When striving for business excellence it is crucial to first ensure that the corporate and business strategies are based on business and customer needs. Strategies must always be aligned with the needs of the business and its customers in order to generate the necessary competitive advantages.
Secondly, when executing on the strategies and in order to foster business excellence, the executive must create the basis for turning the operational excellence levers (i.e. capabilities, structures, processes and systems) into enablers, for the organization to achieve its business goals.
The operational excellence levers
Additionally, it is crucial to ensure that appropriate resources are available to execute on the strategies and that individual business units are aligned to function as a cohesive whole, rather than trying to achieve excellence in silos.
“View the operational excellence levers as four water taps, where each of the taps must be continuously and carefully tuned to create the optimal water mix constituting the perfect operational platform to deliver on the strategies"
When the operational excellence levers - 1) structures, 2) capabilities 3) systems and 4) processes - are aligned with the overall strategy and embedded in strong values and a positive work culture, engagement from the organisation is also more easily achieved and often with stronger business output as a positive side effect. Essentially, the four operational excellence levers constitute the operational platform for any successful business and if clearly defined and transparent to the employees they can become the drivers of engagement and hence key to achieving business excellence.
For any executive, making structural decisions that support the execution of the strategies and actions are key. In its essence, it is about ensuring that the company’s four operational excellence levers, are tuned to continuously be in sync with the company’s market context and this requires the following three dynamic competencies to be activated by any executive, encompassing the ability to continuously:
1. sense opportunities and threats;
2. seize opportunities and meet threats;
3. reconfigure (or tune) the business’ operational excellence levers to stay in sync with the company’s market context and strategies. Essentially, this implies developing, changing or expanding the organization’s a) capabilities b) systems, c) processes and d) structures.
Companies that find themselves in rapidly evolving environments, such as companies in the Life Sciences space navigating game changing regulatory requirements, pricing pressures from payers, supply chain shortages and unprecedented events such as e.g. the COVI-19 pandemic, need to acknowledge that long-term success depends on the ability to continuously discover and develop opportunities (i.e. the sensing and seizing capabilities), and on effectively reconfiguring its resources – in effect, adjusting its operational excellence levers to match those opportunities. For companies to survive in the long run, growth must be on top of the agenda. However, the entire foundation of a growth platform rests on the dynamic competencies of its leaders, including their ability to:
Develop a deep understanding of the markets and identify unmet customer needs (i.e. sensing the market) (Teece, 2007).
Find – or seize – opportunities at the intersection of market needs and current/future resources of the company, and clustering these around a strategic platform.
Reconfigure existing operational excellence levers in order to execute efficiently on the seized opportunities.
It is not only the company’s payers, regulators or the supply chain that pose a threat to the competitive advantage of a Life Science company, so does the mismanagement of internal dynamic competencies and ability to ensure that the company’s four operational excellence levers, are tuned to deliver on the strategies while being continuously in sync with the company’s market context. In other words, leaders of today must possess skills in sensing the risks and opportunities of the business, seizing the right opportunities, while avoiding the mission-distracting risks and reconfiguring the capabilities, structures, systems and processes of the company, with the objective of keeping their organization in an evolutionary fit.