Proactiveness of the operations management Function: the case of Kenya Power and Lighting Company
The basic goal of this study was an attempt to explore the application of the theory of operations strategy to a typical utility services company. Operations strategy has for long been recognised as an important factor in competitiveness. As early as 1969, scholars such as W. Skinner identified this as being a critical link in organisational success. As recently as 2003, a 10-year longitudinal research conducted by Nohria et al (2003) on more than 200 firms revealed that focus on operations contributed greatly to competitiveness. Overall, the operations function is now recognised as an important core function, and Companies continue to use operations strategy in seeking competitive edge over their rivals. This study focused on the operations function at Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC). The research sample of 105 management staff was drawn from the transmission and distribution divisions at KPLC. Data collection was done through a Questionnaire consisting of structured closed-ended questions addressing the objectives of the research. 80% response rate was realised. The research largely achieved its objectives. It was noted that on the overall, the contribution by the operations management (OM) function was considered significant on most aspects of strategy development at KPLC. However, findings reveal that the role of the OM function in aspects of strategy development such as identification of customer requirements and performance priorities is markedly lower than the role played by the OM function in strategy implementation. On investigating the status of the performance priorities which are necessary for success, top management support for these priorities is generally considered high, while coordination between various functions, for the purpose of operational success, is considered relanvely wanting. In relative terms, respondents did not rate the current approaches to operational improvement highly. Generally, responses indicate that KPLC's corporate objectives are clear, but there seems to be some missing links between the intended performance priorities, and what is actually realised. The study also sought to investigate the challenges faced at KPLC in the integration of the performance priorities of the operations management (OM) function into the competitive strategy based on what Miller et al (1981) called the 'three important system components' of people, information and equipment. Also investigated were challenges faced in strategy deployment. The findings were that some important aspects of strategy deployment such as organisation structure are considered a major challenge, the same for appropriate training and upgrading of skills of operational staff and to an extent, performance measurement and monitoring approaches. Also, there are several 'people' issues on which a high percentage of respondents strongly agreed presented challenges, the same was observed for issues to do with equipment and physical infrastructure. Relatively, the challenges faced have less to do with information technology and communication channels. The findings of this study are likely to prove to be quite interesting to KPLC's management, especially at a time when it is focusing on operational improvement, not only from the micro-economic point of view but also from the macro-economic perspective.