Faculty Spotlight: Barb Flynn

Professor Barb Flynn began her professional career as an elementary school teacher after graduating with her undergraduate degree in psychology.

Flynn knew she wanted a PhD and had planned to pursue a doctorate in psychology after working as a teacher for a couple years. But after a summer job working in a corporate office, she decided to pursue her MBA at Marquette University in Wisconsin.

“I took an operations management class during my MBA, and I loved it,” explained Flynn, the Richard M. and Myra Louise Buskirk Professor of Manufacturing Management. “It was at that point, I decided to change directions and get a PhD in operations management. There weren’t a lot of women in that field in those days, so I was one of the first women to go into operations management anywhere.”

Flynn said her psychology background helped her to excel as she wrote her dissertation. She learned she enjoyed operations management research – especially survey research.

“With psychology, we learned one theory after another, and it always seemed to be changing. There were a lot of gray areas. In operations management, I felt it was more black and white – you can understand the scientific relationships going on in factories, and work to determine the best way to manage a process.”

Flynn received her DBA from Indiana University in operations management, an MBA with an emphasis in operations management and managerial economics from Marquette University and her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Ripon College. Her previous academic appointments include Wake Forest University, Iowa State University and Louisiana State University.

Flynn’s research interests include global supply chain management, quality management, operations strategy, just-in-time manufacturing and group technology.

Flynn is the director of the High Performance Manufacturing research group, which is a global research team that studies the relationship between manufacturing practices and performance in various organizational and national cultures. In addition to publishing three books and numerous book chapters, Flynn has published articles in the top supply chain management and operations management journals.

In 2016, Flynn was selected to serve as co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Supply Chain Management. She is also an associate editor of International Journal of Operation and Production Management and Decision Sciences, and she serves on the editorial review board of International Journal of Applied Quality Management, Production and Operations Management and Benchmarking for Quality Management and Technology.

Flynn currently teaches Evening MBA and Kelley Direct courses at the Kelley School at IUPUI.

“I enjoy our MBA students,” she said. “They’re so much fun -- They get it. They understand why they’re learning what we’re talking about. It’s easy to get a robust discussion going.”

In addition to teaching here at home, Flynn travels internationally to teach and research multiple times throughout the year. She teaches two classes a year in Brazil: one for executive MBAs, and another for doctoral students. She also frequently travels to China to conduct research and work with PhD students and other colleagues there. This past summer, Flynn traveled to both Japan and Edinburgh to present on her research there.

“I’ve learned a lot from teaching in Brazil and working on research across the globe that I bring back to the classroom in Indianapolis,” said Flynn. “Sometimes I try a case with my students in Brazil, then bring it back and use it here.”

It's so important to find where your passion lies and pursue that.

Professor Barb Flynn, the Richard M. and Myra Louise Buskirk professor of manufacturing management

Flynn also learns from her family – Her husband, Jim, is a professor at the Kelley School of Business, and one of her sons is working on his PhD, as well.

“He jokes he is joining the family business,” laughs Flynn. “I would love to work on a paper with both of them. We’ve got a lot of Flynn and Flynn papers, but it would be fun to do a Flynn, Flynn and Flynn paper.”

For students aspiring to succeed, Flynn’s advice to them is this: Find your passion – and pursue it.

“It’s so important to find where your passion lies and pursue that,” said Flynn. “I’m lucky enough to have found an area that I’m passionate about, and I’ve never been bored with what I do.”