Are Your Operations Success Levers Defined? 6 Steps To Get You Started

Have you recently shared your 2012 goals and objectives with your teams? As business operations leaders, we often describe what we want, but do not do a very good job explaining or defining “the how”.

To consistently meet or exceed our objectives, we must understand the business levers, i.e. the most important and specific set of activities that will enable our teams to be successful over the long term. We must coach our teams on the most appropriate, proven set of behaviors that will get us from point A to point B.

To define the right set of levers, you should consider these 6 steps:Operations Success | Image Courtesy Of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot

1) Ask the right questions

  • Which set of activities, in what order, will allow you to achieve your outcomes on time, on budget?
  • Which set of activities do you have the most control over?
  • Which activities will have the biggest impact both short term and long term?
  • Which activities will be easiest and most realistic to reproduce consistently, over time?

2) Engage the right people

Directors and VPs usually have good ideas, but we must never stop there (in a conference room). Engage the front line managers and the people actually doing the work. They are closest to the action. They are the SMEs.

3) Look up, over and out

We must look externally, in other departments, in other companies and other industries. It is not always necessary to recreate the wheel.

4) Simplify

Providing team members with complex, hundred page manuals will not get results.  Simplify. Get the most important ideas down on a handful of pages. Less is more.

5) Be prescriptive

When you explain to someone exactly what you want them to do, you significantly increase the likelihood that they will be able to do it. There is no room for vagueness and ambiguity, when defining or communicating your critical levers.

6) Levers are not one size fits all

One you have identified the most important business objectives, determine which employee levels and roles will have the biggest influence on their achievement. Then, define levers of success for each role. For example, the levers to achieve your customer satisfaction survey goals will be different for Tech Support Analysts, Tech Support Engineers and Tech Support Managers.

After reading this post I hope that you agree…. levers are pretty darn important. Next time you meet with your teams about achieving department goals or you delegate a task to one of your direct reports, stop and ask yourself; Was I clever? Did we discuss the right lever(s)?

If you do, you will meet your goals and objectives faster, more consistently and set yourself up for success over the long term. Levers are cool.

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© 2012, Marci Reynolds. All rights reserved.


  1. Great post, Marci. It sounds like you are describing the strategy deployment process. You are absolutely right on all points. We start by having our senior managers set their goals for the year and being explicit as to what they are and setting no more than five. Then they play “catchball”. They have a discussion with their team on how the team can do to help achieve that goal. Once the discussion goes back and forth a couple of times and that is set. Then the 2nd level managers play catchball with their team and drill more into the detail of how to achieve the goals. The ideal state would be to have this happen all the way down to the lowest level in the organization. The decisions, goals, initiatives and metrics for each level are summarized on one 11×17 size sheet of paper. When done correctly, the alignment of what to achieve and how to achieve it is incredible.

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