What is operational excellence?
It’s usually defined by many such things as:
- Increased training and number of employees with key skills.
- Greater employee engagement.
- Reduced employee turnover.
- Enhanced accountability by individual team members.
- Improvement in cross-department cooperation.
- Higher employee satisfaction scores.
- Improved productivity
And the list goes on to literally cover every operational tactic that organizations grapple with improving without providing a context and framework for deciding on the KEY tactics that, if successfully employed, will really drive operational EXCELLENCE rather than average operations.
It’s not that other operational tactics aren’t important, it’s that not all are of the SAME importance.
And for me, those that were critical to successfully implementing the strategic game plan of the organization ranked at the top of the tactical list.
My experience in leading businesses to achieve remarkable levels of performance has taught me that operational excellence is defined by how effectively the strategy of the organization is executed.
The organization’s operating model must be strategically relevant with operational efficiency running second.
It must drive strategic gains BEFORE efficiency improvements. It must seek efficiency only after it achieves strategic relevance.
These are 7 operational tactics I focused on to take a startup TO A BILLION IN SALES.
#1. The Strategic Game Plan (SGP) — The anchor for an operational plan is the strategy for the organization. It provides the overall context that drives the focus of every operational element.
Operations priorities must be led by the SGP otherwise dysfunction sets in.
If you can’t relate an operational activity to the SGP, question why you’re doing it.
#2. Line of sight — ‘Line of sight’ translation of the SGP is the tool I used to ensure that every operational function was directly in sync with the strategy of the organization.
The question is “What does the SGP specifically mean to (customer contact, recruitment, billing…)?
What activities, processes and systems for example need to be added in order to execute the SGP and what needs to be dropped because they are no longer related to the strategy?
Direct line of sight for every person in the organization translates into pristine strategy execution; unclear foggy notions of what the strategy means, on the other hand, results in dysfunction and little progress.
#3. A clean inside — Removing obstacles—Cutting the CRAP—that gets in the way of people doing their jobs is fundamental to a smooth and effective operations environment.
Administrative grunge must be eliminated and the policies and rules—dumb rules—that make no sense to cusomers must follow suit, or at least be changed to be as acceptable as they can.
As long as ‘the inside’ is needlessly complicated and messy, people get frustrated, they can’t do their job well and execution suffers with them.
#4. Serving leaders — Effective operations requires a leadership culture that has leaders in the workplace constantly asking people “How can I help?”.
This Leadership by Serving Around approach is critical to understanding what needs to change—point #3 above—to enhance how well the strategy of the organization is being executed.
#5. Strategy Hawk — Every strategy needs an owner—the Strategy Hawk—responsible to see that the strategy gets implemented in the way it is intended.
The Strategy Hawk is the ONE person who lives and dies by the success of the strategy which usually depends on a strong operational plan.
The Hawk’s role:
- constantly is ‘in the face’ of people in the organization keeping strategy execution alive.
- questions everything being done for strategic relevance.
- advises the CEO on what’s working and what’s not.
- hold regular operational review meetings to track progress on strategy execution.
#6. Goosebump recruits — Operational excellence requires the right people in the right positions as determined by the strategy.
And given that every strategy must include an element dealing with building customer loyalty, this means that people with a natural inclination to serve and care for other people must be the target of the recruitment process.
You can’t train people to like people.
You need to find them and hire them, and the process I use is simple: you ask the potential recruit to ‘tell you a story’ that would prove they ‘loved people’ and if their answer was rich and passionate enough to give you goosebumps you hire them straight away and teach them the other parts of the role they are aspiring to fulfil.
#7. A frontline culture — Cultural values that focus on supporting the frontline are a requisite to having an operational plan that is awesome at strategy execution.
Rather than thinking of them as low ranking, low skilled people ‘at the bottom’ of the organization chart, a frontline culture organization views them as the ‘objects of affection’, holding everyone accountable to discover how to make their jobs easier and to enable their effectiveness.
Any claim of operational brilliance without a ’living for the frontline’ organizational attitude is hollow and disingenuous at the very least.
Operational excellence isn’t an aspiration.
It’s the result of doing the hard operations work required to advance the organization’s strategy.
It’s a strategic concept not one that merely bundles together the populist notions of the day on operational effectiveness.