Book Review – Redefining Operational Excellence

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A book recommendation from Dan Beaulieu.

Redefining Operational Excellence: New Strategies for Maximizing Performance and Profits Across the Organization

By: Andrew Miller

What’s the problem with Lean manufacturing? What’s the problem with Six Sigma? Easy–they don’t include people. They take into consideration only processes rather than people. They are only a small component of operational excellence rather than the entire solution.

According to Andrew Miller in his book, Redefining Operational Excellence: New Strategies for Maximizing Performance and Profits Across the Organization, “Operational excellence is about empowering employees to use judgment on the front lines. But often an organization uses methodologies that preclude having to use judgment. The methodology (Lean or Six Sigma) becomes a crutch.” And to me, said methodology creates a “leave your brains at the door” mentally when it comes to people. And this is why I love this book.

Full disclosure: I’ve always been vehemently against any process methodologies that attempt to “lobotomize” and “robotize” people. I am a great believer in people and the amazing things they can accomplish. I’ve always believed that Six Sigma, Lean, and every other theory-of-the-month ideologies were bad for business so that’s why I am in full agreement with Miller.

When I saw this book come across my desk, my first reaction was, “Here comes the next version–the latest ideology-of-the-month.” But once I opened the book I honestly could not put it down. This guy makes sense. This guy has brought the people to the table, which is what has always been needed.

Miller had me from the very first paragraph when he writes, “Operational excellence is the relentless pursuit of doing things better. It is not a destination or a methodology but a mindset that needs to exist across and organization. Operational excellence is not about perfection or performing activities. It is about dramatic improvements and financial growth.”

I believe that the author has it right when he says, “Fix the process, then implement the technology.” So many times we want to implement new technology into a flawed process. It just doesn’t work. If the basic structure is not sound, technology will only allow you to make “bad decisions faster.” Why don’t people get that?

One of the biggest problems with programs like Lean is that it wants to treat everything as though they are the same. It assumes that the people and customers are the same, which they are not.

“Instead of focusing on standardization, organizations need to focus on customization. Every customer is different and requires a different solution. Organizations need to focus on learning more about their customers and on collaborating with them to provide the best solutions.” And to that I say a big amen and thank you to Miller.

If you agree with what the author is saying in his book, you need to read it to get the facts and strengthen your arguments against the “Leaners” in your organization. If you find yourself not agreeing with his theories, you’d better get out there and get this book right now because it’s critical to you, your career, and your organization that you see the light, and sooner rather than later.

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