Challenges Facing Operations Management Today


Drucker posits, “Operations managers play a critical role in harmonizing systems and guidelines across key business areas including technology, planning, and finance” (123). In spite of all the resources at their disposal, the managers encounter numerous challenges when dealing with employees and coordinating organizational resources. Heizer and Render allege, “The global market is characterized by its substantial size and dynamic makeup” (34).

Operations managers must understand this truth to sustain the best system performance in a changing global scene. Operations managers should be in a position to address what he calls planned and unplanned changes (Burke 145). The managers should be able to identify the essential systems and tools to utilize organizational resources proficiently.

Heizer and Render (37) assert that operations managers are responsible for value addition, and they guarantee that an organization meets consumer needs. The managers do not execute these duties without challenges. They come across innumerable challenges that include guaranteeing sustainability, competing practices, limited resources, social responsibilities, and corporate reporting, among others.

Operations managers are tasked with ensuring that all departments within an organization work together (Heizer and Render 41). Consequently, they are responsible for solving disputes that arise due to competing interests among the departments.

Moreover, as organizations realign themselves to suit the changing business environment, operations managers are faced with the challenge of organizational restructuring systems to satisfy the emerging needs. This paper will discuss the challenges facing operations management in the modern business world.

Competing practices

Organizations are made up of different autonomous departments, which work together to achieve organizational goals (Drucker 123). What’s more, the various departments maintain constant communication to update each other on their progress and what is to be done next. Operations managers require having precise knowledge of the tasks of each department and how information flows from one unit to another (Drucker 123). In many cases, there arises competition between the various departments due to conflicting practices.

For instance, the marketing department may choose to correspond through notes, while the supply unit chooses emails. Such competing practices may hamper organizational efficiency and affect the quality of the company’s goods and services. Operations managers are faced with the challenge of solving competing practices in their day-to-day life (Drucker 125). Such a problem becomes worse if the managers do not have a clear guideline of how information is supposed to flow within the organization.

Operations managers institute rules that cover the entire company to combat opposing practices. Even though the policies may help to solve the problem of competing practices, they lead to other setbacks, especially if one department feels that its interests were not adequately addressed in the policies.

At times, it becomes difficult for the operations managers to reach a common ground that favors all the departments affected. Consequently, some units decline to follow the laid down procedures because they feel that the procedures favor other departments at their expense.

Dynamic business environment

Apart from competing practices, operations managers encounter challenges when dealing with the ever-changing business environment. “Companies operate in a business environment characterized by regular changes in consumer needs, government regulations, technology, politics and financial market” (Drucker 127). Therefore, operations managers face a lot of challenges when addressing these changes. It is hard for operations managers to anticipate future changes in the marketplace (Krajewski and Ritzman 37).

For instance, the recent global financial crisis posed a significant challenge to operations managers. The managers are required to be innovative to overcome such crises. What’s more, they have to restructure their organizations, a move that lead to many employees fearing for their jobs. In the end, changes in the business environment result in operations managers incurring more cost in terms of system restructuring and hiring and training employees to suit the new job descriptions (Krajewski and Ritzman 75).

The changes come with a number of challenges, such as resistance by the employees to adopt the new changes. In most cases, employees opt to maintain the status quo because they perceive changes as a threat to their jobs.

Consequently, operations managers encounter resistance when trying to convince the employees to adopt the changes (Krajewski and Ritzman 77). Besides, it is hard for the managers to streamline operations in a business environment where employees are reluctant to embrace changes, thus negatively affecting organizational efficiency.

Globalization has led to stiff competition among the businesses. The current business environment allows organizations to open new branches in any part of the world. In return, organizations are opting to expand and look for unexplored markets to minimize risk, increase their profit, and remain competitive. Globalization has become an annoyance to operations managers (Birkinshaw, Hamel, and Mol 827).

It has not only altered business processes but has also made it hard for the managers to deal with their supply systems. An organization requires changing its service processes when investing in a foreign country. There is a slogan that states’ think global act local’. The slogan encourages operations managers to establish business procedures that best address the needs of the local market.

The managers find it difficult to learn the culture of the target market and to align the company activities with this culture. It becomes hard for the managers to implement the changes, particularly if the final decisions are not made within the organization.

