(2013), "Remembering Bob Johnston", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 33 No. 6. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijopm.2013.02433faa.002Download as .RIS
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Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Remembering Bob Johnston
Article Type: Remembering Bob Johnston From: International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Volume 33, Issue 6
Bob Johnston was a man with an infectious enthusiasm for his subject. His passion, his very considerable expertise, and his supreme ability to communicate even the most subtle of ideas, marked him as an exceptional person. He was one of those rare academics who, through their originality and insight, really do manage to shift the centre of gravity of their subject. He was a pioneer in creating the vernacular of service operations management. Scholars and students many years from now will owe a debt to his creativity, his clarity and his ability to ground the rapidly expanding body of knowledge in his field in the reality of what it is really like to manage services.
Bob Johnston was truly one of the founders of service operations management; a field he did much to develop and lead throughout his career. Both his first paper in the area and his first, co-authored, text book were published in 1985 and from that time his outstanding contribution to the area was characterised by scholarship, engagement, pragmatism and a commitment to dissemination. He was equally enthusiastic about everything to do with service operations whether researching, teaching, or writing textbooks. From the very beginning he provided leadership in the field starting with his role in developing the first the UK textbook on service operations (Voss et al., 1985) and later as the lead author of the market-leading European textbook in the field (Johnston et al., 2012). In 1988, he organised the third EurOMA Conference at Warwick Business School and chose to focus its theme on “The Management of Service Operations”; this was almost certainly the first dedicated conference on this anywhere in the world.
More than anyone, Bob Johnston researched intensively and taught the core building blocks of service operations, with contributions that covered a wide range of areas. His work on service recovery and complaints management, (Johnston, 1996b, 2001; Johnston and Fern, 1999; Johnston and Mehra, 2002; Johnston and Michel, 2008) continued throughout his career. Similarly his work on service quality and service excellence was one of his long-standing interests (Silvestro et al., 1990; Johnston, 1995, 2004; Wirtz and Johnston, 2003). A natural follow on from his work on the core areas of service operations was his development of service design concepts and its impact on the nature of the customer experience (Johnston, 1999; Flanagan et al., 2005; Edvardsson et al., 2010; Johnston and Kong, 2011). Yet he strongly believed that service was not just something that an organisation provides for external customers, it was also something provided internally; an idea that Bob recognised in his work on internal service (Bowen and Johnston, 1999; Croom and Johnston, 2003; Johnston, 2008). A particularly important and influential work concerned the contingent nature of service processes and service strategy (Silvestro et al., 1992). This was the result of a unique collaboration, three researchers from operations management and two from accounting, who worked together to produce a book for the Chartered Institute of Management Accounting (Fitzgerald et al., 1991). This proved highly influential, not just in service management, but also in accounting and the broad area of performance management systems.
Bob Johnston did not just explore all of the core areas of service management; he also helped push its frontiers. Today there is much discussion of the notion of service dominant logic and the concept of value co-creation. Yet for decades his colleagues as well as his students knew how he could provide insights by recognising the underlying principles of service, for example by exploring different roles for customers’ involvement (Johnston, 1990). He was probably one of the first people to explore the nature of co-creation of value in services, (Edvardsson et al., 2005).
Judging by his citations, maybe even more than any of the strong scholarly contributions, Bob will be remembered for his insistence that we remain pragmatic and do not stray into research topics too removed from the reality of services. So he reminded us that service operations management should be from the roots up (Johnston, 2005); and that we should not abandon core areas such as the service concept when designing services (Goldstein et al., 1992).
To fellow researchers in service management he will be remembered in many ways; for his insight, his encyclopaedic knowledge of his field, his innate ability to identify the key research question to pursue, and his methodological rigour. But first Bob will be remembered as the ideal collaborator. Bob sought out and worked with a vast range of people. He thrived on the type of academic debate that benefitted everyone who was involved. Importantly his inherent modesty meant that even when he was the major contributor to the research, he let others be the lead author and put his name later or last on the list of authors. Having Bob as a collaborator meant that you always had a lively and critical mind that would both bring creativity to the research and keep you honest and pragmatic in what you said.
He was one of the most engaging teachers of his generation who could bring complex models alive with a wealth of down-to-earth anecdotes and examples. His sense of humour and quick wit could make the classroom a “jolly place” (one of his favourite phrases) as well as an exciting learning environment. But he also demanded that his students take the subject as seriously as he did. More than once he cured late arrivals at his lectures by locking the lecture theatre door five minutes after the start of a session; and woe betide any student who had failed to prepare for a session! He was also versatile as a teacher. Although happiest when teaching service operations, he could contribute across the field of operations management, often challenging orthodoxy and developing new and exciting materials.
