processing by multiple types of multi-tasking human resources. By simultaneous collaboration we mean that some activities require the simultaneous processing by multiple types of resources. Discharging a patient, for example, may require the presence of both a doctor and a nurse. Multitasking means that a resource performs multiple activities.  Multitasking is equivalent to resource sharing, which means that multiple activities require the same resource. A doctor, for example, may be required for both patient diagnosis and patient discharge. Simultaneous collaboration imposes constraints on the capacity of the process because multitasking  resources have to be simultaneously at the right place. The effects of these resource synchronization requirements are more pronounced in human-operated settings in which resources cannot be “split.” An emergency room doctor may split her time between multiple activities—spending x % of her time in one activity and the remaining (100 – x)% in another—and she may switch between the activities frequently, yet she cannot process both activities at the same time (which may, in this example, require her physical presence in two distinct locations).

We study how collaboration requirements affect the process capacity (in the example, this corresponds to the number of patients that can be treated per hour).

figure_1

Consider the following example with three activities and two human resources, which we call the basic collaboration (BC) network: A doctor (resource r1) and nurse (resource r2) collaborate on initial screening of the patient (activity a1). Then the nurse takes a blood test (activity a2). Finally, the doctor receives the tests results and communicates with the patient the diagnosis and recommended treatment (activity a3).  Patients may be waiting in between the activities.  Assume, for simplicity, that each activity takes 10min.  How many patients can this clinic process per hour?

The standard procedure to identify process capacity considers resources in isolation to identify the “slowest resource,” which is called the bottleneck resource.  (Remember, in Goldratt’s book The Goal, Herby is the bottleneck!)  In the BC example, both the doctor and the nurse must devote 20min to each patient.  Both are equally loaded and are bottlenecks with resource capacity of 1 patient every 20min, or 3 patients per hour.  Can this simple bottleneck approach, which is widely used and taught, identify the correct network capacity?  Namely, can the process as a whole serve 3 patients per hour, or is this an overestimate because it ignores the resource synchronization requirements embedded in simultaneous collaboration?

A first observation is that, in the presence of collaboration, one must be careful about the prioritization policy even in the simplest of networks. To see this, assume first that both resources give priority to their individual tasks: whenever resource i  has work available for activity iC 1, the resource prioritizes that work

(in contrast, say, to prioritizing work in activity 1). The central observation here is that under this policy the total number of jobs in the system is identical to that in a single-server queue with service time 30min so that the maximal throughput or network capacity 1/30min = 2/hr, which is substantially below the bottleneck capacity of 3/hr.  In this basic collaboration example the reason for the significant capacity loss is not the required collaboration in itself but rather the prioritization policy that introduces idleness.  Indeed, a possible resolution to avoid idleness in the BC network is to prioritize the collaborative work in activity a 1.

In the BC example, then, the bottleneck analysis is valid—there is a policy under which bottleneck idleness is avoided so that the network capacity is equal to the bottleneck capacity. There are collaboration architectures that inherently introduce unavoidable bottleneck idleness (UBI) and for which collaboration comes at a capacity loss relative to the bottleneck capacity. Figure 2 augments the BC network with a third collaborative resource r 3.  All three resources have equal workload and are bottlenecks with bottleneck capacity 3/hr.

figure_2

However, the collaboration architecture prevents any parallel processing; i.e., no activities can be simultaneously executed. Under no policy can the total queues be smaller than in a single-server queue with service time 30min and, consequently, the associated maximal throughput equals 2/hr. Thus, each bottleneck resource is at most 2/3 utilized and features 1/3 unavoidable idleness due to the specific collaboration architecture.  This phenomenon is driven by three requirements that, in combination, create unavoidable bottleneck idleness: simultaneous collaboration by multitasking resources that cannot be split. Collaboration, multitasking, or nonsplitting in isolation do not create a capacity loss, but in combination their effect is significant.

We find that the gap between the network capacity and the bottleneck capacity depends on the way by which resources are assigned to tasks, which we call the collaboration architecture.  A graph representation provides a visualization of this collaboration architecture: each activity is represented by a node and two nodes are connected with an edge if those two activities share resources.

figure_3

The graph of the BC network (left panel of Fig 3) is a simple example of a nested architecture, for which we prove that UBI is always 0.  Nested architectures roughly allow activities to be arranged in “hierarchies” where activities in the same level of hierarchy do not require overlapping resources.  This cannot be done in the graph of the BC+ network (right panel of Fig 3).

For nested architectures, collaboration comes at no capacity loss (provided an appropriate policy is used) and the network capacity equals the bottleneck capacity. This simple architectural condition characterizes when the conventional bottleneck approach is correct.  Our results have implications to the staffing, and cross-training in collaborative service work organizations.

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From M&SOM Journal Editor

A Letter from the Editor

Happy New Year!  (The following letter will be published in the Winter issue of M&SOM in 2015.)

