What are the roles of an Operations Manager in addressing the major aspects of quality?

OperationsManager.com (2010) explain the roles of an operations manager to “ensures smooth operation of various processes that contribute to the production of goods and services of an organization”. The following tasks, centred on managing the quality of the service the organisation is providing, are those that are required of an Operations Manager:

  • Ensuring that the tools used to produce goods and/or services are acceptable and are capable of delivering the required quality of service that is acceptable.
  • Liaising with the Quality Assurance personnel to maintain positive feedback on the quality of the produced service or goods from the clients.
  • Assuring that quality tools and equipment are bought/maintained according with the allocated budgets.
  • Managing the support services of the organisation to ensure the most efficient management of support. For example; making sure high quality servers are purchased to store large amounts of confidential data in the most secure manner.
  • Management of any third party relationships the organisation has. Making sure that the agreements with the third parties are sound and that the third parties are performing their duties to the quality expected, as well as keeping to the required procedure standards of the organisation to maintain the highest quality possible.

The Open University (n.d.) explains that “decision making is a central role of all operations managers”. The decisions that the operations manager are involved in are in the design, management and improvement of the operations of the organisation; all of these are directly related to the quality of the service or goods that the organisation provide. If the ops manager makes a poor decision on improving services – the quality that was attained prior to improvements could fall and potentially drive away potential and existing customers, the same goes for the design of a new product/service. If the management of operations are lacking then this could also result in poor service delivery (lower quality).

Heizer & Render (2009) explain the importance of forecasting by the use of forecasting metrics. An operations manager may use the forecasting tools to predict future patterns in service delivery requirements by using trend projections based on historical data (Heizer & Render, 2009). With these forecasting models the operations manager can pre-empt quiet or busy periods (for example: shopping spikes during Christmas holidays) thus ensuring the required resources are available to cope with the demand or lack thereof while maintaining a profitable operation.  Heizer & Render (2009) also point out that these forecast methodologies are not perfect and should always be monitored and maintained according with “new” historical data.

In summary and conclusion the roles that an operations manager play in addressing the major aspects of quality is comparable with their job function as a whole; they must ensure processes are kept to the required quality for the organisation while maintaining a profitable and manageable operation.

References

Heizer, J. & Render, B. (2009) Operations Management. Ninth Edition. Prentice Hall: New Jersey.

OperationsManager.com (2010) Operations Manager job description: daily tasks, roles, duties and responsibilities [Online]. Available from: http://www.operationsmanager.com/operations-manager-roles-in-the-company/jobs-roles-duties-and-responsibilities/ (Accessed: 21 May 2011).

The Open University (n.d.) The role of the operations manager [Online]. Available from: http://openlearn.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=397333&section=2.3 (Accessed: 21 May 2011).

When is the Objective Function more important than the Constraints, and vice versa?

Let’s start by identifying the two parts to this question, as explained by Heizer & Render (2009):

1)     Objective Function:  “A mathematical expression in linear programming that maximizes or minimizes some quantity (often profit or cost, but any goal may be used)”

2)     Constraints: “Restrictions that limit the degree to which a manager can pursue an objective”

Circumstances where the objective function is more important than the constraints:

A scenario where the objective function is more important can be where the objective is critical to the success of the project in the development phase. Heizer & Render’s (2009, p.591) example of “OM in Action” for Homart Development company illustrates such a situation (book not required, continue reading). For Homart to develop their new mall their objective of attaining 3 “anchor” stores is an important factor in the success of the mall. The anchor stores are the largest stores that will no doubt attract the most customers. It is based on these anchor stores that many other stores will decide to rent in the mall and where they will position themselves in relation to the types/positions of the anchor stores. If the objective function is to get 3 anchor stores as tenants and the constraints are the required square meters floor size and required monthly rental income then if a highly popular anchor store offers to be a tenant with a higher required floor size and a lower required rental, Homart may very well consider taking the offer due to the popularity/benefits of having that anchor store in their new mall.

To state this rule in general terms I would say that where the benefit of the objective outweighs the constraints, or the future success of the project relies upon the objective being met then the constraints may be overlooked.

Circumstances where the constraints are more important than the objective function:

A situation where I would consider the constraints being more important than the objective function would be where the constraints are a valuable commodity that has a limitation that can be considered not-optional. Referring to Heizer & Render (2009, p.599) in their example of Cohen Chemicals (book not required, continue reading) where the organisation had an inventory of highly perishable raw materials that had to be used within the next 30 days to avoid wastage. While there may be situations where wastage of inventory is not an option it should be made high priority to use the raw materials the organisation has already purchased; more so than achieving the objective. In this situation, I am assuming that the outstanding orders have a certain leeway in which production is able to extend beyond the deadline; whereas the deadline for the raw materials to perish is non-negotiable.

