In 2018, leaders are looking to the power of automation and robotics to boost business performance. While it’s wise to keep ahead of these trends, leaders can’t realise the maximum benefits of these new technologies without operational excellence.

What is operational excellence?

Operational excellence refers to highly efficient and effective systems and processes within an organisation, led by engaged people and leaders. At every level of the organisation, the right information needs to be presented in the right way, helping people to make more informed decisions.

The flow-on effect of operational excellence is improved productivity and better customer service. However, operational excellence can’t be sustained without ongoing visibility and control of people and processes, which is where metrics come into play.

Measurable metrics provide the valuable information that leaders need to improve business operations. When leaders have the ability to quantify individual and team performance through metrics, they are able to identify areas of improvement and eliminate waste.

Why it’s important to reduce waste

For any organisation, removing waste from operational processes significantly reduces backlogs.

When I say waste, I’m referring not only to areas of rework, but issues like poor scheduling, poor load balancing and poor skills flexibility. The only way to really understand these issues and streamline internal operations is to gain visibility of end-to-end processes.

Reducing waste also helps leaders to engage more meaningfully and honestly with their people, ensuring value and high performance is being driven at every level.

The role of culture in maximising performance

Without the right environment and culture, organisations and leaders often lack visibility of where the best outcomes and solutions are coming from.

At the same time, many organisations are putting too much focus on technology improvement to enhance operations and are overlooking the people engagement part of the process. In doing so, they are not engaging their people and realising the organisation’s full potential.

Having a culture of high performance drives higher productivity and value for the organisation. This culture relies on management setting clear goals for everyone, whether it’s on their performance, their quality of service or their level of engagement with customers and colleagues.

Strong leadership is key to success

A great team culture requires strong leaders who set high expectations for employee performance. When people at every level of the organisation have a clear understanding of the business vision and direction, they will feel empowered and motivated to succeed.

Transparency and clear communication between CEOs, middle managers and employees is a fundamental component of high performance. If people in the business don’t have visibility and recognition of what they are doing well, and what needs to be improved, they will not understand their true capacity or be able to solve issues.

Leaders need to be proactive about nurturing and empowering their team to succeed. In doing so, everyone in the organisation will be better equipped to deliver key performance indicators in a sustainable fashion.

Embrace digital disruption

In the face of disruption and automation, addressing issues in isolation will not drive the real value. To succeed in embracing digital, you need to understand where to integrate automation and technology to maximise its benefits.

Many organisations fall into the trap of thinking that if they just introduce a new technology platform, everything will be fixed. I argue that if you don’t measure the process end-to-end, you’re missing half the benefit.

Again, it all comes back to measurable metrics. Without metrics, you won’t be able to understand where operational efficiencies need to be enhanced and therefore where technology would be of most use. For example, at Enlighten, our software tags activities throughout a transformation journey, determining whether an activity adds value or whether it can be automated or replaced with robotics.

The key to operational excellence is to gain visibility across the entire organisation and its people. To improve performance and productivity in the long-term, leaders need to engage with identified areas of improvement in a holistic manner.

Leaders should ensure that their teams are equipped with the skills and knowledge to effectively manage digital transformation. Ensure you have a system in place to measure value-adding and non-value-adding activities, and you will be able to make more informed decisions and gain a competitive advantage.