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.
Your course grade will be based on a final exam, a quiz, case write-ups, homework assignments, and class participation, as follows:
Final Exam (3-hour exam Wednesday, December 19, 9-12): 40%.
Case Write-ups and Homework Assignments: 30%.
Quiz (1.5-hour test held in class on Wednesday October 31): 20%. Class Participation: 10%.
By definition, class participation will be subjectively evaluated (see below). Much of your education will take place outside the classroom, as you study, review, and apply the topics to which you are introduced in class.
Case Write-Ups: Case write-ups should consist of a memo that is no more than two pages of text, single-sided. The memo should be void of calculations and written in a managerial style; the memo should clearly articulate your recommendations and proposals. Up to six pages of supporting documents (charts, figures, calculations, etc.) may be appended to the memo. We recommend that no more than 8 hours be devoted to any case write-up. There will be two types of case write-ups (team assignments as well as individual case write-ups). For team assignments, you should work as a team and submit one case write-up per team. Individual case write-ups on the other hand should represent only the work of a single student. You may discuss the case with other students in your team, the teaching assistants, or the professors of the course, but the memo and the analysis should represent only your own work.
Homework Assignments: Homework assignments are designed to help you learn the mechanics of the methods discussed in class and to give you an opportunity to apply these concepts in a straightforward manner. Because mastery of the basic mechanics is necessary for effective and discerning usage of the concepts, we require that you do the homework assignments individually. In addition to their value as learning exercises, doing a careful and thorough job on the homework assignments is the best preparation for the final examination of the course. There are three types of assignments: Read, Prepare and Hand In. Read: When the assignment is to Read some material, this reading is an important introduction to the topics to be discussed in class. We will proceed on the assumption that you have done the reading before class and have understood much (but not necessarily all) of it. When the assignment is to Read a problem, that problem will often be used in class to introduce new concepts. You should be familiar with the problem, but you will not be expected to have fully analyzed it before the discussion in class.
Prepare: Fully analyze the problem. Be ready to discuss it in class, with model equations formulated, the numbers computed, etc. We will cold-call on people, so please be ready.
Hand In: The same as Prepare, but you must turn in your analysis. All written assignments must be handed in at the beginning of class on the day they are due, and so you will probably want to make a copy of your assignment for reference during class. All written assignments will be graded and returned to you.
There are three types of assignments: (i) team cases (these should be done as a team and you only need to hand in one write-up per team), (ii) individual homeworks and (iii) case write-ups (the latter two need to be done individually). Nevertheless, even for (ii) and (iii), you may find it useful to discuss broad conceptual issues and general solution procedures with others. If this is the case, then we enthusiastically recommend that you do so. The objective here is to learn. In our opinion (and personal experiences), the material of this class is best learned through individual practice and exposure to a variety of application contexts. The syllabus specifies clearly which of the assignments are team cases.
On the first type of assignment (team case) we want you to work as a team. On the two other types of assignments we only allow “Type 1 collaboration”. This means that collaboration is allowed, but the final product must be individual. You are allowed to discuss the assignment with other team members and work through the problems together. What you turn in, however, must be your own product, written in your own handwriting, or in a computer file of which you are the sole author. Copying another’s work or electronic file is not acceptable.
Class Participation and Conduct
Your class participation will be evaluated subjectively, but will rely upon measures of punctuality, attendance, familiarity with the required readings, relevance and insight reflected in classroom questions, and commentary. Your class participation will be judged by what you add to the class environment, regardless of your technical background. Although several lectures will be didactic, we will rely heavily upon interactive discussion within the class. Students will be expected to be familiar with the readings, even though they might not understand all of the material in advance. In general, questions and comments are encouraged. Comments should be limited to the important aspects of earlier points made, and reflect knowledge of the readings. We may call on you periodically to answer questions about either the homework or classroom developments. We will evaluate your classroom participation based on the extent to which you contribute to the learning environment. (Demonstration of mastery of advanced topics at inappropriate times does not help create a positive learning environment.) However, correcting the professor when he/she makes a mistake and asking what appear to be “dumb questions” about what is being covered both do help! In the case of so-called “dumb questions,” very often half of the class will have the same questions in mind and are relieved to have them asked. Consistent with [email protected], we require: On-time arrival to classes and recitations, with uninterrupted attendance for their duration.
