Operational Function – It’s Elementary

Operational function and the way things work, is a concept we learn early on in school, and almost entirely by practical application. Whether related to sentence structure, mathematical problem solving, or following a schedule, sound operational function is required for successful group and individual performance.

In a school environment, anywhere from tens to hundreds of people require well-coordinated and forward thinking operational function to maximize efficiencies of time and space. As young students, we are given a sense of direction for the day, held accountable to the policies which affect all students and staff, made aware of the goals of our teachers, and given the opportunity for independence as we navigate the demands of curriculum, friends, and growth. In our professional environment we also have tens to hundreds of people contributing to the success of an organization individually and in teams, are expected to work within the best interest of the organization, and work independently as we navigate demands from our departments and invitations for coffee. The “training” we receive as young school children sets the expectations which drive success from operational function leading to order.

operational function

However, one variable can upset even the most successful operations: CHANGE


With the exception of emergencies, change in a school environment requires advanced planning, communication, and precise timing based on the school calendar. It is usually driven by internal forces planning for new staff, new curriculum, or new schedules. In the business world, change is often driven by external forces of new technology, new materials, customer needs and growth. When driven by our own goals, metrics and timelines, change is embraced, planned for and executed with competency, and if we’re lucky, grace. We are in control and as the agent of change we are handling our own operational function by managing what we do and how we do it.

When change is driven by an external force there is much less control as the change is happening, especially if it’s unexpected. Theoretically, in business, the leadership knows the change is coming but successfully implementing operational changes across groups or departments becomes the challenge. And when implemented in a disjointed, confusing, or late fashion, the value of change, and its benefits, can be lost in the chaos of disorganization and failed communication.

One of the greatest contributors to the need for change is growth. When rapid growth occurs, it is common to expect that since the growth occurred while the business was organized in a particular way, there is no reason to make any changes or adjustments. In other words, what worked previously will work again. But with growth comes new challenges requiring different strategies and the need to ensure the overall health of an organization so that growth can continue. This is when the company’s operational function metrics are put to the test. There is potential for fallout from mismanaged change and a lack of operational adjustments to ensure success internally for employees and externally for customers.

To ensure success during change, leadership must build future strategies and over-communicate to frontline and middle level employees. An organization which has successfully implemented operational change experiences employee satisfaction and provides a strong sense of direction related to the future of the company. All employees at all levels understand how their role, previous or future, fits into the new operational scheme. Even more successful are the organizations which possess these traits before unexpected growth or change. Those which regularly embrace the value of suggestions from employees at all levels, communicate a clear future direction, and strive for job satisfaction at all levels are those which are the most successful. Organizations which function well and are operationally strong are not only profitable, but also filled with employees who love coming to work every day and feel valued. The internal success leads to and drives external confidence among customers and in the marketplace.

With new technologies arriving in the workplace every day and with so many businesses seemingly growing overnight, we ask: is your organization one with healthy operational function? If a major unexpected change were to happen tomorrow, is the foundation set for future success?