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.


Change Management Pet Peeves

Let’s face it, change management is hard enough as is. Some actions of professional adults can really make my head spin. I’m talking about the person that works so hard to derail the project, but in many ways often has so much to gain from it. If they would just put in the same level of effort to make it happen, it would get done twice as fast.

You know the type…

004-300x163They demand to be included in the change management effort, but refuse to come to any of the meetings or read any of the minutes and materials being created by those working hard to make the change a success. Then they come in several weeks later and they completely want to derail the effort by taking you back to the beginning and tell you that you what they think you haven’t done and what they think needs to be done.

Then there are those that simply want to revisit the very first points or relive how we got here at every meeting. They simply can’t move past that. They want everyone to endure hours of explanation of why it is the way it is today. Just when you think you have enough as-is, they want to add more the next meeting. They are stuck in the way it’s being done now.

There are those that use others as their excuse for slowing up progress. They say they are 100% behind the effort! but they need to protect their people. They use their bosses as scapegoats for their question, “Well, my boss has concerns and I’m just trying to get them out in the open.” All the while, you have socialized the change with leadership, who are 100% on board and their people are excited about the change. This is a typical middle management stance.

Then you have those that participate in the change effort, but take every opportunity to grandstand on topics that just prove how unsupportive they are of the entire organization. My recent example of this person was someone who passes themselves off as an expert, but isn’t even certified. Then he blames his lack of certification on the organization, not himself. Then states, he refuses to wear company logo items because the company doesn’t pay him to advertise for them. None of these things have anything to do with the project, but clearly demonstrate the need to remove someone from their current job.

Then you have the “I’ve already solved that,” group. These are the ones that get me the most. Everyone has spent hours defining what is wrong that needs to get changed. Suddenly, as you get down the road, someone who should have fixed the problem long ago, starts chiming in that they’ve already solved the problems that are being addressed. It’s almost always those that should have solved the problem in the first place. They have put some bandaid on the item or put a un-resourced plan in place to fix something and suddenly that isn’t a problem anymore. Basically, these people simply want you to move past these issues, because you’re highlighting their ineffectiveness up to this point.

Then you have the cheerleaders for the negative. These are the people that one-on-one are supportive and behind the effort. Then, you get in a meeting and one person speaks out against an idea and suddenly there they are cheering them on. What’s worse is when you have a room of cheerleaders, who individually tell you to your face they are behind you and then the first chance they get, they’re on you like a pack of starved dogs.

Nothing can be more frustrating than the inclusive disagreement. You bring certain people in on a change effort because you know they are going to be a problem and you really want their buy in. They come up with ideas and approaches that are pretty good. However, every time you adopt their idea or approach they turn around later and try to shoot it down. You make them inclusive to the solution, you accept their approach, and then they disagree. Here’s your cigarette and blindfold, let’s step out back.

Over the last six years I have been involved in many major change management efforts. These same people show up in every effort. I’m sure you’ve seen them. Dealing with the ones that simply flat out refuse to change, in my mind, are easy. These people above frustrate me to no end. These are the ones that pretend to your face that they are supportive and team players and then prove themselves wrong at every turn.

What’s worse is that I don’t think they even realize what they’re doing half the time. I recently had someone tell me how much they needed to be involved in the effort, but they hadn’t been to one meeting that we’ve had and never sent a delegate. I asked if the minutes and material were detailed enough to demonstrate what we we’re doing and if they’re keeping them informed and they simply said, “Oh, I haven’t read the minutes.” Then, after totally tearing down the meeting and the whole effort, they say that I need to add another person to the meeting in their place as a delegate and, half way through the meeting, they take a phone call and have to run off to another important meeting. Note: the meeting we were having was specifically set up for that person.

In all of these cases, this is where strong change leadership is key. When you have these type of people, you need your change leadership to step in and have a talk with these people. Like I said, in many ways, they are simply acting the way they have always acted. I’m sure that you can understand how the person in the above example could cause significant problems throughout an organization with that type of behavior. You know that is the way they operate every day and you’re project is just experiencing it for the first time.

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