Operational Excellence Conference: Putting our finger on the pulse of Continuous Improvement

By Jonathan Munn
5 min read

โ€œData is incredibly important. It is at the bottom of the triangle. Data turns into information, turns into knowledge and then turns into wisdom. And if you donโ€™t start with the data you canโ€™t make those next steps. If you donโ€™t have the wisdom you wonโ€™t make the right changes and become as efficient as you want to be. It all starts with data.โ€
Peter Evans, Director of LCI, Lego

The Operational Excellence Conference at London Docklands on the 21st February brought together some of the brightest thought leaders from some of the worldโ€™s biggest brands to discuss how to make lasting sustainable improvement to your business. We were lucky enough to catch up with some of them and discuss what it takes to achieve operational excellence in the workplace.

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Engaging your people

People are the biggest challenge to creating sustained and continuous improvements in the organisation. At least, according to 62% of the attendees at the Operational Excellence Conference on 21st February. โ€œPeople are the most important thing,โ€ said Tammy Palmer, Head of People Development and Engagement at Age UK. โ€œYou have to engage and empower them to be the change that you are seeking to deliver in the business.โ€

This was to be a recurring sentiment throughout the day, as speakers from companies such as The BBC, Lego, Travelport and Siemens took to the stage to discuss their individual journeys to operational excellence. โ€œYou have to create an environment within which your team have the freedom to do what they need to, but have the rules in place to keep them headed in the same direction,โ€ said Peter Evans, Director of Legoโ€™s Continuous Improvement. โ€œThink of it like the rules of the road, if people started going the wrong way round a roundabout everything would grind to a halt.โ€

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Finding where to make improvements

Transparency and visibility were also key topics. โ€œAnyone involved in operational excellence or continuous improvement has to be permanently optimistic,โ€ said Claire Mรธlby, Director of Service Global Process Management at Vestas and Chair for the morning session. โ€œYou have to believe that there are improvements to be made, you just have to find them.โ€ As we know all too well from our work in this industry, knowing where to start or what to look for to find improvements is probably the single biggest hurdle to overcome. โ€œWhat we are starting to see from some departments is real apathy towards change,โ€ says Claire. โ€œThere is a huge amount of change and not a lot of improvement.โ€

Our very own Christoph Grossbaier, Head of Product Marketing, was invited to speak at the event too. He demonstrated how, โ€œโ€ฆtotal transparency of internal processes is giving businesses the chance to pinpoint exactly where bottlenecks are and truly identify where and how to make significant positive improvement.โ€ This pinpoint accuracy then makes it easier to win the hearts and minds of your team, making it easier to enact change.

โ€œYou have to give your people a sense of ownership and purpose,โ€ said Philip Holt, VP Finance and Continuous Improvement at Travelport. โ€œStart with why, and educate your team on the reasons for change. Bring them along on the journey with you. If you can do that then you will find that everyone has an end-to-end mind set and will work collaboratively.โ€

Communicating the why and working collaboratively

The morning keynote presentation was delivered by Adrian Ruth, Director of Spark and Sustainability at the BBC. He explained how a large cut in funding made it essential that the BBC found ways, โ€œโ€ฆ to continue deliver exceptional programming to our audiences, internal and external, but without breaking the budget. We had to find ways to streamline processes and improve delivery and we are achieving that through a collaborative approach, coaching and telling the story of why.โ€

Embedded content: https://www.youtube.com/embed/W4lSCo5CYUI

To succeed in delivering sustainable and continuous improvements across your organisation, winning the hearts and minds of your employees is critical. Therefore, excellent communication that engages with them on their level and conveys developments clearly is an essential part of any project. โ€œYour communications strategy is essential to change,โ€ said Dominic Picillo, Head of Business Improvement at mencap. โ€œAnd there is no single answer to how you do it, it all comes down to knowing your business and your people. Give them the tools that they want to use and communicate with them through them. Not only will you get greater traction, but you might find that it becomes a treasure trove of development ideas too.โ€

Using data effectively

The most prevalent theme of the day however, was around gaining access to the right data and knowing how to act upon it. Data underpins the foundations of every process and development throughout the business and should be the beacon that guides every decision. Without it, you are operating in the dark, guessing at where to make changes, hoping that you are driving positive change with no yardstick to measure it by. โ€œData is the key to our success,โ€ said Colin Ratcliffe, Perfect Delivery Director in Construction for Morgan Sindall. โ€œKnowing what is happening, when itโ€™s happening and where itโ€™s happening so we can become more efficient.โ€

We were engaged in many conversations throughout the day, showcasing how transparency and the surfacing of hidden data is instrumental in driving transformational change and shifting the conversation from theory to true decision making.

To find out more about how our technology is helping our customers drive sustainable and continuous improvement across the business, check out our customer stories.

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