Operations management should be a key focus for every company, and it's important for managers to approach it in the right way.
But why is this such an important part of running a business? What habits make for effective operations management, and what is the best way to incorporate them into your management structure?
How effective operations management can help drive success
Operations management has a crucial role to play in the performance, efficiency and ultimately the success of your business. The fundamental reason for this is that it oversees the various processes involved in converting your organization's inputs (raw materials, technologies and labor) into outputs (goods and services that you deliver to customers to generate revenue).
There are many compelling commercial advantages to be gained from outstanding operations management, including:
- Efficient use of resources: Operations managers help to ensure the business is gaining as much value as possible from the various assets and resources at its disposal
- High levels of product and service quality: Maintaining high standards in production and service delivery contributes to customer satisfaction and loyalty
- Consistent productivity: Maintaining steady productivity - by focusing on priorities such as a reliable supply of raw materials and labor - should be a key goal of any operations management team
- Cost reductions: Operations managers who understand the finer details of your business and how it runs will be well-placed to spot opportunities for greater cost efficiency
- Competitive advantage: All of the above will help you stay ahead of your competitors and meet the evolving needs and expectations of your customers
With such a clear and undeniable case for the benefits of good operations management, it's worth asking what you can do to maintain positive practices in this crucial area of business.
The habits of an effective operations manager
As operations management is multi-disciplined in nature, it comes as no surprise that many of its functions can often be misunderstood. However, as a management professional, you will understand how much of a lynchpin operations management can be in determining the success, and ultimately the profitability, of a business. So what is the best way to create lifelong habits that result in effective operations management?
Manage risk, don’t be risk-averse
If you want a happy team, satisfied customers and a stable business, then you need to focus on good risk management. This means getting into the habit of analyzing your company for its weaknesses in order to improve not only your systems but your culture too; adopt this idea of self-analysis and you’ll see better results long-term.
Fostering a good company culture will help to reduce risk in the day-to-day operations of the business. Rather than a reactive system where the team merely complies with safety rules, if they’re suitably trained, your employees will realize the importance and benefits of safe behavior in the workplace and act accordingly.
What are your organization's technological priorities? If you get into the habit of creating a strategy that you use on a regular basis, you’ll identify the types of technologies that will enhance your business and see ways to apply them where they can make an impact.
At the same time, it’s important that your staff are trained to use any new technologies you wish to apply, as barriers to use will only hinder successful adoption. People are always the most important asset in a business, and your employees are the ones who apply and use the technology day-to-day.
Keep ahead of industry trends
Your operations management should include paying close attention to the changing needs of your customers. If you wish to deliver a service that’s consistent and sustainable in the long term, then one of the key habits you need to adopt is working to foresee and keep ahead of industry trends.
Whether you’re in the restaurant business, you run a travel company or a packaging firm, you’ll need to develop a strong habit of keeping abreast of what’s new and how the demands of your clients are changing. By doing this, you’re ensuring your operations don't fall behind while others get ahead; your customers will appreciate it, and you'll be recognized as a business that’s never standing still and always ahead of the curve.
Allow for mistakes in your operations management
Yes, your organization will sometimes make mistakes, as will you as an individual, and those within your team. You won’t always get it right, and sometimes mistakes are good because you can learn from them. Don’t dwell on errors; learn from them and then move on. As Nicole Fallon Taylor explains in her article on effective leadership traits, leaders know how to embrace mistakes and use them as an important learning experience.
Make organizational goals part of your strategy
Rather than getting through each day on a wing and a prayer, it helps if you set goals for your organization’s development. Clear objectives are important if you want to get things done and they should encompass your risk management strategy, the introduction of new technologies and the latest industry trends.
If you have a certain point you want to reach in 18 months’ time - whether it’s grasping the finer details of a new database that will enhance customer service, or rolling out a manual handling training course for each team member - goal setting will help you get there.
People are different, so treat them differently
You’ll have noticed that every employee is different and your team members react to stress, new goals and training in different ways. To get the best out of your staff, find out what makes each one of them tick and what type of personality they are. Each personality type requires a different touch to get the best from them. Understand what works best for whom, and utilize this to your advantage.
Use data and track the right operations metrics
There's a clear parallel to be drawn between operations management and other fundamental business functions - such as sales, marketing and HR - in that effective use of data has a vital part to play in its success. To do their job well, operations managers need to have their finger on the pulse of everything from how materials and resources are being used to consistency of production, and it's impossible to do that without data.
One particularly important goal is to track the right metrics, depending on your key objectives and projects at any given time. If you're focused on raising workforce efficiency and employee productivity, for example, you might want to concentrate on metrics such as:
Want a successful business? Develop some good habits
If you want to build an organization that is well-protected from risk, works towards achievable goals, learns from mistakes and makes the most of new technologies, you need to have a productive, engaged and enthusiastic team behind you. Adopting these lifelong operational management techniques will stand you in good stead for growing a stable business; one that continues to be productive and successful for many years to come.