Athabasca University’s Faculty of Business and the National Research Council (NRC) have established a partnership to develop a series of innovation and productivity courses to assist professionals in developing needed knowledge and skills to support improved productivity in Canadian businesses.

Participants will enhance their capacity to work with established techniques, systems, and strategies related to improving an organization’s operational quality and performance goals. With a focus on applying learning to practice, participants will gain valuable experience working with relevant productivity improvement tools and techniques. Beyond that, participants will engage in discussions on productivity improvement in the context of affecting an organization’s operational capabilities and management approaches.

While working through these courses, learners will:

  • Discuss key elements of operational quality, productivity improvements, and best organization practices
  • Identify specific areas of organizational operations where improvement is needed
  • Generate solutions for priority areas and outline implementation plans
  • Set project targets, performance goals and measures; add rigor to quality productivity program identification and selection
  • Identify and utilize a combination of specific tools (e.g., LEAN, BPR, Six Sigma, enterprise information management and enterprise resource planning) as required to build a solid quality productivity improvement methodology
  • Prepare for further knowledge development leading to professional designations.

Foundation Courses

578-LCPC: Canadian Productivity Challenge

Canada is one of the world’s most developed nations. With a population of approximately 35 million as of 2013, it has the ninth highest per capita income globally (IMF, 2012) and the eleventh highest ranking in the human development index (UNDC, 2013). Canada’s advanced economy is one of the largest in the world, relying chiefly upon its abundant natural resources and well-developed trade networks, especially with the United States, with which it has had a long and complex relationship.

Canada, the world’s second-largest country by total area, consists of ten provinces and three territories. Its diverse regions offer a variety of investment opportunities in different economic sectors.  Traditionally, Canada has been an active participant in international forums and organizations; multilateral cooperation is widely regarded as an effective way of dealing with issues and problems that transcend national jurisdictions.

While productivity has many components, the goal of this four-week course is to provide you with the necessary foundation for developing an understanding of how productivity works in Canada’s economy. The course will discuss why it is important to know more about Canadian productivity and its impacts on people, businesses, industries, and the country. Why is it important to study, discuss, and propose actions to improve Canadian productivity?

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579-LPPM: Productivity Performance Management

Performance management provides organizations with tools, processes, and practices that help them plan, monitor, and measure their strategies and initiatives in an effective and efficient manner. By managing performance, organizations can achieve business goals and maximize business value.

One of the challenges faced by managers is determining where to start. There are many tools and practices for performance management; there are also many stories of organizations that have spent time and resources implementing these tools and practices without achieving the expected results.

This course introduces performance management and provides a framework that can be used when selecting tools and practices for managing performance in an organization. The main objective of the first lesson is to analyze the steps for selecting the tools and practices that meet the needs of the organization at a particular time, and then finding the right approach for implementing them in an effective manner.

Determining the best practices to be adopted by an organization represents another challenge for managers. Lesson 2 provides an analysis of benchmarking as a strategic performance management tool. In addition, it presents a complete review of the concept of best practices, types of best practices, and recommendations for adoption of best practices in an organization.

An organization’s pursuit of better business results while ensuring that financial goals are attained can result in negative environmental and social impacts. Recognizing the importance of this subject, Lesson 3 focuses on analyzing sustainability and discussing ways organizations can incorporate sustainability into their business strategies.

Senior managers have manifested their concerns about strategy execution and poor business results despite well-planned strategies. Lesson 4 addresses these concerns with the topic of operationalizing business strategies and how to measure strategy execution as a mechanism to ensure organizations will get better business results. Finally, the office of strategy management is introduced as a way to manage, consolidate, and maintain best practices for effective strategy execution.

Overall, this course aims to provide a perspective of performance management with particular attention on selection of the right tools, adoption of best practices, and management of strategy execution in an effective and efficient manner that takes into consideration business results as well as the economic, environmental, and social impact of corporate performance.

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580-LQMT: Quality Management

This course looks at quality from a variety of perspectives. There are many definitions for the term quality, and its meaning is often determined by the way quality is viewed or understood. For this reason, it is essential to get a unified and clear understanding of what quality is and what it means within the scope in which it will be managed.

Quality involves principles that, when correctly applied, result in meeting or exceeding requirements for a process, product, or service. Quality management incorporates principles, methods, and tools to facilitate planning, organizing, leading, and controlling quality in an efficient and cost-effective manner. It is crucial for quality management systems to be dynamic and agile so they can adapt and keep up with market changes and business and client needs in a globalized and competitive market.

