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A Playbook for Operational Assessment

You’ve decided to mobilize your whole organization to pivot from past practices to better meet the needs of stakeholders in a dynamic, quickly evolving marketplace. You’ve completed all the planning meetings, rewritten the strategy and identified the tactics. You believe your organization is ready to achieve your new goals.

But wait a minute. Are you sure you are ready?

According to a recent report Lucid conducted with Forrester, “improving operational efficiency” is the #1 initiative that companies are prioritizing as we head into the Next Normal of hybrid work. This initiative includes having clear processes in place. Here are some tools and tips for auditing and improving processes across your team and organization.

At 2040, we help our clients with operational assessments that focus on readiness and the ability to achieve newly set transformative goals. What we have discovered is that new goals and attempted pivots at the strategic level often never recognize whether the organization is ready at an operational and process level and with the required staff competencies. And usually, the extent of the underlying challenges comes as a surprise to the senior leadership team.

Often the infrastructure is so dysfunctional that bringing new strategies to life and achieving new goals simply isn’t possible. There are a few signs that indicate a lack of readiness for change:

  • Silos or silos within silos mentality with little to no cross functional collaboration throughout the organization.
  • Pervasive resistance to experimentation with a preference to do it the way it always has been done.
  • Lack of critical thinking to challenge the status quo and identify upstream and downstream challenges.
  • Tendency to report on efforts with inadequate outcome reporting with little to no analysis.
  • Avoidance of accountability and bad news.
  • Ongoing data discrepancies and a lack of cross functional KPIs.
  • Leaders are ill informed which translates to a lack of decisiveness.
  • Board-level leaders are more focused on tactics than strategies.
  • Ongoing, multiple years of decline or stagnant growth in subscribers, members, customers, and revenue.
  • Inability to articulate a value proposition(s) for different market segments.
  • Inadequate market research on subscriber, member or customer needs and their relative satisfaction with the organization’s ability to meet their needs and wants.

The way to success is to thoughtfully identify and fix broken systems and processes (staff, operational and technology systems, customer, and member experience), address the cultural issues and dysfunctional staff behaviors, provide staff training and development and institute organizational goals that will ensure increased relevancy and engagement with current and prospective members, customers, and/or subscribers.

Ultimately, leadership is needed to set measurable and relevant staff goals, expectations and outcomes that respect the set strategies, and make the corrective investment of resources before an organization can even begin its forward movement, pivot or even a transformation.

Faulty Replication of Organizational Models and Structures

Change is hard. Our natural comfort zone is to stay the same or make small, incremental changes to protect our sense of security — personally and professionally. Our individual value and how we assess that value is often not within our own control. Individual assessed value and organizational measurement of individual value is defined by assigned responsibilities and expectations.

Industrial age hierarchical organizational structures exist as impediments to substantive change. And yes, even market pivots are restrained by rigidity in how operations are managed, how staff is assessed and what responsibilities are given to staff in top-down mechanisms and control structures.

But the individual and organizational mechanisms, controls and structures of the industrial age are outdated and never propel today’s organizations to successfully achieve organizational adaptations to new strategies, goals, pivots, and transformations. We all know that right? We do, but many fall back on what has historically worked in the past.

The past, however, is not always a safe standard to inform the present or the future. Variables surrounding and encompassing market forces, technology, socioeconomics, and more are constantly in a state of flux. Operating in current conditions is a complex flow of responding, adapting, or adjusting to the present while trying to predict and prescript the future.

Think of this analogy: The physical environment is a system of parts that integrate to form the whole. An organization is one part within the environmental system, but also a system unto its own with its own integrated parts. Operations and processes are parts of the organizational system. A change in the upper levels of the system (think new strategies, new goals, market pivots and even organizational transformation) must encompass, determine, and assess whether operations, processes and even staff are at a point in “readiness” to support change and the new.

A Roadmap to Operational Readiness

The process (and it is a process) for assessment of readiness, operational change, and transformation includes a review of:

  • Current procedures, policies, service delivery, inter-departmental relationships
  • Internal and external situational factors
  • Market dynamics
  • Data sources and flows (or lack thereof)
  • Reporting, measures and KPIs
  • Communications and engagement associated with member, customer, subscriber acquisition, retention, and engagement (including servicing the subscriber, customer and/or member).

It’s important to ask yourself the following questions which can help you define a clear path of readiness and the organization’s ability to achieve strategies, goals, pivots, and transformation.

