Stay connected

We’d love to send you our monthly newsletter!

August 22, 2023   |  Articles

Operating Model? What’s that?

It took me a while pin down the right name for my favorite kind of project but since landing on “Operating Models” a few years ago, I have used that term fairly consistently.  This has allowed me to confirm that saying “Operating Model” works great when talking to people already familiar with the concept.  Unfortunately, this is an entirely new expression for many of the small business owners and leaders I work with so I decided it was time to write my own version of the “what is an Operating Model” article.

As may be obvious from the above, “Operating Model” is a concept that far predates Belleview Consulting.  Indeed has a pretty solid write-up about Operating Models for anyone curious to see how the term is used more broadly but my personal goal is to take advantage of the relative obscurity of the phrase to zero in on what Belleview creates for our clients.

At heart, an Operating Model is the minimum set of information a company should define so that all employees can easily understand:

  • Role expectations: Areas of ownership and degree of strategic or tactical thinking for themselves and their colleagues
  • Contributions context: How each person and/or team’s work supports the overall organization and its goals
  • Collaboration touchpoints: Bluntly, this is about meetings and “who needs to talk to who when” to connect the pillars of a company and balance our natural tendency to form silos

If you want to skip ahead, the one sentence summary of an Operating Model is down in the second to last paragraph.  To fully understand that sentence, however, I find it is easier to walk through the process of creating an Operating Model.

It starts with an org chart.  Sort of.  For a while, I actually toyed with the idea of calling these projects “Org Chart Plus” engagements because that is a fairly accurate description of what I guide my clients through creating.  We often start with an Org Chart because that is a familiar concept to many business leaders but I am careful to always remind clients up front that an org chart alone rarely has enough information for anyone in the organization to truly do their jobs.

In fact, as I have talked about in a previous article, my clients and I often start by defining the org chart of the future.  This is to ensure that whatever we design to support today’s operations has a clear evolutionary path to an organization that can meet the company’s needs 5 or even 10 years into the future.  Then we create the short term or “initial” org chart and the real fun begins.

Once we have a rough outline of the near and long term org charts, we start to look at the titles that have been bandied about.  Often there are titles like “Manager” or “Director” or “C_O”.  Even more often, the leader or team I am working with have some ideas about what those words imply but have yet to take the time to put those ideas into words.  I like to tackle these definitions with words first but then I always try to add a few visuals that summarize the concepts.  This helps to confirm that everyone has the same understanding of the concepts while also supporting more visual learners in adopting the new model when it is finished.

If we haven’t already, rounding out the leveling framework offers a great opportunity to go back to the Org Chart and make sure that what we have designed is consistent with the definitions now in place.  Usually, there is some tweaking needed and I take that as a good sign.  

Then it is time to think about collaboration.  Whether introducing middle managers for the first time or simply rethinking the existing framework, humans have a tendency to align themselves with their Team.  In a professional context, this often means the people who are part of their reporting chain.  To balance this tendency, we need to ensure that employees are coordinating across team boundaries and I find that defining a minimum set of meetings with clearly articulated purposes and attendees lists is a great approach.  The mechanical engineer in me likes to think about this step as “cross bracing” the organization.

Last, but certainly not least, comes more iteration across the org chart and the leveling framework.  By cycling through these elements several times to check for consistency, we zero in on an approach that reflects the organization’s vision while actually supporting day to day operations.  The end result looks just a bit different for each company but, for me, that is simply part of the beauty.

So what is a Belleview-supported Operating Model?  It is an Org Chart, Leveling Framework, and Collaboration Model with sufficient detail in the documentation to enable team members to know “how” work gets done so that they can focus on the actual doing.  

To see what this means in practice, you can check out our library of Operating Model related Case Studies or reach out directly to learn more.









Stay connected

Updates, insights into our perspective, and highlights from our work!