10 Fatal Mistakes All Operations Managers Make (and How to Avoid Them)


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Thursday, September 8, 2022

Operations managers are key to ensuring the processes and systems in place are as efficient as possible.

Article 4 Minutes
10 Fatal Mistakes All Operations Managers Make (and How to Avoid Them)

Operations managers are crucial to the success of any business, as without proper planning and implementation efficiencies and productivity are lost. Converting raw materials, technologies and labor into products and services to create revenue requires a careful balance of all elements, otherwise organizations can find they lose their competitive edge.

So what are the main pitfalls operations managers should be looking to avoid and the best strategies to prevent them from occurring?

1. Being risk-averse

By nature, running a company comes with a certain amount of risk, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it. Managing risk and pre-empting its impact is much more efficient than doing everything you can to avoid it all together. Risks should be analyzed in advance and included in systems so that no department or personnel are taken by surprise.

2. Not starting at the beginning

When looking to improve processes, many operations managers overlook the most important part of the journey - documenting the current situation. To understand where changes need to be made and the steps to achieving them, you need to know where to start. A common consequence of failing to assess things at the beginning is businesses making the wrong changes and tweaking areas that were working well already, which is inefficient.

3. Failing to set up metrics

Measuring the performance of different parts of the business will ensure it’s running properly. The metrics you choose to track will in some ways be influenced by the industry you operate in, but there are also some fundamentals most organizations should keep an eye on. These include:

  • Time taken for individual tasks to be completed
  • Total time from start to finish for a product to be created
  • Amount of work that can be completed in a given time period
  • Quantity of resources that go into a process
  • Consistency of a process and whether it varies
  • Standard of the final product

4. Overcomplicating processes

Improving processes can sometimes be confused with convoluting them, which isn’t an efficient way of working. Any steps that are added must serve a purpose and then reviewed to determine if they’re an effective solution. Work-arounds that are added to overcome a broken operation should be reviewed periodically and removed if no longer required.

5. Lacking standardization

Firms that have multiple production centers for the same or similar items should ensure processes are standardized. Failing to do so means efficiencies made in one area of the organization aren’t implemented elsewhere, leading to repeated work or varying levels of quality. Once an operation has been found to be successful in one part of the business, a standardized procedure should be established and rolled out elsewhere.

6. Overlooking bottlenecks

No matter how good an overall system is, it’ll never reach its potential if it includes bottlenecks. These are parts of the process with the smallest capacity and can have a large impact on productivity. While eliminating bottlenecks altogether is not always possible, it’s vital to identify them and make efforts to minimize their impact on timelines.

7. Automating indiscriminately

Digital tools that automate processes have grown exponentially in recent years and can have many benefits from cutting costs to freeing up staff to carry out other tasks. One problem that can arise if automation is implemented without proper consideration is bad processes being cemented in place. Without a human carrying out tasks, common sense can be lacking and a reason to make changes overlooked.

8. Neglecting the customer

All operations should be customer focused, with an emphasis on the end experience with the product or service. Neglecting these needs means operations managers aren’t carrying out their role properly. Customers ultimately decide on the success or failure of a product or service, so any tweaks to operations must be made with this in mind.

9. Not innovating

Keeping on top of the latest trends and developments in your industry, new technologies and processes means you can continually innovate systems in your workplace. Few businesses can afford to fall behind their competitors, so you need to keep trying new things. This may include educating colleagues on a different way of working or implementing trials to determine what works for your organization.

10. Failing to be flexible

As an operations manager, it’s not your job to keep things running the way they always have. It’s up to you to adjust to situations, switch out processes that can be completed more efficiently and try new things. Some industries require more flexibility than others, but organizations that can adapt quickly will be more resilient in the long term.

Learn more: What are the Best Habits for Effective Operations Management?

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