South Africa is in Dire Need of Operational Management Skills!
South Africa is in Dire Need of Operational Management Skills!

South Africa is in Dire Need of Operational Management Skills!

I honestly believe that operational management is one of the skills that we are most lacking in South Africa.

“Information is power, but only if you know what to do with it…” ~ Unknown.

This phrase implies that information tells a story and leads to action. The action should, ideally, lead to change – hopefully, positive change. After the change, the information should reflect the action. 

If your car’s oil light comes on, it is a small piece of information that requires action. Ignoring it soon leads to bigger problems. That is the basic principle of operational management. In the context of an organisation, it means dealing with hundreds, even thousands, of oil lights daily. 

We see it (in SA) when we drive on our roads. Potholes develop and exist for months, even years, before they are addressed, irrespective of their safety risk to the public. 

You could argue that the potholes are not being fixed because municipal budgets are being looted – but let’s assume that they are not and our public services are simply just not responding to the oil lights. 

The lack of response could be due to incorrect processes; lack of contractual service level agreements; or mismanagement of sub-contractors. In other words, operational management. 

Good, strong operational managers build strong teams and apply bulletproof processes to address an organisation’s daily operational challenges. They also work with their teams and review, refresh and apply changes, where required, to achieve better efficiency. The review or assurance of services is vital for ensuring that service levels are met and that sub-contractors deliver those services. 

Good operational managers also measure their process compliance and maturity against their chosen- or customised-governance framework. 

To run any operation smoothly and take action, it takes a strong personality and dogged intent. In my experience, this has previously meant a good operational manager literally arguing daily with stakeholders and providers for the best results. If something is broken, they fix it. They don’t wait for change control because they know the difference between a planned change and an outage. 

All operational managers should look to their areas of responsibility and reflect on how well they are being run and maintained. 

If it’s a dismal picture, like most of our small town roads, then take a step back and make way for some new blood because we need more strong operational managers. 

Information triggers operational processes – so use your information, take control and be empowered.  

Emile Biagio


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