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What skills do you need for Operations Management?

Imagine this:

You’re about to head into an important meeting with the company executives. You have been with the company for enough time to know that these meetings cannot be taken lightly.

Your boss starts speaking. He starts with a joke. People laugh. He continues:


“You know, there are certain people in a company who prove to be crucial to our success. The real go-getters. Those are the ones we keep around. They’re the few who make us who we are today.”

He pauses.

“I’d really like to commend insert your name here for displaying the kind of valuable characteristics we need for our company.”

If you’ve got the skills to make yourself a necessary cog in your company’s wheel, you might not need to imagine this scene.

What makes a great Operations Manager?

To become a remarkable operations manager, you need to be able to show that you are adept by displaying certain characteristics. These skills are important to both the success of the company as well as your own managerial position.

The necessary skills for Operations Management are:

Communication

As an operations manager, you need to communicate with numerous parties. While leading a team, you have to be able to convey a message clearly to each team member so that they know what to do and how you want it done. You also should prioritise external relationships, such as clients, suppliers, and stakeholders. For example, having a well-established connection between yourself and a supplier could give you an advantage when you need materials.

Time management

In general life, things need to get done on time. In Operations Management, it’s the same. The only difference is that others are relying on you to make sure things are done in time as an operations manager. Managing your time at work means managing your company’s time. This is a critical skill to develop as efficiently is one of the fundamental pillars of managing the operating systems in a company.

Leadership

Leading and communicating are best friends in management. If you can communicate effectively, it is likely that leading your team well will be smooth sailing. Leading a team requires caring for the individuals in the task force and knowing how to look after them well. If a person is happy at a company, it is much more likely that they will want to work hard for the business. As an operations manager, it is vital to encourage your team to be the most efficient they can be in their roles.

Always look to improve

‘Optimisation’ is not just a buzzword thrown around in business. The task of making systems cost less, work better, and do things more quickly is a massive undertaking – one for which the operations manager is responsible. A key part of a career in operations is to either improve already existing systems or to install processes which might work better than the ones in place.

How to improve your Operations Management skills

Constantly practice optimisation

It’s a focus in the field of Operations Management. So, if this is your career, it should be one of your focuses too. In your day-to-day life, look for simple ways to do things better and more efficiently.

Whether it’s catching up on your emails while waiting for your food in the microwave or reading an important blog post while on the bus, there are ways to save yourself time with little effort.

Consider looking for feedback

We’re not saying you should constantly seek affirmation for your work. We are saying you should be open to ideas from other people, such as your employer, your team members, or even your loved ones. Another person could have a different insight into a problem which could ultimately solve the issue.

Set achievable goals

This seems to be popular in oversaid business mantras, but it is such an important concept to fully grasp as a manager. If you are hoping to change the company’s world after a week of being there, you’re setting yourself – and probably your team – up for disappointment. Aim big, but don’t for the impossible.

What should an Operations Manager do?

Now that you know what abilities you need to be a great operations manager, the follow-up question might be how exactly do these skills play out?

Although defined responsibilities depend on the exact career role and the company’s focus, the manager usually has general duties related to:

1. Production management
2. The evaluation of the efficiency of processes in place
3. Perform quality control
4. Product tracking
5. Stock and inventory tracking
6. Monitoring administrative strategies

Finally, an Operations Manager should:

1. Consider which skills they possess and should look to hone them. This will ultimately be beneficial for themselves as a manager, their team, and their company.
2. Look at which skills they don’t have and find ways to develop them. A short course in Management is an exceptional way to realise how this can happen.

Managing operations in small businesses: 5 essential techniques to learn today

managing operations

Big businesses don’t struggle in the same way when it comes to certain operations, as sometimes small businesses do. This is because you’ll often find big businesses have various departments with many skilled individuals who have extensive experience in managing specific business functions.

The role of operations management within a big business, for example; is a streamlined process headed up by one, or perhaps a few, experienced and highly knowledgeable operations managers. Most times there’s a team of people supporting the managers’ operational objectives by constantly seeking out ways to improve business operations. With a core team, it becomes a lot easier to find solutions and fully optimise operations.

The role of operations management in small businesses on the other hand often lacks a clear-cut process, usually developed through trial and error, and often managed by the business owner themselves, or a manager who is less knowledgeable on how to effectively manage operations. Unfortunately, this is usually because small businesses lack funds, especially during the startup phase.

