Linda Sprague

Linda G. Sprague

Dr. Linda G. Sprague is the First Emeritus Professor at the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai.  She is also Professor Emerita at the Whittemore School of Business & Economics (WSBE) at the University of New Hampshire.  Mrs. Sprague is a Fellow of the Decision Sciences Institute and a Fellow of the British Production & Inventory Control Society (now the Institute of Operations Management) in the U.K.  She has served as an Associate Editor for  Decision Sciences since 1984.  In 2003 she was recognized as a Distinguished Operations Management Scholar by the Operations Management Division of the Academy of Management.  She Is a Past-President of the DSI, a recipient of the Institute’s  Distinguished Service Award and a Past President of the Asia Pacific Region of the FDSI.

Prof. Sprague received her SB in Industrial Management (minor in Geology) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She was a Class Officer, Assistant Station Manager at WTBS – the campus radio station, and News Editor, then Editor in Chief , of The Tech, the Institute’s twice weekly  newspaper. In 1960 she was the first woman to receive MIT’s Karl Taylor Compton  Award. She was President of the MIT Class of 1960 during the planning for its 50th Reunion in June 2010 .

I received my MBA degree in the part-time MBA Program at Boston University while I was working as an Administrative Assistant for programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and a joint program sponsored by the Ford Foundation and five local universities – BU, MIT, Harvard, Boston College and Brandeis University.  I joined the Harvard Business School’s DBA Program when women were accepted.  In 1969 I joined the Faculty of the Whittemore School of Business at the University of New Hampshire. This was necessary so that I could teach courses using the Case Method.  DBA candidates were required teach using the Case Method. At that time women were not permitted to teach at HBS. My Thesis Advisor supervised my work to meet the requirement.  I remained at the Whittemore School for more than 30 years, working half-time when I was on other assignments.

My research topic  was “Capacity Planning for Hospitals”-- the first doctoral dissertation in hospital management at the Harvard Business School.  The work was not publishable: hospital management magazines/journals did not take this kind of article and the business journals weren’t interested in hospitals. Industrial Engineering journals tended to focus on efficiency improvement projects (a new method for washing surgical gloves, etc.) but weren’t interested in larger issues, including capacity management.  In 1972 I  was the first female member of the faculty at the Stanford Graduate School of  Business. I received my DBA from Harvard in 1973.

In 1974 joined the MRP Crusade and became one of the original MRPMafia.  This initiative was sponsored by IBM (which was working on the hardware and software) and APICS which was largely dominated by a membership focused on manual control of inventories.  The academic champion of this program was Tom Vollmann.  Computers were not yet widely used in production control while IBM and its competitors were beginning to offer new accounting and inventory control programs  which were possible  because of the shift from tape-oriented  (one dimension) to RAM (two-dimension) hardware.  APICS was part of this new game, urging local chapters to invite members of the MRP Mafia  to speak at monthly meetings across the country.   The now-famous two IBM-sponsored introduction  sessions were augmented  with presentations from the “Knights of the MRP Crusade” : Joe Orlicky George Plossl  and Ollie Wight led the charge to bring computation – hardware and software --  to manufacturing industry.

Like my colleagues I had a standard presentation which I gave at local APICS meetings throughout New England, New Jersey and Rhode Island.  While on the road, I usually visited local manufacturing sites, many of whom were struggling with implementation of these newfangled gadgets and schemes.  Meanwhile, in 1975 Jeff Miller and I wrote “Behind the Growth in Material Requirements Planning” for the Harvard Business Review. This article was a best-seller, largely because IBM bought boxfuls for their sales teams.

At APICS meetings there were frequent arguments about the merits and faults of MRP vs. EOQ and noisy arguments about the place of inventory accuracy in the greater scheme of things.  It didn’t help that the new hardware and software were generally described as “high tech” – where “high tech” meant not quite completed,  finished and/or tested.  Running concurrent with this initiative was the rapidly developing enthusiasm for a certification program through APICS.  This in turn led to formalization of the “Body of Knowledge” – which persists through  the continuing APICS certification programs.  My years on the Certification Council with faculty, consulting and manufacturing managers were instructive, sometimes tedious and always lively, given the variety of points of view.  I’m “CPIM” – a Certified Practitioner in Inventory Management.  It has a been seriously valuable to know how all of our stuff works (or doesn’t) in practice.

I have also taught at IMEDE (now IMD) in Switzerland, the Amos Tuck School at Dartmouth College, and IESE in Spain.  From 1991-1999 I was a Professor at the School of Industrial and Manufacturing Science (SIMS) at Cranfield University in the UK. At Cranfield I served as Curriculum Director for the British Aerospace Fellowship in Aerospace Manufacture and Curriculum Director for the Kalyani/Cranfield Fellowship in Pune, India. I also served as Principal Investigator for the Engineering Spares Project at Airbus Industrie, Hamburg and Principal Investigator for the British Engineering and Marine Training Authority (EMTA ) initiative focused on Supply Chain Issues for Small- to Medium-sized  Manufacturers (SMMs).

My career in China began with a phone call in late May 1980 from the U.S. Dept of Commerce asking if I could join an “experimental” manufacturing management program in Dalian (in northeastern China)  as a Founding Professor at the National Center for Industrial Science and Technology Management Development on the newly re-opened campus of the Dalian Institute of Technology in Dalian, People’s Republic of China. 

