September 24

How Process Development creates Operational Excellence

Continuous process development is the final stage for any organization to become an industry leader. We have already covered how creating an organizational development process first requires a sound organizational structure for business excellence, and needs to be continuously developed alongside the organization’s lean leadership capabilities. Presuming your organization has already established these foundations, it’s time to leverage your invested time and effort to drive for operational excellence.

Companies who seek to implement lean tools for process development should only attempt to do so in this stage, but there are still a couple of pitfalls to fall in for failed implementations. First of all, process improvement tools should only implement functionality based on current operational needs. One of the most common mistakes made when seeking to implement new functionality in business is that people who are removed from actual operations seek to push new technology based on future possibilities, rather than current operational needs. If you have ever worked in an organization where people are constantly complaining about the systems they are required to use and actively avoid using them, this is likely the cause.

Process development is difficult exactly because new tools and strategies cannot be pushed into operations, but rather needs to organically be developed by the people who will use them, with a sound system of operational excellence at the core of the operations departments.

How Operational Excellence is developed in business

What defines the continuous innovators that grow to become industry leaders are a sound operational excellence strategy that allows for organic growth of practices. Not only are these businesses the most competitive actors in their industries, they are also often the places where the workers feel the most purpose and joy in their work.

As previously mentioned, process development is based on the right organizational structure and sound leadership capabilities. The last piece of the operational excellence framework is managing the culture of the organization. We have gone more into detail on how to establish a lean culture before, but for now we will focus on the most actionable advice relating to process development.

In order to manage culture, we first need to understand what determines the culture in any organization. The culture in any organization is the collection of underlying assumptions in that organization. While you as a leader might say that meeting deadlines and showing up in time for meetings is essential to who you are, the underlying assumptions of your team will not align with this if missed deadlines are glossed over and you are constantly showing up too late.

The issue of creating a culture once again becomes a question of leadership, where the dominant ideas of how we do things dictate how the organization develops. In order to develop operational excellence as a part of the culture, key leaders need to internalize the most important beliefs to process development, and correct deviations from these beliefs. The fundamental beliefs to operational excellence will vary based on the organization, but some cornerstone examples include pushing compatibility before completion, aligning solutions around customer value creation, fostering experimentation and learning.

operational excellence
Developing a culture of operational excellence means managing the ideas of “how we do things”

Process Improvement Ideas for Developing Operational Excellence

Before sending you off, we would like to end on some actionable process improvement ideas for aspiring business leaders who want to develop operational excellence.

One great way of creating clarity around the culture in your organization, as popularized by author and marketing guru Seth Godin, is using the phrase “People like us to things like this”. Now that we have established the fundamental beliefs of an organization that develops operational excellence, try completing the phrase and adapting the beliefs to your business.

Some examples could be

  • “We ensure that designs are cross-functionally compatible before finalizing designs”
  • “When we design solutions here at <company name>, we continually reflect on how changes to design affect our customers”
  • “People like us seek to learn how to solve problems by finding the quickest experiment that will disprove our theory”

After formulating a clear set of beliefs about the culture you seek to create comes the hard part of enforcing these beliefs in your day-to-day operations. In order to create a culture change, these beliefs need to be brought forward in a calm manner any time an opposing view is about to be established. In order to constantly have your beliefs in your mind, make a habit of simply writing them out each morning and evening before bed.

process improvement ideas
Process improvement ideas are only as effective as the leader that implements them

Let’s take the example of being late for meetings. When people are late for meetings (that’s other people, you are obviously showing the team how seriously you take your beliefs by showing up on time), simply inquire as to why. Don’t let the issue slip before a clear reason has been brought forward. This inquiry needs to be handled in a calm and friendly manner, but it needs to be handled directly. After all, people like you respect the time allocated to meetings, so there must be a reason why one of you are late. If confronted back, simply state the relevant belief without further explanation.

Developing your organization’s cultural beliefs is a continuous process, but can be one of the greatest investments you can make in operational excellence. If you have read the article all the way, you are by now also realizing how important the important leadership capabilities are to your organizations success. If you would like to learn more about how to develop your leadership capabilities, feel free to read more about our leadership consulting services. We hope the article has provided you with any valuable insights.


operational excellence, process development, process improvement ideas

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