Karen Winter
August 13, 2019

Delivering change through top-down and bottom-up...

Karen Winter has written an article on her 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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Delivering change through top-down and bottom-up...

What strikes me most from the BTOES 2018 Survey Report is that the issues we face in our business are very similar to those faced in such a wide range of industries. The operational improvement challenges we have are reflected in the comments from the survey, including end-to-end transformation; need for genuine buy-in on the ground, coupled with support of senior leadership; and the need for effective communication and change management.Click here to read the full Survey Report 2018/19. 


Our current program

Our current operational excellence program is focused on moving the business from process improvement at the departmental (or even team) level to delivering more customer- and value-driven change across the business end-to-end. Just over a year ago a central Operations-based team was formed to deliver change across functions; before then our process improvement activity had been uncoordinated, and not consistently focused on strategic needs or delivering results. Our experience correlates with the findings (presented on p. 13) on maturity of operational excellence program and the scope of the program, as well as the many respondents who stated that their focus now is on end-to-end transformation. Click here to read more Articles on The Global State of Operational Excellence: Critical Challenges & Future Trends - Research Report 2018/19.

Delivering change through top-down and bottom-up...


While I agree with the analysis here that “disparate continuous improvement efforts do not provide meaningful impact” (p. 28), some department-level strategies have delivered positive results. We have found that the departments in which process improvement has had the greatest impact are where there has been drive and commitment from the leader, coordination across the management team, and objectives in place to drive training and involvement in projects at all levels. Our aim now is to implement that ‘top-down plus bottom-up’ approach across the entire business of 2,000 employees in 18 global locations, much like the respondent whose focus over the next 12 months is “Coordinating across teams and geographies” (chief evangelist, Computer Software).




Our process re-engineering project

In year 1 of our process re-engineering project, we have focused on mapping and understanding the current state of the business; this aligns with the comment that:


“End-to-end transformation requires thorough understanding of both the value chain impacts, critical paths and value streams to influence”

- Owner and Co-Founder, Hotels, Casinos, Resorts


We are committed to sharing the process maps and performance data that we are creating in the first phase of our project, so that everyone in the business understands their role in the end-to-end creation of value, and can see how well their processes are working compared to other areas.


“Each department needs to understand their role in this flow and their interactions”

- (MD, MBA, Hospitals)


The challenge here will be to coordinate the activities that could result from this, to ensure we do not end up with a competitive environment in which one department fixes their problems but pushes a burden of inefficiency up or down the value stream.




The need for regular and well-targeted communication should not be overlooked.

Alongside transparency about the processes, we must communicate clearly and positively about the project of change and share the vision of a more efficient future at all levels.

We are using the framework of delivering process change developed by John Jeston (Business Process Management) starting with foundations of understanding our business vision and value proposition (driven by senior leadership), and understanding the current state (for which we need the input of people doing the work – the process actors on the ground).


“Leadership buy-in and the agreement flowing down to people on the floor is the most crucial aspect.”

-Sr Project Manager, Electronics, Electrical Equipment




To gain buy-in from people across the business we taken an empowerment approach.

We have developed a program of lean skills training that we aim to deliver to every employee by the end of 2020. This must also be coupled with delivery of quick wins to demonstrate value (or, preferably, support to colleagues to deliver small improvements in their own departments). The follow-up work and coaching support is a challenge to deliver when balanced against competing priorities of BAU or of larger projects, but is essential to maintaining improvements.


“Many have had training in the tools but choose to stop doing them after some time has passed.”

- Continuous Improvement Manager, Forest and Paper Products


“The leadership must transform from owning the process to allowing operators to own the process with their support and coaching…”

-Owner/Senior Transformation Expert




Need for Leadership support

Our plan for this to build a network of local champions (usually those trained in Lean Six Sigma at Green Belt level) coordinated from the centre to support iterative improvements and small projects. This distributes the load while also embedding culture change and putting to good use the skills that were built in earlier stages of our lean journey. Again, this points to the need for leadership support to release those individuals from their day-to-day work.




'Non-standart' product lines

Perhaps in contradiction to the respondent who suggested the greatest development of OE has been “Company-wide standards and ways of working that are enforced and followed” (Process Line Manager, Mining, Crude-Oil Production), we are grappling with the need to balance robust global processes that deliver consistency and align across systems, with flexibility for regions and ‘non-standard’ product lines (as well as to allow for new products and services not yet developed). There are many instances in the current landscape of people working around the core technologies, because the processes in place do not meet their needs.




We must allow flexibility

This leads me to believe that imposing rigid universal processes will not work in the long term, and that future process and technology development will need to pay more mind to the needs of a wider range of stakeholders. While we should not build processes to encompass every possible variation, we must allow enough flexibility that everything can be captured in the correct system. This will deliver efficiency by reducing manual workarounds; it will also surface data and customer insights that would otherwise be hidden and will be essential for future data-driven and customer-focused improvement.

Want to learn more? Download the full Report.
Delivering change through top-down and bottom-up...


About the Author 

Karen Winter:Delivering change through top-down and bottom-up...Karen Winter

Director of Process Improvement, Taylor & Francis Group, an Informa business

Karen Winter has worked in academic publishing for more than 20 years, working in editorial, production, and marketing roles in large and small publishers, before moving into project management and operations. She currently leads process improvement and operational excellence culture change across a global publishing division of a leading knowledge and networking business. Karen is a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt.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.


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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

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  • 1½ Hour Roundtable Sessions by Topic & Industry Sector.

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