Getting Operations and IT to Mix

The Operations function and the IT function of most organizations are like oil and water. Due to the traditional roles these areas play, they often run into difficulty when combined on an improvement project

The Operations function and the IT function of most organizations are like oil and water. Due to the traditional roles these areas play, they often run into difficulty when combined on an improvement project

The Operations function and the IT function of most organizations are like oil and water. Due to the traditional roles these areas play, they often run into difficulty when combined on an improvement project.  It is critical that these functions work well together in order for you to achieve any success in your organization. Here are a couple of the common issues which organizations face when the Operations and the IT functions cooperate in an effort toward continuous improvement.

The first area of concern in your organization is the conflicting agendas and objectives of each function.  In most cases business operations must move very quickly. They must change business models, product / service offers and delivery of value-added activities.  Your operations people must continually improve customer care and profitability / cost controls.  The Operations department is generally aligned to the COO of your organization. This group usually sees IT as a vendor as opposed to a partner. They view IT as a road-block to innovation and speedy changes to business processes.

On the other hand, IT is often charged with managing access to your data and systems and providing the security of your information.  This is often a frustrating operation. For the most part, IT is generally aligned to the CFO in your organization.  They often function in the role of monitor and reporter. Most often they must comply with traditional accounting approaches.  IT usually sees Operations as another of your customers that they must please within your bigger objectives and plans.

In the end, this first area of concern can be narrowed down to a lack of common business objectives.  In an improvement effort, operation departments in your organization are usually tightly focused on delivery of value to the customers and reaching the bottom-line KPIs such as cost and profitability.  In contrast, your IT area tends to focus on SLAs, conformance to budgets and maintaining technical viability for all its customers, including those that are internal.

One way top management can get around this issue is by leading dialogs around creating shared objectives and shared accountability for specific business and IT outcomes.  Each area has a part to play in any opportunity.  Operations cannot develop KPIs about a certain process without IT developing an easy means of reporting this data.  In many cases, combined analysis of this data can lead to further revisions of this process and increased success.

In order to truly improve, top management in your organization must come up with strategies to lead each area in the discovery of the factors that can prevent optimal interactions between the Operations and IT functions.  Each area must be aware of the others role and pitfalls in this process and operate accordingly. The key is for both areas of expertise to act as partners in obtaining common goals.

Another issue that may confront your organization is the traditional miss-match of expectations and understanding of outcomes in both the Operations and IT areas. Many times, IT is faced with a continuing and universal problem: The demand for service always exceeds available resources by a factor of at least 2 to 1 in the short term.  It is common that due to the amount of time it takes to develop and deploy a new IT solution designed to dove-tail with an operational need that particular need will have changed before the new system becomes available.

On the other hand, your Operations department too often takes an “over-the-wall” approach to working with your internal IT organizations. This is not unlike the methods used with vendors for materials and services used by the organization to deliver its goods and services.  Your Operations department often expects the IT organization to “magically understand every nuance of its needs” and deliver services to support them.  The challenge is that because IT is not truly a”vendor”, your IT is not organized in the same manner most of your vendors are with all the marketing, sales, planning, engineering, accounting, HR and other support functions.  To be frank, this is a view you should not have.

The root cause is that this miss-matched manner of thinking results in very low or non-existent level of shared accountability in the outcomes your IT function provides to your operations function. You often have a lack of shared accountability from your IT and Operations functions for the overall outcomes. Due to Operations and IT often functioning as their own discrete entities, there is little or no incentive to work harder at the interoperability of your organization.

You may use Operational Excellence methods and techniques such as Lean Six Sigma, Value Stream Mapping, AGILE and world-class facilitation skills to build a bridge to increased co-operability between these functions.  As an example, a unified vision of the “custody of data” supported by your IT area in conjunction with the value stream mapping provided by your operations area can be very successful. A top notch leader uses a simple model for creating the alignment in thinking, language and communication shared by operations and IT.

Recognizing and addressing the basic issues of differing agendas and the miss-matched expectations inherently faced by your Operations and IT functions can help these two vital functions to mix.   Working to rectify these two issues fosters a sense of co-operability between them and is a great place to start your organization’s road to success.

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Combining Operations and IT – Mixing Oil and Water with Operational Excellence For Success

Many companies struggle creating alignment of thinking, language and communications shared by Operations and IT. There are factors preventing optimal interactions between business operations and IT functions in your organization if you don’t see the results in your Operations and IT Organization efforts for improvement. Join us! – Register for a free webinar. Click Here.

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Join us!
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
12 noon ET | 11am CT |
10am MT | 9am PT

Registration Link:

https://www2.gotomeeting.com/REGISTER/308743682

Connect with us in LinkedIn:

Ron Crabtree, CPIM, CIRM, CSCP, MLSSBB

Kim Crabtree, President of MetaOps WBENC Certified

Overcoming Barriers to Operational Change

rganizational Transformation, Continuous Improvement, Human Resistance, Organizational Improvement, Operational Excellence, Consulting, MetaExperts, Michigan

Leadership turnover can be the first item that is detrimental to positive operational change. Leadership turnover can be seen as an opportunity to derail any program or project implementation

Beyond natural human resistance there are three huge barriers to improvement in our organizations. Recognizing these barriers and knowing some ways to overcome them makes operational improvement much simpler and effective.

