ByEmeka Okonkwo

Liberating Executives from the Shackles of Operational Inefficiencies

Operational leadership and process excellence is a strategic imperative for executives who find themselves inundated with operational inefficiencies, leaving them with scant time to focus on strategic endeavors.

The annual Executive Forum hosted by The African Process and Performance Institute offers a valuable platform for executives and operational leaders to convene, network, and exchange insights on bridging the strategy implementation gaps. Through this forum, participants engage in robust discussions aimed at addressing operational challenges and enhancing strategic alignment within their organizations. As part of our initiative, we conduct surveys to gauge the balance between the time spent on strategic thinking and the time spent on operational issues among executives. Shockingly, our survey findings spanning seven years reveal a staggering trend: more than 99% of executives indicate being overwhelmingly engrossed in operational issues, leaving scant time for strategic contemplation.

According to the executives, in the bustling world of business, where the pace is relentless and the stakes are high, executives often find themselves engulfed in a sea of operational inefficiencies. From managing day-to-day tasks to troubleshooting issues and resolving bottlenecks, their days are consumed by the demands of operational issues, leaving little room for strategic contemplation. This phenomenon, commonly known as being “neck-deep” in operations, poses a significant challenge for executives striving to steer their organizations towards success. Indeed, the ability to think strategically and envision the future direction of their companies is essential for driving innovation, fostering growth, and staying ahead of the competition. However, when executives are bogged down by operational inefficiencies, their capacity to focus on strategic endeavors is severely compromised. This article explores why operational leadership and process excellence is not just a matter of efficiency but a strategic imperative for executives seeking to unlock their full potential and lead their organizations to new heights.

At the heart of the issue lies the inherent tension between managing the present and envisioning the future. While operational tasks are essential for keeping the wheels turning, they often consume a disproportionate amount of executive time and attention. Whether it is addressing day-to-day challenges, overseeing routine processes, or firefighting unexpected issues, executives find themselves mired in a never-ending cycle of operational demands. Consequently, their ability to step back, assess the bigger picture, and chart a course for the future is severely constrained.

Moreover, the prevalence of operational inefficiencies exacerbates this challenge, further limiting executives’ capacity to think strategically. When processes are convoluted, redundant, or outdated, they create unnecessary friction, drain resources, and impede progress. Executives are forced to devote valuable time and energy to troubleshooting problems, putting out fires, and managing crises, rather than focusing on long-term strategic priorities. As a result, strategic initiatives may take a backseat, innovation may stagnate, and opportunities for growth may go unrealized.

Furthermore, the pressure to deliver short-term results often exacerbates the problem, as executives prioritize immediate operational needs over long-term strategic objectives. In a hypercompetitive business environment where quarterly targets and bottom-line performance are closely scrutinized, the temptation to prioritize operational efficiency over strategic foresight is understandable. However, this short-term mindset can ultimately undermine the organization’s long-term sustainability and resilience.

In light of these challenges, operational leadership and process excellence emerges as a critical imperative for executives seeking to break free from the shackles of operational inefficiency and unleash their strategic potential. By streamlining workflows, eliminating bottlenecks, and automating repetitive tasks, executives can reclaim precious time and resources, allowing them to focus on strategic endeavors that drive innovation, foster growth, and position their organizations for long-term success. Moreover, by fostering a culture of continuous improvement and innovation, executives can empower their teams to identify and address process inefficiencies proactively, ensuring that operational excellence becomes ingrained in the organizational DNA.

In conclusion, the imperative of operational leadership and process excellence goes beyond mere efficiency; it is a strategic imperative for executives seeking to navigate the complexities of the modern business landscape. By liberating themselves from the quagmire of operational inefficiency, executives can reclaim their time, energy, and focus, enabling them to think strategically, innovate boldly, and lead their organizations towards a future of sustained success and prosperity.

Are you an executive and need help to liberate yourself from operational inefficiencies? Contact Us

ByEmeka Okonkwo

Defining Operational Processes – A Step-by-Step Guide

Operational processes serve as the operational strategy’s execution arm, adhering to established operational policies, rules, and standards. Following the completion of the operational strategy formulation and operational policies definition process, the next pivotal step is defining operational processes. This multifaceted process encompasses several key steps:

Step 1: Review Operational Strategy and Policies: Initiate by conducting a comprehensive review of the operational strategy and policies to ensure seamless alignment with organizational objectives and strategic priorities. This foundational step lays the groundwork for defining processes that bolster the organization’s overarching goals.

Step 2: Define the Core (Primary) Processes: identify the cross functional core processes that delivers direct value to customers, generate revenue, and achieve business objectives. These core processes form the backbone of the organization’s operations and serve as focal points for process improvement efforts.

