Quality inspector measuring products made by a CNC operator to ensure conformity. Part of the operational excellence methods used by the company.

Achieving operational excellence requires a commitment to employee engagement, continuous process improvement, and delivering business outcomes for organizational success.

Drive continuous improvement

In today’s business environment, achieving success is not just about optimizing resources or boosting financial returns. Similarly, it also involves adapting to ever-changing market trends, varying conditions, and emerging technologies. Importantly, operational excellence is a method that enables companies to use a roadmap for continuous improvement in a complex and dynamic business landscape. Therefore, the ultimate objective of this approach is to provide companies with a competitive edge, leading to better decision-making by business leaders and consistent progress by employees.

Businesses that prioritize efficient problem-solving and streamlined process improvement tend to outperform their competitors in terms of profitability in the long run. Organizations prioritizing operational excellence can quickly and effectively identify and resolve issues, giving them a competitive advantage in the market. In addition, they can optimize workflows, minimize errors, and reduce waste, leading to increased productivity and cost savings.

By continually enhancing their problem-solving abilities and processes, companies have a greater chance of achieving immense success and staying ahead of the competition.

In this article, we will explore how companies can effectively utilize the primary principles of operational excellence. In future articles, we will discuss tools and various methodologies to support achieving operational excellence.

Operational excellence words stuck on a cork pin board. Operational excellence is a business concept. Operational Excellence methodologies emphasize the use of various techniques and tools to achieve outstanding performance and continuous improvement within your business.

Transform your business operations with Operational Excellence methodologies, the proven approach that emphasizes using various techniques and tools to achieve outstanding performance and continuous improvement.

What is operational excellence?

Achieving operational excellence is crucial for organizations to succeed and thrive. All aspects of business management, including its processes, prioritize continuous improvement. The essential element is fostering a culture that encourages both management and employees to participate in achieving business goals and implementing changes that lead to progress. When executed well, every member of an organization sees the flow of value to the customer and, if problems arise, finds a solution before any disruptions occur.

Operational excellence is not just about producing high-quality products or services. It’s about providing excellent customer experiences and building long-term relationships. Creating a culture of excellence requires commitment from all leaders and employees. This requires clearly defining leadership and workforce roles and how they work together to improve operations. Employees can initiate change at all levels and drive toward efficiency, effectiveness, and agility. It’s about fostering a mindset of continuous improvement, innovation, and collaboration, where everyone is committed to achieving the organization’s goals and objectives. So, where did it all start?

The fundamental values of achieving operational excellence

Processes and operational excellence played a vital role in the success of the Ford Motor Company, thanks to the innovative thinking of its founder, Henry Ford. By introducing the modern assembly line, he revolutionized the manufacturing industry and created a legacy that endures to this day. Following these principles, Dr. Shigeo Shingo developed the Shingo Model, which forms the basis for defining operational excellence.

The business approach prioritizes quality at the source, customer value, a supply chain with zero inventory, and an understanding of the workplace at all levels. He worked closely with Toyota executives to implement his principles in their manufacturing operations. Shingo’s contribution to the world of business led to the establishment of the Shingo Prize, an annual award given by the Shingo Institute for Operational Excellence at Utah State University to outstanding organizations.

The guiding principles for operational excellence

The prize espouses the 10 Shingo Guiding Principles, widely recognized as the fundamental principles of achieving operational excellence within a business.

  • Respect Every Individual
  • Lead with Humility
  • Seek Perfection
  • Embrace Scientific Thinking
  • Focus on Process
  • Assure Quality at the Source
  • Improve Flow & Pull
  • Think Systemically
  • Constancy of Purpose
  • Value for the Customer
A diamond shape that illustrates the guiding principles defined by Shingo. Business concept for operational excellence

Image Source: Shingo Model, The Shingo Institute

Respect Every Individual:

The success of an organization depends on several principles that help establish a respectful, innovative, and customer-focused culture. One of the fundamental principles is respect for every individual. When companies value and treat their employees respectfully, they are likelier to contribute their best efforts toward achieving their goals.

Here are some examples of ideal management behaviors:

  • Develop a plan for employees’ growth that includes suitable objectives.
  • Encourage employees to participate in enhancing the quality of work in their respective areas.
  • Consistently offer guidance for resolving problems.

Lead with Humility:

Another essential principle is to lead with humility. Companies should involve stakeholders at all levels to make decisions in the organization’s and employee’s best interest. This approach fosters a culture of respect and collaboration.

Here are some behaviors that demonstrate excellent management:

  • At the site of operations, leadership participation is stable and foreseeable.
  • Workers can raise concerns with assurance, knowing that a favorable reaction is imminent.

