Experience-based Operational Excellence


The Customer Experience

Experience means many things.  An experience is a direct observation of or participation in events as a basis of knowledge.  In other words, the customer experiences something through observation or participation.  Experience also relates to a customer as the fact or state of having been affected by or gained knowledge through direct observation or participation.  In other words, the customer has experienced things with the company that they base opinion on.  Also, experience is related to an individual based on their practical knowledge, skill, or practice derived from direct observation of or participation in events or in a particular activity.  Customers all have different experiences that make up their background.  Individual experience is often related in the terms of degrees, certifications, and/or years of involvement in a particular thing.

In a nutshell, customer experience (CX) is something personally encountered, undergone, or lived through by a customer with a certain company.  It is the product of an interaction between a company and a customer over the duration of their relationship.  This interaction includes their attraction, awareness, discovery, cultivation, advocacy, and purchase and use of a service.

CX is simply the result of everything that makes up the company’s product or service delivery, visible or not.

Problems with Customer Experience Today

Many companies today only focus on the ‘touchpoints’–the critical moments when customers interact with the company and its offerings to establish the customer experience.  This is often depicted in marketing as an experience map.  Often, this is a narrow focus on what is important to the customer’s satisfaction at specific moments and often creates a distorted picture of the overall experience.  This can lead a company to believe customers are happier with the company’s products and services than they actually are.  This approach also diverts attention from the bigger and more important picture–the customer’s end-to-end journey.[i]

An emphasis on Operational Excellence within an company as the driver of the CX is important to carefully consider.

Experience-based Operational Excellence

Operational Excellence (OpX), as an official business concept, has not been around very long and is often misconstrued.  The best way to look at OpX is to think of it as an end-to-end enterprise-wide management practice that aligns everything in the organization toward driving excellence.[ii]  From a perspective of the CX, OpX essentially represents an organization’s focus on all things that affect the customer’s experience (see Figure 1).

 X-Based OpX

Figure 1: Experience-based Operational Excellence

     Normally, companies view CX as a result of the product itself.  Some broaden the view into the processes that impact the product delivery and many companies see OpX as nothing more than the application of process management and Lean Six Sigma improvement processes.[iii]  In reality, true OpX represents the end-to-end enterprise-wise business management.  The ‘experience’ is at the very center of where the product, process, and employee intersect–this is what the customer sees and feels.  The entire experience is influenced by high-level company strategies, internal and external communication, and employee development.  Everything within the company is supported by an innovative layer that includes technology and information.

Thus, everything in the organization is important in the CX equation and focusing simply on touchpoints will represent a lack of true focus on the CX.  From a company’s perspective, there are several representative performance metrics that are important to the overall CX.  A company cannot simply look at metrics like sales and net promoter score, but must consider all company performance as critical to the CX.  There are many things that measure the experience, but can generally be referred to as satisfaction, sentiment, and relationship.


In summary, the traditional view of CX as a stand-alone activity represents a shortsighted view of what is important to the customer.  Although much of what makes up OpX is out of the customer’s view, it all leads to the CX and must be considered and aligned.

[i] Rawson, A., Duncan, E., & Jones, C. (2013). The Truth About Customer Experience. Harvard Business Review.

[ii] Boothe, W., & Lindborg, S. (2014). Handbook to achieve operational excellence: A realistic guide including all tools needed. Ft Myers FL: Reliabilityweb.com.

[iii] Crabtree, R. (2010). Driving operational excellence: Successful lean six sigma secrets to improve the bottom line. Livonia MI: MetaOps Publishing.


When You Need A Swiss Army Knife in Business

Lately I have met several organizations that are at a crossroads in their own evolution. Many companies realize the importance of things like strategy, change management, process improvement, strategic communication, and employee engagement. However, these organizations are making tactical decisions on the direction of these areas versus truly looking at this from a strategic perspectives.

Instead of hiring several different individuals or creating separate teams all focused on doing the same thing, companies today should should focus on bringing all their Operational Excellence activities under one team working directly for the CEO or President of the company.  This group should be led by a senior leader that sits at the same table as the companies other leaders.

This Swiss Army Knife professional–SVP/VP, Operational Excellence–should manage things like:
– Strategy development, execution, and change
– Performance optimization through process, product, and functional continuous improvement
– Strategic communication inside and outside the organization
– Strategic human capital management to include education, training, and development and employee satisfaction, commitment, and engagement
– Information and innovation engagement

This team does not need to be big…depending on an organization’s size, it could be as small as three or four people.  However, it should leverage other support areas throughout the organization, like Human Resources, Finance, IT, etc. These organizations would not report to the position, but work with the position.

