Towards A More Efficient Business Operations

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10 Ways Chief Operating Officers Can Use Emotional Intelligence To Enhance Operational Efficiency

The role of Chief Operating Officer (COO) is a very important role in any organization, it is a role that is usually considered as second-in-command to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). It is typically one of an enforcer – someone who ensures that the strategic objectives are distilled into work plans and also efficiently implemented. This means 

To a large extent the productivity of the organization is the responsibility of the COO, thus his or her ability to oversee the entire production process is key.

That’s where the magic of emotional intelligence comes in, managing people and processes requires not just a great deal of self-awareness but awareness of others in the workplace. There are simple but very profound ways COOs can use the elements of emotional intelligence to enhance the operational efficiency of their organizations. 

  1. Organizational Design

The first thing every COO should master is the architecture of the organization’s production process. This can be achieved by having a positive outlook to production. The layout, levers and layers of decision-making from ideation stage to the execution stage. The numerous human and mechanical capacities in charge of the various aspects of production. The financial allocation to each step of production. The vendors, suppliers or partner’s deliverables.

The demand from customers on daily, weekly, monthly basis. Basically, the COO must have the critical numbers that are required for proper planning. Having laid out all the important components of the production process, the COO should then reverse-engineer; recalibrate the current dynamics to align with the organization’s vision, mission and other deliverables. Production must always be by design and not by default. The COO therefore requires positive outlook which is an element of Emotional Intelligence to achieve success. 

  1. Standard Operating Procedures

Organizational awareness as an element of emotional intelligence is a must-have skill by every COO who hopes to enhance operational efficiency. Organizational awareness should also be driven by the COO with the creation and periodic review of the organization’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) – pretty much the playbook for production at each and every point. This doesn’t just enable better quality control management, it also ensures that whatever is being produced at any of the organizations satellite locations has a consistent signature – basically the standardization of the product. This also helps to institutionalize the production process i.e. as more people join or leave the organization, they will have a formula to use and this greatly reduces wastage.

One of the not-so-secret reasons for the success of the McDonalds franchise is that their playbook is easily adopted by new hires. That is why they can get a rookie fresh from high school with no experience in the confectionary business to thrive in a short period of time at any of their stores. Their on-boarding process is unbelievably smooth, so it’s no surprise that 1they boast of about 18,000 stores in North America, out of which 13,000 are in the United States alone – serving half a billion Big Macs yearly!

  1. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

The success or failure of any production process is very predictable, because by possessing a strong sense of achievement orientation, an emotionally intelligent COO will be aware of the key performance indicators. Instead of being reactive to these metrics, the COO should be proactive – this is by sizing up the entire goal of the organization’s production process and determining what output or minimum requirement each stakeholder has to meet for that overall goal to be achieved.

Let’s take a hypothetical example: If company A has a net demand of 100 units of Product A and it has a staff strength of ten workers. The COO can determine that the supplier delivers raw materials that are enough to produce 150 units, the excess will be used as strategic reserve, to accommodate production fails or even to pre-empt excess demand from customers. The COO then turns to the ten workers and determines that the weekly deliverable for each person is 15 units of Product A. All things being equal, at the end of that week – all the targets would have been met. KPIs help identify mediocrity.

  1. Resources Management

Inspirational leadership as a manifestation of emotional intelligence fosters the optimization of human and material resources. Depending on the specific industry and capital outlay, most production processes are either extremely capital-intensive or labour-intensive. The task of the COO here amongst other things is to find a delicate balance of both given the available resources. If the product requires a lot of manual input but the output needs to be scaled up, the COO can pursue investment in more efficient technology. This is because most of the time-consuming aspects can be automated as much as possible.

Many years ago, the queues in banking halls used to be legendary, it was so bad that people would arrive earlier just to get number tags so they could come back later to re-join the queue. Fast forward to today, you can afford not to even step into a banking hall for up to a year because most of their systems have been highly automated thanks to tech – from banking software to Automated Teller Machines down to mobile banking apps. There are even digital banks that operate almost entirely without a brick and mortar structure. As a COO, you need to identify your core using the Pareto Principle, the 20% of your production process that is responsible for over 80% of your output. The COO should advocate for a greater investment in tech and new equipment. 

  1. Customer Feedback

The customer remains one of the most important stakeholders to any organization, if not the most important. What they say – whether positive or negative should be considered. It may give an insight into how the outside world rates the organization’s production process. An emotionally intelligent COO must always know how to balance the influence of the organization with the influence the customer wields. This will inform the choice of what to do more, what to do less, what to start doing and what to stop doing altogether.

No matter how brilliant you think your production process is, it means nothing if the customer isn’t buying the final product. So listen! Listen! Listen! When customers complain of certain features or functions of your product, thank them for that feedback. Take it back to the production manager or supervisor and have a conversation on how those flaws can be rectified to give the customer a better experience. COOs should have the ability to see products from the perspective of the customer.

  1. Outsourcing

Outsourcing certain functions can be seen in the light of conflict management by organizations because the insistence to execute certain tasks internally by cause chaos. The key word in production is efficiency, once it has been established by a COO using data-backed metrics that an organization doesn’t have the operative capacity or competitive advantage in a certain production process – one of the options that should be strongly considered is outsourcing. The world is for specialists and the corporate space is no different.

Outsourcing isn’t always an indictment on the competence of the organization’s leadership, rather it’s the awareness and acknowledgement of the strength of respective organizations. Still using the banking anecdote, most if not all banks focus on core banking and outsource almost everything else from cleaning, security, facility management to banking software. It’s not a wise use of limited resources for them to prospect, hire, train and manage staff who offer this ancillary services – they are better off outsourcing them.

  1. Adoption of Successful Models From Peers

Just like when Nokia lost its leadership of the mobile phone market, organizations don’t fail sometimes owing to incompetence but because of their inability to adapt. Emotionally intelligent COOs have to look outward and observe what other COOs are doing to achieve impressive results. There is no shame in understudying best practices from those who have shown mastery of their processes. Especially within the same or similar industries, a template can be emulated (not necessarily copied with exactness).

While there is the role of innovation, it is also a valid maxim that if something isn’t broken – don’t try to fix it. This might mean down-sizing the organization’s staff, infusing of advanced tech or patronizing a cost-effective supplier. Collaboration is the new competition, business doesn’t always have to be cut-throat – emotionally intelligent COOs know this.

  1. Highly Motivated Staff

It takes empathy to lead people. Even with all the money in the world and the most advanced tech in play, a disgruntled team will never deliver optimally. COOs with high levels of emotional intelligence know that it’s difficult if not impossible to demand from people what you have not first given to them. The general conditions of employment must be tailor-made to also ensure that the staff members are able to meet their physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization needs as depicted in the famous Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Once you show to every staff member through words and thoughtful actions that it’s in their enlightened self-interest to be productive – just sit back and watch them soar!

  1. Specialist Training

Especially for large organizations where there is high division of labour, there should be a high degree of specialization and this can be enhanced by coaching and mentoring. Each person or department should have their skills sharpened and updated regularly with the most recent competences. It may be that the head of production or production manager will have to get certification in contemporary production processes. They might be the most sustainable asset in the production process but don’t expect miracles from your human resources that you haven’t invest in. 

  1. Regular Systems Audit

No matter the outcome of the production process – whether optimal or sub-optimal, there is always room for improvement and innovation. There should be daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, bi-annual and annual review of your operations. Important metrics such as the input-to-output ratio, the unit cost of production, per unit revenue, waste and errors, marginal costs, fixed costs, variable costs etc should be identified and assessed. Effective quality control stem from self-control which comes from emotional intelligence.


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