The Order-Winning Operations Strategy

We, whether we are executives, entrepreneurs, or employees, face challenges and disruptions every day.  Most of us have goals or at least have things we want to realise or get done.  We hate it when we run into obstacles.  We therefore develop strategies to anticipate and overcome them, if not get around them.

Goals are what we keep an eye on when we work.  Otherwise, we risk becoming aimless.   One thing we shouldn’t be is lost. Getting lost is not a good thing.  Imagine finding ourselves lost in a forest.  We don’t know where to go, what to do, and night is coming.  Fear sooner than later sets in.  It’s not only an unpleasant fear that takes hold of us but also the sense of futility as we expend whatever we have left trying to get out.

For many months from early 2020 to late 2022, we had been lost in a forest of fear, futility, and frustration from the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent disruptions caused by wars, natural disasters, political strife, and inflation. 

Like a broken record, we had experienced waves of bad news about supply chain shortages, transportation delays, inventory overruns, out-of-stock, and tighter trade policies.  We also felt the despair of enterprise owners who had to throw away rotting fruits & vegetables, cull sick livestock, dispose excess vaccines, lose precious cargo from ocean-freight mishaps, deal with labour conflicts & understaffed organisations, comply with stricter laws, and resign to runaway prices of just about everything. 

Many of us were fire-fighting crisis after crisis in supply chains that had become burning platforms.  We felt we were in an unwinnable battle. 

To win in a game like chess, we should first gain the initiative.  We should be calling the shots, not taking them.  We should always have the upper hand. 

Many of us don’t have the upper hand in our supply chains and we suffer as a result.  And a reason for this is we don’t have an operations strategy, an order-winning operations strategy

An operations strategy should win orders, not just qualify for them. 

We fashion our operations strategies based on what our customers want.  We first make sure our operations will qualify, that is, meet prerequisites & standards set by customers, clients, industrial groups, agencies, etc. 

The common mistake we make is we end there.  We formulate strategies to qualify, to comply, but we don’t formulate strategies to win repeat orders, to generate new demand. 

The ideal operations strategy not only meets customers’ requirements but also pleases the people served such that we become the preferred suppliers.  The operations strategy doesn’t close the cycle of demand creation to fulfilment but instead, regenerates it. 

An order-winning operations strategy addresses six (6) competitive priorities, or those that contribute directly to value for customers, clients, and end-users: 

Delivery deals with the timeliness and completeness of demand in terms of product volume or services rendered. 

Quality is the level of satisfaction of specifications or standards agreed to with customers.

Cost is the expense for resources, activities, overhead, and capital investments that contributes to the value of products and services. 

Service is how well we adapt and respond to customer needs.   It’s not to be confused with services in the delivery of products.  It pertains to how we communicate with our customers, responding to changes in requirements, and in how we tailor our items toward specific needs. 

Risk is our level of readiness and responsiveness to disruption, those that not only originate particularly from adversity but also those that result from any abrupt unexpected change in our surroundings.  Risk expands from the management of safety & security to anything that potentially challenges our status quo. 

Environmental-Social-Governance (ESG) is about sustainability and being ethical in the things we do.  It’s how we manage limited resources and collaborate with communities in ensuring mutually beneficial relationships. 

It is from these six competitive priorities that we formulate the operations strategy, one that not only qualifies us to customers’ expectations but also wins their favour. 

The operations strategy puts together our offensive plan to overcome obstacles and win repeating demand from customers, which manifest in more orders.  It is the compass and the lamp that provides direction when we feel lost. 

About Ellery’s Essays

Published by Ellery

Since I started blogging in 2019, I've written personal insights about supply chains, operations management, & industrial engineering. I have also delved in topics that cover how we deal with people, property, and service providers. My mission is to boost productivity via offering solutions and ideas. If you like what I write or disagree with what I say, feel free to like, dislike, comment, or if you have a lengthy discourse, email me at ; I'm also on LinkedIn:

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