Today, some organizations have some or all of these activities occuring, but they are scattered across the organization and have very little singular direction. By bringing the functions together into a small effective team, an organization is equipped to deal with the challenges of today and the future.

Of course, the leaders of these types of organizations have to have a solid understanding of all these functions at strategic, operatiomal, and tactical levels and not focused on creating some massive sandbox of people with various skills. They need to be highly skilled with a focus on lean and mean.

Do you have an open door policy or an open door?

A lot of good leaders out there will tell you that they have an open door policy. They will share with you, when talking about communication in their organization, how they have instituted an open door policy to facilitate communication in their organization. “My door is always open,” they will say.

But is it really?

How many employees ‘walk through your open door’ to talk to you on a regular basis?

If your answer is a low number or none–aside from the senior leaders in your organization–then maybe you should ask yourself if you really have an open door?

Now an open door policy really is a misnomer, because the reason leaders have offices and others have cubicles is so that they can have closed door meetings. These are either discussions where they want to discuss things in private or they want to have a meeting without being bothered. This way, leaders can have a series of meetings without finding a conference room all the time. Makes sense.

But then their door really isn’t ‘open’ all the time, now is it? But an open door policy really doesn’t mean that your door is actually always open when you come by or that you are free to walk in at any time. An open door policy is really about how approachable you have made yourself.

Your open door policy is really about a level of trust and honesty you portray in your organization and a level of openness to talk freely to employees. It’s not about actually having an open door.

Some things to consider to promote more of an open door culture in your office is to get up from your desk on a regular basis and walk around talking to people that you normally would not.

Take the door to them so to speak.

Get to know people by name. Know if they are married and have kids, are they going to school or do they have hobbies, if they like sports or volunteering, ect. Basically, find out a little more about them that demonstrates that they are more like you than you or they realized.

Sure, probably, as the leader, you make more money, park closer to the front door, and probably live in a different part of town, but in many ways you are very much alike. I think that people forget this.

Everyone from the lowest level employee to the highest paid CEO are the exact same–a human. They’ve just had different experiences in life that have led them to where they are today and the CEO now has access to way more information than the other employee. If you treat everyone like a fellow human being and not an employee, you will promote an open door policy.

I work for a guy that loves coffee. He’s very good at management by walking around. He can often be seen, especially in the morning and late afternoon, around the office talking to people. But he made his actual door more approachable one simple way…

In the front office, he put in an instant coffee maker and keeps it full of different coffees, teas, creamers, and sweeteners. When his door is open, his desk faces straight at the coffee maker. The coffee is open and free to anyone in the office and people often come by to get some. If he’s not busy, the door is open, and he’s in the office, it is not uncommon that he say hi or even get up and come get a cup of coffee for himself. He even has a time blocked on Thursday, that he tries to keep open for people to come get a cup of coffee and sit down in his office and simply talk.

Think about the simplicity of an open door. It’s not about the policy, but how you promote open and honest communication and make yourself approachable.

With all this information, why are we so out of touch?

I stopped watching television several years ago. I have several TVs in the house, but they are mainly used to watch movies or key sporting events. Television for me became a distraction that pulled me away from work, school, and my hobbies, so I simply cut it out.

Because of this, I don’t watch the news, which I never really enjoyed anyway.

My folks; however, have the television on all the time. Last year, when we moved into our new house and my folks sold their house and moved here, they lived with us for a few weeks as their house was closing and their belongings were being delivered. That had to be the longest few weeks for my dad, because we didn’t even hook up our satellite for a month after moving in.

Needless, he watches the news all the time.

We both get the Boerne Star newspaper…my parents read theirs front to back and I make nice stacks with mine that eventually are used to start fires in the fireplaces. Even then, the Star really isn’t a very worldly news source.

So, my news comes mainly from the Internet…through social media (Facebook and LinkedIn) and news sites (primarily Yahoo News). I’m looking for a more complete and effective news app for my phone and iPad, but I’m not totally disconnected.

As you can see, the information I get and what my parents get is from totally different streams.

Last night, I went to dinner with my parents and I was talking all about this Nevada Cattle Ranch issue and how I see it blowing up and becoming a major national issue. What surprised me was that my parents had heard very little about it…and I do mean very little. We started discussing news that I knew versus news that they knew (the news we knew) and it became very apparent that what national media and social media were saying were two entirely different messages.

