According to Soliman (2000 p.1), Acquisition of knowledge is an essential component that enables a company to be flexible in the face of the changing business environment. This enables the company to improve its competitive position or to enhance costs efficiencies through improved processes. This ultimately enables the company to enhance value for its customers which results in increased profitability, which is one of the key objectives of any organization. According to Oliver (2008 p.1), this continuous acquisition of knowledge can only be possible if the company promotes and encourages the ‘learning culture’ to pervade the entire organization.
Knowledge management can be described as the entire process which is concerned creation, distribution, and use of knowledge. According to Newman (2002 p.1), in the organizational context, it can be seen that knowledge management is an important component in both generation and utilization of information which can be applied in order to improve the organizational processes.
Role of learning organization concept in improving the performance of operations departments
A company should enhance the learning culture in response to the fast-changing business environment characterized by new knowledge and stiff competition. Therefore, every organization should strive to encourage a learning culture with a view to having the ability to withstand and survive in this highly competitive environment. This is because the learning organization promotes innovation and employee ingenuity which are key components in improving the organization’s performance (Collie and Taylor 2004 pp.1-2).
In addition, a learning organization is also instrumental in promoting knowledge sharing and transfer in the organization which is very vital during the process of improving organizational performance. A learning organization needs to have the following characteristics. Firstly, it should provide the means to deliberately enable its employees to have a continuous learning process. Moreover, a learning organization fosters a system that facilitates the acquisition and sharing of knowledge with a view to helping the organization to progress and be competitive.
Some scholars contend that a learning organization acquires new knowledge and uses it to modify itself in order to adapt to the changing environment. They further argue that learning takes place in individuals, teams, and organizations as well as all the other relevant stakeholders who interact with the organization. For organization learning to be effective it must be planned, continuous, and integrated within the normal functions of the organization (Soliman 2010a).
To further enhance the learning process, the company should emphasize and support the learning process throughout all the levels in an organization. These learning levels are individual, group, organization, and global. The changes proposed by the operations department should be guided by the new information acquired by the organization during the learning process (Alipour et al. 2011 pp. 1-3).
Could innovative operations be sustainable?
Innovative operations can be sustainable if the organization observes the following conditions. According to Selen and Soliman (2002), the company must have the ability to think ahead. This entails looking beyond the current market opportunities. The company should for instance be able to forecast the needs of the customers in the future and be able to position itself accordingly. In addition, the company should decide on how they are going to carry out innovation whether gradually or abrupt. This is because each of the methods will require that the company adapts appropriately so that there will not be any disruption in its functions which could end up hurting the customers.
In addition, the company should ensure that it follows the relevant legislations and laws when introducing processes meant to improve the performance of the organization. This is because regulation determines the sustainability of innovations. Another important component that determines the sustainability of innovation revolves around the issue of research and development. This is because research and development departments are very useful when it comes to carrying out research and coming up with valuable information which can be used to develop a new process. Moreover, the department also helps in assessing the suitability of the proposed solutions to determine their suitability and sustainability (Nidumolu et al. 2009 pp. 1-6)
Likewise, larger organizations are realizing that tight vertical integration helps in promoting sustainable innovation. This is because it allows for easier access to information and resources and also the opportunity of testing the proposed solutions. On the other hand, small organizations are capitalizing on interactions with the suppliers as well as other relevant stakeholders, since they cannot realize the benefits which come about as a result of the utilization of vertical integration.
Nevertheless, for this model to work the company must be able to develop a level of trust with the partners. This benefits the small organizations in that it provides a conducive environment that allows them to test the suitability of the ideas with the partners. This arrangement helps in promoting sustainable innovation. Additionally, the company may also engage external stakeholders when it has a new process that it needs to introduce but does not have the necessary capacity to implement. This will also help in promoting sustainable innovations.
The company should also encourage the employees to come up with improvements on the existing operations rather than waiting for that big idea that can impact the entire company. For example, the company can encourage the staff to look for simple ways of improving efficiency. The company should also encourage introducing innovations using the stepwise approach as it promotes sustainable innovation.
The company should also make good use of the existing regulations to which can be a key element in determining the sustainability of the regulations. The company should identify the regulations which make it beneficial to introduce the innovations and the regulations which render them harmful to the organization. In addition, the organization can also be more proactive by being a supporter of new regulations that can positively impact the sustainability of the innovations (Nordic Innovation n. d. p.1-9).
Role of leadership in improving the performance of operations departments
Soliman, (2011a) argues that leadership is an important component of enhancing the performance of the operations department because it facilitates the right environment and culture. This culture fosters ordered and multidisciplinary teamwork, formal and informal learning, and also enhances successful communication at all the levels of the organization. Leaders are also important as they are the ones who facilitate the allocation of resources during the process of performance improvement. These vital resources include training, adequate staff, and also time which are instrumental in facilitating performance improvement.
Leaders also perform other functions which are vital in enhancing the performance of operations departments. Such functions include: determining the priority areas that need improvement based on the objectives of the organization. Secondly, they ensure the participation of all the employees in the organization in order to make everybody be part of the process of performance improvement. The leaders also assess the efficiency or the success of the methods which are employed to help in performance improvement. In addition, leaders are a vital component in coming up with multidisciplinary teams which are used to come up with ideas that can help in improving the performance of the organization.
The leaders also monitor the performance of all the employees of the entire organization to ensure that their functions continuously align with the strategy undertaken by the operations department to improve the performance of the organization. Previously, leaders used to manage their various units and departments horizontally. The whole idea was that if every leader in charge of every unit or department optimally managed his unit it would result in overall efficiency in the entire organization. However, a major challenge for this approach was that it could not be used to effectively manage cross-functional functions or departments like resource management, staff retention, and budgeting.
