What is operational empathy? Part 2.


Before getting into the definition of operational empathy as a continuation of Part 1, I want to describe a mindset that we realized we all have but individually we need to learn to control. Because if we don't control, it has an uncanny ability to impact an organization so quickly. Consider the definition the CDC has for the word staphylococcus.

Staphylococcus aureus [staf I lō-kok is aw ree us] (staph), is a type of germ that about 30% of people carry in their noses. Most of the time, staph does not cause any harm; however, sometimes staph causes infections. In healthcare settings, these staph infections can be serious or fatal.

Within our conversation, we unraveled the word value and how supporting groups in an organization support the operations to produce the product we sell. We talked about how HR can steer their own staff department’s annual performance targets to support the operations versus their vantage points of value. The conversation expanded into a discussion of other departments incorporating other goals that fundamentally are driven to help the operations produce. Or maybe the culprit of this deterrent of supporting the operations is staphylococcus. Let’s consider a new definition alternative definition.

Staphylococcus aureus is a type of mindset that can exist within a manufacturing organization’s team members. Most of the time, staph does not cause harm; however, sometimes staph causes visible misalignment of priorities that are intended to create value for the personnel within the operations. In manufacturing settings, these staph infections can be serious or fatal to the product or the ability of the operations to manufacture the intended product to be sold.

In this conversation, we unraveled a previously untapped opportunity to constantly consider a staff department's alignment to how they create value within the operations. In the example above, we had an individual’s staph (new definition) exposing a siloed strategy and initially countering the operation’s objectives. In this example, we expanded upon how we produce and sell a product. We did not produce and sell HR as a service.


Organizations succeed when there is a holistic attitude and strategy to support the effectiveness of the operations. The definition of operational empathy to me is the action that drives organizations to collaboratively edit how they collectively improve operational processes and products holistically, to increase the value of their people, quality, velocity, and the cost of doing business. Operational empathy is a mindset and behavior of an individual to prioritize actions to increase the effectiveness within the operations. Operational empathy is directly deterred by disrupting the transmissibility of staphylococcus (definition 2) that all of us have. Whereas, if the staphylococcus isn’t controlled with operational empathy, it could dramatically impact the probability of success for the enterprise’s objectives.

And when you look at, in turn, what makes work meaningful, what enables people to feel that their daily lives in organizations are significant—more than anything else it’s the belief that “My work makes a difference." - Adam Grant


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