Taming the Dragon of Operational Un-Excellence

Legends from medieval times often mentioned the evil dragon – a fearsome creature with destructive power and the tendency to do harm to people that it comes across; that guarded the entrance to a treasure laden palace, a symbol for the ultimate achievement in life. The hero of the legend had to battle his way through and slay the dragon to earn his place in history and live successfully thereafter.

From the land of the ancient oriental, dragons did not need to be slain. Instead, with all of their powers, the oriental deities tamed the dragons for their own uses. The dragons then became a part of the deities’ magical capabilities in flying, destruction, weather making, etc. So it may be better for the conclusion of the previous story – instead of slaying the dragon, our legendary hero would tame the dragon, ride it into history and live successfully thereafter.

For us to be a legend in the industry, we have to be extraordinarily successful in whatever the measurements are for our business. We have to consistently and constantly create new leading edge technologies and products; and as we are doing so, we have to achieve exceptionally strong revenues, un-imaginable profit, dominate market share growth, have total customer satisfaction and absolute employee loyalty, etc. These are success factors that will propel us to the top of the industry.

However, to satisfy these “have tos” is no easy endeavor, it requires the entire company and its people to do many things and to do them right. The company must clearly define the business objectives it wants to achieve and what strategies it needs. Its people must be clear on why the company’s strategies and objectives are necessary. It must have all the stakeholders aligned to support the strategic objectives, along with having the necessary capabilities in order to achieve them. It must be effective and efficient in its execution of the strategies. It must have the visibility to what it does so it can have the best solutions and make the right decisions, and it also must continuously improve its work to sustain its achievements and success. In other words, the company must achieve the “excellence” for all of its business operations and activities – the achievement of business operational excellence.

The lacking of a unified vision, the un-inspirational business strategy and objectives, the lack of understanding for what the company needs to do and what it can do to achieve those strategies and objectives, the in-effective and in-efficient business operations, the uncertainty about the progress and status of the company efforts, and the stagnation of business operational performance; these are all the fears of operational un-excellence that always keep a company from achieving success.  These are the fears of the present-day “operational un-excellence dragon” that a company must conquer and tame in order to achieve business greatness.

The un-excellence of our existing operations forces us to waste precious time and resources in the efforts that do not contribute to the company success. Wasted time and resources take away the opportunities that could be used to reinforce the company in its building of core competencies and capabilities for new technologies and product generation, stronger market penetration, better customer satisfaction, higher profits, etc. The company heroes must tame the present-day dragon of operational un-excellence.

Many companies have tried operational excellence improvements in cautious, experimental and tentative steps, but the results have not been forthcoming. In the meantime, the lack of strategic vision and objectives for success dilutes a company’s focus; the lack of understanding about what the company can do impacts the effectiveness and the efficiency of its business operations causes seriously unnecessary operating costs; the un-excellence of quality assurance activities results in product and service quality that does not meet customer’s expectation and satisfaction. It appears that the market expects significant operational excellence improvements from a company and demands it to be delivering improvement results; however, the company is not delivering on these expectations.

Meeting this challenge will require serious efforts from every member of the company. Fortunately, existing knowledge, experience and practices in the industry for operational excellence improvement can be leveraged to provide the expected results. The body of implementation guidelines and best practices, such as the operational excellence framework and methodology, can be used to provide the foundation for company operational excellence from which it can deliver the results to meet the market’s expectations.

For business Executives who have the pivotal role in ensuring company success, mastering and having the company’s operational excellence under control is critical for the company. Having an Executive’s strong desire for excellent business activities will ensure the establishment of an operational foundation from which the company can relentlessly drive for the fulfillment of its objectives. The Executive’s desires will also provide the necessary energy and support for the implementation of the operational excellence strategy.

When the company is achieving operational excellence, people in the company, starting with the leadership, can rally together around the common and compelling desires for doing better in the delivery of high-quality products and services that satisfy and meet all customer expectations. These desires are transformed into the attainable and actionable objectives, which serve as the direction and the final destination for the company to drive toward for the company’s success. To ensure the smooth drive toward the objectives, the company needs to: totally master the needed capabilities for the achievement of the desired objectives, capitalize on those needed capabilities to get the expected results, make all of its activities totally “visible” to the necessary people  – the “operational transparency”, and to establish and implement the continuous improvement strategy and programs to ensure the sustaining achievement of its operational excellence and the associate company success.

We can conquer and tame the demanding dragon of operational un-excellence by: attaining our vision and desires for the company exceptionally success; dramatically improving our core competencies and capabilities, significantly increasing the level of effectiveness and efficiency of our operations; being absolutely clear about the status and progress of our efforts; and continuously improving our operational excellence foundation.

By leveraging our collective desire and knowledge and focusing our attention towards maintaining and improving our operational excellence, customer satisfaction and market success can be achieved. Conquering and taming the operational un-excellence dragon is possible, success can be ahead of us, and our successful place in the industry’s history will be within our reach.

© Operational Excellence Networks 2012 

Dr. Duvan Luong received his PhD in Information and Computing Science from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania with focus on “Software Statistical Testing”. Dr. Luong has 30 years of practicing “operational excellence” in various leading companies that span across all spectrum of the software industry. Dr. Luong’s last position was “Enterprise Quality Director” at Cadence Design Systems, an EDA software company in San Jose. Dr. Luong is highly regarded as “consultant/coach/guru” to train, assist and lead companies in addressing organization improvement and software development, quality, testing and operational excellence challenges. Dr. Luong authored the “Operational Excellence” methodology and framework and is the founder of the “Operational Excellence Networks”.


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