Aligning Process with Strategy

Organizations create products or services that are demanded by a market. An automobile manufacturer produces cars that consumers drive; a restaurant produces food that customers eat; a consulting firm produces recommendations that clients consider; a hospital provides care that patients require. A firm’s operations are the processes, resources, and capabilities that together produce its goods and services. In the best organizations, excellent operations do not just “happen”—they are carefully designed to align with, and enable, the overall strategy of the firm.

In this program, you will learn how to understand and analyze the operations of  your firm, and how to design effective operations strategies that align with your organization's strategic goals.

  • Using the fundamental tools and concepts from this program, you will be able to think rigorously and effectively about how to manage your organization’s operations to match supply and demand.
  • Leveraging a framework taught in this program, you will be able to link your firm's operational choices to its overall strategic vision.
  • You will learn how to analyze and design effective operations strategies.

Managing an organization’s operations effectively is key to meeting market demand and competing successfully in the market. As a result, a fundamental understanding of operations is crucial for all managers, be it in manufacturing or services, for-profit firms or non-profit organizations, start-ups or large, established firms. This program lays the groundwork for just such an understanding and introduces the most essential principles of the science—and art—of leading business strategy through operational excellence.

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Who Should Attend?

  • Executives, and strategic leaders across an organization who need to connect operational decisions with the overall company strategy and to the bottom line, whether or not they are directly involved with operations.
  • Professionals whose job scope is expanding to include operations decisions, and those who must assess the impact of operations on strategic initiatives. In some organizations, it will be beneficial to send leaders across multiple departments: sales, marketing, finance, accounting, procurement, plus other groups engaging with operations outcomes.
  • Operations professionals whose increased responsibilities include providing input to their firm’s strategy.
  • Managers in both operations and non-operations roles who want to advance their careers by leveling up their skills: 

o  Sales and account managers

o  Strategy/business development executives

o  R & D, innovation, and new product development leaders

o  Senior marketing managers

o  Senior finance and accounting managers

o  Procurement, sourcing, or purchasing leaders

o  Demand and inventory managers

o  Cost manufacturing engineers


More About This Program

Are you ready to gain substantial insights into how to align operations processes with your organization's business strategies? Enhance your contributions to your organization and increase value for your stakeholders by understanding the opportunities and challenges in operations management. This "live virtual" program is filled with stimulating activities, engaging games to illustrate concepts, and challenging case studies. These will be coupled with faculty research presentations and group discussions, demonstrating queueing theory and constraints, and covering capacity expansion, specialization, and strategy alignment. You’ll leave with a strong foundation in operations management, understanding issues  your operations processes are likely to face, what the key methods for evaluating options to address these challenges are, and how to optimize your operational activities to align most effectively with your firm’s strategy. 


This live-streaming virtual course consists of:

  • Six 2-hour live-streamed class sessions (held twice a week over a three-week period)
  • Two informative and fun simulation games--one about inventory management in a supply chain, and the other about sourcing options and choices
  • Pre-session readings and questions to address to familiarize yourself with the session topic(s)
  • Robust live, online class discussions with your instructor and other participants, who come from across the health care industry

Classes will be held using Zoom video-conferencing, which creates a virtual classroom where you can see the professor and presentation screen, as well as seeing the other participants. Similarly, the professor can see all of the students who engage online during the group session. You’ll be able to communicate with both the professor and your peers through this platform. 

To participate in this course you will need to have a working webcam, built in or attached, and have downloaded the Zoom Cloud Meeting app onto your laptop.


If you have any questions about this requirement, call Duke Executive Education team at +1.919.660.8011 or Toll Free +1.800.372.3932, or email us at

This course will address specific issues pertaining to both manufacturing and service settings across a wide variety of industries, and will cover quantitative tools--models and data-driven methods--and qualitative frameworks. The following topics will be addressed:

  • Process Fundamentals
  • Business Process Improvement
  • Inventory Management and Information Flows
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Operations strategy and Strategic Alignment
  • Global Sourcing Strategy

In your initial session, you'll consider the design of a process that generates a good or service that's capable of meeting demand. A process is a series of steps involved in manufacturing a product or delivering a service, and each step in a process is capable of making a certain amount of output. A well-designed process is carefully constructed such that each step is capable of meeting market demand, and the combination of all steps produces output at a rate that satisfies the organization’s needs. This is not always easy to accomplish, as processes and individual steps come in many different forms: for instance, some steps are very fast, while others are very slow and labor intensive; some steps process many units at one time (“batch” steps) while others process only one unit at a time.

Sessions 1--2

In your first two sessions, you will assess the relationship between a firm’s strategy and the underlining processes, and explore how to design new processes and improve existing ones. Your class will focus initially on ensuring a process is capable of satisfying the average demand that it faces, and in a teaching note (“Process Analysis”) you'll discover the fundamental tools and methodologies that allow us to analyze a system and eliminate long-term supply-demand mismatches. Even though a process can, on average, satisfy demand, problems may still occur. In particular, uncertainty (randomness) can generate short-term mismatches between supply and demand, resulting in backlogs of work (or queues). These short-term mismatches often arise in service industries that are naturally subjected to more variability than manufacturing industries. You will explore the root causes of uncertainties using the tools and strategies you'll find in a teaching note (“Queueing Analysis”) that enable you to understand and manage the short-term mismatches. To that end, we will see how careful analysis can be a powerful means to redesign and improve business processes in both service and manufacturing industries.

