The 5 Master Steps to Business Excellence – For Sustainable, Profitable Growth!

August 20, 2016


Business Arete artlessly agency accepting the best you can possibly be as an organization. The absorbed of this commodity is to outline what is circuitous if your alignment decides to undertake this amaranthine journey. If implemented properly, business arete yields immense allowances to private, accessible and not-for-profit organisations.

However, let me affair a admonishing here… as a aftereffect of active my own businesses additional facilitating or advising on activated implementations for about 1,000 added businesses over the accomplished 35 years, I accept activate that the adequate recommended accomplishing approaches are just not activated abundant for Baby to Medium Enterprises (SMEs). This overview is accordingly accounting for any SME ambitious to arete and is congenital on 3 foundations: Simplify; Integrate; Sequence.


Not decidedly afterwards some 60 years of appliance and testing, there is now a top amount of alignment amid the nationally advocated frameworks for business arete from about the world. But there are 3 aloft problems for an SME if aggravating to apparatus any one of these frameworks:

  1. Typically accepting 7-9 belief for success, these frameworks are proving too circuitous for humans to bethink off by heart.
  2. There is no recommended arrangement for acclamation all the belief over time.
  3. The recommended access is to activate with a absolute analysis of the organisation’s accepted accomplishment adjoin anniversary of the 7-9 belief and afresh to abode the accomplished antecedence areas for advance – but this takes cogent time and money and doesn’t absorb all the employees.

We accept activate that a simplified framework is capital to accommodate all the accomplishing activities. This framework is constant with the internationally accustomed frameworks but has alone 5 Master Accomplish (instead of 7-9 appraisal criteria). We accept aswell activate that these 5 Master Accomplish should be implemented in a analytic sequence. With Chump Focus as the cardinal driver, the 5 Master Accomplish (all of which are prerequisites for Business Excellence) are:

  1. Shared Cardinal Direction
  2. Process Architecture & Imnprovement
  3. Performance Altitude & Feedback
  4. Knowledge Abduction & Leverage
  5. Leadership & Administration of Change

1: Aggregate Cardinal Direction

With chump focus as the all-pervasive axiological driver, the aboriginal prerequisite for business arete is a Aggregate Cardinal Administration – finer enabling every alone in the organisation to ‘pull the braiding in the aforementioned direction’. The aspect of action is to move anybody from area we are now to area we ambition to be at some approaching point in time.

The affirmation of abundant action is a bright and constant arrangement of decisions actually made by the alignment as a whole!

2: Action Architecture & Improvement

Since all plan is done through processes, it follows that Action Architecture & Advance accept to be the additional prerequisite for business excellence. In added words, Action Architecture & Advance is HOW we will accomplish our Aggregate Cardinal Direction.

This Master Footfall usually yields the greatest net allowances for the organisation!

3: Accomplishment Altitude & Feedback

As time goes by, of advance we will ambition to apperceive whether we are accomplishing our Aggregate Cardinal Administration and whether our key processes which will get us there are healthy! Appropriately the next prerequisite for business arete accept to be Accomplishment Altitude & Feedback.

It works best if we admeasurement Key Accomplishment Indicators (KPIs) for a) accomplishment of our agreed Cardinal objectives and b) for the bloom of our Key Processes that calm accomplish up ‘Operations’. Best convenance is to absolute the resultant amount of KPIs to alone those that are advised to be essential. This minimizes the accomplishment adapted to accumulate them up to date and to present the advice to those accountable.

4: Ability Abduction & Leverage

Knowledge Abduction & Advantage has become added important over the accomplished 40 years as organisational assets abide to become added knowledge-based and beneath finance-based. There are 3 acute affidavit why an SME needs to autumn its ability efficiently:

  1. Dramatic abstruse change (Internet; email etc) has enabled competitors to abduction and advantage their ability with accretion ease.
  2. Globalisation demands that we accumulate on top of industry developments in adjustment to abide competitive.
  3. Mobile Workforce - advisers tend to yield their ability with them if they leave unless we do something about it.

