“The Industrial Revolution was a watershed in the history of mankind. Three forces – technology, economic organization, and science, in this sequence – each from separate and undistinguished parentage, linked up, inconspicuously at first, to form, hardly a hundred years ago, into a social maelstrom that is still engulfing new and new millions of people, in an irresistible rush.”
- Karl Polanyi “For a New West” 1958
For me the parallels of this obscure commentary on the first industrial revolution, within the new paradigm of operation excellence is all too apparent. The three forces of OpEx - people, processes and technology - are combining with ever increasing pace and complexity to provide businesses across the globe with access to a range of elegant and efficient solutions and services that bring with them the potential for exponential growth and opportunity. However, as revealed throughout this report they come hand-in-hand with a plethora of equally complex, less simple to solve critical challenges, as commented: “This company's culture would fit nicely about a decade ago. We cannot continue to ask for improvements in technology and support processes and allow for the rest of the company (HR and Executive teams) to work under an Old Power model”
Yet again, the No.1 challenge for the overwhelming majority of businesses, regardless of size, industry or geography remains Culture; it is no coincidence that companies that get this right reap the rewards and the results speak for themselves, companies in the “Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For” happen to achieve a return in market annualised growth twice the return of the average return of companies in the S&P 500 and the Russell 3000 indices. “Your best assets are your people. You need everyone rowing in the same direction to drive...”
Disappointingly - leadership buy-in/support - has gone up in the charts to 5th place this year. As has been demonstrated time and again, unless Leadership aligns with and drives your OpEx program, you are not going to sustain it, and are very unlikely to get it off the ground in the 1st place. The demands on a leaders’ time and resources has grown exponentially, meaning that it is more likely that not having a dedicated resource to lead OpEx initiatives impacts disproportionately on the bottom line. I look forward to the year when leadership buy-in/support is not on the list at all and as a result Culture tumbles down the charts, until then as commented. “Leadership, without an understanding of and ability to drive Operational Excellence and the Culture to support and sustain it, it will not happen.”
As the survey illustrates, 2018 may be the watershed year for end-to-end business transformation as more and more businesses stop focusing on incremental/marginal improvements and strive to unlock value driven cross- functional improvements, as highlighted in the report by commentary such as “End to End business transformation. We've locked value into how we do business via inefficiencies in our systems. Extracting that value is critical, and Operational Excellence is an element in the strategy to do this.”
‘Customer Delight’ may be the most important term in OpEx right now and if you are not aware of it, you better get aware of it and fast! If you are not focused on providing your customers with an ‘Amazon’ type experience, then you are doubtless in the process of writing your own obituary. More than ever the customer is dictating the agenda that business is required to deliver, and new technologies are enabling the pace at which that change happens, and it is only getting faster; as one commentator puts it, “The changing demand of customers dictates the way we deliver our services, everything else follows”.
Technology advancements continue to define the new reality of operational excellence in the early 21st century. Many organisations struggle to realize the advantages, but are all too familiar with the pitfalls, due to a lack of talent, knowledge and resource. “At this point keeping up with new technologies and implementing them quickly has been a problem that prevented us from capturing the benefits of external innovation”. If your business does not have access to the new breed of technology enablers, to maximise its agile potential then you are at a distinct competitive disadvantage.
It is extremely heartening to note that operational excellence is now seen as an essential part of any organisation’s strategic weaponry and is more popular than ever, with 60% of businesses now reporting that they have a programme – a very encouraging development. Its usage continues to spread to encompass job functions that were previously out of scope, such as: sales, marketing, purchasing, accounting and finance. With scope has come maturity and that can be seen as underpinning the success that the most progressive organisations are achieving and conversely the lack of success that some organisations are experiencing, due to a lack of stability; which in turn has led to a lack of focus, execution and sustainability. As one respondent’s perspective demonstrates: “Ever-changing headcount and personnel continuously changes the dynamics of how our OpEx works effectively. continuous retraining, and refreshers are necessary to bring new personnel up to pace, and encourage senior personnel to maintain”.
The big beasts are no more, it’s now all about peers, industry experts and the companies themselves. This is probably the most significant attitude shift over the last decade. previously, respondents had shown a clear preference for wanting to hear from ‘industry giants’ such as ‘Welch’ & ‘Collins’; this year only 4.7% of respondents mentioned the top performing ‘beast’. The new business leaders want to hear from hands on practitioners, their peers or industry experts about what progressive companies are doing and are much more focussed on transferable outcomes and dynamics; which in the age of true globalization, meeting the ‘I’m a rock-star/on-demand’ culture and the push for universal high performing teams makes perfect sense.
Underpinning the report at every stage is PEOPLE. It is striking, at least for me, how much there seems to have been the ‘sudden’ realisation that processes, and technology are redundant concepts, without people. Having a committed and fully ‘bought-in’ workforce is the key to unlocking true value in Operational Excellence and transforming your business, as this CEO realises all too well. “I see the key drivers pushing change in the operational excellence ecosystem as today's "short-term engagement" employees who prefer to change companies rather than climbing the corporate ladder, causing companies to need to invest more time & effort in ensuring their clients/customers are happy interacting with them in their purchasing decisions.”
Finally, I leave you with this little snippet – discuss...
“Operational excellence as a function has reached its saturation peak and now it is the age of Digital Disruption. Leveraging Ops Excellence would involve doing Design Thinking to understand customer needs and then integrating concepts of variance reduction leveraging Lean Six Sigma to design the "Ideal Process" - this should then go through the digital transformation”
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About the Author
CCO and Programme Director
Brian is a commercial specialist, programme director and innovator - with a focus on live events, conferences, exhibitions and media on an international basis.
Disciplined business development director, with extensive team building and leading skills. Direct 'hands-on' experience within the legal, finance, pharmaceutical, life sciences, IT, continuous improvement, energy, gaming & professional services industries.
Commercial and project consultant/implementor on start-up's, through to established Plc's in business areas ranging from transport to technology. Interested in all aspects of the events industry - from early-stage startups to companies “on the bubble”, through to established Plc's.
Specialties: Revenue generation, commercial/sponsorship sales and commercial negotiation. Relationship building and account management. Building and leading focused commercial sales teams.
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