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Boost Ops Team Productivity: How Flexibility Enhances Performance and Morale

Rick Williams
June 20, 2024
min read

As the modern workplace evolves, businesses increasingly understand the importance of providing flexibility for their teams. This is especially important for operational teams working to keep everyday operations running efficiently and smoothly. Often working at capacity, these teams don’t have the ability to truly take time off or learn new skills, which can lead to burnout.

Proactively creating a plan that encourages flexibility is about cultivating a work culture that enhances morale, builds loyalty, boosts employee satisfaction, and reduces burnout. Envision a workplace where your team can adjust working hours to balance personal commitments, take meaningful vacations, or operate remotely when necessary. With such flexibility, you are not just giving them a place to work, you are giving them a space to thrive.

With the right plan, enhanced flexibility doesn't equate to decreased productivity. In fact, more companies are moving more towards a flexible workforce model because it helps strengthen the team, ensure supply chain control, and eliminate constant firefighting without disrupting operations.

We’ve interviewed our team of experts who shared their best tips on creating an organized and flexible environment that enables your team to continue operating with flexibility while minimizing any negative impact on production.


Be Proactive in Your Sales & Operations Planning

Proactive sales and operations planning (S&OP) is pivotal for creating a flexible culture and resilient team. It helps transition your business from reactive problem-solving to strategic planning, bringing about order and stability while avoiding pitfalls. S&OP is instrumental in not only managing daily workflows but also in forecasting business trends. This predictive approach empowers your team to anticipate and strategically plan around high production times.

More than just a management process, it's the intersection of collaboration, communication and strategic foresight. S&OP is a holistic process that integrates all areas of a business including:

-  Marketing: Determine innovation, brand promotion, and consumer engagement strategies.

-  Sales: Develop demand plans, forecasts, and retailer timelines in line with business objectives.

-  Finance: Identify ways to fund business growth and sustainability.

-  Project Management: Clarifies role allocation and timelines for accountability.

-  Operations: Guarantee that production capabilities meet demand.

-  Supply Chain: Align raw material procurement with the overarching plan through efficient scheduling and logistics.

With a strong S&OP, you set up for both the immediate and the future, ensuring your team can proactively anticipate and manage production fluctuations, moving away from a culture of firefighting to one of strategic planning and execution.

Tip: S&OP is challenging and rarely executed well. Businesses can benefit from consultants to help design the initial plan, offering fresh perspectives and identifying unforeseen challenges.

Develop the Mechanisms for Cross-Functional Collaboration

Effective cross-functional collaboration creates a flexible work stream by activating the necessary people at the right time and planning for absences to avoid project stalls.

Mechanisms our experts recommend pave the way for easy collaboration. First, establish frequent communication touch points with the project manager and team to stay on task and informed on the project’s changing structure and timeline.

Second, clearly define information flows and decision-making hierarchies early on. Tools such as the RACI matrix, which outlines who is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed, facilitate team autonomy and expedite decisions. This transparent approach enables a faster information flow as the project progresses.

Lastly, keep track of your team's out of office (OOO) times and make it easily available, on a team calendar or via notifications to individual calendars. Conduct a check-in the week before a member's vacation to discuss project progress, note upcoming deadlines, and reallocate tasks that need to move forward in their absence. Reiterate that their time away is important, and they shouldn’t respond to work emails while OOO.

Utilize Project Managers

Meticulous project management while team members are in and out of the office can be the difference between a productive summer and a frustrating one.  

Project Managers (PMs) ensure continual progress by efficiently distributing information, collecting updates before any member goes out of office, and relaying high-level updates to the entire project chain. This keeps everyone focused and updated on the critical path. PMs also maintain an appropriate sense of urgency on different project aspects, strategically deciding when and with whom to share a detailed or broader view of the timeline.  

Good PMs support strong communication among teams by carving out time for updates and problem solving. They can adjust timelines and stage gate meetings depending on the group’s availability and productivity, and work closely with ops leadership across business sectors to form a strong feedback loop. 

Develop Flexibility from Within

Training back-up personnel for production-critical positions allows your team to feel less constricted. Developing a process to train a few personnel for each position increases flexibility for shift adjustments. While coordinating schedules is a commitment to planning, the benefit of building overlapping skill sets allows for greater flexibility in personal and operational schedules.

Tip: Incentivize employees to learn other functions. This is a great way to ensure cross-functionality, build team mentality, and create the necessary backups.

If your team is already stretched thin, what will you do when new projects add to a weekly workload?

There is a risk of overextending your team by asking them to learn too many skills or to step into a leadership position while the company grows. Instead, bring in fractional talent who can hit the ground running on new or higher level solves while your team continues with a manageable weekly workload. Allow your team to shadow experienced talent, giving them the hands-on training they would need to step into that role, all while avoiding the cost and missteps from a steep learning curve.

Let's Recap

Creating flexibility within operations teams is essential in today's evolving workplace, contributing to enhanced morale, increased loyalty, improved employee satisfaction, and reduced burnout. Effective strategies for cultivating such flexibility include proactive S&OP, cross-functional collaboration, meticulous project management, and internal skills development.These strategies ensure teams can seamlessly balance personal commitments with their workload, operate remotely when necessary, and most importantly, continue to thrive within the workspace.

Incorporating fractional talent prevents overextension of teams and facilitates a conducive learning environment, which is especially beneficial during periods of high growth. Prioritizing flexibility doesn't have to compromise productivity, instead, it can enhance it, strengthen the team, and improve overall operational efficiency.

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