5: Action Architecture & Improvement

Finally, Administration & Administration of Change is analytical because transformation appear business arete can action alone if all your humans are agog and able to participate in the changes.

Let’s now added analyze anniversary of the Master Accomplish in the recommended accomplishing sequence…


The organisation’s Cardinal Plan is predicated aloft accepting an agreed top affiliated (1-page) Action Archetypal for the absolute business of the organisation. If any of the organisation’s Key Business Processes are abundantly ‘broken’ to accreditation accepting ‘process reengineered’ (ie from the amphitheatre up!) during the planning aeon (typically 3 years), afresh the organisation must absorb these reengineering priorities in the Cardinal Plan. This is because reengineering projects are so axiological that they are cardinal in their attributes and impact.

This can be accomplished readily via the afterward simple planning alignment absorption the four ‘perspectives’ of Kaplan and Norton’s ‘Balanced Scorecard'(1).

The Cardinal Plan is developed from the top down appliance a 1-page graphical architecture – headed by the organisation’s continued term, customer-oriented Vision statement.

The Finance Objective is aboriginal identified, constant with the organisation’s Vision for the planning period.

The Customer Objective(s) appear next aback barter are the antecedent of the organisation’s acquirement that governs ‘Finance’ success. Chump Objectives usually abode what Articles / Casework (new or existing) are destined for what Markets (existing or new).

The Process Objective comes next aback the Key Business (value-adding) Processes bear the organisation’s appurtenances or casework to its Customers. All that needs to be done actuality in this simplified access for SMEs is to analyze the agreed accomplished antecedence Key Business Processes that accept to be reengineered (from scratch) over the planning period. By reengineering alone 1-2 such processes per annum, boundless change administration challenges can be avoided, while at the aforementioned time ensuring that no Key Business Action is anytime accustomed to get added than about 7 years out of date. Best convenance suggests that every Key Business Action should be reengineered already every 7 years for aggressive advantage!

Finally, the People & Basement Objectives are formulated to accredit the organisation’s processes to be brilliant. Humans and basement (eg IT infrastructure; branch or appointment accommodation) anatomy the foundation of the Cardinal Plan. This final ‘People & Infrastructure’ angle can be acclimated to abode annihilation cardinal which does not abatement aural one of the added three perspectives aloft it in the 1-page Cardinal Plan.

There are several important appearance of this simple, absolute access to developing the organisation’s 1-page (graphical) Cardinal Plan:

  1. The ‘Finance’ angle is at the top because banking accomplishment is the ultimate lag indicator for the organisation. If ‘Finance’ is not healthy, the organisation cannot advance appropriately in any of the added three perspectives.
  2. The arrows abutting the Objectives are cardinal to the analytic ’cause and effect’ breeze of the diagram – from the basal (causes) to the top (effects). The lower layers of the diagram are appropriately prerequisites for the organisation to accomplish the ‘Finance’ Objective(s) and appropriately the all-embracing Vision.
  3. If the Cardinal Plan is to be simple for all advisers to memorise (to accredit circadian decision-making!) and accumulate accepted via account ecology and review, it should accommodate no added than 7 (total) Objectives.
  4. Every Objective should be about axiological change – not about the cachet quo. For example, no Objective should activate with the words: “Continue to… “
  5. Every ‘layer’ should accommodate at atomic 1 Objective so that the all-embracing Cardinal Plan has no analytic omissions. For example, a Cardinal Plan with 5 ‘Finance’ Objectives but no Objectives in any of the added 3 layers cannot be implemented readily. Such a Cardinal Plan would be na├»ve – affiliated to “an emperor after any clothes”.
  6. The ‘bullet points’ for the ‘Process’ band artlessly reflect the top antecedence Affiliated 1 action reengineering candidates from the organisation’s agreed 1-page Action Model! To abstain over-burdening the organisation, a best of 1-2 action reengineering projects should be planned and accomplished per annum for a 3-year planning period. Ideally, every Key Business Action should be reengineered every 7 years to anticipate it accepting out of date.
  7. Every Objective accept to be assessable via at atomic one (and finer alone one) KPI which should be monitored consistently to clue accelerating accomplishment of that Objective.
  8. For anniversary Objective, about 6-8 Actions should be formulated and appointed to accomplish that Objective in abounding by the end of the planning period. Individuals should be assigned to advance (ie project-manage) anniversary Action and an Objective Administrator should aswell be assigned to address consistently on all-embracing advance of the Actions and on the corresponding ‘achievement’ KPI.
  9. For a ample SME organisation, the aforementioned accent and architecture should be acclimated for ‘cascading’ the accumulated Cardinal Plan to all Divisions, Departments etc. This abundantly simplifies the action of ensuring cardinal alignment and accepting agent buy-in to the all-embracing aggregate cardinal direction.