Quality management systems respond better to change when they are process-driven and see the organization as a system instead of departmentalized groups of people that must follow procedures in order to achieve the organization’s quality related goals.

Standardization is vital to quality management. Accordingly, the course identifies national and international standards, certification, and awards programs. It contains information on international standards such as the ISO and IEC, along with Canadian organizations, namely Standards Council of Canada and Excellence Canada.

The last part of the course presents a retrospective look at quality in the past 25 years that facilitates identification of lessons learned. It is accompanied by a description of what is happening nowadays and some trends for the years to come. These analyses contribute to defining a roadmap for quality management. The course aims to position quality management as an ongoing process that strives, through continuous improvement, for business excellence.

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Process Design and Control


This course will cover Lean management design, implementation and measurement, as well as Lean synchronization and the Theory of Constraints.

Learners begin with the basic principles of Lean management—quality, statistics and continuous improvement—and discuss elements of just-in-time and Lean synchronization as well as the Six Sigma DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve, control) cycle. Learners gain an understanding of how items flow through processes, operations, and supply networks, while considering capacity and potential constraints, bottlenecks, and ways they might reduce throughput time.

Learners will use statistical process tools to improve the quality of a product or process, reduce cycle times and costs, eliminate waste, and map value streams. They will also practice measuring the effectiveness of throughput inventory, operating expenses, costs, throughput time and value.

In the process of applying Lean concepts, learners will be asked to develop an implementation plan in order to benefit a company.

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582-LSIX: Six Sigma

This course covers Six Sigma in terms of its design, implementation and measurement.  Basic principles of Six Sigma and integrated Lean Six Sigma are discussed.  Learners will understand the ‘total customer satisfaction’ approach as applied to operations processes – no defects.  They will practice different elements of the Six Sigma process, such as tools measuring the performance of operational processes—detecting defects or failure to meet customer-required performance, understanding defects per opportunity, better meeting customer requirements, etc.  The course also covers elements frequently associated with Six Sigma, such as customer-driven objectives, use of evidence, structured improvement cycles (i.e., DMAIC), process capability and control, design, structured training, and organization of improvements.  Discussions will cover the benefits of the Six Sigma approach and use of tools such as scatter diagrams, process maps/flow charts, cause-effect diagrams, and Pareto diagrams.  The final element of the course will have learners develop an implementation plan.

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583-LPDC: Process Design and Control

In this course learners are introduced to statistical process control (SPC) and process intelligence. Learners will examine SPC as a technique – concerned with checking a product or service during its creation – based on the idea that process variability indicates whether a process is in control or not, whether variation in a process can be eliminated, and how we can predict how a process will perform under different circumstances. Learners will utilize control charts to understand attributes or variables that distinguish between normal variations inherent in a process and variations caused by the process being out of control. Use of process design and control is also discussed in terms of its use in understanding the risks of certain decisions.

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Information Systems Tools

584-LBUI: Business Intelligence

Information systems are an integral part of all business activities and careers. This course is designed to introduce learners to contemporary management information systems that employ artificial intelligence techniques and to demonstrate how such systems are used in business. The course will provide an introduction to intelligent systems that have become prevalent in productivity programs. Learners will encounter and discuss computer-based techniques that identify, extract and analyze business data to support decision making in productivity and quality programs.

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585-LPCI: Process & Computational Intelligence

In this course, learners consider different aspects of process design, mapping, networking, forecasting and flow along with their supporting technologies from simple links to complex and sophisticated automation. Expert systems supporting processes include tools for capacity planning, location, layout, aggregate planning, product design, scheduling, quality management, inventory control and maintenance. Learners will explore this topic through the lens of business process re-engineering (BPR). They will be asked to explore how technology is used to automate work – relating the BPR approach to earlier scientific management and more recent Lean approaches – and consider how process intelligence may provide for radical changes to eliminate non-value-added work. Learners consider BPR as a method to fundamentally rethink business processes in a cross functional manner in order to reorganize work around natural information flows.