Six weeks from the phone call (which was only a few weeks after Mao’s death) , 7 colleagues and I (with a few family members) were on the job with 120 Chinese  participants: average age 52  and most recently returned from hard labor in “the countryside”), a couple of dozen interpreters and translators, including a few Russian linguists undergoing career changes, many Technicians and constant attention from senior Party Members. We later discovered that this was the first time in its history that modern management was introduced to China.  The program ran in Dalian, (northeast) China for a couple of years when it morphed into an MBA Program managed by SUNY Buffalo. The program stopped after the 1989 events. We later learned that this initiative was the first time in China’s  history that management had been formally taught in that country.

When I returned to the University of New Hampshire I found that – in my absence --  my colleagues had elected me to serve as the Founding  Director of the Whittemore School’s new (2nd in the U.S.) Executive MBA Program.  

From 1987-1997 I was the Management Advisor to SICOT – Société Internationale de Chirurgie Orthopédique et de Traumatologie, based in Brussels, Belgium.  As the Advisor, I re-structured the Société and established the SICOT Foundation , serving as its first President. While in Brusells I initiated the DSI’s first international conference in Summer 1991.  The follow-on was the second DSI International conference in Seoul, Korea, in 1993.  This evolved into the creation of the Asia Pacific Region  of the DSI and regular biannual international meetings, as well as a set of international regions. 

In 1997 another phone call brought me back to China to teach in the newly founded (and very much still under construction) China Europe International Business School(CEIBS). A Harvard classmate who was on the European Board asked me to join –“ just for the current term”. The assignment lasted for ten years. 

 While serving on the CEIBS Faculty I taught the required Operations Management course as well as an elective course:  Manufacturing Management consisted of a 4-hour classroom session on Monday afternoons and 4-hour meetings on Thursday afternoons at a manufacturing site, hosted by senior managers – Chinese, American and European.  Without exception the Thursday sessions ran well beyond the planned 4 hours as manufacturing professionals answered questions  at first from the Monday sessions and then on what was on the minds of the management team.  It took a few years to get agreement to teach the course.  A theme of Chinese teaching is professors professing in a classroom, no questions permitted.

In 2003 I chaired the international DSI conference in Shanghai, China, concurrent with the annual meeting of the Asia Pacific Region of the DSI (APDSI) on the new campus of the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS).  This was the first international meeting of an American-based professional society in the People’s Republic of China.

A substantial part of my work has been done for institutional and commercial clients focused on internal (typically strategic) issues and problems. At  the University of New Hampshire I established the Manchester Manufacturing Management Center with a generous 5-year grant from a private donor.  Two surveys were carried out, the first to identify appropriate projects which would serve the needs of the manufacturers in New Hampshire.  The first initiative developed from the results of more than 100 structured interviews with officers of the State’s manufacturing firms. The first program based on this data was development of an annual manufacturing software Exposition focused on the needs of SMMs (Small- to Medium Sized Manufacturers) – a better cohort  for research than is the SME (Small- to- Medium Enterprises).  There were 80 vendors at the first expo; more than 400 SMMs managers attended.  The numbers increased the next year.  At this point, the MMMC turned the project over to the New Hampshire High Tech consortium and New Hampshire’s Small Business Development Office (SBDC) which is housed at the University of New Hampshire.  

The second MMMC program  was initiated by the New Hampshire Governor’s Office and funded partly by the U.S.A. Small Business Administration.  This began with another survey regarding factors affecting the growth of SMMs in NH.  The Governor held a press conference announcing the survey; this was followed by reminders from the MMMC and the Governor’s Office alerting the State’s manufacturers of the survey instrument which would be sent out.  The survey itself had a 24% return – more than enough to provide information for initiatives from the State as well as the MMMC and, ultimately, NH’s SBDC.  The objectives for these survey projects were effective programs and projects for the State’s SMMs, not a “hit” in one of the “top journals”.  

My ten years of work with SICOT  (Société Internationale de Chirurgie Orthopédique et de Traumatologie) focused on a complete re-organization of the Société which was on the verge of bankruptcy.  There were 74 nation members of the Société; the Presidents of these national organizations formed the Board of Directors of the international organization. A Board meeting was often an exercise in the management of several dozen prima donnas.  There was no accounting system beyond a set of saving account pass books. The triennial international meeting typically attracted 8 to 10 thousand physicians  for a ten-day meeting hosted by a national society but “managed” by SICOT.  SICOT was chartered through the King of Belgium; it was re-structured as a philanthropic medical society which substantially improved effective  management and control.  When I retired from SICOT the society was in the black, with reserves )building up to permit establishment of a SICOT Foundation (chartered in New Hampshire to provide orthopaedic education and internship programs in developing countries.  This was not fodder for publication in our “top” journals but I did edit a couple of orthopaedic articles focused on standardization of hip replacement terminology and protocols to improve the quality of research outcomes.

Another phone call (this time from a Harvard classmate) brought me back to China, this time to Shanghai in 1997 and the early days of the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS). As the School’s name suggests, this initiative was negotiated between the European Union and the People’s Republic of China.  The first Faculty were all European-  or  Western- trained; the curriculum was developed by the Faculty.  In addition to teaching the required Operations Management course I taught the Manufacturing Management elective and for several years  managed the required CEIBS’ MBA Group Projects and Internships. I wrote CEIBS’ AACSB Strategy documents and did the same for the School’s  EQUIS application.   CEIBS is the first MBA Program in China to be both AACSB and EQUIS accredited.  In the last three years Qinghua University has received AACSB Accreditation and the Antai School at Shanghai JiaoTong University has been EQUIS accredited.  Competition is heating up.

Search Alpha Iota Delta
Powered by
Sponsored Links
Strategic Partners
Follow us at: