Paul Docherty
November 04, 2019

Operational Excellence- from a Craft to a Profession -

Paul Docherty 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.   

The Most Comprehensive Study of Critical Challenges and Future Trends within Operational Excellence

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.

  • The Current Scope of Operational Excellence.

  • How is Operational Excellence success measured?

  • Key Findings & Roadblocks.

  • What are executives focusing on over the next 12-18 months?

  • What have been the greatest developments?

  • What are the key drivers pushing change in Operational Excellence?

  • Industry Perspectives.

  • Small, Medium & Large Corporation Perspectives.

  • Detail Analysis & Insights from BTOES Insights Executive Team.

  • Detailed Analysis & Insights from 40 Industry Thought Leaders.

  • 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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Operational Excellence- from a Craft to a Profession

Operational Excellence

It’s almost two decades to the day since I presented at one of first Operational Excellence conferences in London. Back then, the focus was very much on tools, training of “belts”, best practice methodologies (particularly DMAIC) deployed in the style of Motorola or GE. Much has changed since then. From the recognition that improvement needs an integrated approach – bringing together the whole operational excellence toolset to attack waste and complexity not just variation, to recognition of that to improvement needs to be driven by the line to be sustainable, we have collectively been on a journey that has turned Operational Excellence from a craft into a profession with over a million practitioners worldwide. Click here to read the full Survey Report 2018/19. 




Competitive bar is constantly rising

Even with this tremendous resource, organisations are under pressure like never before. Innovation cycles continue to shorten, making agility increasingly important and the risk of irrelevance from digital disruption ever greater. As highlighted by the challenges described in this report no organisation is immune from evermore-demanding customer expectations, evermore-agile competitors and evermore-disruptive digital technologies.


Witness the rise of Amazon, as major retailers reel from consumers no longer thinking with their feet but by the click of a button. Technology that was blue sky five years ago is now here and becoming more widely adopted. Robotic agents are taking over repetitive (and increasingly less repetitive) work, organisations are mining big data to enable them to provide ever better consumer experience and industry 4.0 technologies are helping factories become smarter the world over.

Operational Excellence- from a Craft to a Profession

These technologies mean that the competitive bar is constantly rising and to survive organisations need a systemic way of not just improving todays operations but also consistently betting on and rapidly executing on the technical innovations and business model disruptions that enable them to stay ahead of the game.




Operational excellence as the basis for how organisations execute their strategy

In response to this ever more competitive environment, it’s clear that the most consistently successful organisations – such as those listed in this report as thought leaders - see operational excellence not just as a tool for increased efficiency but as the basis for how they execute their strategy. In my assessment, this shift from thinking as Operational Excellence as an initiative to thinking of is being the basis of a lean business (perhaps better called a strategy execution) system is one of the most fundamental and important trends that will impact Operational Excellence practitioners in the next three to five years.


The good news is not only can we learn a lot from these high-performance organisations, but also that there is clear evidence that what they are doing can be replicated. Lift the lid on the legendary Business Systems of Toyota, Danaher and more recently healthcare leaders like Thedacare and Virgina Mason, and it’s clear that they have built on the lean production system inherited from Toyota, by adding Hoshin Planning (sometimes called Strategy Deployment or Policy Deployment) to provide the systematic approach to implementing the breakthroughs needed to thrive in an ever changing, and increasingly disruptive, environment.




Operational Excellence as part of a systemic approach to strategy execution

In these organisations, Operational Excellence is not seen as an initiative led by a central OpEx function rather as part of a systemic approach to strategy execution. On-going continuous improvement is squarely the responsibility of the front-line teams who strive each day to standardise work and find and address the root causes of unexpected outcomes (often referred to as Daily Management). In these organisations, the role of the OpEx function has transitioned from mostly doing to mostly facilitating. Typically the custodian of the standards for continuous improvement and strategy deployment, what becomes a small but strategic staff function, primarily concentrates on helping leaders identify and implement cross-value stream improvements (often called Cross-functional Management) as well as helping leaders to define, deploy and implement the breakthrough objectives (Breakthrough Management).


Anecdotally, the leaders we spoken to in these leading organisations attribute the success of the execution system to the degree to which the leaders reinforce daily management through standard leader work and the degree to which leaders take direct responsibility for breakthrough implementation by owning and driving the strategy deployment process. This shift from the OpEx team pushing improvement actions to the operational leaders pulling improvement techniques is the key they say to the sustainability of the system.



It’s clear this transition - from Operational Excellence as an initiative to Operational Excellence as the foundation of the organisation’s strategy execution system – has the potential to address the majority of the challenges identified in this report. From increasing the buy-in of leaders (Hoshin Planning directly connects the operational excellence activity to the business priorities), to increasing the sustainability of improvement (a key goal of every breakthrough projects is the creation of new standard work and ensure that daily management is in place to sustain the gains), the Lean Business System approach helps priorities be maintained and organisations adapt more quickly to business trends.




How and where to start this transition

I am often asked by OpEx leaders how and where to start this transition. The answer is it depends on your starting point. That said, its clear there are implementation approaches that are more successful than others and many lessons that can be learned. To get you started on the journey, visit and download ‘How the Best Out-execute the Rest’. To help you formulate your approach you can also visit, where you will find over 200 free resources assembled by a community of the most trusted experts designed specifically to help you build your own Strategy Execution system.


Want to learn more? Download the full Report.
Operational Excellence- from a Craft to a Profession


About the Author 

Paul Docherty: Operational Excellence- from a Craft to a ProfessionPaul Docherty

Founder & Executive Director, Strategy Execution, Operational Excellence, Business Transformation, i-nexus

Strategy execution expert Paul Docherty is the founder of i-nexus, an industry-leading provider of strategy execution software to some of the world’s most successful companies. Here, he urges operational excellence leaders to take a leaf from global leaders and adopt an all-encompassing systemic approach to operational excellence.Check out her LinkedIn page.


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.


Quick Links



BTOES19 Awards


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,

Click here to schedule a call. 

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