The Definitive Guide to Operational Excellence

Even if you and your team are more productive than you’ve ever been, there can still be external obstacles that prevent you from reaching your goals. That’s where operational excellence comes in. Operational excellence is a technique that can get people working seamlessly regardless of the external or internal forces that come up along the way. Keep reading to learn more about the must-know principles of operational excellence, along with practical tips and tools you can use to improve your strategy going forward. 

What is operational excellence?

Operational excellence is the process of optimizing an organization's business operations. It is a common phrase used by management to refer to the process of making a commercial company more successful.

Operational excellence is about identifying and implementing processes that are consistent with the organization's strategy and goals. The goal is to achieve continuous improvement that is measurable, actionable, and far-reaching. The entire organization should benefit from the operational excellence of a single team or department. 

Regardless of the size of your company, managing operations is very important for its longevity. In fact, operational excellence works hand in hand with business strategy to achieve strong performance. 

But unlike business strategy, operational excellence will change over time. Learning how to adapt to these changes will help keep you ahead of the curve. This is especially true in a competitive environment where it is essential for your organization to adapt to changes quickly and efficiently.

There are many ways to execute excellence, but we have a few common denominators that are regularly adopted globally. 

Principles of operational excellence

To excel in operational excellence, an organization must have two components: an operational discipline and an integrated management system. A comprehensive management system is a framework that combines processes and standards. It enables a company to identify and manage the risks associated with a course or a project

One of the biggest signs that the principles of operational excellence are not being followed is when tasks that are important to the growth of the business are not being completed. This is often because the people responsible for these tasks are not given enough time to complete them, do not see their value, or are unaware of how their work affects the big picture goal. 

To combat these issues, managers must apply the principles of operational excellence. There are a few different sets of principles used to measure this; however, pretty much all of them include the following: 

  1. Beginning with the end in mind
    Design lean value streams that are based on the principles of achieving end-to-end flow. 
  2. Supporting diverse teams
    Even remote employees should be able to actively participate in and enable operational excellence through accessible tools. 
  3. Collaborating on workflow development
    Work seamlessly with the team to implement the design and build value streams that everyone can get behind. 
  4. Automate repetitive tasks
    This will save time and energy, enabling team members to focus on project quality and customer satisfaction. 
  5. Use charts, graphs, and timelines
    Visualize the flow so that everyone can see how it connects to the customer.
  6. Develop time management practices
    Time tracking, effort forecasting, and assignment are all important parts of successful operations. 
  7. Templatize common processes
    Create a standard work template for employees that will help them respond to an abnormal flow.
  8. Crystal clear communication
    When everyone can visually see what’s going on with the project at any given moment, then there are less likely to be costly miscommunications. 
  9. Empower employees to take ownership
    Every employee should have the ability to spot abnormalities in their operations. They should also feel empowered to do something about them as they come up. 
  10. Use resources effectively
    For example, team members with specialized skills should not be inundated with menial tasks that non-specialists can quickly take over for them. 

There are also the Shingo Principles which are widely used to support operational excellence. In a nutshell, they promote tying productive systems back to customer value through a growth mindset that values input at every level. 

Operational excellence examples

Tools that streamline manual processes are a great example of operational excellence. For instance, you can set up a schedule for every task and assign them to your team members. As each task is marked as finished, other team members can automatically receive notifications that it’s their turn to pick up where the project was left off. 

Efficient reporting is another example of operational excellence at work. Excel reports are very useful when it comes to receiving a company's project and business reports. However, they can be very time-consuming and require a lot of effort to prepare when done by hand. Creating a system that will allow you to receive reports and other data promptly will add a lot of value to your company, making operations management that much smoother. 

How to improve your operational excellence

Many people believe that systematic management is not necessary. As a result, they choose not to follow a plan or set up a system.

To borrow from the familiar saying, by failing to prepare for operational excellence, they are preparing to fail. But great leaders understand that a continuous improvement process helps maintain a healthy work environment and motivates employees along the way. 

Here are some tips for how to improve your operational excellence regardless of where you’re starting from:

  1. Simplify everything
    Individuals who are committed to improving operational excellence should champion simplicity over complexity. This should enable them to develop self-awareness and improve their decisions and behavior. It should also be the guiding light for large transition periods, such as moving from an entirely in-office team to working from home
  2. Adopt the right tools
    It’s no secret that operational excellence tools help organizations improve the efficiency of their workforce. By creating systems that are intuitive and repeatable, teams save countless planning hours. As a recent report from Deloitte on the digital workplace points out, using the right tools is transformative for employee experience.  
  3. Include other voices
    According to Harvard Business School, involving your entire team in decision-making is mission-critical. That includes your team members at every level, in addition to your partners, clients, and consultants. The best collaborations come from creating an environment where everyone feels seen and heard. This can be formalized through shared project management tools and other communication methods both on and offline.
  4. Embrace failure
    The best way to learn is to try something new, fail, and apply the lessons to your next attempt. Although it doesn't sound like a practical philosophy in a business sense when finances are involved, embracing failure is the cornerstone of operational excellence. This is because it teaches team members to think outside the box and know that brave choices will be rewarded.
  5. Create repeatable processes
    Repeatable processes make it easy to duplicate success and streamline workflows. This applies to both large and small tasks. Whether you’re outlining a year-long goal or creating an order of operations for forwarding client communications to the appropriate contact, templatized processes help people work smarter, not harder.

Why use Wrike as your operational excellence management system?

We at Wrike are inspired by the mission of operational excellence. While the challenges facing 21st century teams are daunting, the rewards for those who can overcome the noise and chaos are tremendous. 

We believe that building operational excellence as a core competency for your team and your organization is one of the most important endeavors you can undertake. In addition to dramatically increasing the service level for your customers, you will distance yourself from the competition by driving asymmetric returns for your company and your career.

Looking to maximize your operational excellence? We recommend adopting a project management tool. 

Project management software like Wrike can help you achieve operational excellence and provide quality results to clients. It’s consistent, easy to adopt, and offers more productive features than any manual operational management option. Not only will work be completed on time, but it can also be done on a budget and at a high level of quality. 

In conclusion

Operational excellence is about being consistent and doing the right thing every time. A solid management plan is the foundation for all operational excellence efforts. It must be used by everyone in the organization. If people aren’t following it, then the entire operation will suffer. Set you and your team up for operational success by starting your free trial of WrikeBusiness Process Management. 

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