NOT Ready. Fire. Aim…BUT Ready. Aim. Fire.
In the 1960s the subject of Operations Research (OR) was centre stage at every Indian Institute of Technology – Kharagpur, Mumbai, Madras, Delhi, and Kanpur. Every B Tech student aspired to do his/her thesis in OR. A proficient OR thesis served as a visa to the best universities in the USA. And perhaps, subsequent employment.
Legend goes that formal activities in OR were initiated in England during World War II, when a team of British scientists set out to make decisions regarding the best utilization of war materials.
So what is OR? It is an analytical method of problem solving and decision-making that is useful in the management of private and governmental organizations. In OR, problems are broken down into basic components and then solved in defined steps by mathematical analysis. Very objectively.
Engineers learned the management techniques of OR from the military. OR, in summary, teaches us to be accurate and precise in penetrating a problem. Our current approach of: Ready – Fire – Aim needs correction. We must instead adopt: Ready – Aim – Fire using the tools and techniques of OR.
Over the years, business management schools have aggressively accented financial management as the primary key to success. In the process, OR has faded into oblivion. That is a pity.
While we do see avatars of OR in Engineering / Micro Economics, we continue to perform with inefficiencies in organizations – private and governmental.
In fact, we have made a habit of living with sporadic problems. I call it fire-fighting.
Further, we are unaware of our chronic problems. They are hidden in the financial budget of an organization. To address chronic problems, we need fire-prevention. That can happen if we revisit OR.
Let me give a context. I believe new age organizations such as Amazon, Flipkart, Uber, Grofers, etc could benefit by using OR techniques such as, Linear Programming, Monte Carlo Simulation, Input-Output Analysis, and Queuing Theory.
Similarly, we need OR to solve the traffic flow problems of Mumbai. Agree? Mumbai First has embarked on this journey with IIT Bombay. They will probably use a Transportation Model, or some other OR methodology to solve the bottlenecks at Haji Ali and Crawford Market, amongst others.
We also need OR to solve the problems associated with distribution of farm supplies. At a national level. Agree? And power distribution? As well as water distribution? There are many more.
I wish to invite you to add problems perceived by you, to the list. Finally, I would like you to remember that in OR we believe that very problem comes with a solution. Hmmm.