The majority of the organizations with branches in foreign countries make their decisions in the parent company. Therefore, operations managers encounter find it hard to harmonize the decisions with the situation on the ground. The managers require aligning the business’s mission, vision, culture, and goals with the local needs. At the same time, they have to ensure that they do not contravene the overall objectives of the shareholders (Birkinshaw, Hamel, and Mol 831).

Many times, such changes put the operations managers into problems with the shareholders. Apart from aligning business goals with the local demands, organizations require the managers to strike a balance between “cultural practices of local business units and global control” (Cole 67). To strike a balance, the managers are forced to create global strategies to help in dealing with international trade. Failure to establish global strategies weakens organizational performance, and mainly for the companies operating in foreign countries.

Social responsibility

Birkinshaw, Hamel, and Mol allege, “In many ways, social responsibility is related to sustainability. However, this function of the operation manager looks specifically at how the business engages with its local community, trying to get consumers to buy its products” (838). Numerous organizations participate in corporate social responsibility projects like sponsoring local schools or cleaning the cities.

Even though operations managers face challenges when preparing for the projects, the business’s participation makes the public to believe that the company is not out to make a profit. It shows that the organization cares for the needs of the community. Additionally, participating in corporate social responsibility (CSR) helps to market a company’s brand (Cole 69). While operations managers are responsible for organizing and coordinating CSR projects, they are also responsible for increasing the company’s returns.

The shareholders expect the managers to raise the company’s profit and turnover. The managers have to achieve these expectations without engaging in activities that can affect the social environment or society (Cole 70). Therefore, they are required to offer quality products and services without hiking the prices. What’s more, the managers are expected to ensure that the business does not engage in activities that threaten society in a bid to increase its returns.

Top management in any organization holds the operations managers accountable for the budget related to business operations. The management needs the managers to utilise the available resources with minimum wastage (Johnston 1299). Therefore, the operations managers encounter problems in the attempt to maintain the service cost at a minimum, while at the same time to increase the profit. Because of such an environment, the managers result in making tough decisions, some of which are hard to bear.

For instance, operations managers are compelled to cut down on the number of employees to reduce operations costs. Employee reduction leads to the managers facing lawsuits, which consume most of their time and affect their performance (Johnston 1301). Occasionally, managers prefer to enhance machine efficiency to increase productivity. Even if the enhancement may help the operations managers to meet the top management’s demands, it times it overworks the machines leading to their breakage.

Ultimately, the managers end up spending more money to repair the machines instead of reducing the expenses. Normally, operations managers have to guarantee that the money they need to run their department will yield returns. It becomes a problem if the managers fail to fulfill their pledge.

Corporate reporting

Many organizations assign responsibility for business reporting to operations managers. Additionally, the managers compile performance and financial records for the organization (Johnston 1304). These responsibilities leave the operations managers as the only people who can clarify the records to the shareholders. Corporate reporting becomes a challenge to the managers if the business does not keep truthful and up to date records. Operations managers end up manipulating their records to appease the management.

They risk losing their jobs if the top management learned about their actions. For the case of small enterprises, “record-keeping can sometimes take a back seat to more pressing concerns like meeting customer demands or keeping production levels high” (Johnston 1307). It is hard for the operations managers to present such data if the business is not performing. Giving the data amounts to self-incrimination on the side of the managers because the top management entrusts them with the enterprise.


Organizations assign the operations managers the task to create lasting employee and consumer policies that put into consideration the company’s effects on the cultural, social, and fiscal environment (Ritchie and Brindley 305). Numerous enterprises have opted to engage in environmental conservation projects as a component of their sustainability aspiration. Such policies seek to curb pollution and to keep the company away from engaging in activities that affect the well-being of the customers.

Formulating business rules that engender transparency is as well an element of sustainability goal. The goal can be challenging to operations managers who work in small enterprises because “their work environments tend to be more insular than that of larger corporations” (Ritchie and Brindley 309).

Establishing sustainable business policies in small businesses affects the enterprise’s relationship with customers and staff. Operations managers find it hard to guarantee business sustainability without affecting either employees or customers.

Ritchie and Brindley argue, “A growing number of organizations fall squarely in the information-intensive new economy” (319). To these organizations, the perceptions, tools, and theories of traditional operation management are mainly immaterial. They have to come up with approaches that are tailored to the theories and realities of their world. The work becomes even composite because of two extra truths of their world. First, since modern enterprises are information-intensive, their employees are different from those of the past enterprises.

