What Is Operations Management?
Operations management focuses on carefully managing the processes to serve your veterinary clients in the best and most efficient way possible. Usually, practices don’t talk about “operations management”, but they carry out the activities that management schools typically associate with the phrase “operations management.” Operations management is in regard to all operations within the veterinary hospital and many related activities such as quality control, storage, logistics and evaluations. A great deal of focus is on efficiency and effectiveness of processes. Therefore, operations management often includes substantial measurement and analysis of internal processes.
After planning what you want your practice to accomplish, operational control is taking a systematic approach to figuring out if you’re team members are doing what you want them to do or not. Regardless of the negative connotation of the word “control”, it must exist or there is no structure to the workplace at all.
A practice must have goals and identifying these goals requires some form of planning, be it formal or informal. And reaching these goals means identifying some strategies that are agreed upon by the members of the hospital through some form of communication. Then members can set out to act in accordance with what they agreed to do.
In its most basic form, each member of your team must work together to reach common goals that you have set for them. This form of ongoing communication to reach a goal, tracking activities toward the goal and then subsequent decisions about what to do is the essence of management coordination, and must exist if you want a successful practice.
The following are just some of the areas within a practice that are in need of operational control.
The concept of quality control has received a great deal of attention over the past twenty years. Many people recognize phrases such as “do it right the first time, “zero errors”, etc. Very broadly, quality includes specifying a performance standard (often by benchmarking, or comparing to a well-accepted standard), monitoring and measuring results, comparing the results to the standard and then making adjusts as necessary. Recently, the concept of quality management has expanded to include practice-wide programs.
Risk, Safety and Liabilities
For a variety of reasons (including the increasing number of lawsuits), practices are focusing a great deal of attention to activities that minimize risk, avoid liabilities and ensure the safety of their employees. Not long ago, it was rare to hear of an organization undertaking contingency planning, disaster recovery planning or critical incident analysis. Now those activities are becoming commonplace.
Veterinary processes involve interactions among employees. These interactions are specified as protocols. Protocols should be published, enabling the staff to work independently, yet be held accountable for their actions. A variety of protocols are needed to capture even the most subtle practice needs.
Most veterinarians assume that they already have good training for their employees After all, they answer the employees’ questions as they ask them, they send their employees to a continuing education conference once in a while, and their employees seem to be doing their jobs without have any real problems. But, their approach to training isn’t intentional, planned or focused.
Unfortunately, most veterinarians don’t know what we don’t know. It may be that their employees could be performing much better than realized if they had better skills. It might be that managers could get back a lot of time that otherwise was spent answering the employee’s questions. They might retain employees much longer, as well.
Adopting a systematic approach to training helps ensure that managers are getting the most out of themselves and their employees. A systematic approach to training includes taking the time to analyze what results the practice needs from its employees, if employees are accomplishing those results, and what training and development approaches are needed by employees to better accomplish those results. A systematic approach includes evaluating approaches before, during and after training to ensure employees truly benefited from the training in terms of enhanced results to the practice.
Developing job descriptions helps a practice articulate the most important outcomes they need from an employee performing a particular job. Job descriptions are also a communication tool to tell co-workers where their job leaves off and the job of another employee starts.
Well-written job descriptions should tell an employee where their job fits within the overall scheme of the practice, helps an employee transition from one shift to another shift, aids the person who was just hired find their place within the practice, and is an integral piece of the performance development planning process.
To maximize productivity and profitability, a veterinary practice must create an appropriate structure consisting of the right set of efficiency systems. A practice must learn about these systems, their key components, and how to assemble them so that they can improve productivity and profitability.
Practices that attempt to increase productivity and profitability create a list of systems that need to be aligned, refined, or designed. They will identify (1) systems that are already working, albeit not necessarily consistently used therefore needing alignment; (2) systems that exist but need refining based on the components of an efficient system; and (3) systems that need to be created or designed.