How to identify operational problems that you don’t even know exist

How to identify operational problems that you don’t even know exist

This succinct post will give you some key questions to ask about your operation aimed at helping you uncover problems that may not be immediately apparent. This is a complex subject and has many interdependent factors but the answers to these questions should get you thinking about the potential opportunity to be capitalised on. This is by no means a ‘comprehensive checklist’ or a ‘how to guide’ but it is a great starting point to help quickly ascertain if there is hidden opportunity in your operation to be further investigated.

When you examine your key operational metrics, how does the operational dashboard look? Are call volumes, grade of service and complaints all strong and well within SLA? Tick. Do you have a team of internal change agents and BPR people working on a number of projects? Tick. And is your operations director happy that there are no issues or challenges requiring urgent attention? Tick. 

Now dig a little deeper…

Are you targeting the right metrics?
Does reporting actually reflect the service that your customers are receiving?
Are your change teams actually delivering measurable improvements?
Are outstanding audit points increasing?
Are your metrics green or red – have they been like this for some time?

Now take a glimpse into the future…

Market conditions will get tougher as competition intensifies.
New and existing players will take away market share.
An evolving regulatory environment will enforce changes to well-functioning processes, creating additional work volume altering your cost model and reducing margins.

“Nothing stops an organisation faster than people who believe that the way you worked yesterday is the best way to work tomorrow.”

Jon Madonna
Arrow on road

With this lens applied – What does your dashboard look like now?

Are all the metrics still green? In reality the answer could be no. But how do you future-proof your operations when you don’t know what’s coming? Its unlikely you can prepare for all possible futures because the cost of the solutions far outweighs the potential gain, however there is another way…

Promoting a culture of positive change

The only possible solution is to ensure you have sufficient clarity of your operations so that you can instantly see where you are, or are not performing. Only then can you rapidly implement an effective fix.

Speed of change is critical, and this applies not only to the way your processes and systems are set up, but also to the attitude and culture of your people – how your managers and front-line staff respond to or embrace change.

It’s about how their thinking is attuned to change. Are they continually looking for improvement opportunities? Is your management structure set up to facilitate change quickly? Do your business processes have the flexibility to facilitate and deliver change?

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”

Charles Darwin
Difficult choices of a businessman

Now go back to your monthly operational metrics

Do you need to dig deeper?

Do you need greater clarity of operational performance?

Is your operation in a position to react quickly to changes to the marketplace or the regulatory environment?

Strong operational performance isn’t just about how well you’re doing right now. It’s about how well you can adapt to what’s coming down the line. And that requires the ability to implement change swiftly, without adversely impacting staff morale or the customer experience, and without driving up costs.