As it appeared in the Daily Nation on May 2nd, 2017
Many activities go on every day in organizations. These activities vary widely. Some activities are to get new customers while others are to provide existing customers with products or services. Most of the activities that relate to provision of services or to the production and distribution of products are often summed up as operations. Almost every organizations has an operations team that is responsible for the core business activities. Operational excellence is core to making the different activities seamless. Indeed, operational excellence is one of the business strategies that winning companies such as MacDonald’s have focused on over the years. However, operational excellence remains a challenge in many of our organizations.
At the center of operational excellence is proficient operations management. This proficiency aids meet the ever-changing customer needs and expectations in an efficient manner. Operations management is viewed as a systematic way of running the business activities. Largely, it encompasses scientific, quality, systems and excellence management approaches. Some of us are familiar with operational excellence. Aspects such as development of standard operating procedures (SOPs), mapping out processes, setting standards and identifying supporting policies are all part of operations management. In addition, quality management systems (QMS), Kaizen, Six Sigma, continuous improvement, hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) in the food industry, automation and all other such interventions are aimed at driving operational excellence.
By focusing on operational excellence, smart companies are better placed to utilize their resources more efficiently and optimize their business processes. This not only helps in managing costs and in reducing waste but it also results to increased productivity. Through a focus on operational excellence, smart companies are able to reach their set objectives. Efficiency and effectiveness two of the key words in management are made a reality when organizations commit to operational excellence.
Aristotle once said that we are what we repeatedly do and as such excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. This too can be said of operational excellence. If organizations consistently focus on getting better at what they do, they can make operational excellence a reality. Unfortunately, there are many competing interests in organizations. This makes operational excellence to sometimes be put in the back burner or to be seen as a short-lived project. Having worked closely with many organizations both as an employee and as a consultant, I am convinced that a lack of consistent focus on operational excellence is a fundamental missing link in many organizations and a source of many inefficiencies. Not many organizations are intentional about running smooth operations.
Operations as an area of study and as a career line has been gaining popularity worldwide. Unfortunately, in Kenya, very few universities offer operational excellence or operations management as a business major. Some however teach it as a single unit in business schools mainly at the undergraduate level. The fact that, financial institutions, retailers and just about every smart company has an operations’ function seems to not have changed the status quo. Why have institutions not developed operations management as a potential career option? In the market place, it is evident that we have a shortage of professionals whose major strength is efficiently managing operations and this is impairing the customer experience.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy