Judging secrets from OPEX week.

Nina Muhleisen | 7 March 2018


Cultural change was hot at the 2018 Operational Excellence week in Orlando. Going back to judge, it was definitely different to last year. The world is changing and instead of talking about concepts and the occasional case study (think Uber and Netflix), the conversation has moved to, how do we get on board and it is exciting! This year I was asked to judge on one of my biggest passions, the most Innovative approach to Cultural Change. The topic is so relevant to today’s environment, where most of the businesses we work in needing to make significant change to survive and I am going to share with you some of the secrets and tips to making that change successful and getting you and your company closer to winning the award.

The pace at which the world and our working environments is changing is already common language, and the majority of the presentations at OPEX week were about assisting our businesses to keep up with the rate of growth and transformation that is required. Tony Salander stated in his Keynote speech, that the technology that is creating the change such as Artificial Intelligence is already here, we just need to become comfortable with it and create the user cases. Similarly Martijn Gribnau from Genworth said the technology that is available has the possibility to provide meaningful solutions, but we first need to educate our people on how to do things differently. We are hearing these great ideas but embedding them in your business after the 5 days at OPEX are over, well that is really where the fun starts and what the most Innovative approach to Cultural Change highlights.

Without giving away all the the judging secrets, we want to see companies who are taking on that challenge. How are you stepping back and opening your eyes to the different opportunities that are available? For every industry the impacts are going to vary, but the approaches and core requirements are the same. Now these approaches do not have to be focused on technology. To be innovative you don’t need the latest greatest app or AI running your recruitment process, so you don’t hire people who don’t fit the culture in the first place (although that technology is super cool!). This transformation needs fundamental cultural change and that doesn’t just happen if you run a Hackathon or implement a new system… I think we have all figured that one out now.  Do your people have the capability to work in new ways? Providing your team with the training and support is essential. So how are you thinking differently and how are you bringing your people along that journey as well?

Now you are thinking well hey I am doing that, I have a chance. Excellent!!! The next question, is this change sustainable? Or is this just another initiative that will die with the latest CEO? The answer to this will go back to the core of the company. Why is it that you want to make the change in the first place? Afterall, none of this is easy. As I sit here and write I reflect back on my past experiences; there are cases were we have won the sustainability battle, we have had excellent sponsorship but more than that everyone had a clear understanding of why it was important changing the mindset, where innovation wasn’t an addition to their job or someone else’s, it was part of everyone’s jobs. I have also had times when it has been like I was continuously fighting a losing battle. The business wasn’t ready for what it needed to do and therefore bringing people along is near impossible, and on these occasions you are celebrating the small wins to keep going.  But to make that last difference, that change needs to be sticky. But what’s the point of the difficulty of change if you are not adding value for your customer?

And this is my last little tip and one I imagine is a fairly obvious one. What are your measures of success? We know this is the age of the customer and our actions need to show significant transformation in the way you do business, making tomorrow better than today!

The experience of the OPEX awards is excellent with so much to learn from both sides of the judging panel. As I read over the submissions and listen to people talk, it makes me excited about the things that we are achieving. So ask yourself and your teams the questions; do your teams have a clear direction? are you building the right culture? and are you ensuring they have the capability for success? If you can answer – I guarantee you, you’ll be on the way to success.