With the role of operations management being a critical function within a business, what are small businesses to do if they’re unable to hire an experienced operations manager, but want to improve business operations and achieve a streamlined process? Well, the trick is, in fact, going back to basics, and finding a logical step by step method of managing the operational processes.

Take a look at these 5 essential techniques you can learn and implement today, to better manage operations within your small business:

1. Assess each task

The best way to assess a task is by breaking it up by asking vital questions. Firstly, find the source of the work – where does the work come from? Is it from a client, is it from the supervisor, the vendor? This will give you an idea of the nature of the task and how it should be handled.
Secondly, evaluate the process of that specific task. If it’s a work order for example; break down the process of how this task is managed by detailing each step: add up the charges of the work order, enter the values into the computer and hold it for payment from the customer etc. Creating a process is an incredibly important step.

Then, decide on how the work is stored. Is it filed in a personal client folder? Should it be stored away? Through assessing tasks it’s easier to create a process and identify the kind of person suitable for the job; as well as to better create job descriptions and worker manuals.

2. Prioritise tasks

Prioritising tasks is not just about creating a deadline – that comes later on. This covers the sequence of the task; which is also concerned with the creation of the process. Thereafter, tasks can be prioritised according to importance as well as the deadline – which can be managed by the employee themselves. When people have a clear indication of timelines and are aware of priorities they are able to streamline the process for themselves; resulting in a more efficient operation – even without much help from the operations manager.

3. Delegate accordingly

After you, as the manager, have assessed the task and have prioritised the sequence of workflow, you’ll have a good understanding of the perfect type of employee who will be able to carry out the task effectively and efficiently. You’ll know the skills and strengths that the task demands, and you’ll need to align this with those of the employee. Assigning the task to a person within the team who you think will best fit the requirements is called delegating.

4. Evaluate outcomes

Once the task is complete, it’s important that you evaluate the outcomes – especially in the beginning. Be careful not to look like you are micromanaging – it could come across that way if you continue evaluating results every single time after a task is complete, for months on end. Spot evaluations work more effectively as it does not threaten the employee.

5. Find solutions to areas of concern

After evaluating the outcomes, you will have a good idea of where the weak areas in the processes are. It could be a weakness in the work sequence, or even in the employees’ ability to carry out the job. Whatever the concerns are, you will need to find alternative solutions for them; which will hopefully better the operations. Remember that you should be committed to constant improvement – even a solution could prove to be ineffective.

Simple operational tweaks you can make today to boost efficiency

While the role of operations management covers a vast range of functions and responsibilities necessary to effectively streamline business processes; one important function involves that of identifying areas of weakness within operational processes and seeking out solutions to improve efficiency. Through making simple operational changes or ‘tweaks’, it’s possible to boost efficiency enough to drastically improve productivity and team motivation simultaneously.

While there are many techniques to identifying operational shortfalls, and various ways of finding solutions to these problems; we have made a basic list of operational changes you can implement today, that can help boost operational efficiency.

Encourage team collaboration

Henry ford once said: “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success”. It’s vital that individuals work together in achieving a common goal – people are the core of a business and it’s teams which drive operational success. Through encouraging collaboration, not only between employees, but with partners, suppliers and customers too; objectives will be made clearer, alliances and relationships will be strengthened and communication flow will be optimised. This will inadvertently help operations managers, later down the line, to identify areas within the system which need improvement.

Delegate strategically

A good operations manager will know where the strengths lie within his/her individual team members, and will use this to their advantage to streamline operations and achieve operational objectives. Delegating tasks according to the skills and strengths of individuals is a smart and strategic way of boosting efficiency, improving productivity, and at the same time enhancing employee motivation. Employees who feel confident in their ability to carry out certain tasks due to their experience, skills or even personality, will not only get the job done effectively and efficiently, but will reduce costs and minimise errors.

Define KPI’s

Not only is it important to define the key performance indicators (KPI’s) of employees to ensure the quality and timely completion of tasks; but to also set KPI’s for specific trackable operations. These operations will depend on the nature of the business and the processes within your team, however, some examples of trackable operations include: website clicks; new customers acquired, and per capita marketing spend. Through defining KPI’s for these metrics, operations managers will be able to devise a plan for implementing efficient practises based on these results; driving positive operational change in the long run.

Measure and analyse results

Wherever change has been implemented within the operational construct; it’s important to measure and analyse the results and outcomes that’ve transpired. To build an efficient team, process and operation; the operations manager, with help from the team; needs to identify what is working, what needs further refining, and what needs alternative solutions. Achieving an efficient, productive and motivated operational structure is a constant work in progress.