The story of my life, I would hope to say, is not all that complicated. Just like that of many others, I guess!

I try.

I win some points.

I lose many others.

And I try again, changing tactic, experimenting through new ways for approaching situations I find myself in! Possibly the journey through my survival process, across the years! I also believe that many other individuals, in some way or other, work their way through a similar approach. I presume that in fact I adopt this mindset across both my personal life, as well as my professional side.

As part of my job, I have possibly always found myself occupying roles that in some way or other related to the finding ways ‘for doing things in a better way’.

This conviction, most likely, began as an integral part of my first real job: they called me an R&D Engineer back then. I was a very small element within a large corporation – a great learning experience, I must say. I eventually found my way through occupying more senior and leadership corporate and consultancy roles within the more strategic aspects, together with the systematic and the operational optimisation of processes, products and services.

Being so deeply immersed with this attitude, it goes without saying that instances deviating from the ideal get immediately flagged in my mind. And I seem never to fall short of being exposed to so many such cases!

…just this morning, a handyman calling in for some odd upgrade at home, turned up without the correct tools in hand! Resulting in him having to go fetch some new tools from a nearby hardware store. Costing him well over an hour of his time (not to mention the purchase cost of similar tools that he possibly already owns a few variants of in his workshop on the other side of the Islands!). With this ‘non-value-added activity’ taking place before he could actually get the job started, I will not tell you of other similar cases throughout the rest of his ‘work’ day! To my mind: sheer lack of planning, resulting in operational waste, frustration, and negativity as a general experience!

There are so many more such stories to tell, across diverse situations!

Optimise, improve and perform

The intricacies of understanding the level of readiness for an organisation which is about to embark on the route to optimise are what they are. I have no intention to delve into that fathom-deep ocean at this stage.

The message I would like to extract at this stage is the clarification of a basic ploy: optimisation. The conquest of seeking tangible actions necessary to enable an organisation (or part of it, at least!) to better its performance. To improve its operational elements. To out-perform on its deliverables’ service and product level commitments.

A key factor that may be the door-opener to such improvement tactics is nothing more than the formulation of a mindset for ‘innovation’.

‘Innovation’, a misinterpreted word?

I am no linguistic professional. But I do tend to find the need to clarify and align our understanding of this word. Let us set ourselves on the same wavelength when we speak of innovation.

Innovation is about thinking of different ways for doing something. By ‘different’, I possibly would imply either a change in the way we traditionally do things, or possibly a new approach for doing things. If this ‘different way of doing things’ does in fact lead to better outcomes, then I would possibly relate this to innovation.

Innovation does not (only) belong to universities, research centres, institutions, and high-end industrial organisations, some with diverse accessibilities for funds to their disposal.

Within our own function, organisation and business, we can instigate an appetite for innovation, at all levels. We can actually be the motor that instils the right energy, a movement, the empowerment, and an appetite for people (…and the brains that come with them!), at all levels within the company, to think. Encourage your colleagues to experiment diligently, to try out different (innovative!) ways of doing things.  Let them explore outcomes. Such an energy level is expected to create a learning and sharing experience amongst peers.

A change that has not worked well needs to be shared, to create more learning experiences. Just as much as a modification that has rendered beneficial outcomes needs to be shared.

Our people need to feel safe at trying different ways of doing things. Therefore, instigating a culture for innovating. The trick question is on our capability for managing this energy in some sensible manner, without suffocating it in the first place.

To my mind, therefore, seeking to embark on the route to operational excellence (a term generally abbreviated to ‘OpEx’) is therefore tightly bound to innovation.

Developing and deploying workable strategies on the route towards OpEx within our organisation must therefore promote, enable and nurture an innovative mindset.

Connecting capabilities

Being a firm believer of Aristotle’s quote: “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, and as a direct outcome of my work, I generally find myself in need to bring together different expertise and capabilities in order to get tangible results delivered.

As discussed above, with the premise that Operational Excellence and Innovation are strongly related, it goes without saying, that there needs to be some kind of functional framework for creating synergies amongst different entities, organisations and individuals. An environment that facilitates the bringing together of expertise to yield greater and more powerful outcomes.

There may already be some kind of available frameworks, albeit possibly being functionally fragmented. Such disjointing in available systems may actually hinder the smooth functioning of much needed collaborative and synergised networks.

Let us get together and leverage on each other’s strengths to go greater things. I do believe that the great philosopher’s quote from almost 2,500 years ago does carry some value, after all!

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