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.


Fix Your Roof When the Sun is Shining

Lisa Hershman, Denovo Group, has a phrase, “We never fix the roof when the sun is shining.”

I don’t know if I really need to explain the saying, but often businesses wait until stuff goes wrong to try to fix it. Then, it becomes an emergency break fix and it is done poorly because they lack sufficient time to really solve the problem.

The thing is, in business, fixing things when the sun is shining applies to everything. This basically means fixing things that really are not broken.

Off the top of my head, here are a few items that we neglect until it is too late and then do wrong because we are hard-pressed to simply get it done.

Planning. Strategic, operational, and even tactical planning, we are tremendously poor at in business, but specifically strategic planning is often overlooked. All too often, businesses look to strategic planning when they are having significant problems and they think it will solve their problems (the proverbial silver bullet). The problem is that strategic planning is a long range effort (hence strategic) and not designed to solve tactical problems.

Process improvement. All too often businesses let shoddy processes continue as the company grows and they ignore things like defects, poor customer service, and excessive process variance until too late. Then, when everything related to the process is falling apart, suddenly the business tries to solve the problems that took years to manifest in the process. What is worse, all too often all of the business processes are in the same state of disrepair and instead of just fixing one process, the business tries to create a full blown process organization and expect it to happen overnight.

Development. Businesses often look to training to solve a problem, but do not look at development when there isn’t a problem. If you are considering going into a leadership position, this is when you start learning about leadership, not six years after becoming a leader and you suck at it. However, we get very tactical when it comes to solving problems with training as the solution.

These are just a few examples of how businesses become very reactive to things and treat everything as a fire fighter versus a fire marshal. Living the advice of Lisa Hershman is very important for all of us.

Career Development Tactics

Career Development




Sometimes it’s good to confirm that you’re doing the right things.  I just attended a seminar from Walden University during my Residency where they talked about career development.  here is a short list of some of the key tactics that you should be doing:

  • Get published
  • Present at a conference
  • Assume a leadership role at work
  • Improve business processes
  • Volunteer for your professional association
  • Serve on a non-profit board
  • Develop a training manual

Getting published is pretty easy today with programs like CreateSpace and Smashwords.  You don’t even have to write a lot to publish something–just put together a short book on something you are good at.  Additionally, getting published can mean writing a blog like this.  WordPress is only one types of blogging sites that you can use for free.  Of course, getting published with short articles can happen with Yahoo or even magazines, to include professional journals if you follow the appropriate formats.

Presenting at a conference can be a bit difficult, but many local associations and organizations are often looking for presenters to share knowledge and experiences.  Building your skills through involvement with Toastmasters and college speech classes can help you become confident to speak in front of large groups.  After all, fear of speaking is the most predominate fear in humanity.

In regards to leadership at work, even if you are not in a leadership position, you can find opportunities to lead.  Many organizations have side organizations and special events that need leaders and those that don’t should–opportunity.  Step up to run the next office event, like holiday party, and look for opportunities to lead or at least participate on organization-wide cross-functional projects.  Doing this builds your skills as a leader, but also introduces you to many people at work that you may never interface with normally.

Everyone in their organization should have the mantra to improve the job your currently doing.  I have always focused on leaving my job better than I found it.  If you haven’t figured out that your job–I don’t care what it is–is a process, then you need to reexamine what you do everyday.  Everyone–even leaders have processes that they follow.  It’s understanding that you work in a process, detailing the process flow, and measuring the process is what leads you to improving the process.  If you haven’t improved what you do everyday, I would suggest that you don’t look elsewhere to improve other processes.

I am always a strong supporter of volunteering with both professional and non-professional organizations.  Again, like volunteering at work, this gives you opportunities to lead.  I would imagine that every profession has some type of professional association.  If there simply isn’t anything in your field, then now is the perfect opportunity for you to step up and create something.  A friend of mine and myself, even though there were other organizations related to our work, started a local professional organization called Continuous Improvement Professionals, which is now run by and aligned to University of Texas, San Antonio.  There are always ways.

As I said with volunteering, many nonprofits have senior-level boards that run the organization.  in many cases, you are not required to be an active member of the organization.  This can be a very rewarding experience.  I have served on the AFSA boards for many years as well as on a Parish Council and with a Make-A-Wish Board of Directors.

If you really want to leave a lasting memory in your organization, consider writing non-existing policies and training guides or manuals.  These tools last the test of times.  I have talked to people years later that still use training guides that I have built for different organizations and teams.  Additionally to providing much needed knowledge to your fellow employees, you also obtain a deeper level of understanding f what you are writing about.

These recommendations are all very good and ones that I have used for many years.  I definitely recommend anyone following them.

Continuous Improvement Development for Leadership and Professionals

Train your leaders first to change the culture

Oftentimes we get leadership support to an initiative to change the culture, but they don’t have the actual skills to implement the changes they’re supporting.  Before you can expect your front-line employees to live a culture of continuous improvement, you have to develop your leaders, managers, and professionals.  Everything we’ve discussed over the past six blogs have built to this.  See how building a culture of continuous improvement starts with developing leadership and professionals.


2011 Learning and Leadership Development Virtual Conference

I’m attending the 2011 Learning and Leadership Development Virtual Conference.  It’s going on in Boston and I’m attending from San Antonio.  Great startup and good presentations overall.  Looking forward to getting the presentations.  In January is the Workforce Planning Conference — they do five conferences a year.  Good stuff that really makes one think.

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