By Deb Manzo.
The other day I thought it would be fun to Google the word “excellence.” I was expecting to hear the trumpets roar and the pronouncement of superiority, brilliance, and distinction.
As fate would have it, that didn’t happen and what I found was excellence in resorts, excellence in a magazine about Porsches, and of course Kanye West’s and Jay-Z’s “Black Excellence” Gap. It was time to narrow the search.
This week, let’s talk about operational excellence. The illusive definitions are abundant. From the perspective of Six Sigma: processes that are defined, measured, analyzed, improved, and controlled; Wikipedia: philosophy of leadership, teamwork and problem solving resulting in continuous improvement throughout the organization by focusing on the needs of the customer, empowering employees, and optimizing existing activities in the process; and the Shingo Prize-guiding and support principles for operational excellence include cultural enablers, continuous process improvement, enterprise alignment, and results.
So, it seems that no matter how operational excellence is defined it is demonstrated by results. Organizations exhibiting world class operational excellence would beneficial trends that are sustained over time in accomplishing the mission of the organization; benchmark leadership is demonstrated in many areas; and performance results are utilized for key customer, market, process, and action plan requirements. Let’s circle back to the Wikipedia definition for a moment and integrate the workforce into operational excellence-all those people actively involved in accomplishing the work of the organization including team leaders, supervisors, and managers at all levels.
The most important internal value creation processes are the work processes. This might include product design and delivery, customer support, supply chain management, business, and support processes. These are the processes that involve the majority of the workforce and produce customer, stakeholder, and stockholder value. These key work processes frequently relate to the organization’s area of greatest expertise, to factors that determine success relative to competitors, and to factors considered important for business growth by senior leaders.
My perspective aligns the definition of operational excellence into the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence which is a systems perspective embodied in seven categories: leadership, strategic planning, customer focus, measurement, analysis, and knowledge management, workforce focus, operations, focus, and results. How would you define “World Class” in terms of operational excellence? What is the most critical factor from your perspective?