ABSTRACT: Operational Excellence has become the umbrella adopted by organizations to refer to the thrust for improved efficiency or productivity. Many organizations have taken to establishing Operational Excellence (OE) functions and large scale programs to govern, design, implement and nurture operational excellence. Others have taken a more scaled down approach and focused on individual projects and initiatives. However, regardless of the model being utilized, most of us are aware from literature and personal experience that the right leadership behaviour is a critical factor for success.
Many times senior leaders provide high level direction intended to focus the organization and think this is enough. Statements such as “we will strive for improvement everyday” are made with the belief that they are providing sufficient focus and direction to the organization. Real organizational focus is achieved only when senior leaders work with managers and supervisors to translate the high level message into specific behaviours and actions for employees and teams. Achieving this requires more than grand statements: it demands a shift in leadership behavior and a new deliberate leadership practice – it means leaders providing feedback, follow-up, coaching, and holding individuals and teams accountable. Experience tells us there is very little understanding of how to embed these leadership behaviors into the day-to-day practices of supervisors and managers.
This article presents practical examples of how with the right sponsorship from senior leaders, managers can be supported to develop and improve their ability to work with frontline supervisors to bring about lasting and ongoing improvement at a grassroots level. It shows the role that leadership development plays in organizations with a commitment to creating an OE culture. It pays particular attention to mechanisms for developing the required OE leadership behaviors through deliberate practice in the workplace. The article presents a clear blueprint for organizations to follow and evidence of its success.