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Six Success Tips For Operations Professionals

By Lisa Woods (1085 words)
Posted in Operations on October 31, 2012

There are (11) comments permalink

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As market dynamics change, so should your operations group.  Make sure you are being proactive, able to adapt and stay competitive.  Here are six success tips all operations professionals should incorporate into their routine.


Focus on Communication input and output.

Often times operations becomes a microcosm of its own and loses touch unintentionally, sometimes deliberately, with the rest of the organization. Don’t let this happen. Be open to market demands and listen to your customer both internally and externally. Understand the company’s overall strategy and incorporate it into your world.  Spread the message and allow your employees to understand how their job is part of the big picture; quality will improve, morale will improve. The better a communicator you are, the more likely you will get capital approvals as well.


Engage with your employees.

Great people skills will provide an advantage when your operation needs to be flexible. Listen to your employees; provide ongoing training and consistent feedback. Address performance concerns quickly and resolve disputes by focusing on what is right, not who is right.


Maintain useful metrics and an analytical mindset.

There are two types of metrics to track: The first group of metrics is used to manage your operation including production quantity, scrap levels, product costs, raw materials, lead-times, safety reports, quality claims/complaints, shipping performance, machine speeds, etc...This is a very large group of metrics and must be reviewed on a consistent basis in order to micromanage each area and ensure the performance of the operation. However there is a second group of metrics. This group consists of metrics linked to the overall business strategy: where you are today and what you need to achieve to be successful. This group probably has some elements that you are already tracking in the first group of metrics, but it has others as well.  For example: Key customer lead-time reductions, inventory turns on new product lines, cost savings/earned profit from reduction of product returns.  Share your metrics throughout the organization, make them proactive and create an analytical mindset in everything you do.


Stay on top of trends in equipment and engineering.

You and your team should be aware of new technologies, as well as have the ability to improve on the existing technology you are utilizing. Technology dictates speed, quality, innovation and in many cases, service levels. Many companies fail because they don’t adapt to changing market trends. Go to trade shows, read technical papers, and participate in professional and industry specific associations. If you manage technology and improve your technical knowledge, you will have an edge over the competition.


Be Flexible.

Creating a balance between controlling the process and being flexible is always a difficult concept, especially if you are tracking your metrics, or tied to an automated process.  However, business is competitive and you need to ensure that Operations, Logistics and Engineering can adapt to changing market conditions.  One approach is to create subset environments for flexibility, loophole management if you will.  If you track this activity you may find that market demands are growing for these changes and you may need to re-engineer your process to make a new common practice.  By doing this you will not be controlled or disrupted by change, you will manage it and be proactive about it. 


Implement a continuous improvement philosophy in everything you do.

There are so many techniques for continuous improvement these days, whether you bring in consultants, you or your employees become certified, read books or utilize various “Lean” and “Six Sigma” tools, whatever you do make sure that the philosophy to improve is in everything you do. Conduct best practice reviews and get feedback from your organization on new ways/areas to implement these concepts; reward improvements by posting successes and communicating results. You can find training seminars, books and consultants to help you with this process right here on ManagingAmericans.com


If you currently work in Operations, I encourage you to incorporate these tools into your job performance.  If you are a manager that sees value in these characteristics, please share this article with your organization.


I hope this perspective is helpful to you in your day-to-day life.  Test out these concepts and share your results with us.  Others can benefit from your experiences.  Good luck!




Written by Lisa WoodsPresident & CEO ManagingAmericans.com

Lisa is a successful entrepreneur, world-class marketing strategist, dynamic business leader & author with more than 20 years experience leading, managing and driving growth in the corporate world. Today she provides Management Tools, Do-It-Yourself Training, and Business Assessments for small to mid size companies, Lisa utilizes her experience with integration techniques, organizational and cultural overhauls, financial turnarounds and strategic revitalization to help other companies succeed.  Closing the gap between strategy and hierarchy through the use of effective communication skills, Lisa's techniques successfully develop employees into exceptional leaders, results driven managers and passionate team contributors that collectively exceed objectives.


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Comments (11)

Steve Schumacher posted on: November 7, 2012

Great article, thanks for sharing.

Over my years of being external and internal, I have seen this more times than I care to think about. Alignment is a constant challenge.

Good luck to you in this time of chaos in the Northeast.

