In the new book “Operations, Strategy, and Technology: Pursuing the Competitive Edge,” Harvard Business School professor Robert Hayes and three colleagues focus on “all those activities required to create and deliver a product or service, from procurement through conversion to distribution.”

Hayes explains that the basic theme of the book is that there isn’t “one best way” to do anything − whether it’s creating an organizational structure; hiring, training, and motivating a sales force; or designing and managing an operations organization. “The best way to do something depends critically on the characteristics and capabilities of your organization and the competitive context in which it finds itself.” For example, lean manufacturing shouldn’t necessarily be the goal for every company any more than mass production or mass customization should be. Hayes goes on to say that too many companies are adopting ‘cookie cutter’ software packages and taking one-size-fits-all information technology approaches, rather than making technology responsive to the specific organization’s actual capabilities and competitive priorities. Hayes warns against experts who make decisions “based on what has worked at other companies or even at your own company in the past. But your company (and, in particular, its competitive strategy) may have changed over time, and/or be different from these other companies in critical ways. So top managers have to get involved in these decisions, to ensure that these decisions are based on a complete understanding of what the company hopes to achieve, what it has the resources to support, and how they fit with the other activities that are underway.”

Harvard Business Week 12 Apr 2004