Maintaining Operational Excellence Over The Long Term

Without people, processes and technology aligned, momentum towards operational excellence can be quickly lost. Permitting a culture that accepts “good enough” productivity levels will quickly kill off any efforts to drive continuous improvements.

Establishing and fostering a new corporate culture takes time, effort and a lot of focus. Bringing a new culture to your organization is often the responsibility of Human Resources. But without a collaborative understanding of what the company is trying to achieve, the journey is doomed to fail. Hexagon’s free Guide to Digitizing Operations will give you a complete overview of cultural change and its role in your digital transformation journey.

Meanwhile, you should keep in mind a few high-level ideas while managing a cultural change:

Focus on a few key behaviors
Shifting culture is a large task, however, changing and sustaining just a few – even small – behaviors can create big changes. Leading change management consultant Jon Katzenbach says that asking people to share feedback directly with the subject of a 360-degree evaluation helped one company increase employee engagement on constructive criticism.

Previously, employees would receive aggregated feedback at the end of the 360-degree process, causing a demotivating surprise. By encouraging staff to talk directly to each other about concerns, the company was able to build a better culture on performance dialogue in the process.

Peer-to-peer customs resonate stronger with staff than top-down mandates. Accordingly, encouraging staff to find new behaviors that suit them and the new cultural vision is best when trying to change how work is done.

Formal and informal cultural intervention
Cultural interventions should do two things: Reach people at an emotional level (invoking altruism, pride and how they feel about the work itself) and tap rational self-interest (providing money, position and external recognition to those who come on board).

Informal interactions with employees – including social visits, ad hoc meetings, impromptu telephone discussions and email exchanges – are excellent at getting cross sections of people to reflect on how they were feeling and on identifying their sources of anxiety and concern. At the same time, non-hierarchical forums among peers and colleagues help uncover and discuss existing company values – what they were, what they should be, why many of them have been dropped or ignored, what needed to happen to resurrect them and what leadership behaviors would ensure the right employee behaviors.

This helps operations leaders twofold: first, it identifies a core group of “key influencers,” potential leaders who could offer invaluable perspectives on the cultural situation, regardless of their level in the hierarchy. Second, it establishes the formal processes for cultural transition. Holding discussions with key influencers helps give insights about the staff and also creates rapport between leaders and a respected group that disseminates the cultural message both formally and informally.

Measure and monitor cultural evolution
As with any other priority business initiative, progress measuring and monitoring are essential to sustaining change. This is where most organizations fail. Rigorous measurement allows executives to identify backsliding, correct course where needed and demonstrate tangible evidence of improvement, which can help to maintain positive momentum over the long haul.

Executives should pay attention to four areas:

1. Business performance: Are key performance indicators improving? Are relevant growth targets being reached more frequently? What is happening with less obvious indicators, such as local sales improvements or decreases in customer complaints?

2. Critical behaviors: Have enough people at multiple levels started to exhibit the few behaviors that matter most? For example, if customer relationships are crucial, do managers update the CRM database on a regular basis?

3. Milestones: Have specific intervention milestones been reached? For example, has a new policy successfully been implemented? Are people living up to their commitments to key account targets?

4. Underlying beliefs, feelings and mindsets: Are key cultural attitudes moving in the right direction, as indicated by the results of employee surveys?

Putting people first
As your most valuable assets, people must be at the heart of every transformative effort. Positive cultural change is not easy to enact … and it’s even harder to sustain.

But as your business strives for operational excellence, you will need to closely monitor corporate culture to ensure that the right messages, attitudes and behaviors are being modelled and propagated. Otherwise any investment in frameworks and technology will fail to realize the expected returns and benefits.

Download our free eBook, The Complete Executives’ Guide to Digitizing Operations, to learn more about cultural change and its role in your digital transformation strategy.

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Adrian Park
Adrian has been with Hexagon’s PPM division since 2007 and currently serves as the Vice President for Pre-sales for Europe, the Middle East, India & Africa (EMIA) region. From 2007 to 2018 he worked in Global Business Development for Information Management solutions. He is based in Sandnes, Norway.

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