Seek Perfection:

Seeking perfection is also a crucial principle for Operational Excellence. By continuously striving to improve, companies can open the door to new ways of thinking and innovation, leading to better products and services.

Behaviors that demonstrate ideal management:

  • Long-term solutions should be the focus instead of temporary fixes.
  • Continual efforts to streamline tasks and reduce complexity.

Embrace Scientific Thinking:

Embracing scientific thinking is another fundamental principle. Encouraging employees to test new ideas based on observations and data creates a culture that fosters innovation, keeping organizations ahead of their competitors.

The following are examples of management behaviors that represent the ideal:

  • It is essential to adopt a systematic method when addressing challenges.
  • Create an atmosphere where staff members feel comfortable experimenting with novel concepts without fearing making mistakes.

Focus on the Process:

Focusing on the process rather than blaming individuals is another important principle for improving operations. By looking for ways to improve the process, companies can prevent problems from occurring in the first place.

Examples of the  ideal management:

  • Instead of blaming someone for an error, concentrate on enhancing the process that resulted in the error.
  • Before utilizing any materials, parts, information, or resources in a process, verify that they are accurate and comply with the specifications.

Assure Quality at the Source:

Assuring quality at the source is also a critical principle. By utilizing the correct individuals and components and performing work accurately from the start, businesses can guarantee that their offerings meet or surpass the expectations of their customers.

Behaviors that exemplify ideal management:

  • Organizing workplaces in a manner that instantly draws attention to potential problems is vital.
  • Before you proceed, pause your work and address any errors that need fixing.

Improve Flow and Pull:

Improving flow and pull is another essential principle for Operational Excellence. By having the right products available when customers need them, companies can provide value to their customers and optimize their supply chain.

Behaviors that exemplify ideal management:

  • Avoid offering unnecessary products or services beyond customer demand.
  • Ensure the necessary resources are accessible and ready to use at the required time.

Think Systemically:

It is essential to think systematically to enhance operations. This Principle plays a crucial role in improving overall efficiency. Companies can achieve sustainable success by looking at the entire system and making improvements that benefit the organization rather than just individual departments or players.

Behaviors that exemplify ideal management:

  • By removing existing barriers, ideas, information, decisions, and products can flow freely.
  • Ensure everyone impacted understands daily objectives and concerns and establishes a consistent purpose.

Creating constancy of purpose is also crucial. By communicating goals, purpose, and commitment to the customer, companies can establish a sense of direction and focus that helps them achieve excellence.

Behaviors that exemplify ideal management:

  • Connecting an organization’s goals and objectives with individual employees is crucial for success.
  • It is imperative to align goals with the organization’s overall objectives. Ensure your goals contribute to the bigger picture and the organization’s success.

Create value for the customer:

Finally, creating value for the customer is the goal of operational excellence. Companies can achieve long-term success and customer loyalty by meeting or exceeding their customer’s expectations and providing products and services catering to their needs and desires. Understanding what the customers want is crucial in this process.

Behaviors that exemplify ideal management:

  • Strive to comprehend the demands and anticipations of the customers.

Methods for achieving operational excellence

The Shingo Model has become increasingly popular in the business world, leading to various methodologies that follow its approach and core principles of operational excellence.

Other Methodologies

There is an extensive list of alternative methods; some of these operational excellence methodologies include:

  • Lean
  • Six Sigma
  • Kaizen
  • OKAPI

Methodologies such as lean manufacturing management, Kaizen, the Shingo model, and Six Sigma are the foundations for operational excellence.

Lean Principles

Organizing a lean enterprise involves prioritizing the understanding of the customer and their context, which entails defining value and seeking continuous improvement in:

  • Product and process development
  • Fulfillment from order through production to delivery
  • Lifecycle for products and services

Any team, organization, or industry has the potential to implement lean principles successfully.

Six Sigma

Data drives the Six Sigma methodology to enhance output quality by minimizing process variability and defects. It employs statistical analysis and problem-solving techniques to determine and eradicate the underlying causes of defects. When combined with lean manufacturing principles, it becomes a potent tool for achieving operational excellence and customer satisfaction.

Kaizen

On the other hand, Kaizen is a continuous improvement approach involving everyone in the company, from top management to frontline workers. It encourages small and incremental improvements in processes and systems rather than radical changes. The goal is to continuously improve quality, productivity, safety, and customer satisfaction. Kaizen emphasizes teamwork, open communication, and a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

OKAPI

Iris Tsidon and Maya Gal, experts in organizational intelligence, developed the OKAPI method. OKAPI stands for Objective, Key result, Actions, Performance, and Insights, and it helps organizations achieve their goals, monitor progress, and consistently enhance performance.