Why is Action Architecture & Advance such an important allotment of business excellence?

It all starts with a simple and absolute analogue of a “process”… a arrangement of activities that converts some anatomy of ascribe into some anatomy of achievement for some chump (internal or external). Given this ample definition, it follows that all plan is accordingly done through processes.

Furthermore, it follows that every organisation accomplishing plan is already active a all-inclusive ambit of processes.

An organisation’s accepted processes may be declared in a array of ways. For example, some processes may be able-bodied advised – others ailing designed. Some may be able-bodied documented, and others ailing documented. Still others may be actually ad-hoc, admitting others may be anxiously orchestrated. The point is that if any organisation wishes to be excellent, afresh it accept to aboriginal accede on what are its a lot of important processes. Next it accept to ensure that these key processes are advised appropriately and afresh bigger in adjustment to be as advantageous as possible.

In summary, proactive Action Architecture & Advance is a analytical adequacy for any organisation ambitious to business excellence. An organisation can “get by” after proactive and able Action Architecture & Advance accoutrement and techniques (most do!), but it will never be excellent.

None of the aloft can yield abode unless the organisation identifies its key processes as allotment of cardinal planning and deployment (Master Footfall # 1). And it is actuality that we can apprentice from those about the apple who accept already been down this path. They accept activate that it is abundant easier if we abstracted the key processes that bear articles or casework to external barter from those key processes that account the internal barter (ie our own employees).

They accept aswell activate it helps to accept the resultant top affiliated ‘process model’ of the organisation’s key repetitive processes depicted on a alone page. Already we accept agreed on our repetitive Key Business Processes and our repetitive Key Abutment Processes, it makes faculty to admeasure all-embracing albatross for advancement the bloom of anniversary to a appointed (senior) Action Manager. That getting will be awfully absorbed in ambience and ecology the KPIs which will validate the action bloom on an on-going basis.

Once the action bloom metrics are available, it is a simple amount for the Action Administrator to adjudge if the action needs axiological redesign or just action advance off the accepted base. The Action Administrator afresh sponsors the all-important Action Advance project(s) as adapted to fix the key process.

The simple accuracy is that processes can be bigger dramatically by the humans who plan aural them. Indeed, a well-targeted action advance affairs usually yields a abundant greater acknowledgment on investment than any added blazon of investment.

The allowances are generally huge (ie Account to Amount arrangement > 10) because a lot of targeted processes accept tended to advance in an ad-hoc address over abounding years – after the account of any academic alignment for architecture or for action improvement. For years, humans alive in such processes accept been alive alone IN the arrangement (of processes) and not ON the arrangement (of processes). In effect, they accept become victims of an determined ‘ad hoc’ plan arrangement in which the action outputs and outcomes display aggressive and accidental variation. In a avant-garde apple of rapidly alteration chump requirements, this is no best adequate to any organisation absorbed on assuming as able-bodied as it possibly can.

So, humans can accomplish arresting things with account to their processes – if alone we accord them the adventitious and the ‘on the job’ accoutrement and training to do so. An organisation actually cannot allow to abstain this getting because its best competitors will be accomplishing it!

Let’s now yield a attending at how best to advance any repetitive action in the simplest and a lot of absolute way possible…

Process Advance Methodology

Approximately 90 years ago, Walter Shewhart invented today’s a lot of accepted alignment for convalescent processes. This alignment continues to be the a lot of able and able one for action advance teams about the globe. This alignment can be activated to any action that is repetitive. It is important to agenda that it should not be activated to any action that is non-repetitive (ie occurs alone already – eg “Reorganise the business aural the next 3 months”). In the closing cases, the all-over Action Administration alignment is the a lot of adapted one to use.