Now, I clearly feel that my folks watch too much Fox News and television as a whole. But, I also feel that I get information overload from my news sources as well and try to limit my time surfing for current events and news. The thing is, we could easily be overloaded with information if we let it. However, are we really getting enough information even when we’re overloaded with it? Is it the right information?

I don’t get political on my blogs–I leave that for Facebook (smile). However, I know I need to do a better job of making sure that I get a fuller picture of what is going on in the world. This Nevada Cattle Ranch issue, if you are not aware, has the potential to become a defining moment in our history as a nation. It has the potential of proving out the second amendment of the Constitution and of throwing the United States into total chaos.

This single issue isn’t the reason…it’s just the opportunity to demonstrate that Americans–at least 50% of them–are fed up with our government today. From the current Administration, to our Congressional “leadership,” to government organizations like IRS, Health and Human Services (responsible for the failed Affordable Care Act program failures), Bureau of Land Management (what this current powder keg is about), and the EPA. The scene is being played out in Nevada and has the potential of coalescing at least half the nation into a militia frenzy.

So, I ask you…are you aware of what’s going on in the country and world today? If you saw on the news tonight that 200 armed Federal Agents killed hundreds of equally armed Americas in Nevada over cattle, turtles, and solar power, would you know the whole story?

If this would be the first you’ve heard about it, then, like me, you should probably consider your news sources and ask yourself if you are getting enough information and if that information you are getting covers everything?

How dedicated are you to what you do?

Some people are extremely dedicated in what they do and many others clearly appear to not be. But what tells you that someone is or is not dedicated?

Part of my long term professional and personal plan is to be an established writer with several books written on multiple business topics. I also have ideas for golf instruction and fiction, like my first book, One Dead Marine.

Is dedication measured through the writing of books or something else. I would suppose that if I talk about it enough, you might deduce that I’m pretty dedicated even if I never published another book?

However, I don’t believe the act of actually publishing some books demonstrates my dedication to writing. At this time, I don’t even think I’m as dedicated as I could be, but that is because I temper my level of dedication with the other aspects of my plan. Otherwise, if I focus too much in one area I won’t have time in another. Right?

So, dedication, in my mind is involvement in the thing(s) you do. Not just putting in overtime at work if it’s your job, but to really get involved.

Take out a piece of paper and right down the big things in your life: family, work, church, kids school, sports, etc. just list them on the page. Chances are you don’t have too many and today the list may have some items that might be replaced next year.

Now,poking at each item, if you regularly talk about that big rock in your life, put an X by it. By regularity talk about it, you often bring it up in conversations with your family and friends. When you go to dinner with the in laws and they ask you what’s been going on, it is often on your short list to talk about. This demonstrates a level of commitment to tell people what we are actually doing, which makes us vulnerable. People could challenge what we are doing and if we’re not too dedicated, I might not be prepared to discuss or defend my decisions. Perhaps it’s not as important as other things in your life that you would rather talk about, so it just doesn’t come up. Maybe it’s a stretch for you to do this–you’ve never done it before, so you’re afraid of failing and it’s best not to tell people that you are doing it at all.

If you have some kind of plan; perhaps a short range New Year’s resolution or maybe a long range, multi year plan that involves this big rock, put an X next to it. Committing something to a plan is a level of mental dedication that something is going to happen this year, or over the next few or several years. Let’s say you want to go back to school to get a higher degree. Is this something you simply talk about, or have you sat down and thought out where you want to go, what you want to study, when you’re going to start, and how you’re going to get it paid for? Plans don’t have to be written down to be a plan, but written plans are a little bit more solid. Regardless, if you have a plan, then your dedication level just increased.

If you are actually doing the big rock today, then put an X by it. By now you may have noticed that this is not necessarily a progressive growth assessment. For example, Work might be one of your big rocks. You are clearly doing it today, so you get an X. However, you might never talk about work with your family and friends and you might not have a plan written down or in your mind for Work. So, just because there are no X’s for the first two items doesn’t mean you don’t put an X here. Doing something demonstrates a level of dedication.

If you research and read about your big rock, the. Put an X next to it. If you get magazines, are subscribed to blogs, buy books, etc. that are related to your big rock, then you are demonstrating a level of dedication to that item. You may have noticed by now that I’m not asking how many or if you even read them, just that you get them. In everyone of these questions, you can see that there could be a sliding scale of dedication from say 1 to 5. However, for now, if you are research around your big rock, you get an X, regardless of how much.

If you participate in some way to the advancement and development of your big rock item, then put an X next to it. If one of your big rock’s is your son’s education, do you participate in things like PTA or do you regularly tutor your son on his homework? If a big rock is work, do you active in your union, or do you teach others regularly about how to do things. Basically, do you work with your big rock to make it more than what you found it?

