If you find you are spending too much time firefighting and not enough time on medium term planning and long term planning, chances are there are workflow issues that could be addressed by improving internal processes and customer-facing communication.
There are many ways to explain how we got to the current state of affairs where it seems everyone is on a treadmill. Simply stated, businesses today are more complex and fast moving such that five year plans have now become three year plans and operational plans require more frequent tweaking.
If you read my recent post called “A Formula for Operational Excellence” you have probably been thinking about how to achieve tight integration between strategy and operations.
Here is a step-by-step approach that will allow you to reduce the amount of firefighting you do on a day-by-day basis.
- Build and maintain a knowledgebase for your organization (strategy, financial assets, infrastructure, human resources, processes, products/services, new products, ROIs, budgets, competitors, legislation). You can accommodate all of this on one “page” if you acquire a KnowledgeBase that has a visual User Interface. Make certain that all operational plans derive from strategy.
- Set up an enterprise-wide workflow management system so that your staff is able to plan and schedule their day-to-day work and that supervisors have facilities to dynamically level and balance workload across staff.
- Mandate your IT department to put in place a generic Data Exchanger that allows consolidation of all operational data for analysis and reporting. Let each legacy system do what it supposedly does well but make sure disparate systems are able to talk to each other
- Approach each of your major processes with a view to clustering process fragments into best practice templates. With respect to ad hoc processes that are best performed by knowledge workers, remember it’s not the steps you want/need to automate but rather handoffs across steps. Make sure your processes accommodate customer contact any stage of the conversion of inputs to outputs.
- Re-iterate your corporate strategy in terms of quantifiable Key Process Indicators (KPIs) and put out the message that operations must at all times be supportive of strategic KPIs.