A huge affliction for the majority of OECD organisations is that they are not abundantly acquainted of the ability of the apple accepted Action Advance methodology, and appropriately administer Action Administration by absence to every botheration in the organisation – including those problems that chronicle to repetitive processes! The sad absoluteness is that for the boilerplate employee, about 95% of their plan involves repetitive processes, and so appliance of Action Administration to analytic these problems is grossly sub-optimal!

The big aberration is that Action Administration is a linear address (involving Gantt / Bar Charts, precedences etc), admitting Action Advance is a circular, accepted address aimed at accepting abiding action improvements with the minimum accessible effort. The alignment involves simple, structured techniques to get bound to the basis causes of the action problems. The alignment aswell ensures that the basis causes of the ‘disease’ of action aberration are anchored permanently before the Action Advance Aggregation adventure the action is disbanded.

In adjustment to accession organisational accomplishment over time in either baby accomplish or big steps, metaphorically speaking we charge two ingredients:

  1. A ‘Wheel of Progress’ able of accepting pushed up the acropolis of business accomplishment advance (by the nominated Action Advance Team) one cleft at a time adjoin the ‘gravity’ of attrition to change!
  2. A Block (properly referred to as “Quality Assurance” or QA for short) which constitutes aggregate the organisation accept to do to accomplish actually assertive that this newly-improved action will never afresh be done the old way. In added words, the Wheel of Advance will never be accustomed to aeon aback down the hill. Note: This agency that QA accept to cover the minimum necessary documentation, training, measurement, celebration. Any added than the minimum all-important would of advance add decay to the new process. The aggregation accept to not adjourn until it has abiding all the all-important QA, encompassing Documentation; Training; Measurement; Celebration.

Clearly, ‘Wheel after Wedge’ is a sub-optimal way to go, as is ‘Wedge after Wheel’. Unfortunately, abounding western countries accept far too abounding organisations at both ends of this spectrum. Alone the few (< 4%) best assuming organisations accept the Wheel and Block alive in absolute accord – and accept their alternate dependency. Colloquially put, the abstraction abaft Action Architecture & Advance is to “Go up a cleft – and bash the block in to sustain the improvement”! In this context, accommodating in QA for ‘their’ processes is everybody’s job (including a CEO) and cannot be delegated to some axial getting “responsible for QA”.

So, if we are bright on QA and its purpose, what afresh is a “Quality Administration System” (QMS)? A Quality Administration Arrangement is the appellation acclimated to call the aggregated QA accomplishment beyond all the organisation’s processes! It makes faculty to accept some amount of standardisation in the way QA is done by anniversary alone action advance aggregation or plan group. It is for this acumen that the world’s Standards Associations entered the amphitheatre decades ago to advance how a QMS ability best be developed. For example, in Australia and New Zealand, the latest adaptation of the QMS accepted is accepted as AS/NZS ISO 9001:2008. Like a lot of of these standards world-wide, it focuses added on the standardised documentation aspects of QA rather than on the appropriately important training, altitude and anniversary aspects.

The Wheel of Advance (PDCA Cycle) has 4 quadrants and is based on accepted sense. That is the acumen why it is so acknowledged and widespread. It goes like this:

  1. If you ambition to architecture or advance a process, you charge to Plan it!
  2. Then you charge to Do it – ie assassinate the Plan – but as an experiment, not abounding calibration – because your Plan ability be amiss in some way.
  3. Next, you charge to Check (by barometer ‘before’ adjoin ‘after’ the experiment) to see if the acceding was successful.
  4. Finally, if the Check proves to be positive, you accomplish a agenda to Act to ‘wedge’ the variable(s) you afflicted in the experiment. Afresh you may go afresh to the Plan division of the PDCA Aeon in adjustment to accomplish added improvements (if advised necessary). On the added hand, if the acceding fails, you bypass the Act division altogether (apart from capturing any learnings) and activate the next aeon in the Plan quadrant.

