The advent of World War II introduced a new set of problems related to the practice of management. Submarine warfare was introduced, as was the massive deployment of airplanes as a means of attack. These developments made the conduct of war more complex and reduced the margin of error that one could afford militarily. With Great Britain confronting the prospect of defeat, the British formed an operations research team consisting of mathematicians, physicists, and other experts to develop methods for countering the German offensive. The team was able to develop sophisticated mathematical models that could simplify scenarios of attack and counterattack and thus reduce tactical errors by military commanders. These models, based on mathematical equations, were credited with assisting the British military in effectively staving off the German attack.
After World War II was over, interest in the application of operations research technology to industry began to emerge. This interest was accelerated by advances in computer technology that increased the speed with which many of the complicated mathematical models could be solved. In particular, operations research models were applied to solve production problems. Mathematical models were used to simulate a production problem, bringing to bear all the relevant factors affecting that problem. The values of these factors could be changed to develop different scenarios in the search for a solution. For example, a manager might be interested in the effect that delays in shipments of raw materials have on the cost of producing a good. By changing this variable in the equation, production costs under different scenarios can be estimated and managers can then make more-informed decisions on how to deal with this problem situation.
While operations research has provided management with a valuable tool in the planning and control of production activities, mathematical models have yet to account effectively for human behaviors. The difficulty, of course, is that the human factor is not as easily quantified as inanimate phenomena.