The above example can be generally explained as; where the project has constraints that constitute to a greater loss than if the objective is not fully met (eg: needing to get rid of existing stock/inventories).

 

References

Heizer, J. & Render, B. (2009) Operations Management. Ninth Edition. Prentice Hall: New Jersey.

 

What makes a good manager? What makes a bad manager?

MAS (n.d.) describes a good manager as a manager that achieves a “hard working, productive and effective workforce that punches above its weight in its performance”. Some qualities a good manager should have, as Gates (n.d.) describes can be summed up as:

  • Working within a field that they enjoy.
  • Not afraid to fire people who are bringing the team down.
  • Uses his resources to create a productive team, whether by financial rewards or better working conditions.
  • Informs employees clearly of what defines success and what the goals are.
  • Interacts with all members of the team and creates a relationship (not necessarily friendship) between all employees.
  • Transfers his/her skills to the employees, train an employee to be better than the manager him/herself.
  • Gives employees a sense of importance, allows them to feel an important part of the company.
  • Is hands on, also takes part in work rather than simply delegates it.
  • Is decisive, must take time to make a clear, first decision and stick with it. Going back on decisions creates doubt.
  • Lets employees know who to please, allows employees to know what to prioritise in their day to day work environments.

About.com (n.d.) did a poll to the public to vote on what makes a bad boss, the results show the following from 19137 votes:

  • 34% – Manager provides little direction
  • 10% – Manager offers little or no recognition for success and hard work
  • 9% – Manager is indecisive and changes direction at a whim
  • 24% – Manager micromanages and nit-picks your work
  • 18% – Manager belittles and puts down staff
  • 3% – Miscellaneous answers

Personally, I would put the 2nd and 5th option on the same level as the 1st option as I feel those issues are all very important when it comes to management.

From my experiences I would consider the following points on good and bad management techniques:

  • Encouraging and motivating the team constantly. If the manager is consistent in their encouragement and positive attitude it is reassuring. A manager that is cynical and unmotivated when ‘relaxed’ comes across as being false when they decide to act motivated on cue when they are required to introduce a new project.
  • Managers who are willing to put in overtime hours with you to get a project done rather than leaving at the assigned closing time has proven to keep myself and my team-mates in these situations more motivated. Keeping a positive attitude rather than a negative one in times of missed-deadlines is also good. It is understandable that sometimes management is unable to stay but in these scenarios, staying available telephonically/via some form of communication is also beneficial.
  • Balancing the work-load correctly, being slammed with 12 hour working days for 3 weeks and then sitting idle for the next 3 weeks can create unnecessary stresses. In quiet times it is a good idea to keep employees working on something.
  • Assigning valuable work to employees. I have been assigned projects which were never reviewed and never used – purely to keep me busy while waiting on other departments. This did not make me feel important or necessary and cast out from the rest of the team.
  • Mutual respect. I have been lucky to deal with mostly managers that share a mutual respect and do not treat me as a “lower being”. Managers that treat their staff as lesser people than themselves, in my experience, alienate themselves from the rest of the company; landing up with nobody liking them at all, purely because of the attitude.

In conclusion, I feel that a manager must, most importantly, be personable and authoritative. They must be open to discussion on decisions but, as Gates (n.d) says, must not go back on their decisions unless absolutely necessary. I do not have a problem with a certain level of “arrogance” but, as with anyone who claims to be something, they must be able to prove their worth and earn their respect by performing their duties efficiently and correctly.

Reference List

About.com (n.d.) Poll Results – What makes a Manager a Bad Boss [Online]. Available from: z http://humanresources.about.com/gi/pages/poll.htm?linkback=http://humanresources.about.com/b/a/257578.htm&poll_id=5738279818&submit1=Submit+Vote (Accessed: 8 March 2011).

Gates, B (n.d.) A good manager has at least 10 good qualities [Online] Business Times. Available from: http://www.btimes.co.za/97/1102/tech/tech6.htm (Accessed: 8 March 2011).

MAS (n.d.) What makes a Good Manager? [Online] Management Advisory Service. Available from: http://www.mas.org.uk/management-advisory-service/what-makes-a-good-manager.html (Accessed: 8 March 2011).

 

Does team building help the cohesion of a team?

I do believe that team building activities will support cohesion of a group and improve effectiveness. Personally, I have not worked for a company that has sent my team and myself on team building excursions.