Bill Peery posted on: November 7, 2012

A better question might be whether anyone has ever NOT been faced with alignment issues. These six "tips" are necessary but not sufficient. In my experience most organizations expend a lot of effort to communicate, engage, measure, analyze, continuously improve performance, etc. Unfortunately their compensation and incentive programs are left at cross purposes to the strategy, and then these organizations wonder why they aren't getting alignment and results. Most organizations give higher weight in their incentives to individual and local department performance, and less weight to overall team and organizational performance. Incentives trump all the rest. When designing incentive programs, think about your strategy and be careful what you wish for.

Jyoti Prakash Haldar posted on: November 7, 2012

Great to see the first point Lisa---"Focus on Communication Input and Output", This-one is the Vital point, Thank you Lisa for the Elaborate Explanation.

Amy Peltekian posted on: November 7, 2012

Operations is always resistant to any change I've been involved in presenting or deploying. I find the most resistant person and then go after them to convert them over. Typically it works and they become my best change leaders. Ironically I've even ended up hiring a few of them after we figured out how to make them successful. What has your experience or challenge been?

Megan James posted on: November 7, 2012

Really on point article and great read. Something to look at is the process of Hoshin planning to ensure that your top level breakthrough strategy is more aligned with all levels of your operations. Well worth looking at...

Ravi Rao MD PhD posted on: November 7, 2012

I think this is a good list. To answer your question, I think MOST companies have some degree of misalignment between Ops and Strategy/Vision. It may not be crippling to the business, but there is some friction.

What I find interesting about where Operations is going (and for that matter, Strategy/Vision is too) is towards a greater emphasis on communications, teamwork, emotional-social intelligence, and emotional strategy. It's these kinds of factors that ensure Operations is aligned with Strategy/Vision. Neither Ops professionals nor Strategy professionals get such content in their training programs, but that might change.

Margaret Luttinger posted on: November 7, 2012

I agree with Ravi that this is more common than uncommon. I would share also something I find almost comical at times and that is that Strategy/Vision often is nothing more than "the sport of Kings" ....while the rest of the people are slugging it out in the real world of unexpected downtime, absenteeism, rework , deluged by RMAs, missing ship dates and oh yeah - need to get those reports out that we don't understand how they make a difference in the world but you know who wants them... deluge of RMAs, missing ship dates.... Communications, teamwork, emotional-social intelligence and emotional strategy are all important but the delivery and integration of these into the organization to help Ops people requires a level of understanding from top side that can often be seriously lacking.

Michael Langthorne posted on: November 7, 2012

At first I thought you were joking...

Margaret has it right, any time I've worked with groups on strategy/vision, it's been like working with a room full of idealists. I find myself letting the idealism run for many hours, then gradually introduce, not the weak links, but the "rust on the links" that will need polishing. By the end of the engagement I generally have a good understanding of how large or small the gap is going to be between strategy and the local reality.

Don Burzen posted on: November 13, 2012

This discussion is similar to one in another group, which raises the question whether strategy or execution is more important to business success. In my view, if you want your business to excel, it all comes down to superior Execution consistently aligned with a clearly understood business Strategy. If these are properly integrated, the question of which is more important should never arise. If not, it's hard to say where you may end up. Of course, the implication is that Operations has an opportunity to be involved in developing the Strategy and Vision for the company.

Arli John Nim posted on: November 13, 2012

The worst misalignment is when Management treats vision as simply lip service, choosing the best words and the best presentation, only for show, however short of heart and spirit. This way misalignment would start from a high as strategies down to misdirected operations. Many companies, especially family businesses with second generation management whose executives were mostly homegrown off springs, short of extensive exposure, would use either of the 2 basic approaches/strategies relative to the issue of alignment or misalignment to vision; 1) development of sniper-like skills to focus on company vision or 2) employ shotgun-like operations in the hope that somehow something would hit the target. For certain periods the 2 strategies would appear to have no big difference, but in the long run, the focused approach would prove mote effective.

Andrew Hill posted on: November 13, 2012

Start with a burning platform... the compelling need to change is a good starting point and reinforce that message. Communication plan, Tell them , Tell them and Tell them again what you are doing and why you are doing it!

Processes are easy to change.... create a cell, move things round, but people, people are the hard part! They have feeling's, beliefs and varying ideas and notions and will either comply or conform. So keep close to them and hold regular stakeholder reviews!

Also to Amy's comment is spot on and convincing the most resistant person to embrace the change will greatly reduce your effort needed to get the team to align.

Good Luck!

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