This article aims to create awareness among companies of the strategic role that their Operations can play as a means of implementing business strategy and to convince them to embrace and support their “Operations” so as to enable them to play this role.

Almost all companies have strategies, but only a few have implementation plans and even fewer have successful implementations. There is a gap between strategy and implementation, and how to bridge this gap remains for most an unknown road.

“Operations” by its very nature has the capacity to execute and implement Strategy by aligning critical operations decisions with the performance attributes required by the business strategy. Operations make decisions in many critical business areas and the way these are made is influenced by strategy but at the same time, it is these decisions that give flesh and blood to strategy.

What the targeted customer wants is the first leg of the marketing strategy. Operations prepare and enable the company to respond to those needs, addressing in this way the second leg of the business strategy and completing the process.

The Operations’ implementation of strategy follows a cycle that may be thought like this:

  • Operations, first, either by themselves or with the aid of others learn what the customers want; it requires that they listen through surveys and KPI assessments.
  • Second, they must develop the right products, skills and knowledge that will enable them to deliver what is needed; it requires them to recognize the gap between what they have and what is needed and to try to fill it.
  • Third, they must reach the chosen markets and the right customers to deliver their products or services; it requires them to establish the necessary channels and target the business customers.

This cycle marries the customer to the company; it has a dynamic nature requiring constant attention and evaluation, and how it is implemented has critical consequences to the viability of the company.

It is this implementation that the Operations are in the best position to handle. Operations deal with and make critical decisions in business areas like (a) business assets: machinery and premises, (b) supply chain and systems, (c) technology directly or indirectly applied, (d) people and organizational matters: talent hiring, learning, training, structures, culture, decision making etc.

Making the right decisions in each of these areas is critically important; for example:

  • Decisions on whether to expand and where to establish new plants and by what capacity.
  • Decisions on which technology to adopt to aid the business processes directly and indirectly.
  • Decisions as to what to produce and what to outsource, which supplier to work with and by what type of contract.
  • Decisions on which quality philosophy to adopt and how to apply it without killing their organization with bureaucracy.
  • Decisions on the most appropriate business structure and culture, on delegation of responsibility and decision making as well as on a host of other organizational matters including learning, training and incentives.

A lot of care should be taken so that these decisions are made to address customer needs and to ensure that they are mutually supporting, not neutralizing each other and that they should all together address customer wants without voids in a comprehensive way.

These are critical, no-return decisions and getting one of these decisions wrong will severely impact the company goals. For example, wrong technology, wrong expansion in capacity, wrong supplier relationships, wrong quality program implementation, wrong culture or leadership, each one of these errors, even by itself alone, will have the potential to thwart company strategy and prospects.

Companies should realize the role that their Operations can play in the strategy-making process, and embrace their “Operations” to handle strategically the critical decision areas as a practical way of putting their strategy into action. Companies that do so will position themselves a step ahead of the many that have strategies that sadly remain only on the shelves.


About the author: Panikos Sardos is the Managing Director of P&E Sardos Business Solutions Int., a management consulting firm that offers advisory services, coaching and training and can be reached by email: psardos@sardossolutions.com or telephone: +357 99640912, +357 24400884, www.sardossolutions.com