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Advice for Operations Leaders


Advice for Operations Leaders

In this article, Jonathan Beard offers advice for operations leaders, including six areas where they should spend more time. 

When I talk with operations leaders, one of the common things I hear is “with everything going on, how do I know if I’m spending my time in the areas that are going to help us get better”?

Focus your energy where it matters

If you are an operations executive, plant manager, or functional lead, you likely have more on your plate than you could possibly get done in a day.  Understanding where you are going to get the most return for your time is critical to having stable, efficient, and effective long term operations.  There will always be “fires” in need of attention, but if you can make the time to focus on a limited number of key areas on a daily basis, I have found that the intensity and frequency of those emergencies will decrease significantly over time.

One plant manager I worked with over the years simply said he and his team were “going from perceived problem to problem without ever stepping back to think about whether solving that problem was actually a productive use of their time.”  Should they have been focusing their attention in other areas that would return larger benefits over the long run?

6 Areas Every Operations Leader Should Spend Time Daily

  1.         Safety:

This should go without saying.  The number one goal of every operations leader must be to send everyone home in the same condition they came to work in.  Despite this belief, sometimes we lose sight of safety in the day to day demands of the job.  It is critical that leaders are role modeling this commitment every day.  Whether it is through structured safety audits, sharing safety lessons during routine meetings, coaching employees directly when potential hazards are observed, or a myriad of mechanisms, leaders should focus some of their time every day to ensure the proper safety culture is in place.

  1.         People Development:

A close second to the safety of your people is their development.  For some leaders, this seems intuitive and they spend a lot of their time thinking about and enabling the development of their people.  For others, this can seem time consuming and easier left to those in HR.  It is my experience that time spent building and developing your team pays back exponentially compared with time spent focused in other areas.  Whether it is having a development discussion, providing in the moment feedback, mentoring high potential employees, or just getting to know your team better, distinctive leaders spend a significant portion of every day focused on developing the right people and culture for their operations to succeed.


Key points include:

  • People development
  • Operating discipline
  • Performance transparency


Read the full article, Stop Playing Operations Whack-a-Mole, on LinkedIn.