So, this was pretty simple, huh? You have a list of big ticket items that are in your life. For each of them you might have anywhere from 0 to 5 X’s next to it. This demonstrates your basic level of dedication to each item. One item maybe you think is important, but really all you’re doing is talking about it right now. Perhaps you think something is important in your life, but all you do is “do it.” How dedicated is that?

Looking at this list–this very simple tool, can you think of some things to do to demonstrate and prove your true dedication to each of these items, or maybe you’re happy with your level of dedication. At least now you have a better idea of how dedicated you are to your perceived big rocks.

With that knowledge, you can now do more if you desire.

If Leadership is the art of influencing others…

Leader is a position–someone that leads others. Many people, who are placed in the position of a leader struggle with the challenge of the leading others part. They simply take charge and rally the troops to move in one direction.

Being a leader is not leadership, but do you have to be a leader to lead?

No, leadership is something earned by those you lead–those that choose to follow you. The best way to learn how to lead is to run something for a nonprofit–something where you have to get others to help you.

Some leaders think that influence means to coerce with incentives and punishments. Some think they have to constantly sell to others so they will buy in.

Leadership is neither of these: leadership, true leadership, is about four simple things.

1. Passion: you must be passionate about what you do. Passion is your sales technique–not selling. Being passionate about something is infectious. Having and displaying a deep passion for what you are doing will spread to those around you and others will want to feel that passion too.

2. Vision. Just doing what you’re doing today, is not going to cut it. Becoming something more than today–something much more is vision. People want someone who will inspire them to a future. They wan to believe in something bigger and be part of it. Leader must be passionate about what he is doing today, but have an inspiring vision of where things are going tomorrow.

3. Know your people. Simply that, get to know the people who have chosen to follow you. Understand them and make them part of your vision. See their dreams and believe in them like you want them to believe in yours. Know their families, know their hobbies, know their skills and background. Never put them in a box of how you see them, but see them as they see themselves. Knowing your people better than they know themselves is powerful leadership.

4. Communicate. This is where most fail. E able to express your passion and your vision through writing and speaking. The better you are at communicating, the more powerful your message will be. Also, be open and honest to those who follow you–be among them always, even when you are not. Make them feel like that can talk to you at any time. Leaders today, put barriers between themselves and their people to allow them to work, but removing all barriers and spending your time communicating your passion and vision will inspire those around you to do much more than you yourself is possible of.

Leadership is not a position–it is definitely an art. But like any art, it is really more simple than most realize. You don’t have to be wealthily or powerful to be a and effective leader because those things do not make you so.

Lead with passion and vision. Know your people better than they know themselves. And constantly communicate to your people your passion and vision.

This is leadership.

Are you communicating or just making noise?

“No one told me about that.” “I sent out an email a week again, didn’t you read it?”

Ever hear that? I have…

A few years back when consulting for Booz Allen, I had a client that ran the travel department for an organization. She was complaining that people didn’t know how to submit their travel requests and travel vouchers to get paid. Her limited staff was overworked and she felt she needed more people.

I asked her if she considered having some sort of training course for the organization…I thought that would help. “Oh, I’ve done that already,” she said. Then she produced a copy of an email that she had sent to everyone several months ago. It was very detailed–very complete. “I sent this to everyone, they have it; they should know how to do this.”

She didn’t see it as her ‘job’ to communicate or train the procedures in a repeatable way. It was the receiver’s job to receive, read, understand, and apply her single message regardless if they needed the information then or several months later.

Folks, this doesn’t work. Hopefully everyone that is reading this is shaking their heads and agreeing that this was a complete waste of communication and entirely ineffective.

However, how often do we use this excuse of “I told you,” or “Don’t you remember when I sent you that email,” or “Didn’t you read the memo or policy letter.”

Well sure…it’s not like most of us ignore communication (some do I admit), but was it timely. When you go to work with a new company, they have you read and sign the employee policies and the six years later they’re reminding you that you already should know that. Two months ago, organizational policies have changed, and a letter went out–didn’t you read that?

Let’s face it, that’s simply noise. If the message doesn’t apply to you at the moment there is a good chance that you will simply delete it without reading it. Even if you read it, more than likely you will forget it.

I know this is true for me. If I can’t apply it at that moment, I’ll forget what it said. I might remember getting the message, but I have no idea what it said.

If you want your message to be more than noise, you need to communicate often, at the right time, and appropriately to everyone. In short, communication is part of everyone’s responsibility and you should do it well.

Don’t simply be noise.

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