Step 3: Define Human Resource (HR) Processes: align HR processes with established human resources strategy and policies, covering areas such as recruitment, onboarding, performance management, training, and employee relations. These processes are crucial for effectively managing the organization’s workforce and fostering a positive work environment.

Step 4: Define Technology Processes: ensure alignment of IT processes with established technology strategy and policies, encompassing areas such as IT service management processes – software development, system maintenance, cybersecurity, incident, release, security, configuration and data management.

Step 5: Define Management Processes: define management processes in alignment with established management strategy and policies, covering aspects such as decision-making processes, leadership communication, organizational structure, reporting structure, accounting, finance, change management, compliance, and performance evaluation. These processes provide the framework for effective leadership and governance within the organization.

Step 6: Define Infrastructure Processes: establish infrastructure processes in alignment with established infrastructure strategy and policies, encompassing areas such as facilities management, equipment maintenance, supply chain management, and logistical operations. These processes ensure the efficient utilization of physical resources and support the organization’s operational needs.

Step 7: Define Information Processes: define information processes in alignment with established information strategy and policies, covering areas such as data governance, information sharing, data security, and knowledge management. These processes govern the handling and utilization of information assets to support decision-making and drive organizational performance.

Step 8: Store Process Documents in Accessible Repository: Compile and store process documents in a centralized and easily accessible repository for reference and compliance purposes. This facilitates efficient retrieval, distribution, and enforcement of processes throughout the organization, ensuring consistency and alignment with organizational goals.

By systematically defining processes across key functional areas such as core business processes, support processes, HR processes, IT processes, management processes, infrastructure processes, and information processes, organizations can streamline operations, enhance efficiency, and drive sustainable growth. Storing process documents in an accessible repository promotes transparency, accountability, and adherence to established standards, enabling organizations to navigate complexities and achieve operational excellence.

ByEmeka Okonkwo

Establishing Operational Policies- A Step-by-Step Guide

Operational policies are the backbone of an organization’s structure, establishing the standards, rules and guidelines necessary to effectively execute the operational strategy and to govern the operational processes. Following the completion of the operational strategy formulation process, the next crucial step is the establishment of operational policies. This process entails several key steps:

Step 1: Review Operational Strategy: Begin by thoroughly reviewing the operational strategy to ensure alignment with organizational objectives and strategic priorities. This step serves as the foundation for developing policies that support the overarching goals of the organization.

Step 2: Define Human Resource (HR) Policies: Based on the human resources strategy identified during the strategy formulation process, define policies that govern various aspects of HR management, including recruitment, training, performance evaluation, vacation, business travels, leaves, and employee relations.

Step 3: Define Technology (IT) Policies: Drawing from the technology strategy outlined during strategy formulation, articulate policies related to IT infrastructure, data management, cybersecurity, software usage, technology access and governance.

Step 4: Define Management Policies: Develop policies aligned with the management strategy established during strategy formulation, encompassing leadership principles, decision-making frameworks, organizational structure, and accountability mechanisms.

Step 5: Define Infrastructure Policies: Building upon the infrastructure strategy defined during strategy formulation, establish policies governing the management and maintenance of physical assets, facilities, equipment, and logistical processes.

Step 6: Define Information Policies: Based on the information strategy identified during strategy formulation, define policies related to data governance, information security, privacy, confidentiality, and knowledge management.

Step 7: Store Policy Documents in Accessible Repository: Ensure that all policy documents are compiled and stored in a centralized and easily accessible repository. This facilitates efficient retrieval, distribution, and enforcement of policies throughout the organization.

By systematically defining policies across key functional areas such as human resources, technology, management, infrastructure, and information, organizations can ensure consistency, compliance, and alignment with strategic objectives. Storing policy documents in an accessible repository enhances transparency, accountability, and communication, enabling organizations to navigate complexities and achieve operational excellence.

ByEmeka Okonkwo

Formulating Operational Strategy – A Step-by-Step Guide

Operational leaders utilize three major tools to achieve business objectives – (1) Operational Strategy (2) Operational Policies, and (3) Operational Processes. The operational leadership team holds the crucial responsibility of devising an operational strategy that effectively translates the broader business strategy into actionable plans. Throughout the operational strategy formulation process, it is imperative for the leadership to carefully deliberate and determine the appropriate strategies for Human Resources, Technology, Management, Infrastructure, and Information, all of which are essential components for executing the operational strategy effectively. Here’s an expanded outline of the steps involved in this process:

Step 1: Review organization & business strategy: Begin by conducting a comprehensive review of the organization’s overarching strategy, as well as the specific strategies of individual business units. This step ensures alignment between operational goals and broader organizational objectives, providing a foundation for subsequent decision-making.

