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Operational excellence needs more than just a checklist

Eddie McCullough, Senior Vice President – Operations, DEKRA Organisational Reliability Ltd.
Eddie McCullough, Senior Vice President – Operations, DEKRA Organisational Reliability Ltd.

The journey toward operational excellence is the destination.

Clarity about what operational excellence means is essential for organisations wishing to incorporate it.

When searching for a definition, however, it is important to keep in mind that it is less a concept and more a practice.

It cannot be captured in a checklist but relies on a dynamic combination of process management and company culture.


Organisations in different industries strive for “operational excellence” with good reason. When deployed effectively, it can have transformational results.

However, it isn’t easy to arrive at a simple definition of operational excellence, and without a clear idea of what it means, how can an organisation hope to embody it?

One reason for the difficulty is that operational excellence is not static. It is action-based, rooted in execution and upheld or undermined each time an individual performs a task.

The dynamic nature of operational excellence stems from the constant interaction of its two component parts: systematic process management and culture.


To successfully practice operational excellence, an organisation must manage its business and operational processes systematically and invest in developing a culture characterised by integrity and teamwork.

Taking a closer look at operational discipline, a key component of operational excellence, reveals how process management and culture constantly interact.

Operational discipline, put simply, is “doing the right thing, the right way, every time”.

In the context of operational discipline, “doing the right thing” presupposes that the “right thing” has been accurately determined through solid process management and that the person doing it understands not only the “what”, but also the “why”.

Similarly, doing something the “right way” implies that there is a proper way to carry out the task and, moreover, that the person involved is committed to following this protocol out of respect for their role, a sense of accountability and a belief in the integrity of the organisation.

Finally, maintaining the consistency suggested by “every time” requires an inquiring mind that does not take a positive outcome for granted.

Such an attitude is easier to cultivate within a collaborative culture that values problem solving and continuous improvement.


Rather than something to attain or achieve, operational excellence is something we do when we combine well-crafted tools, processes and practices with an advocacy mindset that views our actions as meaningful and important.

At Dekra, we help our clients create a culture of care that goes beyond compliance and beyond continuous improvement models.

We champion a values and people-based approach grounded in science to teach the skills and practice of operational excellence.

Dekra Organisational Reliability is a behavioural change consultancy. Working in collaboration with our clients, our approach is to influence the safety culture with the aim of making a difference.

We deliver the skills, methods and motivation to change leadership attitudes, behaviours and decision-making among employees.

Measurable sustainable improvement of safety outcomes is our goal.

We are a service unit of DEKRA SE, a global leader in safety since 1925 with more than 39,000 employees in 50 countries.

For more informationvisit

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