Operational excellence rests on the premise that organizational culture is represented by the behavior of its employees. According to Aristotle, “we are what we repeatedly do.” Moreover, behaviors prevalent in an organization develop over time and are strongly influenced by senior leader practices. As I once heard Paul O’Neill tell it, culture starts at the top.
It is not hard to conclude then, that organizational culture varies widely, with each organization building on years of habits that permeate all interactions among its employees. And it is also not hard to see how, in order to influence culture to develop continuous improvement habits, the roadmap for each organization should be unique. Each organization requires different interventions in different sequences.
While the principles of operational excellence remain the same, where and how an organization should start depends on a deep understanding of the current state around these principles. Questions that help understand current culture may include:
Management on the Mend, by John Toussaint, MD