Bob and his family lived in the village of Monyash, high in Derbyshire’s Peak District, a part of the world that he loved. In all his years at Warwick University he never let the 140 mile round trip between home and the University interfere with his tireless work for the University. But he would not leave his beloved Derbyshire and he loved to hike through its dales and moors. It was an enthusiasm that he was keen for his less active friends to participate in. He and Shirley, his wife, would often extend their hospitality to colleagues from around the World who were welcome to stay and join them on a walk. He leaves a hole in his colleagues’ lives. He will be missed by all who he taught, worked with and inspired.
Bowen, D.E. and Johnston, R. (1999), “Internal service recovery: developing a new construct”, International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol. 10 No. 2, pp. 118–131
Croom, S. and Johnston, R. (2003), “E-service: enhancing internal customer service through e-procurement”, International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol. 14 No. 5, pp. 539–555
Edvardsson, B., Enquist, B. and Johnston, R. (2005), “Co-creating customer value through hyper-reality in the pre-purchase service experience”, Journal of Service Research, Vol. 8 No. 2, pp. 149–161
Edvardsson, B., Enquist, B. and Johnston, R. (2010), “Design dimensions of experience rooms for service test drives: case studies in several service contexts”, Managing Service Quality, Vol. 20 No. 4, pp. 312–327
Fitzgerald, L., Brignall, S., Silvestro, R., Voss, C. and Johnston, R. (1991), Performance Measurement in Service Businesses, Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, London
Flanagan, P., Johnston, R. and Talbot, D. (2005), “Customer confidence: the development of a ‘pre-experience’ concept”, International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol. 16 No. 4, pp. 373–384
Goldstein, S.M., Johnston, R., Duffy, J.A. and Rao, J. (1992), “The service concept: the missing link in service design research?”, Journal of Operations management, Vol. 20 No. 2, pp. 121–134
Johnston, R. (1990), “The customer as employee”, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 9 No. 5, pp. 15–23
Johnston, R. (1995), “The determinants of service quality: satisfiers and dissatisfiers”, International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol. 6 No. 5, pp. 53–71
Johnston, R. (1999), “Service transaction analysis: assessing and improving the customer’s experience”, Managing Service Quality, Vol. 9 No. 2, pp. 102–109
Johnston, R. (2001), “Linking complaint management to profit”, International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 60–69
Johnston, R. (2004), “Towards a better understanding of service excellence”, Managing Service Quality, Vol. 14 Nos 2/3, pp. 129–133
Johnston, R. (2005), “Service operations management: from the roots up”, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 25 No. 12, pp. 1298–1308
Johnston, R. (2008), “Internal service-barriers, flows and assessment”, International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol. 19 No. 2, pp. 210–231
Johnston, R. and Fern, A. (1999), “Service recovery strategies for single and double deviation scenarios”, Service Industries Journal, Vol. 19 No. 2, pp. 69–82
Johnston, R. and Kong, X. (2011), “The customer experience: a road-map for improvement”, Managing Service Quality, Vol. 21 No. 1, pp. 5–24
Johnston, R. and Mehra, S. (2002), “Best-practice complaint management”, The Academy of Management Executive, Vol. 16 No. 4, pp. 145–154
Johnston, R. and Michel, S. (2008), “Three outcomes of service recovery: customer recovery, process recovery and employee recovery”, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 79–99
Johnston, R., Clark, G. and Shulver, M. (2012), Service Operations Management, Pearson, Harlow
Silvestro, R., Johnston, R., Fitzgerald, L. and Voss, C. (1990), “Quality measurement in service industries”, International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 54–6
Silvestro, R., Johnston, R., Fitzgerald, L. and Voss, C. (1992), “Towards a classification of service processes”, International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol. 3 No. 3, pp. 62–75
Voss, C.A., Armistead, C., Johnston, B. and Morris, B. (1985), Operations Management in Service Industries and the Public Sector, Wiley, Chichester
Wirtz, J. and Johnston, R. (2003), “Singapore airlines: what it takes to sustain service excellence-a senior management perspective”, Managing Service Quality, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 10–19
Johnston, R. and Jones, P. (2004), “Service productivity: towards understanding the relationship between operational and customer productivity”, International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Vol. 53 No. 3, pp. 201–213