This guide will get you up to speed on the subject of operational blindness and explain what this actually is and how you can recognize and, if necessary, eliminate it.
There is no uniform definition for the term operational blindness. A popular, but rather general definition states:
“Operational blindness is the lack of attention to operational processes.”
While that is absolutely correct, it is too undetailed to make the term truly understandable.
The following definition goes into a bit more detail and also names a specific cause:
” We speak of operational blindness when current operational processes are no longer re-evaluated, but are simply maintained and considered correct solely on the basis of routine and the past.”
A similar definition can also be found in the lexicon of coaching-report.de:
“[Operational blindness describes] inappropriate perceptual and judgmental tendencies that are often caused by routine. A classic characteristic of operational blindness is the limited perception of operational processes and interrelationships.”
The following two key statements can therefore be derived from these definitions:
Operational blindness is the lack of attention to and assessment of operational processes and interrelationships.
Operational blindness arises from routines
Routines as such are not bad. However, sometimes they can hinder innovation because they are oriented too closely to empirical values. In a sense, routines can be blinders that block the view of new ideas.
At this point, the well-known saying “Never change a running system” may come to mind. Things are going as they should, tasks are clearly defined and because everything has always been that way, there is no reason to change things.
So why should you question routines when everything is so uncomplicated with them?
It’s simple: Because otherwise we would still be plowing the fields with horsepower and manpower.
One important reason is the constant social and technological change. Especially in today’s world, new insights, technologies and trends constantly emerge. Some of these have the potential to change society profoundly or to turn operational matters upside down. Entire business areas or business models can be transformed as a result.
One example of this is the Internet. While its potential was initially not recognized by many people and it was ridiculed, it is now a fundamental part of our lives. Just ask yourself the question, “What would it be like these days without the Internet?” I think the answer is clear. Operational processes have also changed over time. So has the way we communicate with our customers, handle purchasing and sales, and do many other things.
This constant change makes it essential to continuously educate yourself and keep up with new developments.
Of course, this does not mean that you should now invest your time, money and energy in every new trend. However, a certain willingness to learn and to deal with society and the changes in it is important. This is the only way to recognize and use potentials. My tip: Critically question every change. But that doesn’t mean you should reject it.
To express all of this once again with an example:
In order to apply these ideas in your everyday professional life, you should take the time to ask yourself some questions now and then. Use them to track down your own possible operational blindness.
Of course, there is no right or wrong answer to all these questions. However, they will help you determine whether and to what extent you and your company rely and depend on the tried and true, or whether you already have good self-reflection and a willingness to innovate.
There are various ways to proactively prevent possible operational blindness. Presented here first graphically in the overview and subsequently described below.
The term operational blindness describes the lack of attention to operational processes caused by routines. In order to recognize and prevent it, it is important to question existing processes and one’s own actions and to constantly deal with novelties and changes. A willingness to change and innovate must thereby be present. Different questions and methods can help with self-reflection and the collection of ideas.
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