You Say Process Excellence, She Says Operational Excellence, I Say…

You say Process Excellence, she says Operational Excellence, I say Performance Excellence.

Are we all talking about the same thing?

It’s a question that’s been swirling around the back of my mind for a while. I’ve now attempted to answer it in a presentation which I’ve uploaded to Slideshare here.

What triggered me to finally put some effort into addressing it was the passionate response last week (by Paul Harmon of BP Trends) to those who want to change the meaning of the term ‘business architecture’.  In the world of business process management, there’s a struggle between those who argue the benefits of a discipline based on a common language and the revisionists who argue that in a fast-changing world we can’t be hostage to ‘disciplines’ and ‘bodies of knowledge’  which are no longer relevant.  [Personally, I tend towards the revisionists. In order to pass my exam and become an OMG Certified Business Process Management Professional last week, I had to answer questions on books and documents published mostly a decade ago.  At a time of rapid change, there’s a real downside to formalisation.]

Anyway, by contrast and on the same day, a Linkedin discussion How Does Your Organization Define Process Excellence? popped into my inbox. To my surprise, the 20k+ members of the PEX Network Lean and Six Sigma Continuous Improvement group seemed to lack any real consensus (almost two years after the question was first asked).

As you’ll see from the slides, I’ve compiled a selection of 33 definitions of Process, Operational And Performance Excellence. This is just a sample of the available definitions, and excludes (because life’s too short) closely related terms such as ‘Business Excellence’ and ‘Business Process Excellence’.

My own conclusions are that:

  • there is no widely-shared standard definition for each term
  • the myriad definitions for each term hugely overlap
  • process excellence and operational excellence are effectively the same thing
  • arguably performance excellence is more clearly defined, by the Malcolm Baldrige Award criteria, and slightly more extensive.

Anyway, I hope you find it useful – and I’d be very interested to get your feedback (below or direct).

Next up, I’m planning to look next at the various process maturity models, to explore a related question: what are the differences in the evaluation frameworks?  If you’d like to join me in that, I’d be pleased to hear from you.

Related Posts

26 Sep 2013   Process Excellence: Is The Party Over?

19 Sep 2013   What Process Excellence Looks Like In 2020 

2 thoughts on “You Say Process Excellence, She Says Operational Excellence, I Say…

  1. Interesting post, I agree with you that we are all talking about the same thing, and ironically for process improvers we have no agreed standards on this….but we need them, else we are not walking the talk we use with customers!

    • True! Tristan Boutros and Tim Purdie’s Process Improvement Handbook has as one of its objectives exactly that: the creation of a common language for process improvement. I suspect though that universal agreement is impossible. So what really matters is whether is a shared understanding and common language within each organization (and its partners). Without that, everyone’s going around in circles.

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