I’m an operator, always have been, always will be.  It’s in my blood, I love it, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Being an operator has the highest of highs and lowest of lows in an organization.  We are the front line.  We are the company in the eyes of the consumer.  We are the main reasons organizations rise and fall. And, let’s face it; we are pretty damn arrogant when it pertains to the way organizations are run outside of Ops.

Operators have always been, and will always be, extremely opinionated over the way organizations operate outside of our viewpoints.  I’m sure this can be said for those in HR, Marketing, Finance, etc, but most organizations understand (at least publicly) that everyone else is there to support operations, which is part of the reason we tend to think so highly of ourselves.  We are the internal customer of the organization, everything that everyone else does is meant to help us to more easily serve our customers.

I am yet to work for an organization where all departments operate as a cohesive unit, and for a period of time, I was committed to making that happen in the organization I work for now.  That was, until I came to the realization that doing so would be a bad idea, if even possible.  I changed my approach from my attempt to create synergy to one that embraces the different perspectives that each department has on the business.  I have since made it a point to educate my team on how organizations have to work in order to be successful, especially larger organizations that have these departments as opposed to a “support person” that wears 50 different hats.

I have found, that by understanding WHY each phase of the business operates in the way they do, that a mutual level of respect can be found, even if we don’t always see eye-to-eye.

Think about it.  If you and the HR staff never had any conflict, would that really be a good thing?  They have a job to do, and so do you.  The only way for conflict to be eliminated from that relationship is for one of you to fold any time a situation arises, which is bad for the business.  An HR representative that I can’t get into a heated argument with from time to time isn’t worth hiring.  A Finance rep that doesn’t tell me “no” every once in a while isn’t doing their job right.  A marketing team that doesn’t blame operations when a promotion failed because of execution doesn’t take pride in their work.

So, how to do you get to the point where you can operate without the arrogance that infiltrates so many organizations to the point where people stop listening to each other entirely?  The answer is simple: TEACH your teams how businesses operate. Help them to understand exactly why they do what they do, and give them a better understanding of each person’s role in the company.

Go spend a day with a person from each department.  Pick a day when you have little other things to get done, so that you can really see how the world works in the eyes of someone in HR, Marketing, Finance, etc.. It’s important that you do this first, before you ask your team to do the same.  You will be blown away by how many things these people touch in the organization.  Your respect for them and their role will grow, and your arrogance will come down a notch or two.

I learned a lot about how this works through my education.  I was an operator before I went to school and during school, so some of it was hard to take, and I’m sure if I went back today and looked at some of the work I did, my arrogance would likely shine through in the most obvious of ways.  My viewpoint didn’t change overnight, it took time, but eventually it started to change the way I made decisions.  I will never to proclaim to understands all of the ins and outs of these other departments, but I understand enough to respect the decision they make; most of the time.  As a result of this, my team has a stronger support system than others in the organization, which helps them to vastly improve their performance.  When there is a big initiative coming down from outside of Ops, my team embraces it much more than they would have otherwise, and we are a better organization because of it.

Operators open up their own businesses only to see them fail the vast majority of the time.  Why? Because they make EVERY decision from the viewpoint of an operator.  We need people to put us in check sometimes, learn to embrace that.  When someone tells you no, go back the drawing board and come up with a better plan, as opposed to getting pissed off and just throwing your hands up.  That accomplishes nothing.

Disclaimer: In order for any of this to work, you have to work for a good company.  If your organization is known for knee-jerk reactions and a lack of respect for the Ops team, your efforts may be a waste of time.  We are in an employee-driven market right now.  An operator who cares enough about the organization to understand how the organization works in all facets is a hot commodity.  Don’t wast your time with people who don’t value your opinion, there are some really great organizations out there, run by fantastic people, who care about the people they employ. Go find one.


Square Mile Magazine - 11 issues