Operational Excellence to Drive Performance & Growth

Operational Excellence

Every organization aspires to excellence in its operations. Obviously, not every organization ever gets there. But where exactly is “there?” Bill and Ted aside, what is “excellence” and are there specific and measurable ways to achieve it?

Defining excellence

A Forbes post notes that excellence is not to be confused with efficiency. While efficiency is a hallmark of excellent organizations, it’s only one component of excellence. Excellence, says Forbes, is “a culture of teamwork, problem-solving and leadership that brings about the desired results.” Forbes further notes that operational excellence is focused on high-quality customer service, customer experience and products. Fair enough, and measurable, but those goals are unlikely to be met by a disgruntled team.

That’s why we believe excellence begins with goals around organizational culture. More specifically, organizations should strive to create and foster an environment where team members feel that their voices are heard and valued. We’ve seen vivid examples of what happens when organizations fail to achieve this goal, in the Great Resignation and so-called quiet quitting trend.

If a successful organizational culture seems like one of those “I know it when I see it” topics; that is to say one that resists measurement, it doesn’t have to be. Employees should be surveyed on key indicators on a regular basis, to establish baseline metrics and to measure improvement. It will be very difficult to drive excellence in operational areas without first getting this right.

Operational efficiency

Efficiency in operations is of course a substantial component of overall excellence, encompassing everything from production to customer service. Operational goals in many cases will lend themselves more readily to being measured, but truly excellent organizations take things a step or two further.

Operational excellence requires not only refining and improving existing processes, but an eye on the horizon for new technologies, new ways of meeting metrics and KPIs, and perhaps even new goals entirely as customers and markets demand change. In short, operational efficiency is dynamic and flexible. If you’re measuring incremental improvements on the same goals year after year, chances are you’re missing opportunities to grow.

Organizations that fail to innovate towards improved operational excellence may be suffering from any number of shortcomings. We often encounter siloed structures that resist sharing of information, culture or communication issues, or dated technology that fails to maximize existing data to make better decisions.

Business intimacy and technology

The concept of “business intimacy” is one that will help organizational leadership to achieve greater efficiency, and by extension a higher level of excellence. It’s well established that those in the C-suite should be big-picture thinkers, but business intimacy demands a micro as well as a macro view of operations. Leadership should be well versed in the strategies and priorities for each and every department of the organization, an important first step to breaking down those silos mentioned above.

Technology can be a big part of the solution here as well. Automation and AI are being used widely to streamline repetitive tasks and processes across nearly all departments, freeing personnel to focus on activities that propel a company forward rather than just keeping up with day-to-day tasks. Even without AI, technology upgrades can focus on data visibility, further eliminating those siloes and making actionable data accessible throughout the organization.

Those same technologies can be deployed to help measure an organization’s progress towards excellence, tracking metrics and KPIs from any number of operational areas.

Rinse, repeat

It might go without saying, but achieving excellence is a process, not an event. Many organizations measure, plan and implement around operational KPIs. Truly successful ones establish processes of continuous improvement, constantly measuring, refining, adapting and innovating in order to meet existing goals and set new ones as markets change.