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What Does an Operations Director Do?

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  • Written By: Osmand Vitez
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2014
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An operations director is typically an upper-management position tasked with overseeing an organization’s daily operations. This position may also be referred to as the director of operations or chief operations officer, depending on the size of the company. Duties will often include supervising employees, purchasing economic resources for production, negotiating with vendors and suppliers, research and development, marketing and sales, or other activities directly affecting the company’s regular business operations. The operations director will also compute metrics for performance evaluation to determine how well the company completes tasks and activities.

Because large organizations often have specific educational and professional requirements for this position, most operations directors have advanced degrees and several years' experience within the industry in which their company operates. Some directors may also have professional certification, which helps them focus on making improvements and defining goals or objectives. The director often works in close contact with the chief financial officer, chief executive officer or board of directors. Therefore, the operations director must have a sense of professionalism that helps him prepare reports and present this information to the executives responsible for making decisions.

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While most companies and organizations have an upper-level operations management position, the span of control for this position depends on the organizational structure. Two common types of organizational structure are centralized and decentralized. In a centralized company, the span of control is often small, with the operations director directly supervising from one to four employees. This will result in a tall organizational structure with several management layers. Each manager will oversee a small number of employees for their individual span of control.

Decentralized organizations will have a wider span of control for the operations director. This can result in direct reports of 10 or more employees, which will create a flatter organizational structure. This results in less management layers and more interaction between employees.

An operations director will also need soft skills for her position. Soft skills in business are the intangibles an individual brings to the job, such as personality traits, communication techniques, personal habits and other unique characteristics an individual brings to the job. Possessing a skill set of this nature helps operations directors negotiate with other companies and resolve conflicts, which are quite common in larger organizations. While education and experience is certainly important, an upper-level management position requires individuals to bring more to the table in order to advance the company’s mission, vision, or values in the business environment.

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EricRadley
Post 6

@m3g4n - I actually think it's great that they would include info about personal characteristics in an operations director job description! Many people might be tempted to apply, but it doesn't make sense to waste time doing so if they only possess the technical knowledge and no people skills. Management and director jobs often call for a delicate balance of certain characteristics. If a candidate lacks those traits, they might soon discover that they are simply unable to do the job well.

peabody
Post 5

@omgnotagain - Keep in mind that an operations manager would typically report to an operations director, so it's one step down the ladder.

As for soft skills, directors spend a lot of time conferring with directors or heads of other departments to make sure that everyone is in sync. Since most people in director jobs tend to have an enormous amount of responsibility and stress, it often requires directors to be persuasive without getting aggressive. They need to look out for their team while remembering that ultimately they are working to help the company progress. They need to have really strong negotiation skills when dealing with clients, suppliers and colleagues. A good personality for this type of job would be someone who is firm but fair.

m3g4n
Post 4

@Vegemite – I just helped my little sister do a project on operations directors for career day at her school last week, and I was surprised that the job calls for certain personality traits.

Operations directors work with a lot of people, so they have to be able to get along well with different types of people. They also need excellent time management skills because they juggle many important tasks at once. They must be able to operate well under stress and deadlines. They also need to be very organized, and be able to prioritize.

I didn’t see it written anywhere, but I think self confidence would be really helpful to an operations director. You’d have to be confident in your abilities in order to deal with all the stress and problems that arise when working on complicated projects.

I think the required soft skill set boils down to being a hard working, well organized “people person”.

Vegemite
Post 3

The article said something about “soft skills” that operations directors need in order to do their jobs well. What exactly are the soft skills they need? The company I’ve been with for 7 years has an opening for a director, so I need to know if I have what it takes before I apply for the job.

SushiChamp
Post 2

@omgnotagain – An operations manager and an operations director are two different things. Operations managers have an average salary of $77,000 per year, while directors get $92,000 per year, on average. I’m not sure what the difference is in the jobs of these two titles, but if you aunt’s new title will be “operations director”, she should ask for at least $92,000 per year.

However, if your aunt has 10 or more years of experience as an operations director, with a proven track record of success, she might be able to convince her employer to raise her salary. Some directors get paid a commission, so maybe she can negotiate a commission structure in addition to her wages. She should only do that if she’s sure she can produce great results.

omgnotagain
Post 1

What is the average operations manager salary? My aunt has been offered an operations director position, but I want to make sure she gets paid what she’s worth. She’s good and should at least get paid the national average, so if anyone knows the figures, I’d appreciate the information.

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