Leadership turnover can be the first item that is detrimental to positive operational change. Leadership turnover can be seen as an opportunity to derail any program or project implementation. The next leader in line often has a different agenda from the old one. Secretly, most middle managers pray for a new boss and a new agenda before they have to actually change anything. Continuity during any leadership changeovers that occur during implementation of any process change is vital.

An ongoing 5S audit program is a great way to stay on top of this, regardless of leadership changes. 5S workplace organization is one of the first things that many do during a world-class operational improvement implementation. From a program such as this, a top-down mandate is achieved period-over-period no matter the leadership. It also provides a basis for appraisals and job descriptions that contain specific actionable requirements which provides for excellent continuity of leadership.

Another barrier to improvement is traditional accounting and the metrics involved. It is important to remember that what gets measured gets done. When people can see hard proof of the results of their efforts, they comply with the mandate. That’s the good news. The bad news is that traditional accounting is obsolete. Despite the amazing changes we’ve seen in areas such as manufacturing over just the past ten years, accounting is still being done fundamentally the same way as it was 150 years ago.

Organizations need to rethink some of their metrics and measurement systems to provide an accurate picture of the modern business strategies and systems employed in today’s pursuit of operational success.  Exploring and learning lean accounting and value stream accounting are a great way to overcome this barrier.  These programs show the important metrics and measurements it makes sense to see in an organization involved in improvement change.

Lastly, there is a huge lack of urgency for change in organizations. In many cases this is the crux of the problem. Change is often implemented piecemeal, hesitantly, or half-heartedly. Leadership often communicates the idea of change, but without the sense of urgency to get it done and get it done now.  They must instill this sense of importance in the people of their organization.

Two things seem to cause enough urgency for change to happen quickly: threats and visionary, dynamic leaders. Threats from the outside in the form of competition and pressure from customers go a long way toward getting everyone’s attention and driving them to make change happen quickly.  Survival in the marketplace can be huge motivation to a team.

Without this sort of immediate clear and present danger, the next best source for change is the visionary and dynamic leader with the horsepower and support to drive change throughout the entire organization. The development of leaders of this caliber is a monumental task in the future change and success of any organization.  Providing the tools and skills needed to all leadership levels in different methodologies, team-building and other management techniques is a huge benefit.  It is an investment that will payout handsomely in the future.

There are many barriers to the success of any organization when it comes to implementing change.  It is hoped that some of these examples along with further training and further development of an organization’s people can smooth the way for the changes required for a world-class implementation and eventually a world-class operation.

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Three Key Factors for Leaders to Remember

Leaders must provide ways in which the employees are allowed to experience “insights’ at a personal level.

Leaders must provide ways in which the employees are allowed to experience insights at a personal level.

Here are 3 key factors for any leader desiring a change in their organization to remember These actions are critical in any transformation.

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First, leaders must recognize that the power of a plan or vision comes from the people understanding and adopting it. But, contrary to what many believe just having that – compelling vision is clearly not enough alone. Where things fall short is often the result of a combination of factors, including the inability of the leaders to demonstrate their commitment to employees.

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Over-delegating and falling victim to magic silver bullet cures fail to drive the proper communication throughout the organization. In addition, the necessity to convey the vision/strategy/plan to win both understanding and buy-in of all in the organization is paramount.

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Second, employees will see through any in-sincere and / or lack of leadership commitment. It’s necessary for executives to truly commit to personal leadership of a change initiative. Without the top leaders showing the right level of personal commitment it is nearly impossible to expect the next level of leaders to do so. This idea cascades down from there building a culture in the organization.

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Third, leaders must provide ways in which the employees (ie. The people who must adopt change) are allowed to experience insights at a personal level. Not only must the vision be understood and seen as important by the CEO, that person must also experience the vision on a personal basis. This will facilitate the adoption of new lines of thinking by all.

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Upon reflection, the last point here is the secret sauce that we never learn about in management school and are missing in all the transformation models. In the cases of most the successes the top leader or CEO is the difference maker. By making the process personal in a genuine way, everyone in the organization understood.

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It is very important to think critically about how the personal touch can be accomplished on the part of the top-most leaders. As with anything else in organizations, there is no silver bullet cure for success. However, the absence of these key inputs correlates highly with failure. At the end of the day organizations are made of people. Winning their hearts to fully embrace the vision of the organization and embrace change is decidedly a personal decision and builds a successful culture.

Connect with us in LinkedIn:

Ron Crabtree, CPIM, CIRM, CSCP, MLSSBB

Kim Crabtree, President of MetaOps WBENC Certified

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