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10 principles of operational excellence

The principles of operational excellence help you understand how business leaders promote a culture of continuous improvement by auditing and improving systemic processes. Apply these principles to your management style and optimize your processes

Invented by Japanese engineer Shigeo Shingo when he worked at Toyota, operational excellence is the concept of pursuing continuous improvements to your business processes to end up with seamless, near-autonomous daily operations. It’s important to remember that operational excellence is an ongoing endeavor. You’ll always be able to find a process or a task to optimize.

Operational excellence can sound like a vague term, and it can be unclear exactly how to achieve this. That’s why Shingo defined 10 core principles of operational excellence to guide fellow managers through the optimization process.

An infographic explaining the 10 principles of operational excellence

The principles of operational excellence are designed to get you thinking about the systems at work in your business and the way different processes interact. You want to avoid targeting your improvements towards specific workers and placing blame on individual performance. This is because no matter how skilled the employee, a flawed process will always produce a flawed result.

Though there is an order to the 10 principles of operational excellence, they’re not a sequence. You need to do all these things simultaneously, since each principle reinforces the rest. For example, leading with humility makes scientific thinking easier by encouraging employees to see themselves as collaborators rather than subordinates.

These principles aim to create a business culture where employees are encouraged and motivated to find the best way of producing results. They don’t outline a concrete process the way similar philosophies like Six Sigma or the Kaizen method do. Instead, operational excellence is a set of concepts that you can apply to your existing systems.

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