Jeremy Moorman
July 17, 2019

“It’s about the people, stupid”

Jeremy Moorman has written an article on his interpretation of the Global State of Operational Excellence Survey Report - Critical Challenges & Future Trends - 2018/2019.  Click here to download the full Survey Report 2018/19.  

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With nearly 1000 respondents, 37 insightful questions, detailed analysis & insights from 40 industry thought leaders, and the BTOES Insights executive team, this 130 page report is recognised as the most comprehensive study of critical challenges and future trends within Operational Excellence, and is considered a key resource for the industry. Areas covered include:

  • The Critical Operational Excellence Challenges faced by executives.

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  • Analysis of key themes, including Cultural Transformation, Customer Delight, Sustaining an Operational Excellence program, Need for end-to-end Business Transformation, Keeping up with new technologies/impact of digitalization and Leadership Buy-in & Understanding.


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“It’s about the people, stupid”

Reflecting on challenges that Operational Excellence professionals face in terms of leadership support, organizational culture and buy-in, I’m reminded of the often repeated quote from a presidential campaign, “it’s the economy, stupid”.  Click here to read the full Survey Report 2018/19. 

Different methodologies, whether it be Lean, Six Sigma, Design Thinking, or a myriad of others, typically combined together into a “[insert name here] Business System”, have conditioned and trained a generation of associates on a set of ideas for how we solve problems successfully and deliver better products and customer experiences.


Regrettably, there have been plenty of misfires along the way, and I frequently spend time with people that have learned “Lean” or “Six Sigma” as a curse word, as the precursor to difficult top-down organizational changes, or simply as a “Cost Out” framework.  At times, it’s fairly clear that too many practitioners have forgotten that “it’s about the people, stupid”.  Click here to read more Articles on The Global State of Operational Excellence: Critical Challenges & Future Trends - Research Report 2018/19.

People recount to me their stories of the conference room kaizen, of the misapplied 8 wastes to basically describe everything they do, of painfully detailed reviews of fishbone diagrams, process maps or MSA studies in projects that achieved no actual business results.  They can tell me all about the “guy from corporate” who spent hours critiquing the colors they used in their charts, or how automated their KPI’s were, or whether or not they used the right icons on their VSM --- but ultimately did not help them get better at what they do.




They’d rather we, as Operational Excellence, would just leave them alone to take care of their customers, thank you very much.

I’d argue that, quite frequently, the lack of Leadership Buy-In that we receive in Operational Excellence is caused by self-inflicted wounds.  To me, as I spend time with people, track these stories down and work through how to build a successful Continuous Improvement framework, the root cause for this lack of support is because we too often forget that “it’s about the people, stupid”.

“It’s about the people, stupid”

We can have the most brilliantly executed project, with wonderfully clean data, the most professional value stream map and support detailed process maps that have ever been created, stunning visual management displays and obvious standard work to execute, simplified and beautiful work stations that fit the process well --- we can deliver all that, and if we don’t win the hearts and minds of the people that do the work, it doesn’t matter.




Some of the techniques we’re using to refocus on “it’s about the people, stupid” as we work to help our teammates live out Continuous Improvement as one of our core values:

  1. We’re trying to be mindful of our language and removing methodology jargon wherever possible.  We don’t want to have our own Operational Excellence language, we’d like continuous improvement language to fit the context that already exists

  2. We’ve tried to simplify the discussion around methodology to highlight 4 guiding rules: (1) start the conversation by understanding what the customer values, (2) go to where the work is done, (3) respect the people that do the work, (4) kill the waste --- everything we do, discuss and train needs to fit and follow those 4 guiding rules

  3. As we execute projects and conduct training, we’re de-emphasizing the individual tools we teach and “super reinforcing” the why --- why do we use this tool, what does it help us understand, how does it fit into solving a business problem

We’re confident that others are miles ahead of us in this journey, but as we’ve redirected Operational Excellence from a compliance mindset to remembering that “it’s about the people, stupid”, it has significantly improved the leadership support and buy-in we receive as we bring forward Continuous Improvement ideas.

Want to learn more? Download the full Report.
“It’s about the people, stupid”


About the Author 

Jeremy Moorman: “It’s about the people, stupid”Jeremy Moorman

VP Operational Excellence, Applied Industrial Technologies

Jeremy's global experience includes management of teams across 4 continents, spanning a variety of language and cultural barriers.Check out his LinkedIn profile.

The work he enjoys most is bringing teams together across cultures and with varying backgrounds, to bring great, high quality and valued products & services to customers all over the globe.

A key component of that work is a focus on Continuous Improvement. While trained and experienced in a variety of tools and techniques, he also likes to quote 4 simple rules to CI: "Make sure you know what the customer values. Go to Gemba. Respect the people that do the work. Kill the Waste."


The issues in this article are just one of topic areas that are going to be discussed at the Business Transformation & Operational Excellence World Summit & Industry (BTOES19). March 18-22, 2019, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort®

BTOES is the industry’s biggest and best, senior-level, cross-industry gathering of Business Transformation & Operational Excellence industry leaders and senior executives.

It also hosts the Business Transformation & Operational Excellence Awards, which showcase globally the most outstanding organizational achievements through the application of Operational Excellence programs.

The summits hosts a number of private forums for C-Level & Global corporate-level leaders as well as business unit heads.

With over 150 speakers, over 100 sessions, 12 Keynotes, 9 Track Themes, 5 parallel tracks, 60+ track sessions, 50 roundtable discussions, 20 Interactive Workshops, 6 Thought Leader Panels, 5 Leaders Boardrooms, 5 co-located events, the Industry Awards Program, Site Visits, 20+ hours of social networking including 2 gala cocktail parties, dinners, numerous group activities, this is the ultimate event to benchmark, network and drive Operational Excellence to the next level.


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There is a strong focus on Cultural Transformation, Customer Delight, Sustaining an Operational Excellence program, Need for end-to-end Business Transformation, Keeping up with new technologies/impact of digitalization and Leadership Buy-in & Understanding. We dedicated two tracks to advanced technologies, such as AI, Machine Learning, RPA, Predictive Analytics, Blockchain, Cloud infrastructure etc.


The agenda is designed to encourage active meaningful conversations though all day enhanced networking and interaction opportunities, including

  • All-day Refreshment & Themed Breaks

  • 1¼ Hour Hot Breakfast Networking Sessions

  • 1½ Hour Hot Plated Networking Lunches with Topic & Industry Sector focussed tables

  • 1½ Hour Roundtable Sessions by Topic & Industry Sector.

  • Keynote & Themes Panel Sessions

  • Hosted Welcome Receptions from 5.30pm

  • Expanded more lavish Awards Program

  • Newly launched Night Summit for attendees to meet after dinner

For more information or to discuss the summit in more detail please schedule a call below,

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