Spring 2024
MLD 605M
March 18 - April 26
Tuesday and Thursday, 9:00AM - 10:15AM
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Systems Thinking and Supply Chain Management: Climate, Poverty and Human Rights


Covid-19 is demonstrating the critical nature of supply chains in our world. From lack of personal protective equipment to virus test kits to toilet paper, failures in supply lines are taking a toll on our lives.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. Systems thinking ensures we understand the feedback loops that exist in supply chains and the non-linear nature of the real world. The empty grocery store shelves resulting from a demand spike in advance of a hurricane or blizzard illustrates how one change in the chain, an increase in demand, ripples through the entire system for weeks.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 supply chains can be modified to achieve public purpose.The course pedagogy features case study and practitioner-based learning. Materials are drawn from developing and developed world contexts. A key feature of the course is a student led learning component where students, individually or in groups, take responsibility to teach one Friday session to elaborate a course concept.

HKS Government
Harvard Kennedy School
Course Level
Interest Area
Law & Policy
Cross Registration