Dr. Joachim Wolbersen
February 01, 2020

Operations Excellence means change excellence

Dr. Joachim Wolbersen 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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Operations Excellence means change excellence 

Based on our experience from various international projects and again shown in BTOES survey report 2018, Operational Excellence projects are still suffering from a lack of leadership. They are focused mainly on short term results. So, it might not come as a surprise that 23,2% of all respondents cited that their main challenge was a lack of buy-in and leadership understanding. For 35,6% of the respondents it does not seem to be easy to execute sustainable Operational Excellence projects. So, why do we act so short-sighted?

One hint might be that upper management is maybe not that much interested in sustainable Operational Excellence efforts. 27% of the respondents came from Operations or were members of Quality or CI Teams. Operational Excellence Projects seem to be dominated by day to day operations and Customer Service. Is that good enough? I don´t think so.  

Click here to read the full Survey Report 2018/19.    




Speed of changing jobs on a management level

In 2018, digitization was our “buzz word of the year”. Everything was said to be “disruptive” and digitization was the “one size fits all” explanation for it. From our perspective the only real change was the speed of changing jobs on a management level. Maturity levels of Operational Excellence Teams and their projects are clearly depending on the quality of the leadership team. The successful implementation of sustainable results within any organization needs time and focused effort.


Research Report: Operations Excellence means change excellence

How can that be achieved if the members of the management team change jobs regularly? Who takes responsibility to implement not only some new processes and procedures but to manage the change process which is needed to change company culture? BTOES gives some insights: 26% of the respondents named the “Strategy Team at HQ” to be in charge, or alternatively “Center of Excellence – Leadership Team at HQ”. From my experience these teams might be excellent in using certain methods and frameworks. But they are – at least in big companies – too departed from the workforce to instill a real change in company culture or a real business transformation.




Achieve Operational Excellence

If we really want to achieve Operational Excellence and if we really want to embark a sustainable course to achieve outstanding results, Change Excellence is a must. And it starts with leadership, clarity and good communication:

So, let´s start with terms like “digitization” and “disruptive”: Digitization might be a game changer in the way how we use technology to achieve business results. But will it end the world as we know it? I don´t think so. The only achievement in our current digitization hype is to produce fear and anxiety on all levels of the company. Let´s stay focused: Digitisation is a development process, which currently takes place and will stay for the next years. No need for a hurry. We will certainly implement changes in processes. We will notice changes in our way of cooperation and collaboration. But all this takes time. If we want to make sure that we will achieve Operational Excellence in our company, we will have to focus on our Change Management Expertise. We will have to focus on our communication skills. We will have to focus on leadership to get our people moving. And we will have to get rid of silo thinking and short-sighted business results.




We are in dear need of decision makers and leaders.

As one of the respondents so truly put it: “Culture: No matter how good your CI program is, if the company is not ready to adopt and transform, it will not fly.”


Let it be digitization or something else which will shake up the corporate world in the upcoming years – it is always a matter of making people move. If we are talking about company culture, we should talk about a company culture which embraces change and does not need to work with fear or end-of-world-scenarios. What we need is leaders who are able to show empathy with the fear of their employees. Leaders who are able to show options and possibilities instead of potential losses and problems. Leaders who are willing to go the extra mile and take responsibility for a sustainable change of the company culture, knowing that this will take time and focused effort. We need Leaders who understand that the sign off of a project plan doesn´t say anything about change in the heads of employees and customers.




So, what could be a measure of success for your next Operations Excellence Program?

Maybe it could be “Number of employees who decided to stay with the company through difficult times”. Maybe it could be “Average number of years, a C-Level-Manager stayed in his position”. Maybe it could be “Level of employee satisfaction, especially in matters of feeling to be a part of something bigger”.

You want sustainable results? Develop people who are focused on sustainable change. Get managers with good communication skills. And do accept that change takes time!



Want to learn more? Download the full Report.
Research Report: Operations Excellence means change excellence


About the Author

Joachim WolbersenDr. Joachim Wolbersen
COO, Five Element Consulting & Training GmbH

Having worked both as a line manager and Board Member he collected from various experiences within Banking and Finance, Retail, IT Professional Services and Media Industry. Different cultures are making life interesting, as he has learnt in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, UK, Scandinavia, Italy and the U.S. Check out his LinkedIn page.

Specialties: Top Level Coaching, Interim Management, Personal Excellence, Team Excellence, Organisational Excellence, HR Development, Program Management, Change Management


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

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

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