What is an Operational Needs Assessment?

Many companies want to be “Operationally Efficient.” However, it can be difficult to decide exactly what department, what area, what processes, or how exactly to get started improving your operations.

After all, if you improve things upstream or downstream of your bottleneck, it won’t improve your overall throughput. Or if you work on improvements in the Accounting department, when it is your Shipping process that is causing issues for your customers, how is that helping you increase revenue?  And what if the issue is a few team members who don’t fully understand what you’re trying to accomplish, or the importance of following a standard set of operational processes which can be continuously improved over time?

AJC conducts Needs Assessments to best understand the business, the team members including strengths and opportunities for growth, the current systems and processes, general culture, and the Leader’s vision for the future.

A Needs Assessment will help clarify the full spectrum of opportunities and prioritize the most important areas for improvement.

At AJC, our Needs Assessments begin with a brief Kick-Off Meeting with all the stakeholders.  According to David Rock in “Your Brain at Work”, meeting people “in person” (or virtually on a video channel) decreases uncertainty and provides a clearer mental map of what to expect.  This can relieve many anxieties about hiring an external Consultant.

Next is the Data Collection phase, which consists individual or focus group interviews with key stakeholders at the company. The interviewees answer open ended questions around what they do, frequency and durations for specific tasks/processes/activities, their pain points and ideas for improvement opportunities, whether there are any areas of the business that they feel are unclear, and how that affects their work.  These interviews typically last an hour each. 

After all the data is collected, we aggregate, categorize, and analyze the results to articulate issues and opportunities for improvement.  We compile our analysis and recommendations into a Summary Report including a Transformation Roadmap for your organization.  This Report will detail out the highest priority Next Steps for improvement, including specific recommendations, highlighting short- and medium-term items that AJC can further support if you so choose.

Specific examples of short-to-medium term improvements which we *may* recommend (and in which AJC can further assist) are:

  • Documenting your EXAMPLE Process:  Taking WORK from X to Y.  AJC can help you map out, document, implement supporting workflow tools, and train your entire company to this process.
  • Designing and Standardizing your EXAMPLE Process: from PROCESS from X to Y. AJC can help you design and standardize and align your team to that process as well.
  • Developing your short, medium, and long-term “Accountability Chart:” articulating your Organizational Chart with 3-5 bullet-point responsibilities for each role, for today’s level of business, as well as future charts given specific growth points, such as double or quadruple your current level of business. We will consider when you may consider adding various systems which will add automation to your processes as you grow, such that scaling up need not require linear manpower increases (especially in functions like Accounting and HR).

AJC’s Needs Assessment process typically takes 2-3 weeks.

Two additional benefits from a Needs Assessment that help with long term engagement are:

  1. Rapport and trust built with Client Team Members and Consultant Team.
  2. Quick immersion for an “outsider” to become an objective “insider” with respect to corporate needs and culture, helping provide appropriate and credible recommendations to improve the Client’s business.

Sometimes it is very difficult to know exactly what to do first.  A Needs Assessment is a terrific first step that can help your team prepare for the continuous improvement journey towards Operational Efficiency.

You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.