Our experience towards ‘Operational Excellence’

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We are moving too fast, but we do not know where to… 

Any company, startup, or organization at some point of their existence will take some time to measure their profitability and to see if the efforts which are being made in the day-to-day work are indeed helping them to achieve their long-term goals.

However, it’s not the same when an external factor (competition, market changes, etc) forces the company to change to when it is the own company the one which wants to change. In the first scenario, there is not a defined strategy which helps to face that unavoidable fate. But, in the second one, the entire organization gets together on a collaboration with a small or big effort of their part in order to contribute with results for a bigger goal. All this is done through a whole deployment of strategies and tools, so it can be measured the way to go and set the final goal.

Our experience towards a high-performance culture has not been an easy thing to achieve. We have been through different phases; from the learning process of new concepts, identifying the key business metrics, recognizing the lack of key processes, to the fact of facing the habit of documenting all these things in our daily work routine. 

Up to this point, we have only talked about the obligatory processes which any company has to go through at some point of their lifetime. Now we focus on the change through which the companies truly analyze every action/effort made in order to find out which of them are worth keeping on performing and which are not. 

What is operational excellence?

We will start by contextualizing a bit about business models and why they need to make constant changes. When a company is in its take-off phase, innovation is something pretty constant since it requires such organizational habits so it can launch new products or services. But when the company has already gone through that phase of discovering the business model and now it is clear the competitive strategy to be used to generate value against competitors; this is when the company's efforts must be channeled towards precision, quality, processes, operational excellence.

Over time, different approaches to business models have emerged which set the tone for the best practices that are required to be more efficient, and so we as a company can get the expected results with the planned costs and the promotion of our customers.

In order to clarify the concepts, we will refer to Amendola Luis who makes us an association of areas involved in this process. From his perspective, operational excellence refers to the union of people, processes, the usage of technology, the generation of alliances through networking and long-term strategies.

By gathering all the previously mentioned categories, we can come up with our own definition of operational excellence. We could define it as the day-to-day harmony and a long-term strategy; in other words, an organization’s ability to make efficient usage of each part that conforms it as a whole. However, this definition does not cover everything operation excellence implies, since all of this should be also visible in the company’s incomes which will allow its growth.

Challenges to be overcome before the implementation of a system of excellence:

-Leaders need to get rid of any distrust feelings. 

-General leader’s certainty while identifying strategic indicators.

-Resist showing and demonstrating identified indicators’ results.

-Non-assertive communication.

-Weekly follow-up for strategic monitoring.

-Time wasted in the collection of information and reports.

When senior management stops to make an important change, it brings along with it a lot of reactions to the level of processes and to the level of job satisfaction, leadership, and motivation. All these reactions are totally normal due to the fact that when human beings’ comfort zone is changed, they experience anxiety because of the unknown. 

When we aligned our mission, vision, and purpose of the company to a long-term operational strategy, different things occurred compared to the results we had gotten before. 

Benefits of planning:

-It guarantees the profitability of a long-term company.

-It aligns all the people in the company with the organizational identity.

-You are clear about the obtained results and how individual effort impacts the results.

-It validates the information which could be taken from supporting documents by the same operation on the day-to-day. (These documents should be reachable for everybody in the company, so they can make better decisions according to their department). 

-It has a monitoring system that can be used to measure and move the correct indicators for each decision.

-All the efforts made on the day-to-day are focused on strategic indicators. 

-It creates a high-performance culture.  

Developing an operational excellence area is not an easy thing to do for any company, especially for its culture, since it takes several changes to how things work and are done within a company. It is important to understand that operational excellence is not only done by a specific area or person, but it is the union of each one of the elements, so everything results in better harmony. 

What have we learnt from this planned change? 

Changing before change itself forces us to change is one of the most meaningful experiences of this whole process. We have learnt to love the most significant metrics of our own business, to reconsider the way we do our things, to be more autonomous when related to our results, and finally to understand that continuous improvement does not occur by chance, it occurs when you handle it. 

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