Why Excellence May Not Be the Best

When considering a business process improvement (or some other) initiative, we also want to communicate to motivate the right behaviors.  However, initiatives often seem to use buzzwords or use titles familiar to employees that have seen such initiatives come and go (the key word being “go”).

A few common initiative titles include:

  • Business Excellence (BusEx)
  • Operational Excellence (OpEx)
  • Technical Excellence
  • Continuous Improvement (CI)
  • Lean Sigma

How does it feel when reading this list?  Perhaps employees feel as though an initiative is required because they are not already excellent, or not good enough and therefore need to improve.  Perhaps it’s an initiative with which they are familiar that failed or was discontinued.  Is there a certain amount of cynicism associated with the initiative, or is it something employees are excited about?

Operational Excellence (for example) may, in fact, be the right fit for your organization.  However, it’s worth considering other words that might better represent leaderships strategy, vision and purpose, the organizational structure, and motivates the right behaviors.

One alternative is to emphasize productivity.   The word “productivity” is less ambiguous, simply stated and immediately recognizable in executive communications.  Productivity can be improved with a department entitled “Productivity & Performance”.  Productivity is also something all employees should want: a more productive employee is more valuable, regardless of their place of employment.  Productivity therefore ties to leaderships vision and purpose, the organizational structure, and motivates the right behaviors.

Other potential initiative titles might include:

  • Process Improvement…fits with People, Processes and Product (and a bit more specific than the never-ending continuous improvement).
  • Lean Manufacturing…most of us want to be lean ?
  • Lean Project Management
  • Lean Product Development
  • Tools & Methods (an opportunity to learn new tools and ways of doing things)
  • Other keywords:  high performance, agile, optimization, value, etc…

In summary, rather than simply carrying-forward a ‘traditional’ approach to an initiative, it’s worth considering employees as customers of the initiatives and using words that might work better.