If you are an operations manager and you are reading this, it is a safe bet to assume that the hour is late. When else could you possibly find time to fit in some 'light' reading? And you are probably feeling guilty too. After all, you have numbers to crunch and a million things to think about, resolve, plan, prepare, schedule, report. But PLEASE keep reading - I have some ideas to help you achieve your targets (as a past operations manager, I've got your back!).
First, pat yourself on the back. You are a multi-tasker extraordinaire, a jack-of-all-trades, and a wearer of many hats. You are a vital member of the management team; driving efficiency, reducing costs, improving customer experience, taking ownership of all the key metrics that drive a company’s performance and ensuring that the organization is running at full speed.
You play a major role in doing the valuable and necessary everyday functions that enable other departments in the company to succeed; and YOU are making a real difference.
So why are you still awake? Most likely it has to do with one or more of these reasons:
1. Concerns About Productivity
Oh boy do operations managers feel the increasing pressure to push employees to work faster and more efficient. The key questions that arise are: How can we get the team “up-to-speed" and performing their duties quickly and successfully? How do we ensure continued success after the initial training ends or new processes are put into place? How do we fully engage employees so that they keep using the knowledge and skills learned during training sessions and are able to apply it once they are back at their desks?
How do we ensure high productivity without reducing the employees’ motivation?
What I need to tell you is - it's okay to be concerned about productivity; just don't let it rule your career and life. There are always opportunities for improvement - even after you JUST improved something. Take deep breaths and enjoy the fact that your job is never dull!
2. Need to Improve Process Quality
From keying errors to compliance issues, employee errors can come at a high cost to an organization, especially since success hinges on a quality product. One way to prevent these high-cost quality issues that stem from employee error is to use technology - especially automation. Using automated systems, companies can easily add custom validations to problematic processes and forms. When an employee enters information into an application, the software makes calculations and checks the validity of the entered information. It can also alert the worker if there is an issue, stop production and notify appropriate management.
Every employee comes to work to do a good job. In most cases, the defect is the process, not the person. REMEMBER THAT, and fix it by adding process steps or new checks to the system. Don’t make it a game of "who screwed this up?" That will deflate the team. Everyone will cower in fear and point fingers without ever getting to the root cause. Improving quality will raise your employees' engagement because people like being on a high-performance team.
3. Worried About Customer Satisfaction
Worrying about the customers is not only the sales department's job. Investigating customer satisfaction and reporting any issues also falls on the shoulders' of operations. And is you are in a service-based company (i.e., call centers) , service delivery can, in many cases, be regarded as production!
But how do you NOT take the worry of top-notch customer service home with you?
I know it's hard, but one thing that I've found, along with copious amounts of research, is that focus on improving your processes and empowering and equipping your teams; those two actions will greatly increase customer satisfaction. One less thing you need to constantly worry about!
The key to improved customer satisfaction in a service-based company is providing your customer-facing employees with the relevant information at the right time in a manner that allows them to focus on the customer and quickly solve their problems.
4. Unresolved Conflicts Between Departments
Not too many people enjoy and appreciate conflict. And sometimes the office resembles a school yard. You have different groups, with varying agendas, all who think they know best. Managing conflicts or competing business practices within an organization is a major challenge for operations managers, who are often left feeling like a school principal.
For instance, a company's development team may frequently be in conflict with its marketing team about various goals and decisions while marketing, in turn, in conflict with finance. These clashes can have a detrimental effect on operations when they impact the efficiency or productivity. So what should you do? Focus on ending these competing practices by instituting company-wide standards and goals, encouraging open communication. Regularly check-in with each department and have them express issues they are going through, and perhaps teach them how to problem-solve!
5. Difficulty Recruiting and Retaining The Right Talent
Finding and keeping good people is not easy. The previous analogy you were a school principal; NOW you are the sports coach - motivating people through hard times, training, educating, and managing diversity and cultural differences. This can be especially daunting during periods of change or growth in which companies needed to hire in large numbers. A well-planned and well-executed on-boarding process will increase the chances for a positive work experience leading to a win-win relationship between the new hire and your company.
Make sure you are working closely with the Human Resource (HR) department to create a solid process for hiring and on-boarding. Many times, HR is left to handle this themselves and they don't usually know what you need for a successful team member!
With effective and adequate operations management, there is much more accountability and accuracy for successful delivery of a product or project. So don't stay up late worrying about these things. Set a plan in place; standardize processes and make sure your team is involved every step of the way so they can start to take weight off of your shoulders. YOUR JOB is to ensure they have the right tools in place to serve the company and customer, and to be happy doing it!