(FAQs from my advisory and workshop events)
“We have a full Operational Excellence team and yet the executive leadership doesn’t feel the impact”
Struggling with your operational excellence program? You seem to put all the required effort, but your continuous improvement program doesn’t seem to please the executive leadership team? Even worse, your fear is that with the market down-turn, your function being a base-cost center will probably be one of the first ones to take a hit on cost cuts.
This seem to be a universal problem with today’s practitioners across different companies and across the globe. The world of operational excellence and continuous improvement seem so passé that you feel that you are still stuck in the 20th century. With all the gizmos and modern-day tech stuff like analytics, artificial intelligence, IoT, Blockchain and Robotics flooding the market, your job sounds paleolithic. It seems that Opex is dying and now destined to be retired to the annals of history very soon.
You are doomed!!
Umm, maybe not.
In fact, you are not only NOT doomed, but you face a problem that can be easily addressed and solved. In fact, when I share the secret, you will be thinking, why didn’t I think of it myself. It is so logical and intuitive. And easy to comprehend.
So, let me take you through the secret. But before I do that, I want to share some good news. And the good news is that Operational Excellence is not going anywhere, anytime soon. In fact, it will continue to exist as-long-as the early 20th century management practices continue to exist. Division of labor and the management layer to supervise the workers are your foundation pillars that will ensure that there is always a demand for Operational Excellence.
Now that we have cast aside one of the bigger fears about the relevance of operational excellence, let’s move ahead.
Here are some observations from many companies that prevail today manifesting the endemic issue and showing symptoms of the problem.
- First of all, many organizations peg the Opex programs too low in the hierarchy to have any material impact. Opex is not an individual contributor or a middle-management quest. It has to be driven right from the top. If the leadership just provides a lip-service then do please stop with this mindless exercise and stop throwing money down the drain. Leaders have to take ownership of the program and walk-the-talk.
- Secondly, Opex is not a flavor-of-the-month recreation. It is a serious endeavor and must be diligently adopted. You can’t cherry pick which project is an Opex project and which one is not. It is a discipline that needs to be adapted and imbibed as a culture of an organization
- Third, Opex is not a skill that you acquire just by attending a training class. You have to practice it well, repeatedly, before it starts wielding impactful results. The more you engage in Opex initiatives, the better you get at it.
- Last but not the least, Opex is not a certificate but it is a way of thinking. Unless your brain has adopted to think through an Opex lens, you will not be able to unleash the full benefit.
Now, let’s get back to the secret. With this secret revealed, you will be able to easily make your Operational Excellence program sustainable, exciting and make an explosive impact in your organization.
Based on some of the best practices in leading companies and frameworks by contemporary management thinkers, here is an easy-to-understand 5-step process to revitalize your Operational Excellence Program.
A word of confession at this stage. As this is a blog and should have a small word-count, I am limited by the amount of details that I can share. I have tried my best to share as much of the principle as possible here so that you not only get the essence of the framework but get an understanding by which you can start visualizing and modeling changes that you need to bring to your Opex program.
For any Operational Excellence or a LEAN Six sigma project to get a certain level of recognition and success, it is imperative that it is supported by a proper strategy and a framework that helps a project to achieve its goals successfully. Without this framework, your project will not be able to conjure the right level of support required on its own from stakeholders and you will suffer from it.
So, why do you need a strategy and a framework?
Because Operational Excellence is not just a box of tools and templates. It is an organizational “Capability”.
And now, I’ll tell you an easy 5-step approach that will help you create a definitive, sustainable and most importantly, effective capability that will create an explosive impact to your organization.
The framework has 5 steps the needs to be followed in sequence and is circular. In other words, once you reach the last step, you will come back to step one from there with new requirements.
First step is to define your strategy. What is the purpose that you want to drive with your Opex program. What is the organization level problem you are trying to resolve? Why is it so important to resolve quickly? What will be the impact if no action is taken? What is the impact if incorrect action is taken?
Once you have identified the strategy and purpose of your Opex program, next step is to find the right set of people to lead the effort. As they say, with average leaders you will only get average results. If your Opex program is set to yield big results, then you must get the best names in the game to lead it. Identify key leader/s who will lead this initiative. This leader is going to work on developing your capability framework further. The second group are the key stakeholders that you will need to mobilize and who will give you the key support for your program
As and when you have the right leaders in place, the leaders can then review and determine what industry recognized method should be adopted for your organization. The fit-for-purpose method that is relevant for your organization. Whether to follow LEAN or Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints or an hybrid method developed exclusively for your company, you need to figure out what is most relevant and what makes most sense. You may need to get external advisors to give you direction.
Capability development path
Once a methodology has been selected and set out for development, you need to start defining a roadmap to build these new and updated capability in your organization. For building any new and higher skilled capabilities, it usually takes 2–3 years. So, you need to create a roadmap wherein you will develop a complete team of people with these elements:
- Tools and Templates
- Training and Mentorship
- Framework governance
- This framework will include train-the-trainer, certification, goals and objectives, project allocation and right management support
Project Management Office (PMO) or Governance
In order to support the capability building and compliance to methodology, you will need to create a coordination and governance office. This office will be responsible for project sourcing, qualification, resource allocation, budget and control, monitoring, communication, managing steering committees, certification boards and other functions that will give teeth to the capability development program for your company This is just a high-level summary to go about building an Opex capability in your organization.
From the capability building and PMO, you will get new strategy requirements which will take you back to step one.
Now that I have shared the secret recipe with you on how to revitalize your Opex programs, you can see that it is not difficult at all. In fact, when you think of the sequence, it seems so logical isn’t it?
I think so too.
So, this was my 5-step secret recipe on how to revitalize your Opex program. I have now empowered you with the knowledge that you can unleash to create that dramatic impact to your Opex programs.
This framework has taken me years to visualize and fine-tune. I went through the same challenges that you are going through today. I experienced the same indifference and indignation. And that’s when I decided that I will address this problem and come up with a framework. And now with this framework, you don’t have to suffer from the challenges any more. This framework will give you the freedom of thinking logically and ensure that there is significant positive impact on your company.
I hope that you have started feeling the energy of the framework already. So, what’s stopping you?
I wish you all the very best with your undertaking.
P.S. This is part of a book project that I’m working on which I hope to finish soon. While working on the project I got so excited about the framework that I couldn’t wait till the book was finished. So, I decided not to wait but already share it. I hope that you and your friends get truly benefitted from this framework and I firmly, believe that with the right focus, we can actually revitalize our Operational Excellence Programs.
I would like to hear your thoughts and experience regarding the framework. Moreover, if you have any questions or queries, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com or leave a comment with this article.