MLD 605:
Service Delivery via Systems Thinking and Supply Chain Management

Supply chains are the systems and processes that move goods from producers to consumers. They provide the critical backbone for delivering public services.

Course Overview

The efficient delivery of quality public services is a core requirement of government agencies. Supply chain management (SCM) is the structured approach for meeting this requirement. Supply chains are the systems and processes that transform resources into services ranging from healthcare to education to emergency response to criminal justice. Procurement, inventory, transformation, distribution, and transportation all must be managed individually and in concert with each other to achieve public policy objectives. Systems thinking, a holistic framework for understand how components of a system become an integrated, unified and optimized whole, is the foundation for effective SCM.

This course provides students with the theory and practice to design, operate and sustain supply chains that deliver public services. We will explore both product chains (e.g. personal protective equipment for hospitals and school lunches) and service chains (e.g. the delivery of criminal justice and early childhood education). The course begins with an exploration of the critical role of supply chains in service delivery through an examination of successes and failures. Next, the effective management of each link in the supply chain is studied. Then systems thinking is explained to see how comprehensive supply chains are designed and implementation requirements defined. The course concludes with an investigation of sustainable local and global supply chains.

The course pedagogy features case study and experiential learning. Materials are drawn from developing and developed world contexts. Students will work with organizations to improve the quality and efficiency of their supply chains. Through client collaboration, the students will experience the real world of supply chain management and systems thinking with all of its excitement and challenges.

Goal of SUPPLY CHAIN Management


Course Goals

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Why Take this Course?

This course is for students who are interested in learning how to deliver public services when multiple organizations, often in multiple geographies, are involved.

Course Roadmap


Pre-class: Context and application

  • Case studies

  • Academic texts

  • Practitioner materials

  • Pre-class videos

Class: Apply concepts; discuss issues/nuances

  • Group discussion/debate – solution focused

  • Simulations and experiments

  • The bottom line


More application of the concepts; Special topics; highly recommended

Class Norms

  1. Start on time; end on time

  2. If not…email

  3. Prepare and participate

  4. Cold calling is fair game

  5. Expect polite pushback; you may do the same

  6. Do not understand…ask

  7. Frustrated…tell me

  8. I can not spel – no laughing


Supply Chain Redesign Oral 1 on 1 – 25%

You will choose 1 of 3 supply chain cases to reengineer. Your work will be communicated during a 15 minute 1-on-1 meeting with the instructor. You are welcome to use visuals to help convey your story. Feedback and your grade will follow immediately after the discussion.

Final Paper – 50%

At the end of the course you will write a 2,000-word paper describing a supply chain in the real world. You will evaluate its strengths and limitations. You will also develop a set of recommendations on how to improve the chain and offer an implementation plan to make the needed changes. You are responsible for identifying the supply chain for evaluation. The assignment will be completed with another student, one paper will be submitted.

Class Participation – 25%

The participation grade is a function of contributions to class discussion and the Weekly Challenges. You are responsible for leading the discussion on 1 Friday with other students. Prompt attendance is also a component of your participation grade. More than 2 late arrivals can reduce your participation grade. Use of electronic devices during class will also adversely impact your participation grade.

I will assign grades according to the following HKS-recommended distribution:

  • A: 10-15 percent

  • A- 20-25 percent

  • B+ 30- 40 percent

  • B 20-25 percent

  • B- or below 5-10 percent