The Evil Twin Of Operational Excellence

Posted on October 3, 2013 by Costas Papaikonomou

Operational Excellence – the mantra that came into fashion in the early nineties of the previous century and one that is still fanatically preached across the globe. This is the world of Lean, Six Sigma, 5s, TQM. It assumes businesses thrive by being operationally perfect.

Paradoxically, many of the process superstars that grew to dominate their markets through Operational Excellence have fallen prey to its stillborn twin: Systemic Inertia. In a quest to raise profitability and short term reward, companies everywhere have been over-optimizing their business processes and ignoring an ancient planning truth: plan 80% with rigor and cunning, then leave 20% flexible for the Unpredictable. Scary stuff, because it requires reserving expensive resources that may end up not being used at all. Even worse, it may be abused in the most anti-operational horror known to process designers: improvisation.

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