Building a Culture of Operational Excellence


By: Operational Excellence Week Canada

How do organizations not only survive but thrive in complex business environments?

Businesses today are facing more volatility, complexity and risk than ever before. With markets shifting, regulations changing, and pressure to increase operational efficiency in an increasingly competitive business landscape - how can you build a sustainable culture of Operational Excellence? Unfortunately, most organizations, though they recognize the importance of their company culture, either don't know where to begin or have grown weary of failed attempts and culture change. Few organizations have demonstrated the ability to create a culture that allows them to not only survive, but thrive, in complex business environments.

This exclusive guide to Building a Culture of Operational Excellence will take you through the critical steps companies must take to improve corporate culture, productivity and operational excellence and drive world class business performance.

Defining Culture: What exactly is a company culture?

Ask any group of individuals to define culture and you're likely to get as many explanations and definitions as there are people in the group. After seeing so many leaders struggle to clearly define what is meant by culture, it's not surprising they also struggle to grow and maintain a healthy culture in their companies. 

So let's start with a clear working definition: culture is the collection of expectations and norms that determine how a group behaves. Culture fits right between personality and human nature. Personality is specific to the individual and is both innate and learned. Human nature, on the other hand, is universal and innate. Culture differs from both personality and human nature in that it's entirely learned to a specific group. That group is your company. The best organizations in every industry are very deliberate about their culture. They take an active role in managing their culture to keep it healthy, and they design and built their desired culture into the company.

    'Culture is a collection of expectations and norms that determine how a group behaves.'

Values and Beliefs: What are the characteristics of a successful organization?

To begin managing culture, leaders need to understand how culture relates to individual behaviours. Individual behaviours are tied to two specific elements - our beliefs, and the consequences that result from our behaviours. What we believe drives how we behave. Our behaviour results in consequences - both good and bad - and those consequences tend to reinforce our beliefs when they are good, causing us to question, and sometimes change our beliefs when the consequences are bad. It is important to note, in this context, the individual believed their behaviour was in accordance with how the organization expected them to behave, you can tell employees how to act. But remember those rigorous procedures that you developed and invested in to enable flawless execution? For some reason they aren't being executed. One reason could be that the workers don't believe those procedures are necessary. Another reason could be that there are no rewards for following procedures as well as no consequences for not following them. Simply telling people how to behave rarely results in the behaviours you desire.

The one part of the Beliefs-Behaviours-Consequences triangle you can most certainly affect as a leaders is the consequences. When mentioned in this way our thoughts on consequences [...]

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