Operations managers are responsible for overseeing operations and procedures within businesses. It is up to them to ensure that efficiency is maintained and that workflows are optimal. If you are about to take on this role, here are eight essential tips you need to survive.
Focus On The Right KPIs
Your key performance indicators are the metrics that you will use to gauge your current approach’s success. Anyone who is seriously considering working as an operations manager should be familiar with the concept of KPIs. However, there are many misconceptions about what makes a good KPI and what the standard procedure should, if one exists, be.
It isn’t that choosing the right KPIs is necessarily complicated. It’s more that it is easy to get wrong. For some businesses, the most beneficial KPIs are not the most obvious; some are even counterintuitive. But finding the right KPIs is fundamental to effective operations management. Not only are these performance indicators indicative of your business’s performance, but they also give you objective standards by which to measure progress.
Operations managers can be responsible for any number of specific tasks within a business. Whether they work alone or as part of a larger team, operations managers focus on improving efficiency, productivity, and profitability. The best way of achieving these goals varies between businesses and industries. The key performance indicators you choose for any business should reflect.
Harness Data To Help Your Solve Problems
We all know that data offers us enormous power in the right circumstances. Data underpins so many things that we take for granted in modern life. From Netflix recommendations to the maps app on your smartphone, big data analytics enables us to perform unprecedented mathematical feats. It might all look simple to the end-user, but there is profound complexity to the algorithms services like Netflix use to recommend content to us.
Of course, data is not a magic bullet. There are limits to what data can do. Some of its most complex and powerful functions may be behind a tech or resource barrier that you cannot surmount. However, if you use data in the right way, it can turbocharge your approach’s efficiency and enable you to achieve hitherto unthinkable productivity.
But data is what you make of it. To benefit from data and harness the power it offers, you need to have the right raw data and the right tools to process it into something more useful. Even when you have these things, many people get complacent and just want everything automated with as little thought as possible.
Invest In Tech Where It Can Help
Technology has a multifaceted role to play in operations management. There are numerous examples of technology that can assist you as an operations manager. If you invest strategically, you can make enormous efficiency gains without having to spend outrageously.
The more efficiently your systems can process information, the more effectively you can manage operations. Don’t underestimate the impact that a high-speed data network can offer. If your business is one of the many companies out there that hasn’t upgraded their IT infrastructure in years, start here before you invest in other more exotic technologies.
Think Outside The Box
Being guided by data is good, and you should use data in your decision-making. However, you should combine this cold, analytical approach with some creative thinking. For example, say you have a team of 20 software developers. They are all talented, qualified, and well paid. But their productivity is lower than it should be. After some digging and some data collection, you find out that more than half your staff are dissatisfied.
Passionate people who are being paid well to do the thing that they are passionate about should be happy in their jobs. If they aren’t, it suggests that there is something about the environment they are working in that isn’t gelling with them.
Where would you begin solving this problem? You might be tempted to start asking more probing questions about their feelings and attitudes. If you ask enough questions, you will eventually get the information that you need, and you will know why your workers are dissatisfied.
But an operations manager needs to develop the intuition to deduce solutions without having to embark on a time-consuming and costly process of mining data from workers. In the example above, an operations manager might take one look at the laptops that the developers are using and decide that an upgrade is in order. New laptops would boost efficiency, reinvigorate workers, and shows that the business cares about its employees.
Introduce Automation Strategically
Like data, automation is a top that has enormous potential when it is used correctly. But, as is also the case with data, deploying automation haphazardly and thoughtlessly can create more problems than it solves. Some people expect far too much from automation and don’t fully appreciate the limits of technology.
To benefit from automation, you should be aiming to sprinkle just enough of it throughout your business to improve operational performance without seceding too much control to automated processes and machines.
Sophisticated automation tools are now widely available at prices small businesses can afford. But even the simplest implementations of automation can be effective. Automation isn’t all about robots on manufacturing lines. More common examples of automation include business admin software that automates end-of-day processes and other common business tasks. These relatively minor savings can be valuable for small businesses.
Communicate Clearly With Other Workers
Good communications are crucial for maintaining efficiency in any business. Sometimes, when everyone just instantly gels and conversation flows freely, it doesn’t require any extra effort to get your team to communicate openly with one smother. However, this isn’t always the case.
Even when communication is flowing, it won’t necessarily be the right communication. Good communication is about what you say and how you say it. As operations manager, you are responsible for ensuring that the workers you oversee know who they need to speak to whenever they have a question or a problem.
Establishing clear lines of communications and communications protocols will ensure that everyone speaks the same language. Developing standard terminology and phraseology to use within your business helps everyone get on the same page. They will soon find the most efficient ways of exchanging information with one another.
But without proper leadership and guidance in this area, even the best group of workers can fall into a spiral of inefficiency and miscommunication. At best, miscommunication costs your workers’ time. At worst, the effects can be severe. Having established protocols in place won’t guarantee that there are never any miscommunications in your business. But they will dramatically reduce the odds of them occurring.
Learn From Other People
No one has all the answers. To excel as an operations manager, you will need to be receptive to other people’s feedback and ideas. If you aren’t sure where to begin, click here for a lift of five of the best books about operations management that you can buy. Any of these titles will provide you with worthwhile insights.
Avoid These Common Mistakes
Everyone has to start somewhere. There are certain mistakes that new operations managers are prone to making. Understanding these mistakes and why they occur will enable you to avoid them when you are just starting out.
Never Reviewing Performance
Operations managers should be constantly reviewing their performance and ensuring that the business is on the right track. You should never assume that everything is fine and stop measuring. You are constantly generating data that provides you with an objective measure of how effective your current procedures are. Should your performance start to wobble and deteriorate, the right data can reveal the problem early enough for you to address it effectively.
Nothing is ever perfect, there is always room for improvement. Your operational strategies are no exception. No matter how many times you have already refined your approach, you should always be open to the possibility that there is a way that is better and more efficient still.
Being Afraid of Risk
You don’t want to be gambling with the survival of your business. However, if you are afraid to ever take risks, you will always be limited in the options that are open to you. Not every risk will pay off. But as long as you are calculating your odds and assessing them sensibly beforehand, you can take reasonable risks.
Blinded By Data
Data is a powerful resource, but it is not infallible. The conclusions drawn from data can be wrong or misleading. Equally, bad input data will lead to erroneous conclusions. If any part of the data gathering or analytics process is sloppy, the whole exercise is useless.
There are many aspects to operations management that you will only learn from experience. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn as much as you can beforehand. Operations management is more complex than many people give it credit for. It requires creativity as much as analytical thinking. Stick to the survival tips above and you stand every chance of thriving in your new role.