Operational Excellence – The process of adopting Lean Six Sigma within an organization usually starts with one question, “Who has made Lean Six Sigma work for them?” Whether we’re talking about benefits realization, cost savings, or coming up with unique solutions to common problems, it feels safer to go a proven route.

I am often lucky enough to get the opportunity to work with executive leadership teams of corporations to implement Operational Excellence within their organizations. Whether we’re looking at Lean, Lean Six Sigma, or another methodology, I can offer case studies, statistics, metrics, and ROIs. I don’t have to look far to bring success stories to the table to show the power of Operational Excellence.

When I do this, I often hear back, “That’s great. We want the same results so let’s just do it like they did.”

Lean Six Sigma is coming up with unique solutions

Here’s the catch: just like fingerprints, each organization is unique. Each organization will have a dramatically different culture, even from other organizations within the same industry. Organizations will have different resources, constraints, and capacities. They have different ways of solving problems.

Implementing the same Lean Six Sigma approach as a competitor does not necessarily guarantee the same results. It is challenging to adopt the same strategy as another organization and fit it with another organization’s unique makeup.

So I challenge the executive leaders I work with and I say, “Why don’t we ask a different type of question? Why don’t we focus on asking, ‘What do we want out of Lean Six Sigma? What are we trying to solve? What results do we want to achieve?”

From there we can identify the Operational Excellence approaches that can help an organization reach those goals.

During these conversations, I often think of a quote from Steve Jobs: “If you define the problem correctly, you almost have the solution.” I tell executive leaders, “Instead of saying, ‘Let’s do it like they did,’ let’s phrase it like this: ‘Let’s do it like this so we can solve for that.’”

Designing your solutions to solve your problems

Defining where there is room for improvement is the key to making Operational Excellence work. There are so many different ways to solve problems leveraging Lean Six Sigma and, given my experience, we can come up with customized ways of meeting specific, unique needs of an organization.

Operational Excellence will never look like your competitor’s solution – nor should it. If you want to develop new products, the methodologies we use will be different than if you want to save money and become more efficient.

The beauty of Operational Excellence methodologies like Lean and Lean Six Sigma is customization. With Operational Excellence, you can create your own path and leverage proven methodologies to solve problems by coming up with unique solutions that will work within your specific organization.

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