“A goal without a plan is just a wish” -Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Successful organizations know that a good plan is needed to achieve a goal. But how do you know whether your plan is good, or if it’s just a wish? Operational Performance Thinking can help make sure those goals are more than wishes. It is all about how the plan gets you to that goal. Be clear about what the change you are making will do: Will it:
- Provide a better member experience
- Reduce costs through automation
- Ensure compliance with regulations
- Bring innovation to the marketplace
Whatever it is; know why you are implementing the project, the business outcomes it will achieve, and what you need to do to achieve them. Keep your eye on the plan. Be very clear about those outcomes; and make sure your key stakeholders and project team members are too. Talk about those outcomes often.
Why is this so important?
Because change and innovation are hard. They are not for the weak or the weary. Risk is everywhere and problems are inevitable. It is very common that business outcomes are forgotten when problem arises, deadlines loom, or the wrong compromises are made.
Operational Performance Thinking requires a deep commitment to rational thinking and flexibility to make decisions with people, processes, and technology in mind. It means that projects and change efforts place as much value on delivering timely technical solutions as they do on workforce readiness and process changes that need to occur simultaneously. The project team needs to look outside of the technical resource schedule and testing effort to always keep an eye on what we are trying to achieve; and evaluating if the current path gets us there. Too often course correction is frowned upon just to meet a deadline; and often the deadline was arbitrarily set. Successful leaders practice Operational Performance Thinking by always focusing people, process, and technology solutions to achieve the desired outcome. Projects change dynamically to produce better outcomes. Processes speed delivery to the customer. Progress and innovation happen.
Operational Performance Thinking is the best way to drive your initiatives to achieve your business outcomes. If you focus on business outcomes, the path becomes clear; allowing the best decisions, solutions, and compromises to be made. It puts project owners in the driver’s seat and expects that technology, processes, and people discover opportunities to improve the solution and overcome challenges. Operational Performance thinking is not about revisiting decisions that have already been made, but rather understanding that decisions can and should be enhanced as new information evolves and new questions arise. We encourage project owners to track the desired outcomes in a concise manner, to revisit often, and share. We’ve included a snapshot of our template below!
Adopting an Operational Performance Thinking mindset is valuable because your organization’s challenges are often difficult and always unique; requiring flexibility, contemplation, sound judgment and courage. And this means that you may not arrive at your outcome exactly when you thought you would. You may get there sooner, and it might be later depending on how you shape the path along the way. The challenge for organizations desiring change, and in turn improved outcomes, is finding out how to shape the winding path, and how to do it with the right mix of pragmatism and speed.
Operational Performance Thinking is a meaningful framework to drive change and follows a common set of principles:
- Seamlessly connecting the dots of operations, project management and performance change yields desirable business outcomes.
- When business outcomes drive project level decision making, resources collaborate across disciplines. The collaboration produces better answers than siloed solutioning can produce.
- Adopting change at an accelerated pace requires a thoughtful and pragmatic plan.
- Business, technical, and project requirements are complete only when the approach is cohesive; ensuring the needs of the entire cross functional team.
Your opportunities, technologies, processes, and people, are what make your organization unique in the marketplace, and your path to achieve your desired outcomes needs will be just as unique. Project owners can play a critical role in shaping how project decisions are made. Too often, schedule is king, and outcomes suffer. When project owners engage with teams using Operational Performance Thinking, obstacles and roadblocks are seen in a different light. It is not about the failure to meet a schedule, it is about driving toward business benefit.
- How can we get there as quickly as possible?
- Can we rearrange our deliverables and implement part of the project sooner?
- Can we deliver in shorter spurts to achieve outcomes as we go?
- Can we change a process or rearrange resources to get where we want to go?
The thinking moves from preventing failure to innovative solutioning. And the project team begins to articulate the value of those opportunities as they relate to the business outcome.
Jenny Graham, Author
Jenny is a founding partner of Zelus. Jenny is a PMP and CPLP, with deep expertise in operational strategy, project execution, call center optimization, and learning design. Jenny is passionate about dramatically improving the customer experience in healthcare and works with teams to exceed customer expectations.