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How are Operations Managers Like Seinfeld’s Larry David?

Television shows have “showrunners”—they’re the people who not only manage a show but function as head writer and editor as well. This might sound familiar to Operations Managers out there, who bear the responsibility of overseeing a product from conception to delivery to retirement.

And if your prototype is a hit, your product gets made, just like a pilot gets a series picked up. You could be like Larry David, Seinfeld’s showrunner, and have a product that spans nine seasons (even though it was essentially about nothing.)

Operations Managers, like showrunners, are constantly dealing with bugs. On Seinfeld, Jerry’s dad had to be replaced after the pilot. If you see the original pilot, you’ll know why: actor Phil Bruns was mugging at the camera, trying too hard. The producers brought in actor Barney Martin, an Irish Catholic from Queens New York who impressed the producers with his authentic “Yiddish accent.”

TV critics gave Seinfeld high marks in its first few seasons even while it struggled to find an audience. David had to change and rework ideas to arrive at the perfect product. For the few first few seasons, the show featured Seinfeld’s live standup act opening and closing the show, even showing up as cutaways. The jokes from the standup act punctuated that episode’s running gag. The tone and humor of some of the early shows set the benchmark for later episodes.

What’s my point in the Seinfeld reference? A product’s success depends greatly on the Operations Manager’s sensibilities and ability to wear many different hats.

• Before releasing the product to large-volume production levels, it needs to be tested in a variety of ways (mechanical, electrical, reliability, quality, and manufacturing). Just like gathering feedback from audiences and critics.

• End-user documentation needs to be written and finalized. Like Larry David finding a template for how separate storylines that initially seemed quite disparate would ultimately intersect and make sense.

• Feedback collected from testing needs to be rolled into the production release of the product. And audience feedback to the show validates what jokes work and which don’t. Without this kind of feedback, we might never have seen George Costanza’s struggles with the manipulative Bubble Boy.

At Arena, we get the incredible responsibility Operations Managers have. They are the impresarios of the products they create. And they run product development as if they were the owners and operators of their small businesses. Arena was designed to make the life of the Operations Manager easier and support their entire distributed supply chain. Arena allows Operations Managers to open the show and make their product a success. No laugh track required.

Click to read how Nutanix’s COO, David Sangster, and Swan Valley Medical’s COO Laurence Sampson were able to save money, reduce risks, and ensure operational excellence by using Arena’s product development platform. And here’s a great blog in which Roost’s PLM Operations Manager Jim Van Patten talks shop.