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BUU44570 Operations Strategy & Improvement

5 ECTS credits


Lecturer:   Dermot Duff            

Phone:    +353(0)86 811 6339                       


Office:                      School of Business, TBS, Room 4025
Office Hours:          By appointment (to agree a mutually suitable time)


BUU22560 or equivalent

Module Content/Outline:

This module is concerned with the process of creating, delivering and improving products and services. It aims to develop students in applying the core theories, concepts, models, tools and techniques associated with operations strategy and improvement.

The module will consider the key issues involved in managing the operations function, pertinent theory, approaches for managing the improvement of the operations function, and will demonstrate operations management's strategic importance to organisations. The module explains the experience and insights of contemporary operations management in both manufacturing and service contexts.

Operations Strategy (OS) is defined in terms of the total pattern of decisions that shape the long-term capabilities of the operation and their contribution to overall strategy. OS achieves these outcomes through the on-going reconciliation of market requirements and operations resources so as to achieve a sustainable fit between the two while managing the risks of misalignment. OS is different to Operations Management in terms of time scale, level of analysis, level of aggregation and level of abstraction. This module focuses on OS, with practical applications of strategic improvement techniques.

Learning and Teaching Approach:

The learning and teaching approach is based on real examples and case illustrations which assist students in acquiring deeper practical subject knowledge. Combined with readings, these exercises provide a basis for the analysis of operations strategy practice in differing industries. Students will develop an appreciation of how to use practical improvement approaches and “tools” in their future careers, in areas such as designing systems, streamlining operations, introducing new products, achieving service excellence, and increasing capacity in operations.

Learning Outcomes:

Having completed this module, the student should be able to:

  • To identify and to understand the work of manufacturing, service and technology firms from a strategic operations perspective
  • To conduct relevant analyses of operational and managerial situations
  • To apply key concepts in the field of operations strategy such as process development, quality improvement, innovation (new product / service development)
  • To apply radical and incremental improvement techniques
  • To work effectively in a team focused on reviewing the performance of an operation.

Relation to Degree

As an area of managerial responsibility, OS is the act of combining people and technology in a firm so as to create new products / services, deliver customer service and increase productivity now and in the future. Managing this area requires the interaction with differing functional perspectives – strategy, marketing, design, engineering, finance, HR.



Indicative Number of Hours

Lecturing hours


Preparation for lectures


Individual assignment


Group assignment


Reading of assigned materials


Final exam preparation




Recommended Texts/Key Reading:

The module draws from case studies and a core text:

  • Core text: "Operations and Process Management Principles & Practice for Strategic Impact” by Nigel Slack and Alistair Brandon-Jones (5th Edition) published by Pearson (Harlow, UK) in 2018. The core textbook may be purchased in Hodges Figgis, Dawson Street, Dublin. The remainder of this Module Outline will refer to this textbook as "Text".

The module outline refers occasionally to a supplementary text which you may consult:

  • Strategic Cost Reduction by Dermot Duff and Tim McCormick, published by CAI House, Pearse St., Dublin 2, 2011. 2nd Edition.

The module draws occasionally from this book, and the relevant sections will be made available to students.

Occasional reference will be also be made to another supplemental text:

  • Managing Professionals by Dermot Duff, published by CAI House, 2014

Course Communication

Please note that all module-related email communication must be sent from your official TCD email address. Emails sent from other addresses will not be attended to.

Classes take place on the dates specified in the module outline. Changes will be communicated in class and/or posted as early as feasible on your Blackboard page.


Formative assessment will take place through feedback on a submitted group assignment and through a comprehensive end-of-module examination.  Summative assessment will be conducted by means of 20% weighting on the submitted group assignment and 80% weighting on the end-of -module examination Students must pass all elements of the assessment to complete the module satisfactorily.

A student’s grade for this module will be determined by performance in the group assignment and in the comprehensive end-of-module assignment:

  1. Group assignment  (20% - group grade):

Working in Groups, students will prepare a group report on an agreed case as the group assignment.  In preparing the report, students are advised to address the questions posed.

The group assignment must be submitted through BlackBoard and must be  2000 words (excluding references and appendices) +/- 10%.   The report should be double-spaced, 12 point font.  Additionally, the report may include tables, charts or graphs as appendices.

Details of the group assignment and due date will be provided when the relevant case study is agreed.

All members of each group are expected to contribute equally to the group assignment in order to merit the same grade.

Any exceptions to these conditions must be obtained from the lecturer in advance.

  1. End-of-module assignment (80% - individual grade):

The end-of-module assignment will be based on of a previously unseen case study and a question paper. The assignment will test student understanding of an operations situation and the application of appropriate analytical skills.   This is scheduled provisionally for the week beginning January 11, 2021 and will be conducted remotely, with a two-day window in which to complete the assignment (to facilitate different students in different time zones and remote study).


Plagiarism is interpreted by the University as the act of presenting the work of others as one’s own work without acknowledgement, and as such, is considered to be academically fraudulent. The University considers plagiarism to be a major offence and it is subject to the disciplinary procedures of the University. The University’s full statement is set out in the University Calendar, Part I, “General regulations and Information”:


Attendance at, and participation in, all classes (online or otherwise) is expected.


MODULE schedule

The schedule will follow the structure of the Slack text, with some variations, as shown:

Session #


1  Sep 30

Introduction – Module Content – Key Operations Strategy Principles

2  Oct 7

Operations Strategy Practice

3  Oct 14

Radical Improvement Techniques

4  Oct 21

Incremental Improvement Techniques

5  Oct 28

Lean & Agile Techniques

6  Nov 4

Modern Innovation Methodologies

7  Nov 18

New Product / Service Development

8  Nov 25

Contemporary Operations & Technology

9  Dec 2

Operations Project Management

10 Dec 9

Operations Strategy & Implementation Management

11 Dec 16


Each session will include practical guidance on how apply some of the associated techniques associated with each theme e.g. how to map a process. Each session will also include a short case for class discussion (to be announced)


Dermot Duff is a Module Leader in Trinity Business School, and also lectures in Business Strategy, Venture Creation and International Business Development, in Ireland and abroad. An Electronics Engineer by initial profession, he held senior management positions in ITT Alcatel in The Hague and was later European Transformation Manager for Digital Equipment Corporation (later HP) in Geneva.

His early career was in Seismic Oil Exploration in Africa, UK and the Middle East, followed by Design Engineering for a Canadian hybrid company and then Manufacturing Engineering Manager for a variety of high-tech companies, notably Storage Technology Inc of Boulder, Colorado.

He is a member of the Boards of several local companies, in cyber security, accounting, municipal services, capital equipment sales, global trading platforms and IT services. Dermot has published numerous articles and books, including Strategic Cost Reduction (2011) and Project Management: A Practical Guide (2010), and a major work on Managing Professionals - and Other Smart People, published by Chartered Accountants Ireland. This includes substantial chapters on executive coaching, leadership, self-confidence and personality and how to deal with “difficult” people, especially for modern professionals.

Dermot is also a Level 9 Business Advisor /Coach, and an Enterprise Ireland Business Advisor / Coach.

He is certified in Psychometric Science, Occupational Testing, DiSC, 16PF, EQi, and is familiar with Belbin, MBTI, Rowe Decision Making, Enneagram, Kilmann, FIRO-B, MLQ and other personality and leadership profilers. 

His forthcoming books include a guide to companies wishing to scale internationally, and a short book on how to successfully manage a business cluster. He has worked extensively on Consultancy Projects in the public and private sectors: HP, Microsoft, Deloitte, Aurivo, GSM, CFO, IFJ, Doosan, Brandon, KCC, Merck, Lagan, EY, MediaTeam,  ThinkHouse, CKSK, DPS, Novartis, VCI, Glanbia, Bank of Ireland, Paragon Europe, CMS, IGB, Aspen Grove, Stryve, Tipperary Co-op, CMETB.