George H. Friesen
April 14, 2019

The Incredible Power of Simplicity

George H. Friesen 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 read 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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The Incredible Power of Simplicity

Top challenges and the global State

The top three challenges confronting Operational Excellence highlighted in The Global State of Operational Excellence are:

  • Changing & Improving the Company Culture. (53.1%)
  • Executing Sustainable Operational Excellence Projects. (35.6%)
  • A Lack of Leadership Understanding and Buy-in. (23.2%)k


What-are-the-3-most-critical-Operational-Excellence-focused-challenges: Research Report 2018/19 - The Global State of Operational Excellence: Critical Challenges & Future Trends

Further, The Global State report tells us that “Cultural transformation is the hardest to do, and it is the greatest progress limiter.”

I agree. And my thirty-five years of experience in working with organizations to help them drive increases in productivity and profitability have taught me that the reason many organizations fail in driving cultural transformations is that they expect too much to happen too quickly, and, further, that the processes they use to drive cultural transformations are far too complex. Click here to read more Articles on The Global State of Operational Excellence: Critical Challenges & Future Trends - Research Report 2018/19.




The first key to success is this one: Keep it simple.

In the 14th Century, a Franciscan Friar, William of Ockham, developed a principle later referred to as “Occam’s Razor.” He wrote, Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate, “Plurality should not be posited without necessity.” Occam’s Razor is often restated as follows, “If you have two equally likely solutions to a problem, choose the simplest.” Occam’s Razor has guided the thinking of the leaders of some of the world’s most successful corporations, most notably Steve Jobs at Apple who once said, “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But once you get there, you can move mountains.”




The second key to success is for the organization’s leadership team to directly confront, and accept, the fact that their thinking about work and workers very likely needs to change.

They need to ask themselves these questions:


  • Do we really understand the way work happens in our organization?
  • Do all our employees know that we highly value the work they do?
  • Do all our employees believe that we respect their intelligence and creativity?
  • Do all our employees clearly understand that our success as a company depends upon the quality of their work and their thinking?
  • Do all our employees believe that we are committed to building good futures for them?
  • Are respect, candor, and trust the defining characteristics of our organization?


Research Report : The Incredible Power of Simplicity

When these questions have been thoughtfully discussed, the leadership team will have a set of benchmarks against which they can gauge their ongoing progress in developing a continuous improvement culture that will sustain Operational Excellence processes.




The third key to success is for the organization’s leadership group to regularly go to where the organization’s products are built, or services delivered.

Recently, I’ve observed firsthand the impact of doing this. The CEO at one of my clients decided to regularly meet on-the-line with workers. Initially, many of the workers held back in commenting on their work environments or work processes. They were obviously waiting to see what happened with the comments a few of their number were making. And then a great thing happened. After holding four rounds of these meetings, when it had become obvious that the company’s CEO was in fact listening carefully to what was being said, more started to speak. What had started as an almost painfully quiet meeting had morphed into a vigorous discussion about the improvement of work processes.


As I observed what was happening, I thought to myself, “These are exactly the kind of exchanges that help convince a workforce that their ideas are needed and that they are respected.”




The fourth key to success is to utilize the great power of the uncommon and unexpected. 


Here are just a few examples of what you can do to put this power to work, whatever your position in the organization.


  • If you’re a plant manager, ask your frontline supervisors to identify workers who are doing an outstanding job along with short descriptions of what they’re doing that’s outstanding. Go to the line and say to them, “I just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate the work you’re doing. You’re a great contributor to our company.” I can guarantee that they’ll be surprised and that this experience will have a very powerful impact on their performance.


  • If you’re a manager, during a meeting with your supervisors tell them about outstanding work done by one of their peers and say to her or him, “Our team really appreciates your great work. It means a lot to us.
  • If you’re a supervisor, say to your manager, “I really enjoy being on your team and think you’re doing a great job leading our group.” Then watch for a big smile and realize that you’ve done something that will have a major impact on your manager’s performance.


  • If you’re a line worker, say to your supervisor, “We really like the way you do things to take the struggle out of our work. It means a lot to us.


  • If you’re a purchasing manager, call one of your suppliers and say, “We were talking about your company this morning and the very important role you play in our success. Thank you so much for the great work you’re doing in helping us succeed. It’s greatly appreciated.




And here’s what gives these simple actions their great power: they are uncommon and unexpected. 

We’re all experienced the power of the uncommon and unexpected. I had a similar experience when the CEO of a company I’d just gone to work for came into my office and said these words, “George, I just wanted to let you know that I’m glad you’re on our team and hope you have a great career with our company.  This very unexpected encounter had a profound impact on my performance. It drove higher levels of motivation, confidence, and, most importantly, my sense of belonging to the organization.


I believe that these four simple steps will go far in driving positive changes in a company’s culture resulting in sustainable Operational Excellence projects. 


The power of simplicity, coupled with the power of the uncommon and unexpected, drives sustainable change.



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Research Report : The Incredible Power of Simplicity


About the Author

George H. Friesen: The Incredible Power of SimplicityGeorge H. Friesen
Business Practice Leader - Lean Transformations, St. Louis Community College

George is a Lean manufacturing consultant whose services have driven exceptional results across a wide range of industries, primarily in the manufacturing sector. Prior to concentrating on lean manufacturing, served as training director and product manager for a major performance improvement company. In these positions, he designed and presented performance improvement programs for a wide variety of Fortune 500 companies including Sigma-Aldrich, New United Motors Corporation (NUMMI), Firmenich, RugDoctor, Hydromat, American Electric Power - River Operations, Saturn, Anheuser Busch, Saginaw Steering Division of GM, Rawlings, Nestle, DrPepper/7UP, Shell, Dial Henkel, PepsiAmericas, Texaco, BellSouth, AT&T, ThermoKing, GM, Toyota, Illinois Bell, CILCO, Nextel, United Artists Theaters, American Airlines, Rich Products, Xerox, NationsBank, Hughes Supply, Winn Dixie, Laclede Gas, Ford Motor Company, American Hardware Insurance Group, Centel Cellular, GTE, United Airlines, and many others. Check out his LinkedIn page.

Specialties: Lean Thinking and Work Processes; Lean Leadership, 5S System; Value Stream Mapping; Toyota KATA; Lean Manufacturing Processes; Work Cell Redesign; Kaizen; Visual Management; SMED; Toyota Production System; DDI and AchieveGlobal Certified Facilitator; Certified Lean Leader.



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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