4 Essential Factors to Succeed with Operational Excellence in the future ft. Anish Hindocha, Visa


Anish Hindocha is the Lead Operational Excellence Consultant at Visa. He works as part of a central improvement team and looks at a range of enterprise wide processes. Here, Anish shares four factors that he believes are essential for meeting the future needs of operational excellence.

1. Leadership

People need to feel that their ability to change a process is imported and empowered by the bosses – that they are not out on a limb and they are protected when challenging the status quo, i.e. “can I feel free as an operations person to talk to others involved in this process, bring people together and go, hang on a minute, can we do something a bit smarter?”  

People are enormously talented and we don’t always make much use of it as it is we should do in my opinion. Some of that comes down from leadership showing that they are empowering their staff to think that way and that it is important to do so. You can do that by making the messaging clear from the top, be that via an intranet or town halls where the executive is speaking about how much process matters to the business and how much having streamlined processes helps the company meet its own strategy.  If you can weave that in in your narrative, then tell that story in many ways, multiple times through multiple channels. 

2. Data

Nothing speaks louder than saying that an expensive process that took 40 days on average, now it takes 15. That is big, particularly for those involved with the process change data gives a fact-based argument to why process improvement really matters. 

You can spend three to four months improving a process and people can say it’s better, but is it? Does it feel better? Maybe. Do the customers say it’s better? Some do, some don’t. The only thing you have really got is data. When I previously presented at OPEX Europe, I used the process of supplier onboarding as an example of starting at 60 days and getting it down to 28. This was a massive achievement, but that only happened because we created an obsession with data and being able to capture it.  

Data influences people to do more. You need those stories – back to point one on leadership and telling the story - if you have that story and it is backed up with data, you start to encourage people in a way that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

3. Automation

Process excellence and process automation go hand in hand, but, there is a tendency to look at some technologies as being like the magic solution. Some people think: “it’s going to solve everything, we don’t need to worry about removing waste, we’ll just automate this process over here and that will work.” 

Often, if you’re not careful, you’ll end up investing heavily into one of these technologies and it taking a long time to actually come up with a result, perhaps even longer than it would have done if just went with it with a pure Lean approach, and you’ll end up automating bad process, and that’s definitely something that can happen. So always streamline before you automate.

4. Culture

It is important to embody a culture of allowing people to ‘have a go’, which is also known as Fail Fast or Plan, Do, Check, Act or Marginal Gains.  When I am training, I often talk about this and say that sometimes what businesses often do is have a few classic responses to changing process. Often it is bringing in an expensive consultant to do it or bringing in technology to do it but the one most overlooked is getting our own people to do it.  

If you do the latter and you embody that with a culture of reward, not financially but with encouragement and recognition for having had the balls, if I can call it that, to make a change to what they are doing, you will be far more successful.  If we can replicate that across a thousand people in an organisation, then you are going to make a huge difference in how you are viewed by your clients and to how your employees view working for you.