As the fifth editor of M&SOM, I am grateful to all previous EICs (Leroy Schwarz, Garrett van Ryzin, Gérard Cachon, and my predecessor Stephen Graves), who laid the foundation, paved the path, and led M&SOM to become a premier journal of the OM research community.  The reader is referred to Schwarz (1999), van Ryzin (2003), Cachon (2006), and Graves (2009) for their significant contributions to the mission of M&SOM since its inception.

M&SOM has become a preferred OM research outlet for articles that are rigorous and relevant.  This phenomenal success is due to the support of our OM research community (authors and reviewers) and the unceasing effort of the editorial board members (Editors and Associate Editors) in providing high quality reviews with short cycle time.   Because I have benefitted tremendously from the support of our OM research community over the last 30 years, it is an honorable duty for me to have this privileged opportunity to serve my professional community.

I am committed to follow the footsteps of my predecessors to ensure M&SOM will continue its rigor and relevance so as to create impactful knowledge and insights for the OM research community.  The submission process, the review process, and the type of articles M&SOM would like to publish will continue in the same spirit as articulated in Graves (2009).

Based on the advice I learned from Stephen Graves, the Associate Editors’ insightful comments I collected from Morris Cohen (chair of the search committee), and many thoughtful suggestions I gathered from various presidents of the M&SOM society (Mark Ferguson (past president), Serguei Netessine (current president) and Brian Tomlin (president-elect)) as well as numerous OM researchers located in five continents: the Americas (North and South), Asia, Australia, and Europe, I plan to do the following:

  1. Encourage Impact

    In addition to inviting special issue proposals and encouraging regular submissions, M&SOM should strengthen its impact. Specifically, I plan to use the OM-Forum section to:(A) Invite proposals and high quality articles that explore new frontiers of OM (e.g., OM and business/social innovations, OM and digital economy (m-commerce/social media), OM and public/non-profit sector).  These articles should describe, classify and illustrate (to a certain extent) what kind of OM research opportunities exist in these areas and how OM researchers can pursue this stream of research; and

    (B) Invite proposals and high quality survey articles that synthesize knowledge of certain important or emerging areas in OM so that the OM community can learn of the state of the art on the subject, gaps in the literature, and open research topics.

    To a certain extent, (A) and (B) can help M&SOM to differentiate itself from Management Science and Operations Research.  More importantly, I think these kind of articles can help M&SOM to advance the thought leadership of OM research.  Consequently, the visibility of M&SOM and the ISI Impact factor will improve, which can help M&SOM to be included on the Business Week list and/or the Financial Times list in the future. [1]

  2. Further streamline the review process

Reduce the number of review cycles and reduce the default number of required reviewers

M&SOM takes pride in providing high quality reviews with short cycle times.  However, there is an opportunity for us to reduce the number of review cycles. Some reviewers are perfectionists who come up with additional demands during each review cycle.  There are occasions that certain demands do not seem to change the results or insights much; however, these demands can take up a lot of time for the author(s) to address.  To maximize the “return on investment of everyone’s time,” I shall work closely with the Associate Editors to make conscious decisions that reduce the number of review cycles so that each submission will be accepted (or rejected) “in principle” after no more than two review cycles.  (This idea is motivated by the arguments articulated by Spiegel (2012).)  Also, I would like to reduce the default number of required reviewers from three to two.

Develop a common set of evaluation criteria and a standardized review process

While reviewers have traditionally focused on “rigor” and “relevance,” I would add “novelty” as a new criterion so that M&SOM can encourage authors to submit some OM articles that examine certain innovative operations. [2]

Criterion Evaluation Question
Novel Does this paper examine an innovative issue/idea in OM?
Rigorous Does this paper contain rigorous analysis (and / or new approach / methodology) for examining a certain OM issue?
Relevant Does this paper offer new managerial insights (and / or practical ideas that can be implemented in OM practice)?

By establishing these three criteria more explicitly, it would enable reviewers and the editorial board members to provide constructive suggestions that would improve the novelty, rigor, and relevance of the paper.

Manage review process efficiently as the number of submissions increases

Up to this point, the review process of M&SOM is managed centrally; i.e., the EIC manages the review process for every single submission.  This process works well when the number of submissions is relatively small.  However, as the number of submissions increases, the review cycle time will lengthen unless the EIC delegates the review process to others.  When the number of submissions increases, there is a need to develop a department structure so that each Department Editor (DE) will take on the role of the editor of the corresponding department so that the EIC can have some time to promote the journal and encourage more submissions.  To maximize flexibility and to fully capitalize on the expertise of different Associate Editors, each DE can continue to draw on a common pool of Associate Editors.   When that happens, the journal will be managed in a decentralized manner even though the evaluation criteria and the review process (as stated above) will continue to be maintained centrally.

