5 Ways To Improve Operations

Any arts business, whether nonprofit or for-profit can be broken into four interconnected areas of activities. Collectively these activities make up the operations of your organisation. This article sets out 5 ways to improve operations within your organisation.

  1. Governance/Advisory Board – strategic decision making
  2. Management* – implementation of strategic decision making
  3. Back of office – making it seamless for others to do their job
  4. Customers – marketing, advertising, sales, customer service, service delivery, progam or product design – essentially ensuring money keeps rolling in.

*For the purpose of this article, artistic program sits within the management and customer functions.

Each of these activities cannot be successful without collaboration with each other.

Operations is not a function, it is a senior management role. The aim is to have someone with responsibility for understanding the bigger picture. You might ask, doesn’t this role fall to the CEO? In smaller organisations or businesses, that is likely to be the case. As a business grows and the distance between the CEO and all the moving parts increases, someone unencumbered by the CEO’s role may be needed to have that knowledge and understanding.

Here are 5 ways to improve operations within your arts organisation –

  1. Don’t add the responsibility for operations onto the finance, admin or HR manager. They have their own role to play. A dedicated and effective operations manager will have an ‘helicopter’ viewpoint of all the moving parts and relationships. This person then provides unbiased and critical strategic guidance to the management group.
  2. Give the operations manager room to roam, to build relationships with all other managers and staff. This is critical to understanding inter-connectivity and relationships and busting open silos.
  3. Have the operations manager lead cross-functional projects. He or she is a neutral person. The operation managers only vision is to create a seamless, effective organisation. They don’t have a patch to protect.
  4. Remember the operations manager is not a free agent, ensure he or she has goals and KPI’s that effectiveness and value can be measured against.
  5. Have the operations manager report directly to the CEO, this ensures any messages are not filtered by other senior executives.

The 5 ways to improve operations will help you build a truly effective organisation.

Ideally an operations manager would not have line management responsibility, however finances often dictate that the operations managers has direct responsibility for back of office. This is not a bad thing though the risk is the day to day minutiae of the back office may have a negative impact upon the the operation managers ability to focus upon the strategic outcomes and impact.

Why have a dedicated operations manager? The main reason is because you want to grow your business. A growing business needs their CEO to be freed from the business as usual stuff and to focus upon building relationships that ensure growth. An operations manager enables the CEO to divest implementation of strategic activities. Secondly, the CEO of a growing business needs access to good quality information and feedback as to what is happening inside the business. Thirdly a growing business needs someone to ‘join the dots’.

An effective operations manager will build relationships across all functions, will have an overall understanding of all the connections, will be key to identifying barriers within your organisation and barriers that impact upon customers and will be able to bring people together to work upon solutions to problems.

Here is the equation –

>I = >E (where I=information and E=effectiveness), therefore

>E = <C = >$ (where C = costs and $=revenue/profits)

John Coxon is founder of art4u.australia, a consulting agency helping arts organisations remain viable, through application of The Cycle a proven model for arts organisations. For guidance with effective operations in your organisation reach out to John.

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