In the weeks before starting a recent deployment an executive asked, “Do you think our company is ready to deploy operational excellence?”
In our experience, this is a fairly common question from executives in non-traditional Lean Six Sigma industries (Government, Healthcare, Retail, Non-profits, etc.).
95% of the time executives ask this question in the week before their deployment is to begin. It is during this time that we run the executive and key leaders through a deployment boot camp of coaching and training. This targeted engagement allows us to prepare the executive for their role as the deployment champion.
As they begin to learn what goes into deploying operational excellence, many executives step back and question if the organization is really ready. They might ask “Wouldn’t it be better if we just took things slowly? We could put out some education and then in a year we could deploy.” While we recognize this sentiment as natural trepidation that comes from an introspective leader, we do not allow the executive to take the easy road out and instead, we use this question as a teaching opportunity.
In fact, we now ask this question to all executives who are interested in beginning the journey of improvement. In our process, this question is a tool we use to help executives internally discover what they need to do to achieve their vision.
Regardless of the executive’s answer, yes or no, we follow up by asking two questions.
- What are the four most important things that an organization must have to successfully deploy operational excellence?
- Are you prepared to provide those four things?
Only when the executive is able to answer these questions correctly will we allow the deployment to begin? The reality is that implementing a successful OpEx program, one that will transform a company, is difficult. However, this difficulty is greatly reduced if the executive is committed to providing the things described below.
The 4 defining ingredients to successfully deploy operational excellence
- Executive commitment: Providing sufficient leadership and resources
- Clearly defined corporate vision: What is the company is aiming to accomplish
- Executive patience: Allow the deployment to take hold of the organization (do not chase quick wins only)
- Empowerment of Employees: Every employee is challenged with helping to take action
Notice what is not on the list above. It is not necessary to have a history of process improvement, be in the manufacturing industry, or have a large number of accredited process improvement experts (Black Belts, Green Belts, Lean Experts) on staff.
Skills and tools can be taught. What cannot be taught is commitment, enthusiasm, and a passion for empowering people. If those exist, the company will be successful.
Once an executive understands the 4 defining ingredients and pledges to provide them the question then becomes....