The Road To Strong Operational Process Discipline

Author: Jamie Bourassa

Most companies have taken a stab at implementing operational process discipline (OPD) to achieve the most coveted of all objectives: instilling each and every employee with the knowledge and commitment to execute every task the right way every time. At some point, though, the process has probably broken down, leaving unmet goals, frustrated employees and disappointed managers.

As the end of the year approaches, it’s a good time to explore some tips and strategies that will help make your next OPD implementation a successful and lasting one. The effort should be worth it. The use of a carefully executed OPD is often a key characteristic of high-performing MSPs, according to research LOGICnow conducted for its MAXfocus platform partners. 

Different OPDs fit different companies. DuPont, Chevron, Accenture, for example, have their versions. Management consultant Wilson Perumal describes several pillars that can be easily tweaked to support the foundation of your OPD, no matter the size of your company.  Smaller companies can benefit as much from the discipline as larger ones.  Whatever approach you take, make sure to hammer down a few basics before developing a plan. These are fundamental steps, but they’re also ones companies tend to let slide, especially smaller shops without a deep HR or management bench.

  • Clearly establish the division or area OPD will be aimed at. While a company’s overall mission should be ingrained in every employee, different divisions operate best with their own incentives, training and goals.
  • Outline the tasks each employee is expected to execute to do the best job possible.
  • Firmly establish the goals of each employee. Review their performance at least once a quarter. This provides a chance to implement changes needed to correct low performance or alter the tasks needed to reach a desired goal.
The most important factor of a successful OPD is full buy-in and commitment from company leadership. Rear Admiral Arleigh Burke, whose 1950 study Discipline in the U.S. Navy laid the foundation for much of today’s modern OPD, attributed every major case of discipline breakdown in the Navy to four major factors, each caused by a failure in leadership. Think about the frustrations and erosion of discipline you’ve experienced in the companies you’ve worked for. Chances are high they stemmed from one of these problems.
  • Lack of Information: Subordinates were not kept informed of the problems or reasons that the organisation took the action it did.
  • Lack of Interest: Seniors had little interest in or knowledge of the problems of their juniors or what they actually did on the job. Skills and training were wasted; discipline eroded.
  • Slackness in Command: Everyone from top leadership down must know where they stand and what is expected of them. Every little detail contributes to an effective and significant outcome.
  • Instability: Failure to adequately plan for changes (such as operations or schedules) or properly/fairly handle promotions or job evaluations whittles away morale and, eventually, discipline through the ranks

No OPD plan will yield perfect results, and all of them require yearly evaluations for strengths and weaknesses. But one based on a solid foundation built by the hands of committed, caring leaders can improve retention, productivity, employee focus and involvement, customer satisfaction, and overall operational excellence.  High-performing companies know the difference OPD makes.  For more information, please visit http://www.isg-one.com/knowledgecenter/whitepapers/private/papers/White_paper_-_Heroes_vs_Process_Discipline.pdf