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What is An Operating Model – Relevance in 2023

In the ever-evolving world of business, success is contingent upon numerous factors, one of which is the aptness of an organization’s operating model. But what exactly is an operating model, and why is it so crucial to a company’s prosperity? This article endeavors to shed light on the concept of an operating model, examining its components, significance, and how it influences the way an organization functions and adapts to change.

What is the Operating Model?

An operating model serves as the foundation upon which an organization is built and operates. At its core, it is a blueprint that delineates how a company delivers value to its customers, manages its resources, and sustains its operations. Think of it as the intricate machinery beneath the surface, ensuring that all the gears are turning smoothly to power the business forward. A good example of the operating model is via Strategy Journey’s F1 example where the application of the operating model is used to show HOW a business functions through various different components necessary.

In essence, the operating model encapsulates various elements, including processes, technologies, organizational structures, and governance mechanisms, which collaboratively dictate how the company executes its strategy and meets its objectives. It is the “how” that bridges the gap between strategic intent and tangible results. To put it simply, it’s the means by which an organization converts its vision into reality.

In recent years, the concept of a “digital twin” has emerged which serves to help replicate a physical object, system or process. In this case, the impact of “digital twins” has on an operating model is crucial as the integration of digital twins into an operating model can lead to improved design processes, enhanced operational efficiency, data-driven decision-making, scalability, and a culture of collaboration, ultimately driving growth and innovation in the digital age. 

Components of the Operating Model

The operating model of any organization is like the intricate machinery that powers its daily functions. It consists of several key components, each playing a pivotal role in ensuring the smooth operation of the business. Understanding these components and how they interact with each other is crucial for effective management and strategic decision-making.

1. Strategy

At the heart of every operating model lies the organization’s strategy. This component outlines the overarching goals and objectives of the business. It defines what the organization aims to achieve, its market positioning, and its value proposition. Think of the strategy as the guiding star that influences all other components of the operating model.

2. Structure

The structure of an organization determines its hierarchy, departments, and the roles of its employees. It’s about who does what and how responsibilities are distributed. A well-defined structure clarifies lines of authority, decision-making processes, and reporting relationships. It’s the skeleton that supports the body of the business, ensuring that everyone knows their place and role in the organization.

3. Processes

Processes are the workflows, procedures, and activities that support the various functions within the organization. They encompass everything from how products are manufactured to how customer orders are processed. Efficient processes ensure that tasks are carried out consistently and effectively. The design and optimization of these processes are essential for reducing waste, improving productivity, and delivering value to customers.

4. People

The people component of the operating model refers to the talent within the organization. It includes the skills, knowledge, and capabilities of employees. People are the driving force behind the execution of the organization’s strategy and the functioning of its processes. Having the right people with the right skills in the right roles is critical for success.

5. Technology

Technology serves as the toolkit that facilitates and automates various processes within the organization. It can range from software and hardware to data systems and communication tools. In the modern business landscape, technology is often a crucial enabler of efficiency and innovation. It supports the execution of tasks, data analysis, and decision-making, making operations more streamlined and effective.

6. Culture

The culture of an organization is the shared values, beliefs, and behaviors that shape how things get done. It influences employee morale, collaboration, and the overall work environment. A strong, positive culture can motivate employees and drive them to work cohesively toward common goals. Culture, though less tangible than other components, plays a pivotal role in the success of the operating model.

How These Components Interact

The effectiveness of an operating model is intricately tied to the interconnections between its components, making them essential and interdependent aspects of a company’s operations. These components exhibit a dynamic interplay where one influences the other. 

For instance, a chosen strategy serves as the guiding force that sculpts the organizational structure. Take, for instance, a strategy focused on fostering rapid innovation; it may necessitate the adoption of a more streamlined and adaptable organizational structure to support these objectives effectively.

This structural design, in its own right, becomes the compass guiding the organization’s processes, defining how they are structured and who takes charge of their execution. It also wields considerable influence over decision-making processes and the efficient flow of vital information within the organization. As these processes unfurl, they heavily rely on the skills and capabilities of the individuals involved. Effective processes demand a workforce that is not only well-trained but also motivated, ensuring the successful execution of these processes. 

Technology plays a pivotal role in enhancing these processes, offering the means to streamline and automate various tasks, leading to heightened efficiency. It also acts as crucial support for data collection and analysis, thus aiding in well-informed decision-making. 

The organizational culture significantly influences the individuals within the company, impacting how they collaborate and their dedication to achieving the company’s objectives. A positive and nurturing culture can foster improved teamwork and contribute to higher employee retention rates.

Why is an Operating Model Important?

Now that we have a clear understanding of what constitutes an operating model, let’s delve into why it is so significant for businesses. Strategy Journey explains the operating model through the 3 questions of HOW, WHEN, WHERE? In a business’s lifecycle.

An effective operating model can have a profound impact on an organization in the following ways:

Strategies are aligning with goals set: An operating model bridges the gap between strategic intent and execution. It ensures that the organization’s day-to-day activities and resource allocation are in line with its long-term objectives. Without a well-defined operating model, strategic plans may remain mere aspirations.

Efficiency: Efficiency is the hallmark of a successful business. A well-structured operating model streamlines processes, reduces waste, and optimizes resource utilization. This leads to cost savings and improved profitability.

Adaptability: In today’s dynamic business environment, adaptability is crucial. An operating model that is flexible and responsive allows the organization to adjust to market changes, technological advancements, and unforeseen challenges. It helps the company stay relevant and resilient.

Customer Focus: The operating model can be designed to place a strong emphasis on customer-centricity. It helps the organization understand and meet customer needs, improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Risk Management: A robust operating model includes governance and control mechanisms that mitigate risks and ensure compliance with regulations. This is vital for protecting the organization’s reputation and financial stability.

Designing and Implementing an Operating Model

Designing and implementing an effective operating model is a complex process that requires a deep understanding of the organization, its strategic goals, and the external environment. Here are the key steps involved:

Assessment: Begin by thoroughly assessing the current state of the organization, including its processes, technology, structure, and culture. Identify strengths and weaknesses, as well as areas that require improvement.

Alignment with Strategy: Ensure that the operating model aligns with the organization’s strategic objectives. The model should support and enable the company’s mission and vision.

Design: Based on the assessment and strategic alignment, design the operating model’s components, such as processes, technology, structure, and governance mechanisms. Tailor these components to the specific needs of the organization.

Implementation: Implement the new operating model in a phased approach, carefully managing the transition to minimize disruption. This may involve restructuring, technology upgrades, process reengineering, and changes to the organization’s culture.

Monitoring and Adaptation: Continuously monitor the performance of the operating model through the use of metrics and KPIs. Be prepared to adapt the model as needed to respond to changing circumstances and new opportunities.


In a rapidly evolving business landscape, an effective operating model is not merely an option; it is a prerequisite for sustainable success. It is the framework that underpins an organization’s ability to execute its strategy, optimize its operations, and adapt to change. A well-designed and meticulously implemented operating model can be a powerful driver of growth, profitability, and resilience, enabling businesses to navigate the challenges of the modern world and thrive in the years to come.

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