Their approach involves using the SMART KPIs (key performance indicators) methodology. For KPIs to be effective, they must be specific, guiding efforts toward achieving the intended goal. KPIs should measure actions rather than behavior, which helps identify the areas that need improvement. Achievability is a crucial factor in KPIs. It should be challenging, but not impossible, to encourage better performance. KPIs must be relevant to the organization’s objectives and contribute significantly to its success. Setting a specific deadline for completion is essential for every task or assignment to ensure timely delivery.

Achieving operational excellence

Embracing Operational Excellence is a perpetual expedition that demands a dynamic approach rather than a static endpoint. The emphasis on perpetual enhancement requires constant efforts from the leaders and employees to identify opportunities for improvement in their respective roles.

Business performance metrics

Organizations should define their objectives and monitor their progress through performance metrics to maintain a consistent growth trajectory. Key performance indicators (KPIs) such as sales growth, health and safety performance, and workforce retention rates are crucial. By utilizing these metrics, the organization can evaluate its performance, pinpoint areas that require improvement, and verify that it is progressing in the right direction.

Many businesses aim to achieve Operational Excellence.

Businesses striving for Operational Excellence often set specific goals to improve their performance. Organizations strive to achieve three types of goals:

  • Operational goals,
  • Financial goals,
  • People-focused culture/workforce goals.

What are the three areas that fall under operational excellence?

Improving customer satisfaction, empowering employees, and continuously enhancing existing processes are the three key elements that constitute operational excellence. By prioritizing these factors, a company can effectively keep its improvement initiatives on the right track.

Operations:

Operational goals involve improving the company’s operations, focusing on efficiency and safety. For instance, an organization may aim to expedite the order-to-cash process, address supply chain issues, or enhance service delivery.

Finance:

Financial goals, conversely, are centered on achieving specific sales and loss metrics. These goals may include reducing customer churn, streamlining market entry, or optimizing the marketing-to-sales pipeline.

People Focus:

Culture/workforce goals are related to employee satisfaction, professional development, and retention. Companies may implement initiatives to foster a more inclusive workplace culture, offer equitable compensation packages, or incentivize their employees to pursue career growth opportunities.

The transfer of value to customers is essential.

Meeting operational excellence goals is crucial for any business that seeks to deliver exceptional customer value. But what does value mean exactly? Essentially, it’s all about satisfying customers’ needs and providing what they are willing to pay for.

Creating value streams within operational excellence

Companies adopt the operational excellence methodology, which involves creating value streams, to achieve this. A value stream consists of all the processes and initiatives an organization implements to deliver products and services that meet customer demand within the desired time frame.

For instance, a warehouse center that can handle customer demand effectively and has the stock, resources, storage, transportation, and IT networking resources necessary to support online transactions without wasting resources is an excellent example of a well-functioning value stream.

Operational excellence communication

Clear and effective communication is a crucial component for achieving operational excellence goals. Employees must be well-informed about the company’s objectives and understand how their contributions can add value to the customer’s experience. Additionally, employees must feel that the company leaders support their professional development. Failure to address these aspects can hinder progress and make it challenging to achieve goals and improve continuously.

To ensure the successful implementation of the operational excellence program, a well-crafted communication plan covering the mission, goals, and employees impacted is vital. Top-performing companies that have achieved operational excellence have a robust internal communication system, which enables effective employee communication and serves as a platform for receiving and addressing feedback.

Operational excellence provides several advantages.

Organizations aiming for operational excellence must thoroughly analyze their operations and employee management practices. They may need to be open to changing their organizational culture in specific scenarios. Embracing constant change can aid organizations in effectively adopting methodologies and achieving the subsequent advantages:

Streamline workflows:

To guarantee the smooth delivery of value to customers, streamlining workflows helps operational capability. Identifying and resolving obstacles, supply chain challenges, and misaligned priorities is critical. Businesses can leverage advanced business management tools that offer a comprehensive view of workflows and business processes, enabling them to streamline their operations. By utilizing sophisticated workflow modeling techniques, companies can pinpoint the exact causes of bottlenecks and redundancies and eliminate wasteful practices like overproduction, resulting in more efficient and optimized workflows.

Operation risk reduction:

Every business aims to minimize risks, and one way to achieve that is by adopting operational excellence as a core strategy. The advantages of operational excellence go beyond risk reduction, as it can lead to increased revenues and reduced operating costs. Furthermore, businesses implementing operational excellence will likely outperform their competitors in efficiency and effectiveness.