Not only are the workers’ remunerations high, but it is also difficult for the operations managers to measure their output. What’s more, the employees do not allow operations managers to measure their performance. Some years back, organizations used financial incentives to motivate their employees (Storey et al. 756).

Workers were rewarded based on their performance, and the reward promoted competition within the company. However, modern employees do not consider financial incentives as a motivating factor. For this reason, it is hard for operations managers to retain their skilled workforce if they do not understand what incentives motivate the workforce.

Some of the operations managers deal with employees whose skills are unique and highly demanded by many institutions. Such employees keep moving from one enterprise to another. For instance, the managers who work in hospitals encounter a lot of challenges dealing with doctors who move from one hospital to another (Storey et al.755). It is difficult for the managers to control the doctors in fear of losing them.

Many of the modern companies are expanding exponentially (Storey et al.756). This growth poses a challenge to the operations managers because they are not able to tell how and where to alter the company’s system to cope with the rapid growth.

Moreover, the managers find it hard to motivate and retain their existing workforce, and to recruit others to occupy the emerging job opportunities. It is hard for operations managers to coordinate all these changes, and at the same time to recruit new customers and to run incessant changes in goods and services.

Ethical challenges

Operations managers are tasked with guaranteeing safety at workplaces. They ensure that employees use the available resources accordingly and comply with the established safety procedures. It is hard for the managers to guarantee safety at workplaces when employees work under the influence of drugs or alcohol (Storey et al.756). Even though companies prohibit their employees from working under the influence of drugs or alcohol, some staff still violates the laws.

In such a case, it becomes hard for managers to guarantee the safety of their employees. In the service sector, the operations managers encounter an ethical predicament of addressing setbacks associated with the technological field. The challenge becomes severe if it entails computer scam in which employees steal an enormous amount of money from the company (Storey et al.756). The majority of computer crimes are not detected immediately.

A company can lose a lot of money before the scam is noticed. In such a case, operations managers may not be in a position to explain to the top management about how the theft happened. To cope with these ethical predicaments, operations managers end up spending a lot of money to install system security.


Operations managers are critical leaders in any organization. Their daily activities determine the success of the business. The managers encounter numerous challenges as they execute their day-to-day obligations. One of the challenges that they face is solving conflicts between departments. It is hard for the managers to come up with a structural system that satisfies all the departments. Globalization has opened foreign markets to business enterprises.

In return, it has put the operations managers in problems with employees because the managers try to restructure the company’s systems to suit the global market. Operations managers are responsible for corporate reporting and social responsibility. The managers are unable to report on business performance if the company does not keep precise and up to date records. Moreover, the managers have the duty to ensure that the company does not make a profit through dubious means.

The managers determine the survival of an enterprise. Hence, they are asked to lay down business policies that engender transparency and accountability. Some operations managers deal with employees who have unique and highly demanded skills. Therefore, it is hard for the managers to control the workers due to fear of losing them.

Another problem that operations managers face is guaranteeing the safety of employees at workplaces. What’s more, some staff might conspire to defraud the company without the knowledge of the operations managers.

Works Cited

“Management Challenges for the 21st Century”, By: Peter Drucker, Elsevier Ltd, 2007, ISBN 978-0-7506-8509-2.

“Management theory and practice”, By: Gerald Cole, Thomston, 6th Edition, 2004, ISBN 1-84480-088-1.

“Operations Management: Process and Value Chains”, By: Lee L. Krajweski and Larry P. Ritzman, Pearson – Prentice Hall, 8thEdition, 2005, ISBN-10: 013187294X.

“Operations Management”, By: Jay Heizer and Barry Render, Prentice Hall, 10th Edition, 2011, ISBN- 10: 0136119417.

Birkinshaw, J., Hamel, G., Mol, M., “Management innovation”, Academy of management Review, 33/4, 2008, pp. 825-845.

Burke, W., “A perspective on the field of organization development and change: The Zeigarnik effect”, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 47/1, 2011, pp. 143-167.

Johnston, R., “Service operations management: from the roots up”, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 25/12, 2005, pp.1298-1308.

Ritchie, B., Brindley, C., “Supply chain risk management and performance: A guiding framework for future development”, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 27/3, 2007, pp.303-322.

Storey, J., Emberson, C., Godsell, J., Harrison, A., “Supply chain management: theory, practice and future challenges”, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 26/7, 2006, pp. 754-774.