Achieving Operational Excellence for Your Small Business
Updated: May 15
Operational excellence sounds good – but it also sounds sort of vague. What does it mean and how might it help your small business to grow quickly and efficiently?
What is Operational Excellence?
According to the Institute for Operational Excellence, the term defines the point at which “each and every employee can see the flow of value to the customer, and fix that flow before it breaks down.”
What this means in practice is basically a journey of continual improvement, where an organization measures, manages, and seeks to constantly improve its processes. In a small business, where each and every customer engagement is critical, a commitment to operational excellence can result in exponential growth.
Why Operational Excellence Matters for Small Business
Many entrepreneurs, start-ups and small businesses fall into the trap of thinking that initiatives like striving for operational excellence are great in theory, but really only relevant to larger companies. In fact, the impact of an operational excellence journey on a small business can be immeasurably powerful. Read on to learn why – and how – to get started today.
Empower Employees – Liberate Executives
Operational excellence puts power in your employees’ hands. Because you’ll be measuring the whole company’s process an ability to identify problems, everyone will have the knowledge and the skills to identify and take control of issues. When your team feels prepared – and empowered – to handle anything, their performance can skyrocket. At the same time, executives and management are freed up to focus on strategic growth tasks, because they do not need to manage every small problem that crops up.
Overall, you’ll also identify problems more quickly – partly because everyone will be empowered to anticipate and solve them. Developing a visual diagram of how processes should work in your business will allow everyone to both identify those problems and find solutions quicker.
So how do I apply the principles of operational excellence to my business?
First, you must identify the key processes in your business. Every business has a process – outline the steps in each discipline and map it out visually, assigning roles. In the case of a consulting company, you might map out the sales process; the client on-boarding process; the project deliver process; measurement processes, etc.
Secondly, you must analyze the process. Look critically at each aspect of each process and be honest about what is working and what isn’t. You – and your team – will need to think critically about ways to improve those processes – this could include researching how other companies do things. There are a host of case studies online that could help. You’ll also want to hear from your people in the field who are dealing with these processes every day.
Once you’ve identified new processes, you’ll want to implement them across your organization. This requires a commitment to both testing the new process to ensure it works, and then training your team. This is a crucial time investment that will pay off.
Finally, you’ll want to measure results. Are you meeting your goals? Are things improved? How does the new process work in practice? Once you’ve got some good data on effectiveness, you can revise if necessary.
For more information on how – and why – to focus on Operational Excellence, check out this great article from Forbes.
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