Step 2: Formulate operational strategy: Clearly outline the operational strategy, ensuring that it is directly aligned with the defined business objectives. Identify key priorities and initiatives that will contribute to the achievement of these objectives, fostering clarity and focus across the organization.

Step 3: Determine the human resource (HR) strategy: Assess the organization’s HR needs and develop a strategy for recruiting, developing, and retaining talent that aligns with the operational goals. This includes considerations such as workforce planning, skills development, succession planning, and employee engagement initiatives, ensuring that the organization has the right people in the right roles to drive success.

Step 4: Determine the Technology (IT) Strategy: Evaluate the technology requirements necessary to support the operational strategy. This involves identifying and implementing technology solutions that enhance efficiency, streamline processes, and facilitate innovation within the organization. Consider factors such as technology infrastructure, software applications, data management systems, and emerging technologies that can empower the organization to achieve its objectives.

Step 5: Determine the Management Strategy: Define the leadership and management structures necessary to oversee and drive the execution of the operational strategy. This includes establishing clear roles and responsibilities, reporting structure, fostering a culture of accountability, promoting effective communication channels, and developing leadership capabilities within the organization. Strong management practices are essential for guiding teams, resolving conflicts, and maintaining momentum throughout the implementation process.

Step 6: Determine the Infrastructure Strategy: Evaluate the infrastructure needs required to support the operational strategy. This may encompass physical assets such as facilities, equipment, and logistical support, as well as virtual infrastructure such as cloud computing platforms, network systems, and cybersecurity measures. Assess the current state of infrastructure, identify gaps or deficiencies, and develop plans to address them in alignment with the operational goals.

Step 7: Determine Information Strategy: Develop a strategy for managing and leveraging information to support decision-making and drive performance improvements. This includes establishing data governance frameworks, implementing reporting and analytics tools, and ensuring data security and privacy. Effective information management is essential for providing insights, measuring progress, and making informed decisions throughout the execution of the operational strategy.

Step 8: Document a Comprehensive Operational Strategy: Consolidate the findings and decisions from the preceding steps into a comprehensive operational strategy document. This document serves as a roadmap for guiding implementation efforts, outlining the goals, objectives, initiatives, and action plans necessary to achieve success. Communicate the operational strategy to stakeholders across the organization, ensuring clarity, alignment, and commitment to execution.

In conclusion, the formulation of an effective operational strategy is a multifaceted process that requires careful consideration of organizational objectives, resources, capabilities, and external factors. By following the outlined steps and integrating human resources, technology, management, infrastructure, and information strategies, operational leaders can create a robust framework for executing the business strategy and driving sustainable growth and success.

Need help to craft and align your operational strategy? Contact Us

ByEmeka Okonkwo

5 Key Steps to Bridge the Strategy-Execution Gap

Operational leadership stands as the linchpin between lofty organizational strategies and their practical execution. Operational leadership plays a pivotal role in translating organizational strategy into actionable plans that drive business success. In this blog, we unveil five indispensable steps utilized by adept operational leaders to seamlessly connect strategic visions with tangible results to bridge strategy-implementation gap.

Step 1: Formulate Operational Strategy: This foundational step involves developing a clear plan to achieve business objectives in alignment with the overarching business strategy. Operational leaders work closely with senior management to define strategic priorities and outline the operational tactics required to realize them.

Step 2: Establish Operational Policies: Once the strategic direction is established, operational leaders set the standards and guidelines that will govern day-to-day operations. These policies serve as the framework for decision-making and ensure consistency and compliance across the organization.

Step 3: Define Operational Processes: With strategic objectives and policies in place, operational leaders design and implement the processes necessary to execute the strategy effectively. This involves identifying the specific tasks, workflows, and procedures required to deliver products or services in line with organizational goals.

Step 4: Adequately Align Operational Strategy, Policies, and Processes: Successful execution hinges on the seamless alignment of operational strategy, policies, and processes. Operational leaders continually assess and refine these elements to ensure they remain in sync with evolving business priorities and market dynamics.

Step 5: Build and Lead an Effective Operational Team: Finally, effective operational leadership requires assembling and empowering a capable team to execute the operational strategy. Operational leaders cultivate a culture of collaboration, accountability, and continuous improvement, providing guidance and support to ensure team members are equipped to succeed.

By following these five steps, operational leaders can bridge the gap between strategy and implementation, driving organizational performance and achieving sustainable business results.

Need help to boost your operational leadership? Contact Us.