- Maintenance of a professional atmosphere by using respectful comments and respectful humor.
- Turning off electronic devices in class: no laptop utilization, silence wireless devices, no web-browsing or emailing.
- Refraining from distracting or disrespectful activities (e.g., avoiding side conversations and games).
- Courtesy towards all participants in the classroom.
- Observance of the most conservative standards when one is unsure about which norms apply.
Please refer to the [email protected] document for more details. Violations of
[email protected] policies will be marked. Three or more violations will result in an automatic penalty of a letter grade.
We ask that you use a name card for the first few weeks until we learn your names.
Policy on Individual Work and Plagiarism
In the case of written homework assignments and cases (if they are not team assignments), your assignment and/or case write-up must represent your own individual work. Although you may discuss homework problems with other students, assignments must represent your own work. You are expected to adhere to the following standards:
- Do not copy all or part of another student’s work (with or without “permission”). Do not allow another student to copy your work.
- Do not ask another person to write all or part of an assignment for you. Do not work together with another student in order to answer a question, or solve a problem, or write a computer program jointly.
- Do not consult or submit work (in whole or in part) that has been completed by other students in this or previous years for the same or substantially the same assignment. Do not use print or Internet materials directly related to a case/problem set unless explicitly authorized by the instructor.
- Do not use print or Internet materials without explicit quotation and/or citation. Do not submit the same, or similar, piece of work for two or more subjects without the explicit approval of the two or more instructors involved.
During the quiz and the final examination, any student who either receives or knowingly gives assistance or information concerning the examination will be in violation of the policy on individual work. The violation of the policy on individual work is a serious offense, and suitable consequences include grade reduction, an F grade, a transcript notation, delay of graduation, or expulsion from MIT Sloan.
Optional Reading and Books on Reserve
Below we include some outside readings. Nevertheless, these should not be necessary except for redhots and/or the hopelessly confused. Recitation periods are used to review and reinforce material covered in the lectures, and to review the ins and outs of using modeling software for the course. Recitation attendance is encouraged, but it is not mandatory. Some students find the recitation period a very efficient time to absorb and reinforce the class material, while other students may prefer to absorb the class material at their own desired time. All recitations are run by the Teaching Assistants.
We will conduct a final exam review session (date, time and location TBA).
Read Chapter 1 of the text. Prepare the Kendall Crab and Lobster Case (at the end of Chapter 1), and be ready to discuss the following questions in class: What are the choices that Jeff Daniels faces? What are the sources of uncertainty in the case? What are the consequences of the various possible outcomes? What course of action would you recommend for Jeff Daniels?
Class 2: Decision Analysis II – Conditional Probabilities
Class 3: Discrete Probability Distributions
The next three classes lay the basic groundwork of probability. We will see how data can be characterized as observed values of random variables and study three important probability distributions: the uniform distribution, the binomial distribution, and the Normal distribution. Read Sections 2.4-2.11 and 2.13 of Chapter 2.
Class 4: Continuous Probability Distributions
Class 5: The Normal Probability Distribution
Class 6: Simulation I – The Gentle Lentil Case
Read Sections 4.1 and 4.2 of Chapter 4, and all of Chapter 5. Read the Gentle Lentil Restaurant Case (at the end of Chapter 5) and prepare answers to the questions at the end of the case. (Note: you are NOT required to build a simulation model.) Decide how you would go about analyzing the salary implications of the two career decisions that Sanjay Thomas faces.
Class 7: Regression Models I
Class 8: Simulation II – The Ontario Gateway Case
Read the Ontario Gateway Case (at the end of Chapter 5). Perform the case analysis modeling assignment for the Ontario Gateway Case described at the end of the case. HAND IN a management memorandum presenting your conclusions with appropriate but concise back-up enclosures to support your recommendations.
