Why Do Most Companies Fail When They Strive to Become More Efficient and Resilient?

At the beginning of this month, Brian Strobel published an intriguing new book entitled Pursuing Excellence: A Values-Based, Systems Approach to Help Companies Become More Resilient, which interestingly posits that a company doesn’t implement Operational Excellence as a methodology, model, or tool. Instead, a company realizes Operational Excellence. It does so by integrating effective leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, systems thinking, and continuous improvement. It achieves this by aligning strategies, empowering employees, optimizing business processes, and improving the customer experience.

When I spoke with Brian recently, I asked him: “Why do most companies fail when they strive to become more efficient and resilient?” Here is his full answer:

I think the fact that people are starting to ask questions like this proves there’s a growing recognition our previous ways of doing things aren’t working.

The way that we’ve managed our companies has remained largely unchanged since the 18th century. Since then, different philosophies have come and gone, but the central ideas for what it takes to manage our companies have remained fairly consistent.

And our approach to achieve continuous improvement must also change.

I believe that our legacy approaches to continuous improvement, to include Lean and Six Sigma, are failing to consider the whole system and account for the leadership principles necessary for success. These previous methods placed too much emphasis on the specific improvement methodology, without proper consideration for the entire system and surrounding culture, systems and structures, values and beliefs, and the particulars of our marketspace..

As I write in my latest book Pursuing Excellence, “our companies are struggling with ways to become more competitive, to reduce costs, and the chase unobtanium in their never-ending pursuit to do more with less. But to survive, this focus on efficiency must not come at the expense of innovation, agility, and moving fast."

The world is now a new place, with new rules. Succeeding will require new ways of looking at our problems. And the lens of operational excellence can help us view these things from a different perspective.

A lens is something that bends and refracts light to alter our vision. It allows us to see things differently. The right kind of lens takes what’s already there, and through convergence and divergence, provides a different perspective to view the subject. It focuses our vision on those things we need to see with more clarity.

These ideas that make up the lens of operational excellence, as shown here, provide us the context for what must be considered as we move towards driving change with a fundamental understanding that we must have everyone aware of why we need to change. In this regard, the lens helps guide the vision for our companies to become more resilient and move closer to achieving excellence.

What do you think of Brian's thoughts? How have continuous-improvement initiatives affected your company?