January has come and gone. And, if you are like most people, your New Year’s Resolution probably has, too.
For most organizations, operational excellence, under its many guises, is a lot like a New Year’s Resolution. The goal is admirable. A great start is made. We see some improvement. Then… we get busy. Life gets in the way. We stumble a little. We grumble about how hard it is. Something distracts us. Another priority takes up time and energy. Either the bosses don’t support it or workers don’t understand it or don’t like it. Or, if they love it, their bosses don’t seem to understand or appreciate their input. Things move too slowly and they doubt the commitment of upper management. Heck, they aren’t serious. Why should we be? Ultimately, we decide the thing du jour wasn’t a good idea. Much better to blame the idea than our implementation.
Programs, projects, initiatives, etc. are like New Year’s Resolutions. Unless significant thought and effort is invested on how to institutionalize change, it doesn’t stick. Unless a whole bunch of infrastructure is put in place… values, principles, tools, disciplines, teaching, on the job coaching, visual control, reward and incentive structures, leadership commitment, communication tools, getting commitment up and down the chain of command, etc… we will go back to how we have always done things. The grass grows back.
We have all seen dozens of ambitious programs and projects fall by the wayside because there was not enough focus on how to instill the change into day-to-day work. One needs a robust, systemic and systematic approach to making change stick. To making things a habit. Better to say that “Every day I will get a little exercise or I will eat some healthy food” than to say “I will look like I did when I was 20”. Better to say “I will create a calendar. I will have an accountability partner. I will stock my pantry with good food. I will record what I eat and when I exercise. I will take time out for myself. I will start small and I will stick with it over the long haul until it becomes habit,” than “I will run a mini-marathon in six weeks”. Having a goal is great. But, unless we are serious about how we will achieve goals, they are just wishes.
And, so it goes with operational excellence. The secret to continuous improvement is to do it continuously. It’s not complicated. It’s just hard. But, it is more than worth it. Ask every great company.
As a matter of fact, if you'd like to see one of those great companies in action, we'd love to arrange a tour. We can show you real world, living examples of world-class operations where fully engaged employees are proud to show you how they improve their business every day. Please contact us about a "Go See" at one of our or our clients' facilities.