Stop searching for the missing ingredient.
Stop searching for the missing ingredient for Enterprise Excellence. The missing ingredient has already been found in studies by the Shingo Institute among others. The Shingo Institute, which has been presenting awards to organisations that excel at Enterprise Excellence since 1989, found that some of these organisations were unable to sustain this performance after winning the award. The institute examined why some organisations succeeded where others failed. It became apparent that the gap between successful and failed implementations is caused by the presence of and focus on the right culture. When we asked the participants of our workshop at the 3rd Annual Global Process Improvement and Operational Excellence Summit in Amsterdam (1-3 March 2017) what they thought was the main reason why so many implementations of operational excellence failed, more than half cited cultural elements as the reason, including a lack of the right leadership and the engagement of employees.
So stop looking for the missing ingredient. We all know the list of ingredients but this brings us to another important question: How do we start to prepare our ingredients? Where should you start when implementing Enterprise Excellence? Should you start by implementing tools bottom-up? Or should you start with the leadership? Or train middle management first? To make this explanation more digestible, I will compare an Enterprise Excellence implementation with a daily process, of which the chances of success are currently considered much higher than those of a successful Enterprise Excellence implementation, namely the cooking of a tasty dinner.
Preparing Enterprise Excellence
When we want to serve our guests a nice dinner, we don’t just start preparing the available ingredients. Instead, we think about what we will prepare for the specific guests we invited. Do they have allergies, preferences that must be taken into account? We take a look at some cookbooks and finally we select the most suitable recipe. We then prepare the listed ingredients as indicated in order to finally serve a delicious result to our guests, if we followed the instructions to a tee of course. Now if you were to implement Enterprise Excellence, there are several comparable elements. Organisations want to implement a specific strategy, which they are convinced will satisfy the customer, if correctly implemented. But you can’t just pick a strategy from a book and copy-paste an existing recipe to become excellent. Just think of a Michelin-starred chef. He must create something unique, rather than a copy-paste of someone else’s recipe, to earn that star. At the same time, he is inspired by other Michelin-starred or simply good restaurants. So while you can be inspired by other successful implementations in other organisations, you will have to write your own recipe to score that Enterprise Excellence star. So here are some tips for writing and executing your own recipe!
Writing out a star recipe
1. Know your guests
Much like you know what your guests like or don’t like to eat, you must also understand what your customer considers to be value. The way in which you create value as an organisation for your customer will define the vision that serves as a guideline for all the decisions you make about your recipe. So communicate this vision clearly to your guests and to the people who will help you prepare the meal. Will you serve guests dressed plates or are they expected to serve themselves after the food has been brought to the table? Start by communicating what customers can expect from you if you want satisfied customers. Explain to your employees which expectations you want them to contribute to as an organisation.
2. The Title and the picture of your recipe
In your organisation, the title and the accompanying pretty picture, which will have guests salivating, corresponds with the objectives over a three to five-year period, which will help you achieve your vision more easily. This limited number of objectives is clear and inspiring. Like a recipe in a cookbook, this must trigger your organisation’s employees to want to prepare this and to continue reading the recipe instead of turning the page. Then you must ask yourself the following question as an organisation: To which extent can we already achieve these 3 to 5-year goals this year? Then you can decide which ingredients you need to create this recipe this year. These are the initiatives you will set up to achieve the annual objectives.
3. Picking the ingredients
- Ultimately, the flavour of your recipe is defined by the combination of all the ingredients. Adding one ingredient or making a change to the preparation will always influence the final taste of your recipe. This also applies to any initiatives in your organisation. So don’t let departments launch initiatives alongside each other. Instead coordinate, see how they come together and how they contribute to the final objectives. The results can only be embedded if we understand the impact of these initiatives on the organisation as a whole.
- A good dish has a number of main ingredients. But it’s the seasoning that will make or break the flavour of your dish. As an organisation, you should concentrate on a few major projects, while also focussing on continuous minor improvements. You need to develop a knack for seasoning, but it will often determine whether your dish is a hit or miss. You must never underestimate the power of the learning of minor improvements. The only way to establish the right mindset in your organisation is to focus on these minor improvements as this will allow you to embed the results of minor and major initiatives in the organisation.
An excellent cooking team
Your cooking culture relies on an excellent cooking team. And this actually is the missing ingredient. You can have a well-written recipe for a soufflé, but if you don’t prepare it the right way, your soufflé will always collapse. While a well-written recipe that is understood and can be explained by the cooking team and the mindset of proper seasoning are a good step towards having a great cooking team there are a few other things that will increase your chances of an excellent preparation.
- In my opinion, a happy kitchen that works well starts with a recipe that my partner and I agree upon, and more importantly with a clear choice of who will be the chef and who will oversee the cooking process as well as encourages cooperation. Proper support for the leadership goals and the right leadership skills are an important key to success for Enterprise Excellence implementations.
- The members of your cooking team will only become worthy members of your team if they also know who are the guests and if they can visualise the title and picture of the dish. Even if they just need to cut an onion, the way in which the onion is sliced will also influence the experience of the dish. This is something that every member of the cooking team needs to understand. Every one of your company’s employees must be able to explain the impact of his or her job, whether minor or major, on other departments and how it ultimately contributes to achieving the objectives. If an employee understands why a specific job is important, then the chances of excellent results are much higher.
- In addition to your cooking team, sometimes having a Jamie Oliver or a Gordon Ramsay by your side, to challenge you about how you prepare your dish and who trains you and shares tips about how to better prepare a dish, can be quite worthwhile. We also recommend working with an independent (i.e., not part of your operational structure) team for enterprise implementations, which can push initiatives, coach and challenge the organisation.
The chances of success of your dish will be greatly influenced if you succeed in preparing it the first time. So start by preparing the dish for your own family first. If you score a hit, then why not challenge yourself and prepare the dish for a larger group of guests? Start with a small but complete Enterprise Excellence implementation. So don’t just start by preparing a few ingredients for the entire organisation. Instead, prepare the dish from A to Z for one team or one department. If your implementation is successful, then move on to other teams and finally to the entire organisation.
When cooking, regularly taste what you are cooking. And more importantly, have the people around you also taste to optimise the flavours! In your organisation, your employees are the experts. They taste the processes on a daily basis and might have excellent insights about how to improve them.
I’m very curious about what’s cooking in your organisation. Do you already have all the ingredients?