1 <h5>Introduction</h5> Recently, operations management (OM) has observed a surge in field-based, empirical research, with concurrent emphasis on theory as a research driver. In this paper, theory is defined, and its crucial role in OM explained. This paper goes beyond simply stating that theory is required for `good' research, and explains at a fundamental, intuitive level the critical importance of theory. The metaphor of theory as a `lens' will be utilized to explain the role of theory in research and in the knowledge base. Because formal theorizing in other fields is generally more mature than in OM, because other fields have previously dealt with the role of theory, and because OM is small relative to other fields, it is prudent to examine the history of other disciplines for lessons they have learned. While OM has constructed `home-grown' theories, such as the cumulative model ( Ferdows and De Meyer, 1990 ), the customer contact model ( Chase and Tansik, 1983 ), and the process–product matrix ( Hayes and Wheelwright, 1979 ), OM lags disciplines such as sociology and economics in the creation of formal, research-oriented theoretical perspectives. Additionally, many of OM's areas of study are interdisciplinary, requiring attention to
Journal of Operations Management – Elsevier
Published: Jul 1, 1998
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