I am a big believer in preserving an organization’s history through its evolution. While talking to leaders of organizations, big or small, about their company’s evolution and watching them beam with pride is really inspiring to me. After all, the years of building a reputation and subsequent brand lend not only great credibility to their customer but also help in building loyalty from their employees.
Many of these leaders, whether product or service driven work diligently to preserve “their recipe for success”. However, usually the efforts of preservation may come in the form of maintaining the status quo with respect to their strategy, operations and management teams, often failing to recognize that what may have worked in the past, may not necessarily work today.
As a business evolves, it has to be agile and able to respond to the changing needs of its customers, employees, tools and resources utilized to support its functions. Today’s customer does not need to see you to make a purchase; does not wait for you to respond and often explores many alternatives before making a decision best suited for them.
Today’s workforce is a combination of generations x, y and z; seeks incentives and rarely sticks around past the 5 year mark. Managers often juggle between walking on eggshells with existing long term staff and bringing in new talent for ideas and innovation to help grow the business.
Finally the constant struggle for a small business to ensure they are running efficiently and are supported by the right current technology is often overwhelming. All decisions have to be cost effective yet supportive of the organization’s objectives.
While being faced with these multifaceted decisions daily, management has to make sure that all decisions are aligned with the core strategy. Phew!
As I began my journey as an operations manager, outside of getting to know the team and understanding operations, I jotted down many questions that I felt would help me set immediate to mid and long term goals and poise my organization for future growth. Not all may be relevant to you but they certainly address important aspects of a business today.
1. First off, what are the core values of my organization and does the current company structure and culture reflect this? Are the operations set up to support the strategy?
2. With respect to my customer, what types do we have and do we have the right tools in place to support the needs this customer; i.e. communication tools, timely service etc.? Are there enough opportunities to gain direct feedback from our customer? How much time should I spend on the floor listening for feedback from the front line staff and our customer?
3. Is the current workflow still adequate to the business today? Is our technology adequate to ensure that the front line is spending less time jumping through hoops and more time on achieving their goals? This is an important step to assess because as an organization you don’t need state of the art technology to be the best, rather whatever tools you have in place should help your operations remain lean and efficient.
4. Are the key staff members I have today right for the demands of the present role? Do they embrace change and welcome new ideas? Often times, there are long time employees or management that have been with the organization from a very early stage, however its important to evaluate with whether they are helping you progress or being a roadblock to success. This is a very sensitive and often difficult task as it has a direct impact on staff morale and your company culture.
5. What are my staffing needs, i.e. am I looking for the right skills for this role or industry experience. The reason I mention this as there are many roles out there, where the industry is the learning curve and the skills are the key requirement. A lot of candidates may lack the umpteen years of experience, but have the right skills and attitude to grow in to the role through coaching and mentoring.
Of course there are many more questions I had yet to answer related to measuring growth, KPI’s being used and revamping employee incentives etc. But, Rome wasn’t built in a day…
Fortunately being a part of a flat organization, the journey from an idea to implementation is a short one.