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Six Of The Most Valuable Processes Used To Achieve Operational Excellence

November 10, 2021

Increasing global competition and continuous technological changes are putting the squeeze on organizations to optimize their operations. In response to this, many companies are adopting the operational excellence initiative to maximize efficiency, improve profitability, and drive growth.

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Six Valuable Operational Excellence Processes

There are several processes organizations can implement to achieve operational excellence. Each process utilizes a unique strategy for continuous improvement in workflows. The six most valuable processes are described below:

1. Hoshin Kanri or Policy Deployment

The Hoshin Kanri method uses the Lean management method to help businesses organize their vision, goals, and objectives planning. The Lean approach is used to streamline both manufacturing and transactional processes with the elimination of waste and optimization of flow.

The process consists of seven steps that begin with establishing the organization's vision and ending with performing annual reviews. In between, the steps entail developing breakthrough objectives that take 3-5 years to complete and defining annual objectives to break down the work that goes into achieving the business goals within the time period.

Annual objectives are defined to ensure the 3-5 year goals are met. The goals are communicated throughout the organization with the assignment of department, team, and individual objectives that align with the overall yearly mission. The goals are measured by KPIs for monitoring progress.

Monthly reviews are conducted to check on progress towards reaching the goals and ensuring progress is maintained.  At the end of 12 months, a comprehensive annual review is done of the organization's progress and necessary adjustments are made.

2. Newmawashi or Catch-ball

The catch-ball method uses the movement of ideas and information from one person to another or one team to another. A bi-directional feedback loop is created for the exchange of ideas. Strategies and goals are thrown back and forth as in the game of catch-ball.

Catch-ball is an effective method of gathering information and promoting discussions involving multiple departments and roles. It ensures everyone has the opportunity to provide input.

3. Theory of Constraints or Continuous Improvement

The Theory of Constraints methodology is based around the identification of the most limiting or constraining factor for achieving a goal. The process is concentrated on alleviating the constraint until it no longer stands in the way. In manufacturing terms, this constraint is labeled as a bottleneck.

The Theory of Constraints methodology uses the following tools to achieve goals:

  • Five Focusing Steps: Used for identifying and eliminating constraints. The steps are identifying the constraint, exploiting the constraint, subordinating and synchronizing to the constraint, elevating the performance of the constraint, and then repeating the process.
  • Thinking Processes: Tools for analyzing and resolving problems.
  • Throughput Accounting: Used for measuring performance and management decision guidance.

When successfully implemented, this methodology results in increased profits, fast improvements, improved capacity, reduced lead times, and reduced inventory.

4. Lean Six Sigma

The Six Sigma process improvement strategy gets its name from a statistical concept which describes that a process produces 99.99966% out of a million deliverables, free of defects. Combining this strategy with the Lean methodology offers the additional benefits of streamlining and developing more efficient processes.

Lean Six Sigma comprises five steps or phases used to improve processes. These are define, measure, analyze, improve, and control the problem. (DMAIC).

The Lean Six Sigma methodology offers the following benefits to organizations:

  • Switch from defect detection to prevention, resulting in cost savings and waste reduction.
  • Standardizes processes which makes companies more nimble and able to pivot to challenges.
  • Decreases lead times and increases capacity.
  • Engages employees, resulting in improved morale and accelerated development.

5. Critical Path, Critical Chain

Critical path and critical chain are two types of project management practices used to ensure the proper planning, execution, and completion of a project.

Critical path project management is centered around identifying the path, or steps to be taken for project completion, to assist in planning timelines, deliverables, and milestones.  The principle around the critical path is that you can't start a task until you finish the previous one. Connecting these dependent tasks is what forms the critical path. Project managers can prioritize and allocate resources for the most important tasks and reschedule lower priority ones. This enables changes to be made for optimization without delaying results.

Critical chain project management takes critical path a step further by taking resources, such as people, equipment, space, and materials, into consideration in order to complete the project. The methodology is centered around identifying the resources needed and existing constraints in the way to dictate what actually can be done. The methodology is dictated by the schedule, with delayed activities extending the project's end date.

6. Statistical Process Control

Statistical Process Control, or SPC, is used in manufacturing to measure and control quality. Data collected from process measurements and instrumentation is used to evaluate, monitor, and control the process. In this way, SPC drives continuous improvement, since monitoring and controlling the process ensures it is operating at its fullest potential.

SPC can detect issues with failed controllers, improper equipment adjustments, machine malfunctions, broken tools, changes in the measurement system, and inexperienced operators.

Monitoring and analyzing the data ensures that any issues can be addressed immediately to avoid production issues.

Key Takeaways

In order to stay competitive with continued growth and profitability, today's companies must optimize their processes. This can be accomplished with the operational excellence initiative through any one of or a combination of the processes described above.  Operational excellence not only protects the company against severe disruptions, but also ensures the customer's needs will continue to be met. MetaExperts™ is global network of Operational Excellence (OpEx) deployment experts and resources for flexible, on-demand short-term contract or contract-to-hire needs. MetaExperts™ align with your industry and OpEx initiatives and are thoroughly vetted through our unique 300+ Screening and Evaluation Process and aligned to your organization using a 47+ alignment process to ensure you get the right talent to solve your specific situation. To learn more, visit


About Kim Crabtree

Kim Crabtree is a seasoned professional with more than 25 years experience in progressively responsible roles in business, marketing, sales, and customer relationship management in a variety of business sectors. Kim is a developer and author of a 3 day Marketing Kaizen and Caregiver Code of Conduct, training for home health aids.

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