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Priority Management: New Theory for Operations Management

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Reports a series of action projects in UK manufacturing companies which found that formal planning and control activity was less evident than the management of priorities. The reasons for this were found in the innate instability of these companies' operations. This finding provokes a fresh look at two themes which formerly produced much literature: the relative failure of computers in production management; and the gap between OM academics and practitioners. A third theme, taken from the OB literature on the reactive nature of managerial work, throws light on both these issues. The instability of batch manufacturing operations can thus be seen as a norm, not a departure from a norm of stability. The assumption of a stable environment helps to explain why the formal MPC systems had often disappointed, and why the practitioners had made little use of OM academic work. Explores the nature of the instability as being principally concerned with the three dimensions of variety, variation and volume. Defines priority management, and positions it in relation to manufacturing strategy and to more technical approaches to OM. Develops a general theory of priority management which draws together various mid-range theories and empirical studies.
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Keywords: Management Development; Managers; Manufacturing; Manufacturing Planning and Control; Operations Management; Organizational Politics

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 1994

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