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586-LERP: IT Adoption: ERP & Inventory

In this course, learners will be introduced to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), inventory management, and building a business case for improved productivity. Learners will consider integrated enterprise wide business solutions consisting of software support modules in areas like marketing, sales, product design, inventory control, procurement, distribution, quality, finance, human resources, and service information. They will discuss how different aspects of the organization are integrated to provide needed operational planning and control activities, enabling transparency and avoiding duplication of information in an effort to achieve quality productivity goals. Learners will be challenged to understand how ERPs are developed and for what purpose. They will also explore different aspects of inventory: how organizations keep track of inventory, information, and customers, as well as strategies used to replenish inventory. Learners discuss how managers discriminate between levels of control applied.

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587-LEIM: Enterprise Information Management

This course is mainly concerned with databases: how they fit into an organization, what needs they address, and what can be done with the information they collect. This is set in the context of understanding the productivity needs of an organization and exploring how, when and where to access needed information. The emphasis throughout is not so much on achieving high levels of technical competence in advanced technologies, but on being able to manage information in a manner that benefits an organization. In order to illustrate and contextualize high level concepts and ground them in more concrete aspects of productivity measurement, learners will need to practice with data modeling (including normalization) technologies, the SQL language, and several practical database management tools and methods. It is ideally suited to the hybrid manager who is able to communicate with and understand the needs of both technologists and end-users of technologies within an organization.

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Implementation Challenges

551-LMOC: Leading People Through Organizational Change

Leading and managing organizational change has become an essential knowledge base and skill set required in both public- and private-sector organizations. Not only must leaders and managers deal with the technical, process, and operational aspects of change, but they must also understand the psychology or human side of change as they engage others in change initiatives. This can be daunting.

In this course, learners are challenged to consider different aspects of the change experience from both the management and non-management points of view. Participants enter an interactive multimedia simulation where they develop and apply new knowledge to hone leadership and change-management skills. At its core, the simulation brings to life the impacts of specific decisions and outcomes during an organizational change. Participants gain knowledge, practice skills, and gain deeper understanding through experience.

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588-LPMT: Program Management

In this course, learners will discuss the importance of program management and establishing centers of operational excellence to realize productivity strategies. Core centers of excellence for improving business organization productivity include, for example, Total Quality Management, Lean Management, Business Process Reengineering, and the Six Sigma programs of excellence. Performance management techniques and human performance assessment tools connected to business strategy are reviewed, as are improvement tools such as scatter diagrams, process maps, cause-effect diagrams and Pareto diagrams. Learners will clarify productivity improvement objectives by defining program activities with a start date, a goal of continuous improvement with no set end date, and ongoing resources required. Learners will consider resource issues such as competent team member skillsets, ability to support initiatives, communication and feedback channels, and methods for trouble shooting. Learners will also explore program management in the context of change and how various aspects will overlay and integrate various projects.

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576-LTIN: Technology and Innovation

Learners will examine the processes of managing technology and innovation within organizations as pathways to improving organizational productivity involving human, capital and operational resources. Learners will explore the critical role that both internally and externally acquired technology-linked innovations can play in organizational performance enhancement leading to increased productivity at the organization, department or strategic business/operating unit level. The course will culminate with each participant developing a technology informed innovation profile, preferably directed at their own organization, which demonstrates the development, implementation and evaluation of the impact on productivity that has been achieved through a significant technology-linked innovation that has been adopted.

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577-LBSC: Operations Balanced Scorecards

To improve performance, managers require a balance of relevant information that reflects both financial and operational measures. The Balanced Scorecard (BSC), developed by Robert Kaplan and David Norton, offers a set of measures that provide a succinct, yet comprehensive assessment of a business. The Balanced Scorecard includes both financial measures, which reflect past action, and operational measures that address customer satisfaction, internal processes, innovation activities, and improvement efforts, which contribute to driving future financial performance.

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589-LPCP: Capstone

In the final capstone course, students revisit what they have learned about the many different aspects of productivity and build a business case for implementation. Using materials from the preceding courses, they clarify the productivity processes of establishing interest, goal-setting, outlining requirements, defining areas of inefficiency/ineffectiveness, assessing risk, and understanding the potential gap between expectations and results through stakeholder analysis.

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Start Date
End Date


Each online course is four weeks long and requires time commitment of 8-12 hours per week. Courses have assigned readings, activities, simulations, and online discussions. Students apply theory to practice; active participation is critical.

All LMD courses are $1,095.00 + $13 Graduate Student Association fee = $1,108.00