  1. Customer Experience: Internal perception of operational effectiveness may not reflect reality. How is the value of your offerings and the service delivery of those offerings perceived externally? Don’t rely on a gut-check in answering the question, its’ important to have sentiment and other data to understand the truth.
  2. Product and Service Enhancements: Are your current products or services meeting market needs and wants, and are they high-quality products or services that rise above your competitors? Again, know your “customer truth” objectively not though overly confident subjective opinion.
  3. The Market and Audience: What is the size of the current and potential market? What percentage of the current market do you have? Are you overly optimistic that your organization can take even more market share or tap into a new market? Does the organization have the capacity? Is the organization effectively serving the current market share? Address these issues factually with data.
  4. Technology Systems and Platforms: Are your systems and platforms enabling or hindering work? Does the staff believe the systems and platforms limit them? Do your system and platforms create challenges hindering or preventing accomplishing goals? Do individuals work outside of the systems and platforms?
  5. Processes and Staff Competencies: Are processes working? Are processes documented? How does staff accomplish its work? Is it effective and efficient? How much work or workarounds occur in contradiction to the organization’s defined processes? Does staff have the appropriate skills and competencies to operate the current “system”? Do they have any untapped skills and competencies required to accomplish your new goals?

A realistic understanding of, and answers to this series of questions is critical to understanding the environment and system you need for new strategies, goals, and the like to flourish. If any of these elements are broken or ineffective, you are already compromised before you even leave the gate.

These questions may seem obvious, but we find that many organizations wear blinders when it comes to understanding their own businesses. In addition to a macro assessment, there are other areas that require deep dives to analyze and understand as agents influencing change.

  1. Growth: What research has been conducted? What is the true opportunity? It is imperative for future growth and increased relevancy to expand your market reach to other segments of your market that can benefit from the value you create.
  2. Culture: Is your organizational culture calcified and focused on old practices? Past approaches may achieve short-term goals but do not reflect longer-term views or benefits in building a relationship with the stakeholders that leads to higher levels of revenue gain, with less organizational effort.
  3. Accountability: Is your internal focus based on task and rarely takes the outside-in systems view approach to understand how the organization and its “system,” in holistic and specific terms, are perceived by the “customers” and the market in general? The lack of an outside-in viewpoint hinders any organization’s ability to prioritize for the greatest gain and value as it digitally and holistically transforms. Are staff, managers, supervisors, and leaders holding themselves accountable to the right measures and metrics?
  4. Communications: Do your teams work and communicate across departments and functions? The existence of department silos, and silos within silos tend to make cross-functional collaboration difficult. Who loses? Your market and your “customer” because communications are limited by the silos, and engagement is often repressed by the lack of holistic understanding of each customer’s satisfaction, preferences and use of products and services.

Roadblocks to Change

Many organizations suffer from an ingrained work culture controlled by historical practices, including manual processes and system workarounds that are inefficient or ineffective. Some staff wants to see change, innovation and improvement in operations that would lead to a more valuable member/customer experience. But they are often hindered by those who don’t want change and management who is focused on just “checking the box.” Burnout of those who are seeking change is inevitable given an ingrained, calcified culture.

Another challenge is due to a lack of time and staff as there is often a tendency to implement changes without thoroughly examining the downstream or even upstream impacts. Add to that, reporting procedures that are highly manual and inaccurate. Further, there is often little scrutiny applied to data to determine confidence of trends or issues. This can result in a lack of ingenuity and critical thinking on ways to improve.

Cultural attributes, including the lack of accountability, result in the continuation of highly broken internal systems, lack of effective and efficient processes and hinder an organization from improving its service and offerings to the industry and securing desired growth that correlates to expanded market credibility and increased revenue.

Change Management

We help clients with a customized, prioritized recommendations based on the current state and the future state. We focus on activities and structural changes/efforts that are required to stabilize the foundation and infrastructure of an organization before any other transformational work is undertaken. 2040 is an expert in understanding people, process, and culture to effect change. Organizational assessment is the first step to activating operational readiness to ensure relevance and high performance. This step-by-step process has delivered measurable results for our clients and set their path for ongoing iteration to improving internal and external performances.

Get in touch with us!

2040 helps organizations navigate the sea changes of finding their new normal. We offer actionable expertise in the strategy and operations of digital growth and engagement, empowering an empathetic workplace culture, strengthening your value proposition and driving revenues.  We’ve been in your shoes and we know what impedes transformation … and what unlocks it.

Onward and upward from the 2040 Team

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