How well is your business really running?

Unless there is a crisis or surge in customer complaints, the spotlight of the senior leadership team may rarely fall on the day-to-day operations of the business. Everything may seem like it’s running ok – but is it really? 

Think about the engine of your car. If your vehicle gets you from A to B without any issues, it’s easy to assume all is running well ‘under the hood’. But that engine requires regular attention and maintenance to prevent the warning lights coming on, signalling a major (and likely costly) problem.

It’s the same in business. 

In our experience, operational functions are often riddled with challenges. It’s just that they have become the norm and staff just ‘get on with it’. Customers often begrudgingly accept these operational issues too. But it’s normally only a matter of time before a better company comes along and they are persuaded to jump ship.

So, as a senior business leader, how can you find out if there are significant systemic issues brewing behind the scenes – before it’s too late?  

Get out from behind your desk

One of the simplest things you can do is take some time out of your day and spend it with the frontline. You will be amazed what you learn from doing this as well as the appreciation you get from staff if you are genuinely trying to understand their day-to-day reality. They generally won’t hold back with their views of how things really are for them.

Listen to what staff are already telling you

To get an even wider view of staff experiences, take an in-depth look at the freeform comments in the annual staff survey. They can be very instructive!

Arm yourself with data

Ask for operational data and trends to get a more granular view of what’s happening on the ground. This includes information on backlogs, how much overtime is being approved, customer wait times, customer complaints, staff turnover or sick leave rates, system downtime and throughput.

Follow the bouncing ball

Try to understand how the customer experiences the organisational processes. Something to look out for is how many handoffs there are as these are often the bottlenecks. Are staff empowered to make the decisions they need to help the customer or are they passing it off to someone else?

Review on-boarding effectiveness

How are new staff trained and how long does it take them to become proficient? Long lead times are indicative of complex processes and systems that may be hampering the business operations.

Investigate process controls

Are targets set for outputs? Do staff know what ‘success’ looks like? How is variance managed and how is quality and compliance tracked?

Taking the time to understand your operations will give you new insights into how the organisation really operates, how your staff are going, and importantly, your customers’ experiences interacting with your business. Seek and act on this information early and you may prevent the warning lights from ever having to come on at all.

At Three Chairs Consulting, we love to work with senior leaders to identify and overcome systemic operational issues and help their business grow. If you’d like to chat about how we can improve your operations, please contact us at