However, leaders nowadays have a new approach that utilizes both horizontal and vertical methods of management that is very beneficial in implementing performance management. This is because the most appropriate management strategy to employ in performance management should be holistic and should also allow the involvement of all the employees in an organization.
Leaders are also involved in determining the key areas that need improvement in an organization as well as developing the criteria to be used in assessing the efficiency of improvement strategies. The areas selected must be such that they contribute the greatest gain to the overall efficiency of the entire organization. In order, to be able to come up with these priority areas the company should be guided by the objectives and goals of the organization (CBS Interactive 2011 pp.1-2).
Role of operations management in developing and implementing strategies for sustainable operations
According to Soliman and Spooner (2000 pp.337-345), the role of this department is to come up with a strategy to improve the organization’s performance as well as ensure the successful implementation of the same. Additionally, they assess the operation strategies used to ensure their sustainability. Towards this end, they also ensure that all commercial and legal requirements are adhered to during the implementation.
Some of the commercial and legal requirements that should be looked at include identification of the possible and actual impacts of the proposed strategies. Moreover, the department identifies the negative outcomes of the proposed strategies and comes up with measures to mitigate them. They also contribute during the process of management analysis to measure the economic impact of the strategies employed on both the short-term and long-term prospects of the organization.
More importantly, the major role of operations management is to have the overall responsibility for all the processes and activities of an organization, which are instrumental for the effective production of goods and services for the customers. To facilitate the effective execution of its roles, the operations manager must have a clear understanding of the strategic objectives of the company. This will help it to come up with suitable methods and processes that can be used to achieve these goals. In addition, the operations management must be in a position to assess the implication of those strategic goals on the existing processes.
The operations management is also mandated with formulating the operations strategy. This acts as the general guideline that helps them to determine whether the various decisions which they make align with the overall organization’s long-term objectives. The operations management also carries out the planning and controlling functions for the resources which are used in introducing the new processes to ensure that they are being optimally used.
The operations management is also charged with the responsibility of improving the efficiency of the process used in the production of goods and services. To effectively carry out this role the operations management should continually monitor the processes in order to identify the areas which need improvement, with the ultimate goal being to improve on the efficiency of the processes (Corbett 2009 pp.4-6).
How sustainable operations could improve the performance of agile manufacturing?
Agile manufacturing refers to an organization that has developed the appropriate processes and tools which help it to aptly respond to the needs of its customers and changes in the business environment while at the same time having the ability to maintain acceptable quality and costs. A key element that is needed for an organization to become agile is by having the appropriate technology which supports a database that can be used by the designers and production staff to share information on all the parts and also to facilitate the detection of small problems that could have profound effects on the subsequent processes (Soliman and Youssef 2001).
This is informed by the fact that in a manufacturing concern it is always easier to address quality issues at the earliest possible point rather than allowing the problem to escalate and prove to be costly in the long run. In order to survive in this rapidly changing environment, all the companies will need to adapt their operations. However, most companies are still clinging to operations and cultures which are not supportive of their need to modify in order to be able to compete effectively and achieve their objectives.
Sustainable operations will help the manufacturing concerns to have a competitive advantage that will be instrumental in helping it to survive in an increasingly competitive business environment. This can be achieved through the utilization of sustainable innovations which can be used to respond appropriately to changes in customers’ needs. This helps the organization to come up with products and services which better serve its customers thereby helping the organization to have a competitive edge over its rivals (Soliman 2010b).
In addition, sustainable innovation helps the organization to respond to changes appropriately and in a timely way. According to Reimer and Karagiannis (2006), this is instrumental in ensuring that the company continues to be relevant in the face of the rapidly changing environment and helps increase its market share as well as retain the existing customers. This enables the company to achieve its objective of profitability in spite of the current highly competitive business environment.
Sustainable innovations also help the organization to take advantage of the changes which occur in the business environment. This can be as a result of the rapid rate of introduction of new products as well as the ability to introduce new products without additional investments (Hallgren and Olhager 2008)
How service operations could become agile?
Service operations can become agile by adhering to the following conditions. Firstly, the company could start by empowering the employees and motivating them so that they can be committed to the realization of the company’s objectives and goals. In addition, the management should promote a leadership style that seeks to enhance the interactions with the other members of the staff. In a way, this would empower the employees to be able to make decisions on the appropriate processes to improve performance, in an acceptable framework, and the management would play the role of supporting the successful implementation of those decisions (Soliman 2000 pp.337-345).
According to Soliman (2011b), all the constituent departments of the organization should be geared towards customer satisfaction. This will ensure that all the new processes are put in place with the sole purpose of improving the quality of service which is a prerequisite in customer satisfaction. In addition, to the quest of the company to increase profitability and improve the core service the company should also strive to make a positive contribution to the community.
According to Blazey (2009), The Company should also ensure that it only hires employees who can add value. This will ensure that there is the continuous acquisition of knowledge which is a prerequisite for innovation which is a key element in improving service delivery to the customers. The entire organization should be geared towards value delivery coupled with an effective and fast monitoring system to ensure that value delivery is adhered to at all times.
Another key attribute of an agile organization is that they hire individuals that are passionate and are able to help in achieving the corporate vision. These individuals must have the right skills needed in their respective positions in the organization. According to Soliman (2011c), this is a departure from the idea from the other organizations which depend on rigid rules which determine the implementation of the organization’s goals.
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