At the heart of operations are the systems and processes that keep information moving through a business and provide structure for those doing the work. In its simplest definition, operations are the things you and your team do on a daily basis to make your business run. At its most robust, operations implement the strategy and planning that supports business growth and development.
Webster’s Dictionary defines operations as 1) The act, method, or process of operating, 2) The condition of being in action or at work, 3) The power to act or influence; 4) a process or action that is part of a series in some work.
Of all the definitions provided, the third offers the greatest impact: the power to act or influence. This power is the goal of your operational planning. Let’s break it down.
Ask yourself the following questions and consider the impact your answers might have on what your business demands of you on a daily basis.
What if I:
- Had a specified way of going about daily business so that my activities rendered the greatest possible outcomes?
- Did not have to re-invent the wheel every time I wanted to repeat an activity?
- Did not lose valuable information each time someone decided to leave my company?
- Did not have to be physically present in my business to know that my team efficiently and effectively delivers our products and services and, most importantly, positively connects with our clients?
- Had a plan that could guide me through daily operational decisions and keep them aligned with my vision, goals, and strategy?
- Knew that everyone would know what to do should a disaster, either natural or otherwise, occur?
Now, ask yourself one more question: how might a specified operations plan influence my decision-making process regarding daily activities, business development, and growth?
A carefully defined operations plan will influence your activities and decisions because you will gain the ability to spend less time focused on how to get things accomplished. This leaves you more time to consider the vision and business strategies that will propel your business to the next stage. The goal of an operations plan is to make the business’s operations work so smoothly that you spend very little time on daily issues and can work more strategically on the business.
First, understand the benefits of embracing an operations plan and how well-defined operations can support your growth strategies.
Second, identify your own systems of operation and build a workflow to represent them. The word system, in this context, describes a major operational area of your business. The word workflow includes all the processes and procedures that make up a system. If you already have systems in place, you can make sure they are aligned with your business vision. If you have never really thought about operations from a workflow perspective, the activities in this module will present an opportunity to identify the systems critical to your success.
Third, align the workflow within each system of your business, determining measurement criteria to confirm that the workflow is indeed working.
Finally, document your operations. When implemented, your Operations Plan will provide an easy-to-use roadmap to make sure your systems and workflow are continually aligned with your plans for growth.
Keep in mind that the Operations Plan is not an operations manual. The plan is merely the document that guides you to the goal, while an operations manual captures those documented policies, processes, and procedures. Consider taking steps to manage the risks that might impact your business should something go very wrong. A well-developed operations manual includes a disaster plan to protect the critical information housed in computers, to assure that employees can be reached after the disaster, and to facilitate the insurance claims process.
© 2007 Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. All rights reserved.