By 2016, I would like to create three departments that handle papers arising from the manufacturing and service industries.  These three departments are classified according to OM issues, and each department should welcome different research methodologies (analytical, empirical, experimental, etc.).   At the same time, these departments are designed in a way that each M&SOM Special Interest Group (SIG) belongs to a designated department:

  • Manufacturing Operations and Supply Chain Management. This department will handle submissions that deal with issues such as supply chain management (one of the SIGs) and other issues arising from the operational aspect of manufacturing (e.g., interfaces between manufacturing and marketing / strategy).  This department may also handle papers that deal with interfaces of Finance, Operations and Risk Management (one of the SIGs) if the papers are related to supply chain management (e.g., financial and operational hedging, vendor financing, etc.).
  • Service Operations. This department will process papers that deal with service management (one of the SIGs).  For example, papers that deal with healthcare operations management (one of the SIGs), pricing and revenue management, after-sales services, service capacity allocation, technology-enabled services,  and interfaces of service operations with other functional areas (marketing, human resource) would belong to this department.
  • Innovative Operations. To differentiate M&SOM from MS and to enable M&SOM to attract more submissions and to publish more OM papers that are novel, this department will handle OM papers that examine new frontiers of OM but do not fit the other two departments.  For example, this department will deal with sustainable operations papers (one of the SIGs) that examine new processes or operations for improving environmental and/or social responsibility.  Also, papers that deal with innovative product design or new product development in the context of processes and operations will belong to this department.  Moreover, papers that examine innovative operations models arising in emerging economies such as humanitarian relief operations, social entrepreneurship operations, technology-enabled business processes and operations will belong to this department.

When the quality and quantity of inputs improve, the quality and quantity of outputs will improve.  With fewer review cycles and shorter cycle times, the speed of publishing an article in M&SOM will improve.  Consequently, it will help M&SOM to become the preferred OM research outlet for articles that are novel, relevant and rigorous.

  1. Promote M&SOM to a larger community

M&SOM should become more accessible to a larger community (researchers in other related fields (e.g., marketing, finance, public policy, etc.), OM practitioners, or graduate students in business schools and industrial engineering). To engage our larger community, I have worked with Serguei Netessine (current President of the M&SOM Society) to develop the following online initiatives in 2015.

From M&SOM Journal Editor – an online blog with open access to be posted on https://msomsociety.org/category/from-msom-journal-editor/.   This blog site is intended enable the editor to create a dialogue between the editor and the OM community so as to facilitate mutual learning.

M&SOM-Review – an online blog with open access to be posted on https://msomsociety.org/category/msom-review/.  This blog is intended to increase readership and to improve visibility.  I believe M&SOM should disseminate new OM knowledge to a wider group of potential readers so that the knowledge and insights developed in various articles can influence research and practice in the near future.  Because M&SOM articles are written for OM researchers primarily,  non-OM researchers are unable to see through the thicket of technical analysis; unable to appreciate the relevance of various M&SOM articles; and unable to apply the research findings of many M&SOM articles that could influence research in other fields or OM practice. To make M&SOM articles more accessible, authors of recently published M&SOM papers will be invited to distill the essence of their respective articles into short articles (say, 1000-1500 words) without any technical jargon or analysis.

We should leverage the power of social media to promote M&SOM, and I am calling on all readers to support M&SOM.   Specifically, I would encourage our readers to “share” these blogs with their LinkedIn connections, Google+ connections, etc.   Moreover, I plan to work with INFORMS to turn some of these MSOM-Review articles into press releases for the media.

The online MSOM-Review can create a more vibrant OM community that engages academics, practitioners, and graduate students.  Through this kind of interaction, our OM research community can learn more about issues arising from practice and the practitioners can benefit from our academic research.   As we promote the authors of M&SOM articles, I believe it would attract even more high quality submissions to M&SOM.

New Articles in M&SOM – an e-flyer that is intended to promote our forthcoming papers.  This e-flyer will be disseminated through email to INFORMS members and through our online blog “From M&SOM Journal Editor” with open access on a quarterly basis.    By alerting our members about our forthcoming papers (e-flyer) and providing short articles highlighting the relevance of MSOM research (MSOM-review), we can build awareness of our high quality papers, provide value to our wider community of academics and practitioners, and, in turn, improve our impact factor.

I am honored to have the opportunity to serve our OM community.  With the support of our authors and our editorial board members, M&SOM will continue to thrive.   Together, we can shape the future of OM research, and we can build a much stronger OM research community!

References

Cachon, G.P., “A Letter from the Editor,” M&SOM, vol, 8, 1, pp. 1-4, 2006.

Graves, S.C., “A Letter from the Editor,” M&SOM, vol, 11, 1, pp. 1-3, 2009.

Schwarz, L.B., “Manufacturing & Service Operations Management: An Introduction,” M&SOM , vol. 1, 1, (editorial), 1999.

Spiegel, M., “Reviewing Less – Progressing More,” Review of Financial Studies, vol. 25, 5, pp. 1331-1338, 2012.

van Ryzin, G. J., “From the Editor,” M&SOM, vol. 5, 1, pp. vii-xiv, 2003.

[1] High quality literature reviews usually receive higher citations.  For example, some most cited M&SOM articles are excellent survey papers.  Also, among all economics journals, Journal of Economic Literature that publishes survey articles has the highest impact factor 7.1, while American Economic Review has an impact factor 2.5.

[2] When M&SOM was first created in the mid-90s, the original intent was to publish some OM papers that contain novel/non-traditional ideas that may not fit MS.

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