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Applying a people lens to business operations

In most businesses the pursuit of operational efficiency and excellence is critical. Leaders are constantly looking for ways to optimise their operations. However in this pursuit they often overlook a crucial element - people.

By applying a people lens to traditionally non-people centric business operations, leaders can tap into the hidden potential of their teams and foster a culture of collaboration.

Let’s look at operating rhythms as an example. “Operating rhythm” is a concept created by Six Sigma and refers to the process of communication between departments to ensure that operations are not interrupted and that vital activities are performed in a consistent manner. Put simply it is how communication flows through your business, often including the meeting rhythms that exist and the work style that is championed - asynchronous communication as an example. Traditionally, these rhythms have been viewed through a rigid, task-oriented lens. By adopting a people-centric approach, businesses can elevate their operating rhythms, fundamentally shifting their perspective from mere processes to the individuals driving those processes.

When we think of businesses we think of them as a monolith - a single block, when in fact a business is made of many people interacting to solve problems and execute work every day. If we don’t pay attention and design for these interactions cracks may start to form.

Why are operating rhythms important?

If you lead or are working in a business you have probably benefited from having clear operating rhythms in place or, alternatively the absence of them has caused you more than a few headaches. Object Edge boils down the benefits of establishing an operating rhythm to four points:

  1. Good habits - Reinforces the good habits that led to your current success

  2. Execution - Allows your teams to make things happen without being driven by emotion

  3. Stability - Builds stability and consistency for your teams even during challenging times

  4. Growth - Builds a system for out executing your competition, letting you jump on opportunities to grow your business

Things to consider when designing your operating rhythm

  1. People - We’re for human centred operating rhythms. There is no one size fits all. Put people at the centre of your design for example:

    1. Who - who should attend this meeting?

    2. When - what time of day will get the best result?

    3. How - will the meeting be run? Is it designed to work if some people are remote and some are in the office?

    4. What - what are the expectations of all attendees e.g. is their pre-work?

    5. Why - why should they care? What is the purpose of the meeting? What will make them want to show up?

  2. Pace - pace is a key consideration when designing your operating rhythms as it dictates the frequency you meet. Note the pace may differ by team and by level.

  3. How fast is the environment changing? The speed at which the environment is changing will influence your operating rhythm e.g. a fast moving environment requires more frequent rhythms. Don’t implement daily huddles just because Apple did it, consider the pace of your organisation and design the right frequency to suit.

  4. How quickly can you adapt to change? How quickly can you make big strategic decisions when you need to? Is it days, weeks, months before the right people are in the room?

  5. Strategic, Tactical, Operational balance - it is important to have a balance between strategic, tactical and operational meetings.

What we’ve seen work

  • Human centred operating rhythms

  • Purposeful meetings with clear agendas

  • Have the right people at the right meetings

  • Balance of strategic, operational and tactical meetings

  • Allowing flexibility in the way common activities are run e.g., you may all have a team meeting but the way the marketing meeting runs can be different to manufacturing which can be different from design

  • Trusting the ability of your leaders

What doesn’t work

  • Ad Hoc meetings

  • Meeting for meetings sake

  • Mandating an approach

  • One size fits all approach - consider the pace of different teams when designing your rhythms

  • Standard meeting duration

  • Meetings without an agenda or purpose

  • Information stops with the people in those meetings, doesn’t get filtered to the team

  • Using meeting time to recap - skip the recap!


By adopting a people-centric approach and applying a people lens to traditionally non-people centric business operations, you can unlock untapped potential and start to build a meaningful work culture from the ground up.

If you’re looking for help in this space, give us a shout.

Written by Pip Spyksma
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