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What does an operations manager do? Everything, right?

Although I don’t feel equipped or even inspired to offer any real solutions here (this is more of a venting session), I wanted to write a post about this topic because the oft ambiguous role of an operations manager/director is a phenomenon I’ve experienced personally in my journey as a non-profit manager. I’ve also worked with a variety of organizations that employ individuals in similar roles, and often wonder if these folks feel the pressure of having to know and do everything, too.

In a quick google search of “job description for non-profit operations managers” I found the following essential duties listed for the position:

  • Identifies and directs resources

  • Develops policies, objectives and measures of performance for employees and volunteers

  • Responsible for board member liaising

  • Manages day to day effectiveness

  • Manages finance and human resource functions

  • Acts as compliance officer and handles risk management

  • Coordinates, manages and monitors the workings of various departments in the organization

  • Improves processes and policies in support of organizational goals

Wow! This enormous list of tasks sets up a dynamic in many organizations in which this person is the “go to” for all things. The typical operations manager may be expected to possess quite a lot of institutional knowledge, as well as, enter with an extremely broad skill set. An added challenge to the employee, and I would argue the field in general, is the changing nature of what an operations manager does from one non-profit to the next. This can be a challenge for both creating and reviewing resumes and determining salary ranges, especially because it is difficult to quickly ascertain what the specific tasks of any operations employee may be.

I’m left wondering if there is a way in which the role of an operations manager can become a bit more standardized in the non-profit world and, if so, what would that look like?

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