From my experience in conversing with colleagues who have been to team building exercises, the team building activities are usually not work-related and aimed toward the general character of the group members on a whole; for example, a male-only team of programmers were sent go-kart racing. Situations like this would set-aside the ‘roles’ of the members in the group and put everyone on a level playing field. All members get to compete with one another in a good natured sporting activity. This allows all members to come out of their shell and shine in a fun situation. One issue I find a bit unusual about this team building approach is that the team members are put against each other instead of together; this seems like an approach that would encourage individualism more than team work.

Another team building exercise that my colleagues have been involved in was a paint-ball game where the team was working together to defeat their opponent team which were just another group of people at the paint-ball game. I think this approach is far more effective towards building a team spirit. Each team member has their role in the “battle” and must look out for one another. In an activity like paint-ball I believe this will also potentially bring out the individual characters, the risk takers, the safe-players etc.

Richardson (n.d.) outlines some benefits of team-building exercises;

  1. Common Goal – Team-building exercises are aimed at working together, they allow the team to work together towards a common goal.
  2. Trust – Team members must trust their fellow colleagues in these exercises. Everyone has the spirit of agreement.
  3. Ideas & Participation – These exercises allow all team members to be involved and give their ideas and work together.
  4. Motivation – Team building exercises “creates an environment that motivates people to achieve the goals and objectives of the organisation while subordinating individual goals” (Richardson, n.d.).
  5. Rapport – Team members learn personal details about their colleagues which enables them to gain rapport for each other as well as increased tolerance towards each other.
  6. Organisational Benefits – Members of the team are driven towards achieving results more than individual recognition which will help the organisation as their employees will be more focused on the organisational goals than their personal goals.

Personally I would welcome more team building opportunities, not only from the view of an employer but also from the view of a team member. A team building event with the teams I work with for different clients as well as my small team of contractors would definitely improve morale. One of my largest clients is suffering from a low morale amongst employees and, from my observations, the employees are feeling disjointed and uninvolved – more team building would benefit them greatly.

Something I am in two-minds about is the possibility of physical team building exercises, depending on the individual team members, may also encourage “bullying” to some degree. If a “leader” is physically passive and a subordinate is physically dominant things may tend to go off track, especially if there are underlying resentments. As much as bullying should be left on the playground (if anywhere at all), adults are quite capable of childishness and bullying.

In conclusion, I think that team building is a good method of getting employees more enthusiastic about an organisation. I do believe it should be encouraged and even if it is not a high-budget exercise, it is better than none at all. As far as the exercise the team should be involved in, I think, it would definitely need to be something that involves the team working together (eg: the paint-ball scenario) rather than against one another (go-karting).

References

Richardson, M (n.d.) What Are the Benefits of Team-Building? [Online] eHow. Available from: http://www.ehow.com/facts_5191806_benefits-team_building_.html (Accessed: 27 February 2011).

Managerial lessons I’ve learned while working in teams

My initial studies to enter the IT world was for a Computer Science Diploma which was a yearlong course covering the basics of many computer science areas – project management, linux/windows, networking, technician work, SQL and two programming languages as well as a few other short modules. Due to the fact that I was a first-time employee I was not going to be employed as anything managerial of course, so I worked as a programmer for around 3 years.

After 3 years of programming, most of the theory I learned on non-programming subjects such as the management/project management area were long and forgotten. I had just been awarded a lead programmer position where the boss had encouraged me to be the teams leader as well and I was quite interested in this despite being the youngest member of the team.

Despite being “thrown into the deep-end” the boss of this company was a fantastic manager who was hands on and involved, watching him and listening to his methods was a great learning experience for me as he had all the employees proud to be part of the business, it was almost like a ‘cult’, without the negative connotations. His biggest focus was on communication and he stressed me to have group meetings with my team every week, which I ended up doing every Monday and Friday.

Another vital issue that was stressed across the entire organisation was quick and efficient responses to any form of communication amongst employees and of course with clients. If the issue requested was not yet completed, or required a few hours to complete, all employees had to respond instantly to any communications stating that they were “on it” and with any questions that came to mind, sooner rather than later. Failure to do so resulted in the boss questioning the misconduct in-front of all of the other employees (open-plan working environment). This, in retrospect, I would imagine was a tactic of making the rule stick in one’s mind.

These lessons that I had learned I have carried with me and into the past 4 years of running my own business and I believe, besides the obvious requirement of good work, that this has been the prime reason why almost none of my clients have left my services.

While these lessons may seem obvious in theory to most people, the ability to stick to it and actually carry through good communication is surprisingly lacking.