ByEmeka Okonkwo

Process is the conduit for strategy execution

In the realm of business, strategy reigns supreme. Whether it’s expanding market share, launching innovative products, or streamlining operations, strategic initiatives guide organizations toward their overarching goals. Yet, behind every grand strategy lies a fundamental truth: strategies are executed through processes.

Consider the rollout of a new product line. From conception to market launch, this strategic endeavor involves a multitude of interconnected activities – market research, product development, manufacturing, marketing campaigns, distribution, and more. Each of these activities is governed by a set of processes designed to ensure efficiency, quality, and alignment with strategic objectives.

Indeed, processes serve as the scaffolding upon which strategies are built and executed. They provide the framework for translating high-level goals into actionable steps, guiding individuals and teams toward the desired outcomes. Without well-defined processes, even the most brilliant strategy is destined to falter.

But the relationship between strategy and process is not one-sided. Just as strategies rely on processes for execution, processes are themselves shaped by strategic imperatives. When organizations set ambitious goals or pivot to new market opportunities, they must adapt their processes accordingly. This might involve redesigning workflows, reallocating resources, or implementing new technologies to support strategic objectives.

In essence, processes are the enablers of strategy. They transform abstract plans into tangible actions, ensuring that strategic vision translates into real-world results. Moreover, processes provide the foundation for scalability and sustainability, allowing organizations to replicate success across different contexts and adapt to changing circumstances.

Take, for example, a company aiming to improve customer service. While the overarching strategy may be to enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty, the execution of this strategy hinges on the implementation of effective service processes – from handling inquiries and resolving complaints to delivering personalized experiences and soliciting feedback.

In today’s dynamic business landscape, where agility and responsiveness are paramount, the importance of process-driven execution cannot be overstated. Organizations that prioritize process excellence are better equipped to navigate uncertainty, seize opportunities, and deliver value to stakeholders consistently.

Moreover, the symbiotic relationship between strategy and process underscores the need for holistic thinking. Rather than viewing strategy and process as distinct entities, organizations should recognize them as interconnected elements of a larger system. By aligning strategy with process and vice versa, businesses can unlock synergies, minimize inefficiencies, and drive sustainable growth.

In conclusion, strategies are executed through processes, and strategies can only be implemented through processes. By embracing this symbiotic relationship and investing in process excellence, organizations can turn strategic vision into reality, achieve competitive advantage, and thrive in an ever-evolving marketplace.

ByEmeka Okonkwo

Why Fix the Process?

In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, it’s easy to overlook the intricate web of processes that governs nearly every aspect of our existence. From the mundane tasks of taking a shower and eating breakfast to the more complex endeavors of running a business or pursuing personal goals, processes silently shape the outcomes we experience.

Consider your morning routine. The seemingly simple act of getting ready for the day involves a series of steps – from waking up at a certain time to selecting clothes, preparing breakfast, and commuting to work or starting your day’s activities. Each of these steps is part of a larger process that influences how smoothly your morning unfolds.

Now, think about a business operation. Whether it’s manufacturing a product, delivering a service, or managing finances, every aspect of a business is governed by processes. From customer interactions to supply chain management and strategic decision-making, processes form the backbone of organizational success.

So, why are processes so important? The answer lies in their ability to drive efficiency, consistency, and quality. A well-defined process ensures that tasks are completed in a systematic manner, reducing errors and variability in outcomes. It provides a framework for optimization, enabling continuous improvement and adaptation to changing circumstances.

Moreover, processes offer a pathway to change. When faced with undesirable outcomes or challenges, our instinct may be to focus on the end result – the outcome itself. However, the most effective way to drive meaningful change is often to examine and refine the underlying processes that lead to those outcomes.

Let’s take a hypothetical example: a company experiencing declining customer satisfaction ratings. Instead of solely addressing the symptoms – such as offering discounts or launching a new marketing campaign – a process-focused approach would involve analyzing the customer service workflow, identifying bottlenecks or inefficiencies, and implementing targeted improvements.

By fixing the process, the company can not only address immediate issues but also lay the groundwork for sustainable success. It fosters a culture of continuous improvement, where learning from past experiences informs future actions and drives ongoing innovation.

The same principle applies to our personal lives. Whether we’re striving to achieve fitness goals, improve relationships, or enhance productivity, identifying and refining the processes that govern our actions can lead to transformative outcomes.

In essence, everything runs through process. By recognizing the pervasive influence of processes in our lives and embracing a process-oriented mindset, we empower ourselves to effect meaningful change, drive better outcomes, and navigate the complexities of our modern world with greater clarity and purpose.