By: connie siu

Winter 2019 Issue

Operational excellence is an ongoing undertaking to optimize operations. Effective operations will boost the bottom-line of a business and accelerate the execution of everything a business needs to do in fulfilling its goals. While some businesses may not devote much energy to operational excellence until problems become chaotic, it has become a necessity to embed the principles as part of any key business investment initiative.

As there are many approaches to incorporate the principles of operational excellence, here are four considerations to build the mindset and instil the values within your organization, or as part of your external consulting engagement.

1. Design with process thinking
Employees are always keen to do things in the simplest way possible. They are fully aware of the most challenging tasks and rules that they need to cope with. And they share a common goal to eliminate them. So, leverage this value proposition as you design the new solution. In fact, the new solution is about tasks execution in a rational sequence using technology in an effective manner. When you start with process, you are able to capture critical activities and identify the areas that have the most impact on overall performance.

2. Align backbone capabilities with business strategy
Backbone capabilities are the building blocks for key operational activities. They include handling customer inquiries, purchasing raw materials for production, and distribution of inventory. They need to be designed in a way that align with the business strategy. For example, if you aim to direct customer inquiries through the website, you need to design easy-to-use customer support pages with adequate support personnel to handle non-standard queries. In addition, these backbone operational activities need to be adaptable to accommodate evolving needs. The flexibility affords expedient modification and implementation.

3. Establish process intelligence
Process intelligence is about capturing data on different activities along the operations process. This is essential for assessing the effectiveness of a process. In order to do so, you need to determine the success measures for the process. If the success measure for the procurement of standard raw materials is turnaround time, you want to capture when a purchase order is initiated, processed, and delivered. With those dates, you would be able to compute the turnaround time. This requires planning ahead on what data you need to capture and how you capture them. Otherwise, you would end up doing extensive manipulation to extrapolate the information needed.

4. Prepare to re-skill people regularly
It is inevitable that training has become a regular and necessary investment for a business. As enhanced operations through technology implementation and modifications to job roles occur more frequently, you need to allocate adequate time and resources to get people up to speed. This is particularly crucial when a major transformation overhauls operations in a significant way. Instead of handling the re-skilling need as a one-time event, consider approaching it from a career development perspective. Employees feel more engaged and committed when you put their interests top-of-mind.

The principles of operational excellence need to be incorporated as an integrated element of every major initiative. When you have a consistent approach, you build a foundation for adaptive improvements and intelligence available for validation of your investments.

Connie Siu is an expert in building best practices for a high-performance business through operational excellence and effective results measurement. For more than 25 years, she has worked in the trenches with business leaders across a broad spectrum of industries. Connie has served on the board for Entre Nous Femmes Housing Society, the Institute of Certified Management Consultants of British Columbia, and the Transportation Committee for the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. To learn more about Connie’s work, visit: