OR/MS Today, October 1997


By Art Geoffrion

Art GeoffrionPartnership is a key theme at INFORMS, just as it is nowadays at many companies and universities. Let me say a few words about it before turning this space over to my main staff partner, who is undertaking some important initiatives and needs your help.

There are numerous natural partnerships between INFORMS' volunteer and staff organizations. The most important of these for me is Executive Director Randy Robinson. A few other examples: VP Meetings with Director of Meetings, VP Publications with Director of Publications, and VP Information Technology with Manager of Information Systems. Virtually all staff departments have natural partners on the Board and among the committees. Several concrete steps have been taken this year to strengthen these partnerships.

As stressed in my April column, INFORMS members are cordially invited to enrich these partnerships through committee service, ad hoc efforts and suggestions.

It is particularly important for members to step forward when new initiatives are forming. Three of these, all of great potential significance, are now forming in your Executive Director's office. I want you to hear about them directly from him. Please let one of us know if you have any suggestions or would like to get involved.

Now I give you Randy Robinson.

I'm pleased to share this space and, in so doing, to join Art as we illustrate the partnership theme at work. I believe strongly that INFORMS must innovate. It's not enough to refine our established products and services. We must add to those to meet your needs more fully.

Let me tell you about three exciting innovations now under development: a catalog program for continuing professional education, proactive management of big waves, and applying OR/MS within INFORMS.

Continuing Education. INFORMS will develop a selection of brief offerings (one to three days) on a comprehensive array of subjects valuable to our members, especially full-time practitioners. These offerings, most of which probably will come from outside presenters already in the business, will complement and extend offerings arranged by others at INFORMS. They will bear the INFORMS imprimatur, be subject to quality checks, and meet certain other standards.

A similar program operated by the Operational Research Society of the U.K. has been inspirational, and serves to demonstrate what can be done. See http://www.orsoc.org.uk/training/training.html for details.

Our emphasis will be on delivering concentrated doses of practical, highly useful training. Practitioners tell us that the need is great - so much so that the INFORMS Roundtable has offered generous start-up financial support. We hope to have a first-generation program under way by early 1998.

I would appreciate hearing from you if you would like to help with this program, if your organization sends people to such offerings and might be willing to share evaluative information, or if you could suggest an offering for our consideration.

Big Waves. The terminology "big waves" refers to technical and managerial concepts that become popular and offer the prospect of increasing the demand for OR/MS services. In the past we have missed chances to carve out a widely recognized role in such big waves as AI/expert systems, total quality management and business process reengineering.

The goal of this initiative is to help our community capture these opportunities in the future. We hope to identify big waves at an early stage, but not so early as to be trying to predict them. Then we will clarify the OR/MS connections and publicize the OR/MS role to the profession and to those in a position to make use of our unique capabilities.

The Board of Directors and the Roundtable will discuss a big wave in joint session at the upcoming Dallas national meeting. Concrete action should follow soon after. There are opportunities in this initiative for many parts of INFORMS, including continuing and regular education, meetings, practice activities, publications, public awareness, student affairs, subdivisions and Web sites; I hope to involve all of them.

How can we take advantage of the current big waves? What new ones do you see coming? Please let me know your thoughts.

OR/MS Within INFORMS. This initiative introduces a revolutionary idea: apply our methods to INFORMS itself. This would of course yield direct benefits, and it would also demonstrate very visibly the proposition that OR/MS gives powerful, performance-enhancing assistance to diverse kinds of organizations.

Initial applications remain to be decided. One example, among many possibilities, is setting production runs for our journals through probabilistic modeling. We might apply decision analysis, or AHP/ANP, to high-stakes decisions of the Institute. We might improve the efficiency and throughput of our operational processes with the aid of simulation and of analytical queuing models. The list goes on.

Do you have ideas for putting shoes on the shoe-maker's children? Would you like to lead a student project team in one of the two INFORMS offices — Linthicum, Md., or Providence, R.I.?

Conclusion. The three initiatives just reviewed are the main ones I am championing right now. But they are just a few of the many innovations being carried forward at INFORMS by various champions. I invite you to contact me about these or any other INFORMS-related matters at randy.robinson@informs.org.

E-mail to the Editorial Department of OR/MS Today: orms@lionhrtpub.com

OR/MS Today copyright 1997, 1998 by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences. All rights reserved.

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