If you’ve ever questioned why efforts to improve the operational efficiency of your business seem ad hoc and lack focus, you’re not alone.

As experts in the field of Operation Excellence and Lean, we work with business owners and senior managers who share a belief their operations can and should run more smoothly and seek out operational efficiency. They are united in a desire to affect the sort of change that will increase profits while reducing costs and inefficiencies. 

They also often have an unfortunate shared experience: recurring problems that seem impossible to resolve and improvement initiatives that flounder before completion, if they even get off the ground to begin with.

If this sounds familiar, don’t be discouraged. There are a number of small changes you can make to how you conceive and implement improvements to operational efficiency that can yield impressive results. We’ve listed three below that we believe offer the most bang for your buck.


1. Start Small, Be Successful

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. It is common when companies begin their journey toward operational excellence that they take on too much too soon.

Start off small and make sure you’re successful. This approach will allow you to get a few easy wins under your belt. It will also give you the confidence to take on more challenging initiatives.

Another benefit of this approach is that you can assess what works in your company and what doesn’t. You’ll effectively be learning on the job. It will also make our next tip more achievable.


2. Persistence Pays Off

Stick with it! When businesses are new to Operational Excellence and Lean they will often underestimate how difficult and time consuming implementing effective change can be.

Likewise, management and the teams they work with can become discouraged when a fix doesn’t work as intended the first time. It’s important to complete a project. Even if the outcome is not perfectly successful, as you’d initially hoped, you’ll learn more seeing it through to completion than you will if you abandon it part way through.

These learnings can be invaluable in setting your next project up for success. Also, be flexible in your approach to achieving your end goal. Think of an aeroplane which must constantly readjust its course in response to weather conditions to get to its destination.


3. Problems are Only Solved at the Root Cause

Get to the root of the problem. In medicine, it’s commonly accepted that it is best to treat the cause of a condition rather than its symptoms. The same holds true in business.

To address the root cause of a problem you need to train your staff to spot the difference. For example, if a process stalls because supplies of a particular material have been exhausted, the answer is not to simply order more. Sure, this is necessary and will contain the problem, but it won’t prevent it happening again.

To address the root cause of the problem, steps should be put in place to  monitor stock levels. Orders can be made with sufficient lead times to ensure stock does not run out.


In summary

If you want to be more targeted and effective with your improvement efforts…

  • Start small, be successful
  • Stick with change until it’s done
  • Train your people to see the difference between symptoms and real root causes