Sleep better at night with the right person in charge
Perhaps it is because I have spent so much of my career as an operations manager. Or, maybe it is because that the success or failure of businesses often pivots based on the performance of operations. In any case, I truly enjoy seeing a well-run operation.
I have now worked with over three hundred companies, and have seen very mature businesses suffer from past success. Unlike other departments, Operations does not scale linearly as the business grows. To grow a sales team, you add more salespeople. More employees means a bigger administration department.
But a growing operation requires constant retooling. The economies of scale in operations very from small companies to large. Allocation of labor, supply levels, training, and workflow all evolve as a business grows. To that end, the manager of a small operation may not possess the talents needed to run a large one.
Here's a list of the qualities I see in great Operations Managers in the companies I work with.
- Anticipate demand
- Exploit transparency in the sales pipeline. Great operations managers don't rely on just the sales orders to gauge demand. They look at all the leading indicators and prepare for what they see.
- Evolve processes continually
- No matter how well documented a process, demand will induce stress fractures and eventually failure. Alway be on the lookout for these developments and retool processes even when busy.
- Centralize outsourcing as a service to internal customers
- Be the solution. There is a difference between research and procurement. Make sure the planning and confirmation process is under operational control and responsibility.
- Consolidate purchasing on unlimited resources (products)
- Maximize your buying power without limiting your options. Choose single providers for supplies, but be sure they have the resources to always meet your fluctuating demand.
- Spread out purchasing from limited outside resources (services)
- Be a good customer to many instead of the best customer to a few. Loyalty in contractors and freelance support is valuable, but a deep bench is even more important.
- Hire and retain operations personnel
- Operations is not entry-level for everything else. It is a career. Don't hire operations workers that aspire to be something else.
- Design an operations career path
- Create your own credentialing system. Tech Level I, II, III is a start.
- Provide operations training
- Longevity is not the same as experience. Focus on mastery of important skills.
- Over-deliver as risk increases
- But constantly work to reduce risk. The bigger the crisis, the more solutions you should have in motion.
- Maximize gross profit
- Spend what it takes, but no more. Saving money is not as important as spending wisely.
A good Operations Manager is priceless. He or she is thoughtful, plans ahead, and readily makes judgement calls. Next to Strategy, Operational soundness is the highest business priority in a company's ongoing development.
For more on getting your team to work together, check out this podcast on busting organizational silos.