McClaskey on Five Signs of Operational Excellence

David McClaskey, president of Pal’s Business Excellence Institute, recently provided the Tri-Cities TN/VA Business Journal with insight on 5 observable signs that indicate operational excellence in a company or organization for the  July 2010 edition.   Can you observe these signs in your workplace?

Operational Excellence: Five Signs that Indicate Its There

By David J. McClaskey, President, Pal’s Business Excellence Institute (BEI)

Operational excellence is often overlooked as a way to create sustainable growth.  Many companies think the key to growth is the next marketing campaign or new product or service.  Without operational excellence these one hit wonders play out and are not a viable route to create sustained organization growth.   Pal’s Sudden Service is a proven example of how operational excellence produces not only delighted, loyal customers but also sustained profitable growth.  And Pal’s does this at a fraction of the marketing budget of national chains.  Based on Pal’s and other world-class practices, we have developed a list of 5 signs of operational excellence. This is one of many sources of key knowledge and practices that we provide to our Pal’s BEI customers to help them improve.  I would like to share them with you.

 1.  The workforce is always busy doing productive work. 

A customer of Pal’s BEI, who won this year’s State of Texas Quality Award, reduced this sign to a phrase to help communicate it to their employees:  “If you got time to lean; you got time to clean.”  No standing around here.  Do employees do productive work even when they do not have a customer to serve or an urgent job that has to be done right then?  One action to help create such a culture is to set as an explicit expectation during hiring to “always be busy doing the most productive work you can do”, unless you are on a designated break and then set an environment where that is what they see happening.  The day goes by faster; more gets done; customers are better served, costs are lower, and employees are generally more rather than less satisfied.

 2.  Supervisor or first level manager does not have to issue many orders.

 When employees are well trained and enabled to carry out their jobs, and the workplace is designed so employees can see what needs to be done, supervisors generally do not have to issue a lot of orders.

 3.  Service flow is fast but not hectic. 

When you watch the workflow, there is not a lot of running around.  There is little wasted motions.  This is the case at all volume levels. You certainly see a lot of cases where the work flow is good when business is slow, but then gets all chaotic and muddled when business starts to peak.  Hints for doing this include having well-balanced workstations and having employees well trained in standardized processes.

 4.  Hard to find waste.

In most businesses, it only takes minutes to find non-value adding activities and other forms of waste.  Waste like overproduction, defects, delays, rework, excessive inventory, people and product movements that are not essential, and underutilized people.  All of this waste cost you money and usually causes you to have worse customer service.  Designing jobs so defects are caught were they are produced and are not passed on to the next station is one big key to reducing waste.

 5.  All employees focused on their customer’s and their customer’s experience.

I travel a lot helping organization’s use performance excellence to improve.  Last week, at the Cincinnati airport, I went out to catch the van from the airport terminal to rental car place.  I walked out the door to see the van driving away.  But the driver looked back and then circled around to pick me up.  He said he always looked back because he knew how aggravating it was to just miss the van and then have to wait for the next one. Now, that is having your head in the game.  You see over and over service providers who are watching out for the customer and those that are just going through their paces.  A culture of putting customers first that is role modeled by all managers and leaders is an important key to making this happen.

 I hope these signs are useful for you. Try them out in the next business you enter, or better yet, look around your own business. Want to learn more?  Want to learn how to make it happen, not sometimes but every time? Want to see world-class management in action? We would love to have you come to a Pal’s BEI class (  There is nothing like a well-informed, motivated managers and leaders to make a difference.