Standardized work and results:

Standardized work and outcomes refer to the consistent and uniform processes and results achieved in a particular task or activity. Streamlining and optimizing the process improves the quality and efficiency of the final output.

Responsibility:

When achieving success, accountability plays a vital part in deciding who is ultimately responsible. Individuals can improve performance and outcomes with clear expectations and regular performance evaluations.

Empowerment of employees:

The operational excellence approach differs from a conventional hierarchical culture, where the CEO holds sway over all departments by adopting a leadership model that entails top-level decision-making for strategic matters. Frontline employees have the necessary resources and decision-making autonomy to succeed. This approach highlights the importance of collaboration and empowerment, enabling every employee to contribute to the organization’s success.

Industry adoption of operational excellence

Various industries utilize operational excellence to streamline processes and increase efficiency. Firstly, practically every industry and business model can benefit from operational excellence. However, some industries have made operational excellence the standard. Secondly, leaders worldwide have commended companies such as Toyota, Motorola, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Tesla, Fastcap, and GE for their operational excellence, enabling them to stay ahead of their competitors. Improving processes and systems has a far-reaching impact on manufacturing, healthcare, technology, and construction industries. This is why striving for operational excellence is crucial in almost every industry.

Construction:

Construction companies can guarantee worker safety, effective management of their workforce, and cost-efficient sourcing of materials by implementing operational excellence practices.

Education:

The principles of operational excellence play a crucial role in facilitating the transformation and change of the education industry while supporting its vision and mission of teaching, research, and public service. Education providers can achieve sustainable, transformative change, foster opportunities for growth, and adapt to meet the needs of the modern world.

Finance and Banking:

Operational excellence (OE) plays a vital role in the financial and banking industry as it distinguishes one from the competition. By aligning and optimizing its organization, processes, technology, and partnerships, the bank can become a leader in execution that balances service quality, effectiveness, and delivery cost. Any error or delay can result in unnecessary expenses, fines, or even sharing of incorrect information. Thus, OE is crucial for banks to avoid such negative consequences and maintain their competitive edge.

Healthcare:

Implementing operational excellence can significantly improve the patient experience in healthcare. Healthcare providers can achieve this by reducing wait times, enhancing patient portals, and efficiently tracking patient outcomes. The NHS in the UK recognizes the importance of operational excellence and considers it a crucial concept. It is essential to create a comprehensive strategy for promoting operational excellence in hospitals. To achieve this, healthcare providers must adopt a working approach that utilizes continuous improvement techniques initiated and managed by frontline staff to enhance the quality and safety of patient care.

Hospitality:

Striving for operational excellence in the hospitality industry involves discovering practical approaches that enhance procedures, refine all in-room or on-site amenities provided, and naturally elevate the quality of your product (which refers to the physical establishment and accommodations) to its fullest potential.

IT:

In a fast-paced environment, implementing operational excellence principles allows IT teams to enhance workflow efficiency, automate processes, manage projects efficiently, decrease business risk, and reduce the need for development rework and additional budgets.

Manufacturing:

Motorola and BAE Systems have utilized operational excellence methodologies to optimize productivity, minimize downtime, and lower waste.

To summarize, operational excellence methodologies emphasize techniques and tools for continuous improvement and exceptional performance within your industry or organization.

Implementing operational excellence

Implementing operational excellence presents both a challenge and an opportunity for organizations. Before considering this approach, they must assess their willingness and ability to undergo a series of fundamental challenges and modifications to their operations.

Various methods can achieve operational excellence, so exploring different techniques is advised. It’s important to note that each company is unique. Therefore, finding your organization’s most effective methodology and tools is crucial.

This article briefly introduces achieving operational excellence for relevant industries, with future articles taking a deeper dive into the topic.

Operational Excellence and Noirwolf

Noirwolf helps clients improve performance, reduce costs, and achieve sustainable growth. In addition, our areas of expertise include strategy, operational excellence, and business performance. Collaborating thoroughly with our clients, we analyze and define their business processes (i.e., SOPs), identify potential areas of improvement, and oversee change management projects to ensure successful implementation.

Therefore, there are multiple approaches in which Noirwolf can assist organizations in achieving operational excellence through intelligent automation.

Are you interested in Achieving Operational Excellence? Get in touch with Noirwolf.

At Noirwolf, we aim to drive performance improvements and generate profitable growth for our clients. So, let’s connect and discuss your growth strategies. For instance, we offer a free consultation to discuss your project, answer your questions,  and help your business grow.

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