Hi Dr. Green, thank you for agreeing to answer few questions to help our readers get a better view into operations management.
AM: With your experience in various forms of business such as: leadership, entrepreneurship, management. Please tell us how you got into the operations management field?
DG: I was thrust into management straight out of college. Since my first arrival at Department of Energy at Richland Operations Office (Washington) in 1989, I have been given the opportunity to apply systems management concepts to a wide range of programs and projects. DOE has some very technical operations. In the past, the organization has opted to have engineers and scientists to manage these projects. It figured it is easier to teach engineers how to manage than teach business folks how to do engineering. This reality gave me an opportunity to be exposed to some incredible operations. Before I was 30 years old, I had already managed over 400 projects estimated at $100 million. I have worked with some of the top companies in the world, including the University of Tennessee-Battelle; Jacob Engineering Group; Bechtel, National, Inc.; Westinghouse, Hanford; Lockheed Martin Energy Systems; Stone & Webster; Martin Marietta Energy Systems; and Vanderbilt University.
Some of the projects include nuclear operations, construction, demolition, development, and energy conservation. I have managed a variety of activities including research and development, technology development, environmental management, and waste management. As far as operations, I have been on the support organizations such as safety engineer and quality manager as well as managing operational activities. Again, DOE was a great starting point for me to understand operations management from the ground-up.
AM: How important is an Operations Manager to a company?
DG: In the current DOE program (environmental management), operations management is critical for mission success. National security and I have been responsible for the review and approval of contractor procurement actions, major equipment acquisitions, installation and testing, as well as and subsequent subcontracting requests, and subcontracts. Because we deal with nuclear operations, we keep a rigid conduct of operations in our performance. Several years ago, I was the project manager for nuclear operations. This activity required removing, packaging, and relocating quantities of nuclear materials in order to reduce the probability of a criticality incident. Therefore, there was a high degree of formality of operations so that the workers and the environment were kept safe. You need talented and disciplined workers in our processes.
AM: How do you see the operations management profession developing in the future? Any specific fields that you think will be affected by the change more than others?
DG: Discontinuous change will be a daily part of the operations manager’s life. It is unpredictable and sudden.
Given this parameter, the operations management professional will find itself more focusing more on socio-technical systems instead of just operations. Clearly, there are huge ramifications to the manufacturing community. However, every field will be impacted. Managers will need to better integrate suppliers, customers, employees, and other support systems in ways that build a competitive advantage. This is no easy process.
Therefore, he or she needs to be institutive, creative, and adaptable. Some individuals get nervous when I speak about how disruptive change has impacted organizations and processes. In fact, this change threatens traditional authority and power structure because it drastically alters the way things are currently done or have been done for years. This change brings a great degree of turbulences in most organizations. Donald Sull, author of The Upside of Turbulence, notes “Turbulence, for many, equals risk, and risk equals bad news.” With global competition and technology advances, organizations that do not adapt will simply not be around.
AM: Do you see any change in being an Operations Manager now, compared to 10, 20 years ago? And is there any additional skill that an OM has to bring to the table today?
DG: Yes, I think operations managers will need to address the workforce in a different kind of way. We need to create organizations where workers are empowered to make decisions in the processes and assist managers with strategies that assist them in being competitive. Unfortunately, this empowerment movement has been mostly talk. Sadly, executives are then shocked when their employees don’t buy-in on their latest management initiative. One of the reasons organizations do not reach peak performance is because managers do not create socio-technical systems to support organizational values.
We will discuss the concept of building socio-technical systems in global markets. With fierce global competition and a need for a market advantage, operation managers must be able to see the bigger picture and apply system thinking to their processes. In fact, I am an advocate for dealing with socio-technical systems. We, technical managers, are great at work processes and tasks.
Yet, we haven’t been that effective in the human capital processes. We know how to cost cut by reducing the workforce but we are bad at inspiring our workforce for greater performance. The concept of a socio-technical system is defined by the interdependence of humans and machines that operate in harmonious fashion. We must view workers as one of the critical components to successful operations in high performance organizations.
AM: Your best advice to people who are looking to get into management field?
DG: That is a great question that I often discuss with my MBA students at Lincoln Memorial University. I believe the university has the pulse on providing practical applications of business concepts to students. First, I think it is important that individuals know what they want to achieve in the management field. You have to know your passion. Second, I would also advise people to think strategically. With 15 million people out of work, people can’t hope to find the right management job without planning.
Many of today’s college students lack the mental toughness and fortitude to deal with economic turbulence. My co-author William Bailey and I wrote our recent book, Job Strategies for the 21st Century: How to Assist Today’s College Students during Economic Turbulence. Through our research, we have found a huge disconnect between what organizations want in potential employees and what today’s graduates are providing. This brings me to my last point. In today’s economy, individuals must offer a value to the potential employer that they can’t pass up. I think people need to offer value to potential employers by addressing a need and fixing a lingering problem. Therefore, value creation becomes an attractive attribute for those individuals who want to compete for the best management positions.
AM: What are some traits that a person needs to have to be a successful operations manager?
DG: In the future, I believe successful operations managers will need to be more strategic. I’ve written several articles on the leadership competencies needed in the future. Typically, operations managers are focused on their processes in a narrow sort of way. However, I don’t think it logical to pursue this traditional mindset in global markets. Clearly, some different attributes are needed for the future. Due to the harsh conditions of 21st century living, John Hoyle, author of Leadership and Futuring, advocates a new leadership type characterized by (a) the ability to communicate with followers, especially the organizational vision; (b) a capacity for caring and concern; and (c) a persistent attitude. Furthermore, Jay Galbraith maintains that these leaders must understand their own organizations and their competitors if they hope to be successful in other countries.
It has been argued that every global leader has a set of global characteristics regardless of his or her country or industry. The four key attributes noted by several experts are inquisitiveness, perspective, character, and savvy. In possessing such skill mixes, the leader utilizes duality. Given this future reality, operation managers will need to fully maximize their performances while focusing externally in order to take advantage of market opportunities. This activity will be done in conjunction with the other functions (marketing, finance, human resources, etc.) in the organization.
AM: Thank you Dr.Green for your ideas on organization and leadership. It was great having you here.
Bio of Dr. Daryl Green:
Leadership Development expert, Dr. Daryl D. Green, lectures and writes on contemporary issues impacting individuals,
businesses, and societies across the nation. With over 20 years of management experience, Dr. Green is noted and
quoted by USA Today, Ebony Magazine, Associated Press, NBC Knoxville’s Live at Five, Answerline, American Urban
Radio, and BET’s Buy the Book. His FamilyVision column, syndicated through Newspaper Publishers Association, has
reached over 200 newspapers and more than 15 million readers across the country.
Daryl Green is the author of several books, including Breaking Organizational Ties, My Cup Runneth Over, and the
acclaimed Awakening the Talents Within. He has published over 100 articles on the subjects of decision-making and
leadership, which have been syndicated to thousands of websites.
As a social advocate, Dr. Green co-founded the Greater East Pasco Achievement Program, a
nonprofit tutorial service, which assisted over a hundred students in Washington State. He
received the DOE Community Service Award and the Pasco Martin Luther King Jr.
Humanitarian Award for this effort.