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Northwestern University

Scaling Operations: Linking Strategy and Execution

Northwestern University via Coursera


Over the past several decades, operations strategy has played an increasingly important role in business’ success. In this course, we will equip you with concepts and tools to build operations in a way that not only supports your competitive strategy, but also allows you to create new opportunities in the market place.

Scaling operations: Linking strategy and execution is a five-week course dedicated to making strategic decisions that are grounded in operational reality. Together, we will study how to build and evaluate the “operating system” of the firm to maximize value. This involves tailoring the firm’s operational competencies, assets, and processes to a specific business strategy.

Each week, we’ll explore case studies, engage in discussions and examine realistic data. Thanks to our data-driven approach, you’ll be able to implement your learning directly into practice. At the end of this course, you’ll be ready to build an effective, actionable plan to scale your department or organization.


  • The VCAP Framework
    • We start by explaining the concepts of operating systems and operations strategy. Then we introduce the main "VCAP" framework, which connects the key components of operations strategy and identifies three main views to analyze it. The module also describes the key decisions related to operations strategy. Several examples illustrate the impact of operations strategy and the importance of tailoring to increase value and alignment.
  • Value Creation and Operations: The Investor View
    • We start by reviewing the main idea of using operations to create value (and the VCAP framework). We briefly discuss the key questions and introduce the main firm we are going to use (the Mafia restaurant chain). We discuss the key idea of measuring financial return (EVA and ROIC). Then we introduce the main tool, the ROIC tree. We apply the ROIC tree to the firm and discuss the steps: constructing the tree, identifying metrics, assessing impact (sensitivity analysis), building a growth plan and communicating the narrative.
  • Capabilities and Competition: Defensibility and Trade-offs
    • Module 1 introduced the capability view of operations as the natural link between competitive strategy and operations. In this module we will investigate this link in greater depth and use the capability view to assess the competitive risk the firm faces. A good operations strategy clearly stipulates which capabilities are critical and which are of secondary importance. One can't have it all: operational capabilities exhibit trade-offs and superior performance requires making choices. But where do these trade-offs come from and how can operations shape them to our competitive advantage? That is the subject of this module. We will outline the main challenge; develop the framework, and the use a simple case to illustrate it.
  • Process Strategy: Strategic Sourcing
    • In the previous modules, we introduced the VCAP framework for operations strategy and studied value and capabilities. We learned how to invest assets in the face of uncertain demand. Now we turn our attention to structuring operational processes. In this module, we will analyze two essential components of operations strategy: the questions of who should perform an activity or process in the value chain, and how we should manage the supply relationship.
  • Asset Strategy: Capacity Sizing
    • Modules 1 through 3 of the course introduced the VCAP framework for operations strategy and outlined the main diagnostic tools. We discussed how operations create value V and the role of capabilities in a competitive environment. In this module, we adopt the resource view and turn our attention to the assets that comprise the operating system of the firm. We start with the capacity sizing and investment decision in this chapter. After discussing the key trade-offs and challenges in a capacity strategy, we study how uncertainty impacts capacity valuation. Maximizing this value suggests guidelines on how we can tailor an operation's capacity sizing decision.

Taught by

Gad Allon and Jan Van Mieghem



4.0 rating, based on 4 Class Central reviews

4.6 rating at Coursera based on 228 ratings

Start your review of Scaling Operations: Linking Strategy and Execution

  • Profile image for Bill Seliger
    Bill Seliger

    Bill Seliger completed this course, spending 6 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    This course is a strategic level survey of Operations Strategy. Little to no math is required and the projects focus on 4 mini-cases and applying the concepts the two profs cover in the lectures (there is also the option to use your own enterprise for...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Very good course, instructors are involved and helpful.

    Short videos, but enough quality content that challenges a learner to learn by doing instead of sitting back passively.
    Most of the learning is done through the forums and the case study projects (peer grading works fairly well in this course).
    The weekly hangout sessions with the professors complete an overall very good learning experience.

    This is not an easy course, but when you put in the effort you are likely to pass and learn.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Great course. Professor Allon and Professor Van Mieghem do a great job of teaching how to scale your firm's operations. Loved the videos and the Google Hangouts.
  • Jonathan Golland is taking this course right now, spending 3 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    This is false advertising. I was told that this course would start today. The assignments, some of the questions even some of the discussion forms were half finished or not there at all. The course itself was still being constructed!

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