10 Steps to Building a Culture of OpEx in the Office

Published on April 11, 2017

10 Steps to Building a Culture of OpEx in the Office

In March of 2017, Institute Senior Faculty Member Tim Healey and guest Natasha Bastien, an Operational Excellence and Change Leadership Internal Coach at a large, privately-owned company, presented a webinar titled “Collaborating for Culture Changes in the Office to Drive OpEx.” Here are ten insights they shared about how to overcome cultural barriers to successfully transition offices to Operational Excellence. 

  1. Show the team what you’ll be doing. Start by creating a structured description of the situation as it currently stands and how it will change. For example, show that there is presently fragmented workflow based on individual priority; however, by achieving Operational Excellence, the workflow will be optimized based on value stream commitment. Or point out that the operation will shift from management regulation of a process to an environment where employees are empowered to control and fix flow.
  2. Support employees as they adjust to the impending changes. People go through a natural series of steps when they’re confronted with change, such as the shift to Operational Excellence. While everyone’s different, typically they experience shock first, then anger or fear about whether they will have to completely change the way they work or lose their autonomy, or experience other disruptions. To help them adjust, it’s important to share information so employees can anticipate what’s going to happen. You can’t eliminate the steps; however, you want to reduce the negative consequences.
  3. Support staff on the commitment curve. The ultimate stage employees need to get to is commitment. To help reach it, explain what’s going change and what Operational Excellence is – from the big picture to the details. Specifically, give them the definition of OpEx, which is when each and every employee can see the flow of value to the customer, and fix that flow before it breaks down. Once they start to understand, they will naturally begin to accept Operational Excellence and commit to it, which will drive their motivation to make changes.
  4. Build an environment of mutual trust and respect. For a successful OpEx implementation, employees have to be completely honest in the process. So, when the team members, leaders and managers start to work together to understand the current situation and map the current state, employees have to feel safe to share how much time they spend on an activity, for example. This information is crucial, since the organization needs to fully understand processing time, what’s causing delays, etc. to make changes. It’s therefore important to get people to talk and express themselves throughout the process.
  5. Management should practice what it preaches. The best way to set an example for the organization is to do yourself what you’re advising others to do. So if you are explaining the importance of holding debriefs to capture knowledge, then you should demonstrate that you engage in the same activity yourself by holding, for example, ten-minute sessions at the end of every day to gather feedback. The key is to be a role model and show team members that you’re actually applying what you’re teaching them.
  6. Create a pilot project. Experimentation is important so that the organization can see the success of OpEx in action – or understand that things can be adjust if they’re not working. In that way, pilots serve as both inspiration and guidance. Select one group to with which to run your first improvement project. Then, after they achieve Operational Excellence, solicit feedback on what works and what doesn’t. When other groups can see the process and the benefits that result when OpEx is implemented, it will help them overcome their fear.
  7. Tell managers to stop managing. As difficult as it may be, it’s important to tell managers that you want them to stop managing the operation. Because when they manage, they are interrupting employees and disrupting the flow. Instead, the whole idea of Operational Excellence is to empower employees. That way, management can instead focus on spending time growing the business.
  8. Adapt your Operational Excellence program to the company culture. Every office environment is unique. If, for example, staff always acts without planning first, Operational Excellence is going to be a big change for them. So you can’t just force change on them; instead, be upfront and explain that, while they have traditionally not operated according to a planned design, to get the results from OpEx, we have to change the way we do things.
  9. Involve the team every step of the way. The first step is to train employees. Giving them education about the methodology and what to expect will help reduce their fear. Next, hold a workshop to give everyone a grasp of the present situation and a complete picture of the flow, and then analyze the current state with the team. Next, introduce Operational Excellence concepts and work together to design the future state and road map. Finally, get them to create the standard work for abnormal conditions. With this process, everyone has input in the current state, future state and action plan.
  10. Get senior leaders behind you. Team members, team leaders and managers are typically involved in the training and workshop, not leaders. So after you’ve completed the design process with employees, schedule an hour with senior leadership to share the action plan. They’ll see how organized the process is and engaged the workers are, which will help them commit to OpEx. As you progress, be sure to secure their buy-in by show them before and after pictures of employees working in the flow, a chart demonstrating you’re meeting the Guaranteed Turnaround Time to the customer, how many more orders are processed after achieving OpEx or other results.

Natasha Bastien is an Operational Excellence & Change Leadership Internal Coach at a large, privately-owned company. Tim Healey is a Senior Faculty Member at the Institute for Operational Excellence.