5 Signs You Should Change Your Operational Excellence Strategy



It’s best to establish a long-term strategy and stick with it rather than make frequent changes. After all, a strategy change can require additional resources and create confusion for both customers and employees. However, sometimes organizational strategy must change as a result of outside factors. Think of buggy whips after the invention of the car and photographic film after the invention of the digital camera.

Likewise, your operational excellence strategy must be flexible enough to accommodate changes as needed — hopefully, early enough to minimize non-value-added activities and expenditures and maximize positive outcomes. Consider the following signals that might indicate a need for an operational excellence (OpEx) strategy review and adjustment.


1. The Organization Faces a Major Shift in Technology or Customer Needs

Clearly, if your organization delivers something that is becoming obsolete, you will need to shift your strategic and tactical OpEx focus away from that to the areas in which the organization will participate in the future. The skeleton of your OpEx strategy, if it’s healthy, remains intact, but your efforts will be remobilized to new content areas with appropriate training, investment, and resources.

The OpEx strategy must align with the organizational strategy, so it must follow when the organization shifts. In fact, the OpEx team may be engaged in bringing the need for a shift in organizational strategy to the attention of the leadership team. OpEx teams are often responsible for analyzing customer satisfaction data and may see leading indicators of trouble before major shifts in customer needs occur.

Here, the change in OpEx strategy is for continuing alignment with the developing organizational strategy.


2. Leadership Support for OpEx is Waning or Nonexistent

It is possible for operational excellence to move along without visible support from organizational leadership. However, this lower-level effort, even with high levels of shop floor engagement, is not optimal. This path won’t deliver maximum results. Improvement teams are at risk of being disbanded when leadership determines efforts are needed in other areas.

A root cause assessment of why leadership support is missing might reveal several issues:

Any of these situations requires change in the operational excellence strategy or at least in the communications and compensation related to it. This situation may require going back to the basics of OpEx strategy to be sure all required elements are in place.


3. You’re Not Achieving Goals

This serious situation is demotivating both for working teams and for leadership. Team members may become frustrated when they are not seeing results even though they are doing a lot of work. Leadership may begin to question why they’re dedicating valuable resources to something that isn’t delivering a return on investment (ROI).

Here, you need to look at the work itself and its measurement. In some cases, you may have set long-term strategic goals that are so far in the future that no measured results achievement is reported for many quarters — even though you’re on the exact path needed. If this is the case, adding short-term milestones can help teams to recognize and reinforce goal achievement on the path to the long-term goals.

On the other hand, if people are working hard—and smart—but goals are still elusive, it’s time to relook at the OpEx strategy to see whether you have the right goals, resources, skills, and other factors in place to make goal achievement possible.


4. You’re Reaching All Your Goals

This is an achievement worth celebrating. At the same time, this positive situation should trigger an evaluation of the strategy. It might be that the OpEx goals were not challenging enough, perhaps from uncertainty or “sand-bagging” during the goal-setting process. Or, it could be that the implementation teams have reached new levels of performance and are now leapfrogging expectations.

Again, a bit of root cause analysis (RCA) can help you understand the underlying reason for this success. Moving forward, the OpEx strategy may need to include more challenging goals.


5. Employees Are Not Engaged

A strategy provides a long-term path to achieving desired visionary outcomes. Implementing such a strategy means acting on it. This action requires the right combination of communication, leadership, skills, and motivation. If any of these critical factors is missing, you’ll end up with a confused or reluctant workforce. You might need to jump start your continuous improvement (CI) efforts to trigger engagement.

This change in OpEx strategy helps to ensure that the behavioral, non-process-focused elements of the strategy are included.


One Finale Word About Strategy

Change often creates risk, flux, and confusion. Michael Porter, one of the world’s leading thinkers on strategy, said that, “Strategy must have continuity. It can't be constantly reinvented.” While you do want to consider these signs that indicate a possible need for a change in strategy, the evaluation must be thoughtful and systematic. Don’t change strategy just because a new person is in a leadership role or because short-term belt tightening is needed. Use the same systematic approach to assess changing your OpEx strategy that you used when creating it.

For help in defining, assessing, or implementing your operational excellence strategy, contact EON.


Talk with an EON Opex expert to learn more

About the author

Nancy Bach

Nancy Bach has spent more than 20 years in the industry as a quality and operational excellence practitioner and manager. In private consulting, she creates and delivers a Lean Certification course, provides Green Belt training and works with multi-functional organizations to develop strategy and implement process improvement.