Futurist and author Joel A. Barker once said, “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.”
Unfortunately, when it comes to operational excellence (OpEx), many organizations can be described as having “action without vision” leaving the impression that the OpEx function is “just passing the time.”
Step 1: Get Started
Sounds simple, but it’s true. Many OpEx functions just need to take the time to get together as a team and align on their vision.
Don’t think you need to? Try this. Stop reading and ask your nearest colleague what the OpEx vision is right now.
Did they nail it? If so, ask another just in case. If not, it’s time to get everyone acting with the same vision in mind.
Step 2: Make it Aspirational
First things first, don’t confuse your vision statement with your mission statement.
Your mission statement is the description of why you exist, what you do, and how you work. It’s an important factor in keeping the team on the right path and focused on the right actions.
Your vision statement, on the other hand, is the description of the result of your work. Once OpEx is taking all of the right actions, what will the future hold and what will the organization experience?
At its core, a vision statement exists to help inspire those to whom it is written to work toward a desired future state. Therefore, if the OpEx vision doesn’t sufficiently describe a future state for the role of OpEx, then it’s not likely to motivate anybody within the function or outside of it.
Step 3: Keep it short and memorable
A long, drawn-out vision is hard to recall and use in the course of normal conversations. Instead, seek to develop a vision statement that is short, but impactful, and therefore memorable.
Start by brainstorming a handful of keywords or phrases that you want to associate with the OpEx journey and build around those words. For inspiration and alignment purposes, take a look at your organization’s corporate vision to see if any of those keywords should be included in some way.
Also, try to use words or phrases that are likely to stick in people’s minds. As an example, one of our clients incorporated the phrase “ruthlessly hunt waste and inefficiency” into their OpEx vision, which has stuck in my brain to this day, even though I facilitated that vision setting process more than 3 years ago.
Step 4: Make it Achievable
While the vision statement needs to be aspirational, be careful not to make it too aspirational. For example, if a stated goal for OpEx is to help improve workforce engagement and discretionary effort, reflecting that goal in the vision makes sense.
However, you would be setting the OpEx function up for failure by putting out a vision implying that every employee in the company will be fully engaged and highly productive.
Ultimately, there are many factors that affect employee engagement and productivity, such as job fit, compensation & benefits, non-work-related stressors, etc., that have nothing to do with the work of the OpEx function, so the vision can’t reflect a desired future state that is so unlikely to be achieved or not within the function’s control.
The larger point is that, if the OpEx vision describes a desired future state that employees don’t believe is achievable, then not only does it lose its power to motivate, it can actually generate scepticism and negative perceptions of the function and its role in the enterprise.
Go forth and improve
As you well know, the OpEx function has a critical role to play in the long term success and sustainability of any organization. The trick is getting everyone else to see what OpEx sees because in the end, it’s the many that really makes OpEx work.