Read Sections 4.4-4.5 of Chapter 4 and Sections 6.8 through 6.10 of Chapter 6. HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT DUE. To be announced in class.
Class 10: Regression Illustrated
Wednesday, October 10
Read the two regression cases entitled “Predicting Heating Oil Consumption at OILPLUS” and “Executive Compensation” (at the end of Chapter 6). Perform the analyses outlined at the end of each case and come to class prepared to discuss these two regression cases. HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT DUE. Under construction.
Class 10. A: Case Write-up Due
CASE WRITE-UP DUE. Read the case “Eurotel 3G License Valuation” posted on Stellar. Perform the analyses outlined at the end of the case and HAND IN (to your TA) a memorandum presenting your findings and conclusions. Your memorandum should include appropriate but concise exhibits to support your recommendations. This is an individual case write-up.
Class 11: Quiz
The 1.5-hour quiz will take place during regular class time. The quiz will cover all of the material we have considered so far in the course. The quiz will be closed-book with no notes allowed. You may use a non-communications-type calculator, but no communications devices (cellphones, graphing calculators) will be allowed. We will provide a sheet of formulas that will be posted on the course website before the exam.
Class 12: Introduction to Linear Optimization Modeling
Read Sections 7.1-7.3 of Chapter 7. We will cover the basics of linear optimization, including formulations, key concepts, and graphical solution methods.
Class 13: Solving and Analyzing Linear Optimization Models
Read Sections 7.4-7.6 of Chapter 7. We will cover computer solution methods for linear optimization, basic sensitivity and economic analysis of a linear optimization model, as well as extensions of linear optimization and applied optimization modeling in general. Class 14: Filatoi Riuniti Case: Production
CASE ASIGNMENT DUE: Read and analyze the Filatoi Riuniti case at the end of Chapter 7 of the text. Construct a linear optimization model. Write up and hand in your answers to questions (a) through (i) at the end of the case. This is an INDIVIDUAL case assignment. Note that the deliverables are answers to the nine questions (a) through (i). The spreadsheet for Filatoi Riuniti is posted on Stellar.
Class 15: Introduction to Nonlinear Optimization
Read Sections 8.1-8.4 of Chapter 8. We will discuss the concepts of nonlinear optimization in class.
HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT DUE (Assignment #5).
Class 16: Introduction to Discrete Optimization
Read Sections 9.1-9.4 of Chapter 9. We will discuss the concepts of discrete optimization in class.
Class 17: International Industries Case: Strategic Investment Management Wednesday, November 28
Read (but do not hand in) the case “International Industries, Inc.’’ at the end of Chapter 9. We will discuss the International Industries Case in class.
Individual Case Write-up Due. Read Section 8.5 of Chapter 8, and then read the
Endurance Investors Case at the end of Chapter
Analyze and Hand in Your Answers to the Questions Following The
Class 18: Integrative Case: Money Tree Mortgage
Read the case “Money Tree Mortgage in Distress: Evaluating Alternative Funding Options,” and be prepared to discuss the case in class.
Class 19: Dynamic Optimization for Retail Pricing
Read the case “Pricing Strategies for Power-Pro’s MBA Laptop Bag.” We will discuss this case and an optimization model for determining optimal markdown pricing in class. TEAM CASE ASSIGNMENT DUE. Read and analyze the case “Vermont City Electric”. Perform the modeling assignment and the analysis assignment at the end of the case. Prepare a cover memo outlining your analysis and recommendations to the Citizen’s Oversight Board.
Class 20: Summary and Look-Ahead
In this last class session, we will present some extensions of the concepts and modeling tools developed in the course. We will also discuss possible follow-on classes at Sloan and elsewhere on campus. Last but not least, we will reserve part of this session to provide guidance as you prepare for the Final Examination.
Final Exam Review, TBA
A 3-hour course/exam review will take place from 9AM-12 noon, date TBA. It will review the most important aspects of the course.
The 3-hour final exam will cover the entire content of the course. The exam will be closed-book with no notes allowed. You may bring a calculator with you to the exam. You will also be given three pages of formulas that will be posted on the course website before the exam.