To generalise the lessons I have learned, I would consider training potential employees – managerial and non-managerial – on some fundamental guidelines of communication (stating my above “story” to help realise the lessons to be learned):

  • Put yourself into the “shoes” of the recipient of your communication. If you are dealing with a colleague, client or employee and require information pertinent to what you are doing, always communicate your actions or intentions of actions as efficiently as possible. Waiting on a response can cause irritation, stress and/or anxiety – which can lead to a negative attitude and can cause resentment and many other negative consequences. You are the expert on what you are doing and this needs to be conveyed correctly and within a reasonable timeframe.

Kumar, Kalwani & Dada (1997) state that “waiting experiences are typically negative and have been known to affect customers’ overall satisfaction with the product or service”, while this states a product or service I am comfortable in relating it to communications as well.

Especially in the current fast-paced world, the introduction of the internet, email, mobile accessibility and access to information, people require instant gratification and their needs must be met in order to keep good relationships.

My initial lesson learned regarding the team leadership and watching my boss lead the company, I would outline as follows:

  • Always be aware of the activities of the members in your team and let the members of the team be aware of each other’s activities.

Bring your team together as a group and have regular (without being regular enough to interrupt progress) progress reports from each member of the team, it is important that all members are listening to the progress reports of each other in case they are needed to help or take over at a point in time, they will not be completely in the dark.

Monitor your deadlines carefully against the progress of your team, speak to your team if deadlines aren’t being met to identify problems/causes of delays.

Do not let time wear away on your level of planning and meetings. Persist with your progress reports and meetings regardless of capacity and other potential external factors. It is important to keep to your managerial routine and maintain efficiency. Letting meetings slip, or become too casual can result in members of the team not paying attention, yourself losing track of the teams doings and deadlines being missed.

Maintaining these qualities, I believe, is an important element in maintaining good and successful business relationships.

References

Kumar P., Kalwani M. & Dada M (1997) ‘The Impact of waiting time guarantees on customers’ waiting experience’, Marketing Science, 16 (4), pp.295-314, Marketing Science [Online]. Available from: http://mktsci.journal.informs.org/cgi/content/abstract/16/4/295 (Accessed: 13 February 2011).

How can IT enhance a Managers Function, Role and Skill?

Managers have many functions, roles and skills, below I will illustrate one of each and how IT is able to improve performance in each of these examples.

  • FUNCTION – Manage Time and Resources Efficiently

As described by Management-Hub.com (n.d.), and as we all know well, time is “precious and vital”. A manager needs to manage his/her time well between his/her team and superiors as well as his/her time spent on organisational goals that require his/her personal capacity and skills.

I.T has introduced calendar software, such as Google’s Calendar (www.google.com/calendar) that is able to send SMS (text), E-Mail and Pop-up (if the calendar happens to be open) alerts to users on their cellular phone, laptop, computer or land line (depending on the carriers ability to read and/or receive text messages). Assuming that the manager will have with him at least one network enabled or communication enabled device at all times (which I think is a fairly safe assumption) this allows him/her to be constantly reminded of his appointments.

  • ROLE – Intermediary between employee groups and top management

About-Personal-Growth.com (n.d.) describes a manager as the “middle person in between top management level and the team that reports to him”. As most organisations are hierarchical, as well as the requirement for efficiency, managers are usually the liaison between upper management and regular employees. Due to the sheer size of certain organisations it would be difficult for a manager to keep track of exact discrepancies, complaints, issues, performance reviews and other requests from either party. I.T has brought with it the ability to track accountability and exact details of communications with tools as basic as E-mail. A manager will be able to refer to messages from management/employees directly when addressing issues with either party without missing any details.

  • SKILL – Good Planning

This is, in my opinion, one of the most important skills a manager requires – some may perhaps think more when referring to a project manager but I do think it’s equally important in all areas of management. Without organised planning the manager is unable to assess progress on achieving organisational goals. As About-Personal-Growth.com points out, “having goals and planning out the directions allow for effective time management and saves cost and resources”.

Planning also ties up with adaptability to change, both positive and negative. I think this would tie in with Buchanan and Huczynski‘s (2010, p.52) quotation of Ansoff in which Ansoff states that managers who are unable to develop an entrepreneurial way of thinking “must be replaced”.

References

About-Personal-Growth.com (n.d.) Managers – Roles and Responsibilities [Online]. Available from: http://www.about-personal-growth.com/managers.html (Accessed: 6 February 2011).

Buchanan, A. & Huczynski, A. (2010) Organizational Behavior. 7th Edition. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.

Management-Hub.com (n.d.) Roles & Responsibilities of a Manager in an Organization [Online]. Available from: http://www.management-hub.com/hr-manager-roles.html (Accessed: 6 February 2011).