Over the past three years, companies experienced major macroeconomic shocks that forced them to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. The COVID-19 pandemic was the first shake-up that forced organizations to shut down offices and allow employees to work from home.
Next, disruptions in the supply chain led to widespread shortages of critical components necessary to produce items like laptops and vehicles.
Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine continues to indirectly impact organizations through rising inflation and interest rates and fears that the conflict will expand to other nations.
While all companies are experiencing the fallout of these unexpected events, operations leaders are in the crosshairs of such ongoing disruptions.
They’re working toward strategic outcomes with every problem that comes their way, whether finding replacement components for critical parts or ensuring that people have the tools they need to perform their jobs from home.
Future change is likely coming from introducing new tools rooted in artificial intelligence (AI). We also run the risk of macroeconomic challenges, like the impact of climate change and deteriorating international business relationships. As such, operational leaders must be ready to acclimate quickly, much like soldiers do on the battlefield.
Organizations can prepare their teams for future problems by ensuring that capable operational leaders can read the changing environment and adapt successfully.
Here are a few traits that signify a person has what it takes to lead your organization’s operations during trying times.
Inefficient, cumbersome operations are a real drag on a company’s productivity. If you’re wasting time on administrative activities that don’t add value to your organization or your customers, it’s time to find a strategic operations leader who can bring their Midas touch.
An accomplished operations leader knows that time wasted is time lost. They’ll examine your processes from end to end, looking for ways to improve them and add valuable time to your team’s workday.
For instance, if they find that your team is regularly running into quality control issues on the manufacturing floor, they’ll seek to understand why. They’ll examine the common defects and determine which process is failing to comply with organizational standards.
Once they identify the issue, they’ll develop a solution to overcome the problem. Their end goal is to reduce defects and speed up the production process, getting working products into the hands of customers.
Operations leaders will apply their eye for efficiency across all of the organization’s departments. They won’t hesitate to suggest improvements, even if a division doesn’t fall directly under their purview. The result is dynamic operations, cutting extra costs and time spent on unproductive activities.
A proficient operations manager knows that they can’t solve every organizational problem in a single day. They’re ambitious, but they work toward each of their objectives systematically.
They won’t decide to scrub an entire process and replace it at once; instead, they’ll examine the repercussions of each change before slowly rebuilding organizational procedures.
An experienced operations leader starts by examining existing processes. They’ll note where they can improve but won’t take action immediately.
Instead, they’ll seek to understand how each process impacts other steps in the procedure and how it affects the final product. That way, they don’t make a change that inadvertently impacts other processes or departments.
When operations leaders restrain themselves from across-the-board changes that can scare workers and executives, they maintain authority and credibility. People see that they’re ready to implement new strategies but don’t automatically dismiss the wisdom used to develop initial processes.
Change is a necessary part of life, but people are often reluctant to accept it, especially when it’s sudden and has significant repercussions on their routines.
For instance, when COVID-19 first struck, there was a massive uproar about the impact working from home would have on employee productivity. Fast-forward three years later, and remote work is standard. While many offices have reopened, some still allow employees to work remotely for at least part of the week.
Operations leaders must understand how employees will feel about significant changes to their tasks and help them learn why the changes are necessary. Providing a trusting environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their opinions about shifting processes is vital for obtaining buy-in from your team.
If employees don’t agree with the operation leader’s strategies or don’t feel included in their decisions, they’re less likely to be receptive to disruptions to their routine, and it will become more difficult to implement further process enhancements.
The goal of any company is to serve customers. Customers will return again and again if they know the organization provides solid products or services they can count on.
Qualified operational leaders want to ensure that the company’s clients receive a product that stands out from its competitors. They keep an eye on the competition, noting when competitors introduce a new feature that better serves their customers.
Often, improving the quality of a good or service comes at a cost. The company may need to source more expensive components or change the design of an existing product. Increased costs lead to greater expenses, which organizations may need to pass on to their customers by raising prices.
Careful operational leaders will weigh additional costs against the benefits to customers. They will make improvements when they know that customers can gain from them and will likely appreciate the changes. To mitigate costs, they’ll compare prices from various suppliers to make sure that they receive high-quality components at a fair price.
Over the coming years, we’ll likely see significant disruptions in technology and the macroenvironment. Preparing your organization for times to come with the help of competent organizational leadership is key.
Look for an operational leader who values efficiency and quality while remaining realistic about changes they can implement. The right leader will motivate their team, explaining the need for change while welcoming suggestions. With a stalwart operational leader, your organization will adapt quickly to future transformative events.
The experienced operations executive recruiters at Cowen Partners have a long-standing reputation for excellence when it comes to connecting companies with the most experienced operations leaders. We are well versed in multiple industries; private equity portfolio operations, manufacturing operations, defense operations, facilities operations, healthcare operations, and retail operations. We take exceptional care identifying the best candidates for our clients’ operational leadership needs.
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