Many managerial decisions—regardless of their functional orientation—are increasingly based on analysis using quantitative models from the discipline of management science. Management science tools, techniques and concepts (e.g., data, models, and software programs) have dramatically changed the way businesses operate in manufacturing, service operations, marketing, transportation, and finance. This subject is designed to introduce first-year Sloan students to the fundamental techniques of using data to make informed management decisions. In particular, we will focus on various ways of modeling, or thinking structurally about, decision problems in order to enhance decision-making skills.
Rather than survey all of the techniques of management science, we stress those fundamental concepts that we believe are most important for the practical analysis of management decisions. Consequently, we focus on evaluating uncertainty explicitly, understanding the dynamic nature of decision-making, using historical data and limited information effectively, simulating complex systems, and optimally allocating resources. The implementation of these tools has been facilitated considerably by the development of spreadsheet-based software packages, and so we will make liberal use of spreadsheet models.
It is impossible to teach you all there is to know about management science techniques in only one semester; rather, our goal is to enable you to become intelligent users of management science techniques. In that vein, emphasis will be placed on how, what and why certain techniques and tools are useful, and what their ramifications would be when used in practice, all in concert with the overarching goal for you to become excellent managers. This will necessitate some mechanical manipulations of formulas and data, but it is not our goal for you to become adept handlers of mathematical equations and computer software.
To give you a perspective on how management science is used in practice, much of the material will be presented in the context of practical business situations from a variety of settings. We hope that this illustrative material will help you in selecting future subjects.