Want to make your marketing department more efficient? Operations management is the key. It transforms information, labor, and material into products and services with as little waste as possible to return the most value. Fortunately, you don’t have to get an MBA to utilize operations management techniques.
Whether you’re in retail, insurance or financial risk security, operations concepts can improve the processes, products, and services you offer. And the best news is, you can leverage all six of the following techniques in any industry, business, campaign, or project.
1. Identify Project Requirements With a Systematic Approach
Let’s bake a cake. We don’t start right at the batter, right? First, we need to figure out what the cake is for. Is it a cake to have around the house to help you with the occasional sugar fix, or is it a birthday cake earmarked for tomorrow night? What flavor is it going to be? What type of icing should we use? Do we have all the ingredients?
You can’t just jump into the middle of making a cake. You can’t shuffle steps and skip ingredients or you won’t end up with a cake. The same goes for a project: you need to gather information and follow a clear process to get the outcomes you want.
Use interviews, questionnaires, research, sampling, prototyping, and other techniques to collect information about preferences and requirements. Those first-hand looks can help you grasp opportunities and diagnose problems. Ultimately, it is the project team’s duty to get the stakeholder and users of the finished project to divulge the project requirements.
Use this operations management technique to build the framework for your marketing campaigns. Gather as much information about your target market as possible before you begin. Observe them on social media, blogs and forums to learn what they want. What questions do they ask, and how can your brand solve their problems?
2. Implement Projects With Buy-in At All Levels
Have you ever tried to get a kid to eat a meal? Let your little one have some say in what they eat, which utensils they can use, and where they sit. As a result, more food will end up in his belly rather than on the ceiling.
Project adoption is basically the same. Get other people involved in your plans to create a 360-degree view of the plan or project. Beyond that, involvement also increases the adoption.
If you have the opportunity to create a project team, choose people who are not like you. Involve upper management, middle management and the people who actually perform the value-added work. You should also bring in someone from a department that has nothing to do with the project at all.
A diverse team helps a project gain traction because it represents a cross-section of the company.
3. Utilize Numbers in Decision-making
Do you hate to detangle tons of rows and columns of numbers stretched across spreadsheets?
As they say, the truth is in the details. Data analysis is an incredibly powerful operations management technique. Even if you don’t get excited by numbers, you need to understand their power and purpose.
When you combine and dissect numbers and use some unbiased common sense, you can arrive at the right key performance indicators (KPIs) for your organization or project.
Then, you can measure those KPIs and develop early warning signals. For example, you could monitor outbound email activity to ensure a healthy sales or marketing pipeline.
When you understand data, you’ll ultimately have more control over projects.
4. Have a Passion for Solving Puzzles, Problems, and Opportunities
In a nutshell, the operations business unit provides intelligent and creative recommendations for processes around an organization. Operations employees are the detectives of the workforce.
Turn your next project into a riddle and lay out the different paths to success. Classify the problems, dig for knowledge in the monumental amounts of available data and then evaluate it to arrive at the areas of focus.
You’ll need to be inquisitive, persistent and deductive; everyone is born with a little bit of this. In fact, our children are better detectives than we give them credit for. Next time you hear a kid ask “why?” over and over again, don’t get frustrated. Instead, learn some root cause analysis from them.
5. Have Well-defined Roles and Responsibilities With Your Team
Role ambiguity is one of the most stressful things that can happen to employees and it’s more common than anyone thinks. Without role clarity, waste reigns supreme as many tasks are overly repeated while other activities do not get accomplished. Some individuals will skate by while others carry the load. Emotions can then start playing a role and general team spirit breaks down.
Role clarity is not exactly your job description. It is an iterative process championed by the team leaders that removes the barriers to team effectiveness. The processes created to achieve documented roles and responsibilities takes commitment and it requires regular discussion between the team and team leader.
When embarking on a new marketing campaign, the team leader should ensure that each team member understands their role and the role of everyone else on the team. For example, when a brilliant idea is proposed at a meeting, the team leader will solicit volunteers or delegate responsibility for the implementation of the idea by assigning tasks, setting deadlines, and following up with all involved. Teams with role clarity are substantially more successful than those without.
6. Continuously Improve Each Process
Improve everything you touch. When you have a standardized and documented process in place, then you can measure improvements against it.
When you continuously iterate, you’re more likely to achieve incremental improvements that lead to big gains over time. Each process can have its own feedback loop to determine how healthy it is.
For example, you could reward employees for identifying wastes such as waiting time, bottlenecks, unnecessary steps, poor sequencing, etc. If you develop a culture of improvements your organization will reduce operating overhead and improve employee morale.
Operations insights are about working smarter, not harder. If you’ve ever thought, “there has to be a better way,” then you are already using operations management techniques.
Challenge yourself to solve problems systematically and utilize an array of data-based ideas that can grow efficiency. Operations management principles may be the missing link for you.