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Governing Your Improvement: How to Ensure Execution

By Michelle Starkey - January 6, 2017

The world of business is changing. With a greater focus on how we can take things to the next level, those that make improvement an everyday practice will continue to have a leading advantage. But how can you differentiate your business from all those who are striving toward similar goals?

As Operational Excellence continues to become more mainstream, companies oftentimes push improvement into the organization without defining how to govern the function to sustain their efforts.

The Operational Excellence function tends to become a silo that has little authority to drive lasting change. The governance model discussed here challenges leaders to think more inclusively about the OpEx function, to integrate improvement throughout the organization.

We have found the following main elements lead to sustained governance of the OpEx function:

1. Align Leadership

It is important for leadership throughout the organization to agree on the vision of the company and use that vision to guide their strategy setting process first. Determining the key strategic objectives, along with their accompanying key performance indicators (KPI’s), will clearly highlight why improvement must be a priority.

This “What’s in it for me” oriented visibility creates improvement initiatives that leaders willingly support which, subsequently, drives more focus and commitment from their teams.

2. Enable Transparency

Employees that have insight into the high-level goals of the company, will understand the contributions of their work. They will understand how their participation directly impacts the company thus leaving them feeling valued, more engaged, and producing better results.

They will also think more critically about the process and be more likely to take an active part in providing their perspective and contributing to continued improvement.

3. Drive Accountability

By establishing a tiered meeting structure with a defined frequency and agenda, organizations can drive accountability making sure targets are met and teams/individuals are on track.

To ease the management and administrative burden, it is helpful to consider what resources or tools are available to assign ownership of all work that also provides status of the current state. This ownership from strategies to KPI’s to Projects to Action items eliminates any confusion of what is expected and thus, drive more efficient execution of improvement.

4. Encourage Adaptability

It is important to find a balance between sticking to the plan and remaining open to make shifts. Check-ins will allow for risks to be accounted for and make changes to plans, as necessary.

Leadership should have the capacity to recognize and prepare for risks plus redirect when improvement attempts do not measure up to expectations. The ability to adapt allows leadership to engage in OpEx in a more meaningful way.

So where do you go from here?

Consider ways you can evolve your company’s governance of improvement efforts – it is the goal here to transform from a side team to an integrated function throughout the entire company.

Getting started can be difficult and seem overwhelming. It’s important to remember this is a process that takes time. Some simple things you can begin with include:

1. Set Expectations

Getting the workforce to understand they’re already working on improvement is an important first step. Nothing new is being introduced, only formalizing and improving upon what is already being done.

2. Build on what’s there

Some of the elements may already exist to some degree. Determine where to start by what is most critical or easiest to transition into. Take what you have and evolve it as improvement is embraced as a part of the culture.

3. Start small

Begin implementing with one element at a time, phasing in a new element as you find success with the previous.

Continue to watch for signs that you’re successfully governing your improvement function and don’t forget to celebrate small wins!

Some signs of success include:

  • Getting ahead of/avoiding firefighting: The organization will model a style that is less reactive to daily situations and more prepared for what is to come (no more “constant emergency” mode). 
  • OpEx seen as critical to achieving goals at all levels: Leadership from various departments are involved in the improvement efforts and have integrated the goals into their expectations. Those within the organization will be able to understand the importance of their work and how it directly contributes to the long-term success.
  • Self-driven improvement: Those involved will become more invested in the company’s success. Employees at all levels will have the capacity to recognize opportunities and be more equipped to implement without OpEx guidance.

Leaders within OpEx are aware of the function’s potential, but are limited because they do not have the internal support to make the necessary improvements. By opening the function and integrating efforts, those leading OpEx efforts will be able to influence improvement throughout the organization.

If you’re ready to get started now but need additional guidance when considering your governance model, check out our Establish Governance implementation toolkit.

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