By Peter Hanseen, M.P.A.

If you have ever been tasked with overseeing an organization’s approach to on-site operations activities, it’s possible you have asked yourself, “Where do I start?” After all, an Operations Manager is the consummate Jack or Jane of all trades, yet required to be master of many, rather than master of none, as the saying goes. And the areas of expected influence are diverse.

See if this list sounds like a typical expectation—whether stated or unstated—about the things you are heavily involved in or are responsible for as a key influencer: your organization’s interdepartmental communications standards, corporate reporting and internal file accessibility, human resources process improvements and associated enablement tools, and corporate social responsibility and sustainability programs. The zipped-up version of that statement is: the Operations Manager oversees many corporate initiatives that are designed to aid the growth of the organization against a diversification of goals, while managing tasks that increase productivity.


Prioritizing Items

There is a tendency in prioritizing activities, and understandably so, to try to pinpoint singular high profile items, hot button issues with a seemingly clear fix. For example, it may be abundantly clear that certain departments have not recently had industry specific training, and this deficit is causing a decline in service, and in some cases compliance. The fix for this, though, is easy—coordinate schedules, organize and make arrangements for the proper training to be completed, and watch the corresponding uptick in service while checking the box on compliance.

Giving attention to a singular, easily identifiable area of organizational shortfall with a specific fix will produce essentially a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio in what I’ll call ‘solution-productivity yield.’ In the example above, one training input yielding two identifiable results: service improvement and compliance validation.


Simple, High-Yield Items

Let me suggest that the most successful Operations Managers, Directors, and Vice Presidents are those who have the ability to identify, uncover, and advocate action against priority areas that appear relatively latent. Because of their seemingly latent quality, these priority areas are never the scapegoat or the hero in organizational process activities. These priorities are not ones that appear at the top of any lists—in fact, they may be completely disregarded or are quickly put on the back burner.

However, the reason organizations benefit when successful operations personnel discover and advocate for solutions in this particular category of latent priorities is because often these lesser priority areas have a surprisingly disproportionate ability to influence outcomes across many touch points and processes in an organization. Instead of a 1:1 or 1:2 solution-productivity yield, these may have as high as 1:3 or 1:4 ratio in solution-productivity yield.


Document Management

One very specific and often latent priority area that Operations Managers would do well to examine is corporate document management practices. In many organizations there exists a serious shortfall in the area of consistent, well-thought-out, and well-executed document management programs. Document management practices that have existed for years and include traditional paper documents, files and file folders, cabinets, storage space on-premise, and even storage space off-site, coupled with the necessary human capital storage and access activities these antiquated methods require, have negative organizational impacts. Because things have always been done ‘that way’ and they seem to work, any change in this area take a low priority.

A newer cousin to the old-school methods of document management, yet also a method that leads to a latent perception and priority categorization, is the idea of partial digitization—which leads to a Frankensteinian program of document storage, retrieval, and workflow; it also yields a predictably insecure environment. Electronic copies of documents are stored on a shared drive somewhere, with storage protocols and structures being determined at the whim of whomever is filing the documents, or one department does it one way and another department does it another way. All the while, physical copies of some or all documents are stored in various locations. But, surprisingly, it works to some degree, business and processes go forward, and the status quo remains.

The answer to the question, “where to start?” could lie in a focus area’s solution productivity yield. There is a substantial solution productivity yield that will be experienced when operations teams surface, prioritize, and remediate the issues associated with poor programs in document management. Leveraging a solid core document management system and your organizations interdepartmental communications standards will create a structure and format that will be easy to manage and understand. Implement a good document management solution and it will include compliance and security measures that can withstand audit scrutiny with regards to file accessibility. Additionally, a good document management system will supply the Human Resources department with a solution that enables them to manage employee records against compliance and retention standards and provide easy and secure file accessibility. These features will yield vast improvements and make the move to true digital document management much easier. Lastly, your organization’s social responsibility and sustainability program will also demonstrate a clear commitment toward environmental consciousness to boot.

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