Organizations looking to create sustainable change that translates into real business results are increasingly embracing Operational Excellence. At its core, OpEx is about empowering employees to create flow between their work and others’ that will result in guaranteed turnaround times, know if the work is on time, and make decisions in real time about what to do when flow starts to become abnormal. But to enable employees to deliver these benefits, leadership support is a must.
Here are five ways to bridge the gap between leaders and workers to create a culture of Operational Excellence throughout the company:
- Teach everyone, at every level. No matter who the initial OpEx champion is within a company, the message needs to get out far and wide. All employees should be trained on Operational Excellence and how to achieve it. And in the sessions, be sure to include both leaders and employees side by side. Not only does this demonstrate leadership support for the effort, it also creates a more unified and open environment that facilitates dialogue and interaction between leaders and staff as they work jointly as a team to achieve OpEx.
- Set a common goal that the whole company can get behind. The goal of Operational Excellence is to free up management to focus on business growth, which is an objective that resonates with everyone. Explain what achieving that goal will mean for employees: they will be able to complete their work in a specified timeframe, the operation will operate seamlessly from a customer request through delivery, and they will enjoy more autonomy. It also means that the company will realize top-line results, which translates into a more stable organization that affords greater security and potential.
- Involve people in the process. Rather than having just operational leaders design lean value streams, it’s important to involve employees as well so they feel like a central part in planning the flow in which they’ll be instrumental participants. Once implemented, continue to engage employees by making them accountable for decision-making regarding abnormal flow and standard work to help keep things moving forward. With this new-found responsibility, leaders should make it clear that they back employees by providing them the support they need to be successful.
- Lead by example. It’s not enough for leadership to implicitly demonstrate their support for Operational Excellence by approving its adoption; leaders should show excitement about their vision for Operational Excellence and what they hope to achieve with the team. Leadership can show its commitment by participating in trainings, working alongside employees in value stream mapping, and sharing results company-wide when the team reaches a milestone or achieves the desired results. Walking the talk will go far in giving employees the confidence to know their work in the flow matters.
- Put all employees on offense. While Operational Excellence will free up managers to work on offense, or activities that grow the business, it’s valuable to encourage all employees to think about how they can contribute to business growth. Once employees in all areas know when they’ll get their work and must complete it, resulting in guaranteed turnaround times, they’ll have the ability to focus on how to improve the operation to better service customers and drive loyalty, such as gathering complete order information the first time, improving response times to inquiries, developing new product ideas that resonate and more.