5 Steps to Foster a Culture devoted to Intelligent Operations
The first step to foster a culture devoted to intelligent operations is to understand exactly what makes an operation more intelligent.
Intelligent Operations are those constantly concerned with operational efficiency without sacrificing their excellence in the quality of the service being provided. In general, they are heavily associated with concepts like control, automation, visibility, optimization, analytics and, of course, management. These concepts, when working together, help reduce the conflict between cost reduction and quality improvement.
But how to guarantee that your organization is really focused in making your operations more intelligent? We have listed 5 steps to help you with this challenging, but rewarding task:
1. Inspire people
Before you start motivating or demanding hard work from your team, it is key that everyone share the same vision.
When it comes to service excellence, it is easier to inspire people if there is clarity about the services being provided, regardless of their nature (internal or external), and their impact. Here’s a valuable tip: do not assume people have the same sense of purpose as you! Share and communicate.
On the other hand, I don’t know many people who wake up in the morning with a smile in their face and think: “What a wonderful day to cut costs!” However, teams that understand the necessity to optimize the use of available resources end up being more efficient, and, ultimately, feeling proud about it.
Keep in mind that you lead by example, not by words.
2. Ask the right questions
At this point, you probably heard the phrase “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”. What we often forget is that before starting measuring things, we need to identify what questions we want to answer, so that we can define what data we have to collect. Here are some tips on how to ask the right questions:
- Define WHAT to measure: based on relevant analysis, start with your main offenders – usually cost or quality. Map their root causes and identify data sources accordingly.
- Adopt an incremental approach: after you are done with main offenders, move to the next set in your priority list. Keep Iterating over your list.
- Always support your analysis with real data. As Edward Deming used to say: “In God we trust. Everybody else should bring data.”
- Write down notes every time you make a decision based solely on “gut feeling”. This will help you assess the maturity and completeness of your measurments.
3. Engage your team
Get your team involved since day one.
Start the discussions with an overview of what you think is important so it makes easy on people to understand the strategy. Share every piece of information and be extra-careful not to play the “I own the game plan” role. You may be at risk of losing important contributions while weakening the commitment from your team members. Allow managers to know the data and offenders better than you.
Every time you want to put a measurement or control mechanism in place, make sure it will meet not only management needs, but also the needs from those actually performing the activity. That will empower self-management and will reinforce our first step: inspire people.
Another tip worth mentioning: focus the attention on the “what” and delegate the “how” – this will improve team autonomy and save you a lot of time!
4. Control what’s important
Resist the temptation to be a control freak!
Every time we implement processes and tools, we get dazzled by all the control possibilities and we end up thinking this is true across the board. However, during our day-to-day activities, we tend to focus on urgent items, neglecting many others. This attitude can cause discredit, generate excessive costs and suffocate the team.
That’s why an intelligent operation learns how to differentiate low impact items from critical ones, tolerating the former while being completely inflexible about the latter.
5. Create a strategy based on incremental gains
People often associate innovation with disruption. But they forget about bringing quick and daily gains to the operation – which is also considered an innovation process that often brings more consistent benefits.
To start every initiative thinking about the “quick wins” is an attitude that helps motivate teams. But remember: true gains reside on incremental improvements! And to capture them, you will need to implement a strategy that allows you to identify, assess, prioritize, build and measure. Systematically.
At this point you may be a little scared, thinking that putting everything to run will require a great amount of effort. Congratulations! You have just given the first step in making your operation smarter.
The next step is to accept the fact that you will not accomplish all by yourself. You will need an inspired, well-informed and autonomous team around you. And realize that your immediate task is to create not only this team, but also this culture.
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