Sessions 3--4

The next two sessions also concern uncertainties. Unlike with services, physical goods are typically created in advance of demand and “inventoried” to await the arrival of a customer. The resulting inventory is a tangible resource that can be used to cope with demand uncertainty, unlike unused capacity in a service system that cannot be stored for future use. As a result, managing inventory of physical goods is a crucial part of matching supply and demand in manufacturing and retail industries. In this part of the program, you'll discuss ways to manage such inventories and use them to the organization’s benefit by balancing the competing objectives of satisfying customer demand while minimizing inventory costs and investment. An interactive simulation allows you to experiment with using data to manage inventory for firms and to examine the impact of individual decisions on the entire supply chain. We will also connect our discussion of inventory management with the logistics of the supply chain and explore the role of distribution centers in an organization’s ability to match supply and demand.

Sessions 5--6

In the final two sessions, we will demonstrate the importance of designing an effective operations strategy that aligns with the overall strategic goals of the organization and introduce a framework to evaluate a firm’s operations strategy within three categories of decisions: scale, source, and scope. Scale refers to the volume of activities performed. Source refers to whether an operation’s activities are insourced or outsourced, and whether they are performed onshore, nearshore, or offshore. Scope refers to the variety of activities performed, e.g., whether the organization focuses on a small set of activities (specialization) or a broad set of activities (diversification). Using a case study and a simulation, you'll determine the power of operational alignment along each of these dimensions—and the pitfalls of operational misalignment. An integrative discussion of the program material and the critical nature of effective operations management, both at a tactical (day to day) and strategic (long term) level, will conclude the program.


Leading Business Strategy through Operational Excellence (virtual)

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Detailed Program Schedule and Preparation Guidelines

Please read all assigned materials before each program session. Most sessions also provide several preparation questions. Please consider how you would answer these questions; they will typically serve as interactive discussion points during the session.

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Session 1

Session Topics:

     Business Process and Strategy
     Process Fundamentals

Session Duration:

     2 hours

Advanced Preparation:

     Reading or case preparation that will require
     1-2 hours




Session 2

Session Topics:

     Managing Uncertainties in Processes
     Business Process Improvement

Session Duration:

     2 hours

Advanced Preparation:

     Reading or case preparation that will require
     1-2 hours

Session 3

Session Topic:

     Supply Chain Management

     In this session we will play a supply chain
     simulation. This is a web-based simulation:
     all participants should have a separate
     laptop/PC available for this session.

Session Duration:

     2 hours

Session 4

Session Topic:

     Inventory Management

Session Duration:

     2 hours

Advanced Preparation:

     Reading or case preparation that will require
     1-2 hours

Session 5

Session Topic: 

     Operations Strategy and Strategic Alignment

Session Duration:

     2 hours

Advanced Preparation:

    Reading or case preparation that will require
    1-2 hours

Session 6

Session Topics:

     Global Sourcing Strategy
     Program Close

Session Duration:

     2:15 hours

Advanced Preparation:

     Reading or case preparation that will require
     1-2 hours


Fernando Bernstein

Fernando Bernstein

Fernando Bernstein is the Bob J. White Professor of Operations Management at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University. He obtained a Ph.D. in Operations Management from the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University and joined Duke University in July 2000.

Prof. Bernstein’s research interests include supply chain management, production planning and inventory control, applications of game theory for production and distribution systems, and revenue management. He has published papers in leading journals like Operations ResearchManagement Science, and Manufacturing and Service Operations Management. He also serves as Associate Editor for these three journals.

Professor Bernstein may be reached at

Kevin Shang

Kevin Shang

Kevin Shang is the Joseph J. Ruvane, Jr. Professor of Operations Management at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University. Professor Shang received his M.B.A. from the University of California, Riverside in 1998 and Ph.D. from University of California, Irvine in 2002.

Professor Shang's area of expertise is supply chain management and inventory control. His research focuses on developing simple and effective inventory policies for supply chain systems. Prof. Shang also conducts research on the interface of operations and finance and renewable energy systems. His research has appeared in several leading management journals, including Management ScienceManufacturing and Service Operations Management, and Operations Research.

Professor Shang may be reached at

Robert Swinnery

Robert Swinney

Robert Swinney is an Associate Professor in the Operations Management area of the Duke University Fuqua School of Business. Prior to joining Fuqua, he received a B.S. in Astronomy from the California Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in Operations Management from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Professor Swinney’s research addresses multi-player problems in supply chain management with a focus on the impact of customer behavior on operational decisions, social responsibility and disruption risk in supply chains, and the operations of start-up firms; his papers have been published in Management ScienceManufacturing & Service Operations Management, and Marketing Science.

Professor Swinney may be reached at

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Certificate Requirements: Attendance to the Duke Leadership Program and three electives within a three year period. More