At Tonkean, we’re working hard to provide operations teams with the technology they need — indeed, have long deserved — to create processes and systems that more efficiently and empathetically drive progress inside companies. Our hope is that this technology not only empowers operations teams to better address endemic inefficiencies inside companies, but evangelizes the world about the importance of operations writ large.
I’ve spent my career in tech, working with CTOs, CEO’s, salespeople, marketers, VCs, engineers, each of whom believed the work they were doing to be preeminent, and deserving of more attention, investment, etc.
But for all the importance of these various verticals, it’s clear to me that operations must be the department that designs the future of work. After all, operations leaders and teams are the ones best positioned to ensure that people in the future prioritize and appreciate the needs and preferences of people — and that our internal systems and processes prove flexible enough to accommodate disruption of the sort we’re all experiencing right now.
I also know, however, that operations-focused technology cannot do this work alone. There must also exist a strong and supportive operations community that can compel, inform, and insist upon the requisite ideological shifts. There needs to be a space where operations professionals can collaborate not only rhetorically, but tactically — better using operations-focused software as it’s released, and more effectively responding to crises like that of COVID-19.
This is not something I say lightly. My work in tech has been focused on precisely this task of building community — first, at a Series A startup (now onto Series C) called Le Tote, and then at Founders Network, an invite-only community of startup founders. Through that time, I’ve realized that an industry can’t thrive without community. It doesn’t matter what industry it is — the community piece is part of what makes the industry whole, part of what allows it to function on its own and ultimately influence society.
1) An operations community can more powerfully advocate for technological change.
Operations prove the cornerstone of every human initiative, yet in most companies, they’re neglected. Namely, operations teams are denied resources specific to the work they do. There isn’t even a platform designed specifically for operations teams today, as there is for every other enterprise department.
This is precisely what we’re working to change at Tonkean, but, again, providing the requisite technology isn’t enough.
And that’s where community comes into play. A robust, powerful, and functioning operations community will be able not only to more efficiently identify and champion what technology operations professionals need, but demand that that technology is adopted and implemented faithfully inside organizations. After all, only operations professionals know what it actually takes to create processes and systems that people want and need — what, in other words, they currently lack.
2) An operations community can more powerfully advocate for ideological change.
Once again, however, knowing what technology we need isn’t enough. To ensure business leaders are truly committed to properly equipping operations teams and departments, we have to ensure they appreciate the importance of doing so in the first place. And to put it bluntly, most don’t.
Today, for example, when it comes to business strategy even just in general, most business leaders adhere to a categorically “tech-first” mindset, wherein all that counts is data, and the predominant assumption is that every process challenge is best solved by apps. This is why the processes operations teams design today prove so endemically inefficient, incapable of running end-to-end without lots of menial, manual work on the part of employees. It’s also why employees find themselves so overwhelmed and underserved by technology. The tools they’re forced to use don’t solve the problems they face. Sound operations — and, in turn, effective businesses — require resources designed not to manipulate data, but to enable operations teams to create processes that put people first. But to manifest those resources — in order for operations teams to finally, truly start putting people first — companies need to believe that thinking “people-first” is important in the first place.
An active, informed operations community will prove crucial to making that argument. After all, as history has shown, community is what provides changemakers the kind of support, momentum, and unity needed to exact ideological change at scale.
3) Community proves a crucial resource in times of disaster, fear, and uncertainty.
Perhaps most importantly, however, considering what’s happening in the world right now, an operations community is needed because it would help companies and people more seamlessly adapt to disaster and disruption.
First, we know that operations itself is a critical source of flexibility in times like these. The damage the novel coronavirus has wrought has brought this light. For companies, it’s revealed the danger of not designing essential systems and processes to be adequately adaptive, capable of withstanding abrupt changes in circumstance or routine — whether those be changes to communication processes, supply chains, or support channels. But organizations who’ve invested more meaningfully in sound, adaptive, and strategic business operations are experiencing less fallout. Which makes sense. Companies rely upon the invisible infrastructure of their internal operations. If that infrastructure is well designed — capable of working more than just one way — it can prevent your company from crumbling in the face of catastrophe.
But here’s the thing: operations cannot prove so effective in a vacuum. “Investing in operations” is not just a matter of giving operations teams the tools they need, or of coming to believe that operations is important. People also need a forum, a common gathering space where they can strategize; further their efforts of exacting ideological change; and support one another by sharing ideas and offering help. Urgency, empathy, and momentum are all born in community. As is safety, innovation, and progress.
Another way of putting this: community compels action and stability just as it encourages diligence and grit.
Operations needs to design the future of work.
At the end of the day, here’s what I know to be true. Operations teams and departments are crucial to creating processes and systems that increase efficiency, enable innovation, and engender employee happiness inside of companies. Operations is also crucial in ensuring organizations can adapt and survive in times of crisis. All of which is why operations must design the future of work: a future where businesses run efficiently; where people can focus on the things that are uniquely human; and where technology works to enhance the qualities of people, rather than encumber them.
But to actualize this promise, we must convince decision makers to take operations seriously. We must make the world more conscious of the importance of operations as a business function. We must do what I’ve seen other industries do in making a case for themselves: develop holistically.
And it’s to this end, ultimately, that we need to foster an operations-focused community. It’s the next step in creating the future of work that we all want and need.
We believe so strongly in the importance of building up an operations community that we’re doing it ourselves. We’re proud to introduce AdaptivOps, a cross-functional community that brings together operational leaders from every sector of business. A space to allow for collaboration, support, and strategy sharing. Where you can find knowledge and insights around not only how to build a solid, flexible operations system — capable of weathering difficult times — but around how we’ll design the future of work together.