Blog: How Do you Achieve Operational Excellence?

container ship

By Dione Lee 2015-04-30 21:16:23

We have dedicated our work to helping people and organizations become the best they can be. I share this goal with my business partner, who also has unceasing dedication for excellence and helping others. Together, we work with amazing people who do amazing things and often accomplish the once perceived impossible dream.

Projects we work on range widely and may include organizing a group of like minded professionals to address a need in the industry and develop a solution to fill the gap, or helping a company “go green” or achieve “zero” incidents. At the heart of each of these projects is a goal to continually improve. This, I believe, is operational excellence.

From our experience working with others to successfully achieve operational excellence, we have identified the following key elements:

Construct a simple and well defined vision statement of what you want to achieve that inspires, motivates, calls to action and is easily communicated and understood at all levels – words people can see themselves living. For example, the Smithsonian has a powerful vision statement that reads: “Shaping the future by preserving our heritage, discovering new knowledge, and sharing our resources with the world.”

Garner commitment from those who have the authority to make decisions and set policy within an organization to realize the vision – if you start in the middle or at the deck plate, you may get there, but it will be an uphill climb on an unpaved path.

Develop a plan to rally the troops by using inclusive versus exclusive practices – encourage all who are impacted to be part of the process. This is usually when the path of good intentions gets burdened with discontent by unintentionally or intentionally leaving out those who do the work and telling them the plan after the plan has been developed. The simple act of open communication brings down barriers, identifies potential obstacles, and fosters transparency, teamwork, and support, usually resulting in a successful and sustainable outcome.

Identify and set adequate resources aside to train people who will be responsible for rolling out, communicating and implementing the plan. Plans usually go awry when there aren’t enough resources allocated to effectively launch and fully execute the plan.

Measure the effectiveness of the plan once it is implemented – encourage honest inquiry and exploration on how to get better by asking, “Did we achieve what we set out to do? If not, why not?”, and come up with solutions together to make it better.

Modify the plan based on discovery to continually improve and get closer to realizing your vision.

Over the next few weeks, I will be covering each of these elements in depth. Please provide input and add to the discussion below on how to achieve operational excellence, or what not to do from lessons learned.  

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.