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The Operations of Leadership

The Operations of Leadership

The Operations of Leadership: 4 reasons to change your mind about leading like a “turn & crank” operation

If you’ve ever spent a day in operations (ok, let’s be real – you’d need a year, or at least a few months to really grasp it) – you’ve become accustomed to things that others just… aren’t. If you’ve ever seen the movie Groundhog Day you may remember Bill Murray being trapped in time, with the same day endlessly repeating. Some have compared working in operations to the same idea.

However…. Operators know a thing or two about getting things done… and it leads me to ask the question:

What do operations and leadership have in common?

1.      They both need people to get specific things done. Operators often tend to have a list, a quota, or a setup that must get accomplished. This may be accomplished using a checklist, or a guideline – but they have a clear expectation of what needs to be done. Good leaders do this as well – for some, it’s not as straightforward.

2.      There’s a right and a wrong way. Touchy ground – but this still holds true for both. Operators either get it done or not. The 100,000 units are either shipped – or they aren’t. Your people aren’t as simple as a unit – but there are right ways and wrong ways to lead them. What works for getting 1 individual to do something may be absolutely wrong for another. (You get to be the one to be Indiana Jones and treasure hunt for what those differences are – and they ARE out there.)

3.      The best answer solution may be in plain sight. Most operators work in a state of continuous improvement – kaizen, kanban, lean, scrumandon, poke yoke, standardized work. Little by little, yard by yard, they find ways to improve upon the current process. Many times, they find the answer in tweaking a process here or changing a set of steps there. Good leaders do that as well. They don’t just accept that Dan is the laziest of the group or Stephanie is always showing up late and can’t be changed – they look for different ways to improve upon the current situation.

4.      The goal is max capacity/ efficiency/ productivity. This comment goes without saying for operators. We all need to hit a goal, a target, a number – that’s the focus – and we try not to stop until we get there. Some leaders may balk at the austere nature of this statement for their employees – but it’s true. Don’t you want the most – the best – the “all you can be” out of your employees? It does not mean work them to OT hours and burnout – it means to challenge them with their strengths and assist them in working toward doing the most – for themselves – and for you.

Operations and leaders are much closer than you think – you just have to find the right way to thread the needle, wind the machine or load the belt.

How do YOU use operations to help you lead?

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