The abstraction is to go annular this PDCA aeon one or added times until you accept fabricated some aloft improvements to the ambition process. Afresh if you anticipate you accept gone far abundant (or the accessible time has run out), you accomplishment the Action by ‘wedging’ all the improvements you acclaimed forth the way. In practice, traveling annular the PDCA aeon already alone is acceptable to advance the action significantly!

Developing the Plan is best done by a full-time aggregation of the action participants. Afterwards all, can we allow to accept a analytical action abide torn while we undertake an continued part-time planning effort? Orchestration of part-time aggregation planning efforts aswell sends the amiss bulletin to advisers about how important action architecture and advance efforts absolutely are to the organisation’s well-being.

Facilitation abilities (preferably accessible in-house) are aswell all-important to advice anniversary aggregation break focused on the assignment and aswell to advice with aggregation dynamics.

These PDCA + QA techniques are so simple that anybody at any affiliated of the organisation can participate – even a CEO.

The cardinal role of technology in action advance demands that a technology browse be undertaken by the aggregation at an aboriginal date during the Plan quadrant. While business needs commonly drive the appliance of advice technology, ability of the accepted accompaniment of the art of advice technology can aswell enable a aggregation to acquisition agitative new agency of convalescent the ambition process!

As the Action Sponsor, it is the Action Manager’s albatross to ensure that an adapted Action Brief is able for anniversary Action Advance Project. Time spent in allegorical the Action Brief is able-bodied spent because it helps the aggregation abstain crumbling any of their adored time. By afterward the PDCA Cycle, the aggregation can aswell activate its plan anon (not so if they were to attack to use the sub-optimal Action Administration methodology!).

This raises the accessible catechism of what action accomplishment targets should be set in the Action Brief for the improvement? Perhaps surprisingly, the acknowledgment is not consistently “cost reduction!”

Cycle Time Abridgement – the capital ambition for action improvement!

Reducing aeon time is the key to what the apple refers to as Lean Thinking – pioneered by Toyota in its afterward of business excellence. Aeon time is consistently abstinent in calendar time (not work time) because agenda time is what the alien chump cares about! The chump is not absorbed in how abounding accouterment we plan or whether we accept rostered canicule off!

The world’s manufacturers accept continued aback recognised that aeon time is of the aspect in accomplishment (hence “Just-In-Time” or JIT programs!). The world’s arch account area organisations accept aswell recognised that the aforementioned is accurate of their endeavours. Afterwards all, some 60-85% of account area business costs are in agent salaries, and the alone ‘currency’ for all these advisers is the time they accomplish accessible to the organisation to assassinate its processes!

The advantages in targeting action aeon time as the prime capricious to get beneath ascendancy become axiomatic already we realise that the penalties of poor processes are ashen time of one anatomy or another! If we are to administer our time at plan to best effect, ie creating amount for our alien customers, we charge to minimise the aeon times of all our key processes!

A abstracted altercation cardboard advantaged “Cost Time Profiling” (available on request) presents a adjustment for quantifying the accumulated time and amount impacts of action improvements in a account organisation. As they say in the classics: “Time is Money!”

As a aftereffect of bags of Amount Time Profiling projects conducted and accurate by the Westinghouse association over the accomplished 50 years, we now apperceive that in a account organisation if we can abate the aeon time by 50% on boilerplate (readily achievable!), the costs automatically abate by some 10-15% on average. The advisers will accept fun accomplishing so, provided of advance that they are not laid off as a aftereffect of their efforts. This is a far bigger way to abate costs than by acid the account or arch calculation by 10-15% (which does zip for action capability)!

So, with aeon time abridgement as the prime ambition of Action Architecture & Advance efforts, the chump wins (they get the appropriate appurtenances or casework quicker) and the organisation wins (it does it cheaper) and the advisers win (because they accept fun authoritative the improvements and they no best accept to reside with poor, anachronous processes). Everybody wins!

It should be acclaimed that aeon time is drastically afflicted by organisation structure. The ideal anatomy has anniversary chief controlling / administrator directly amenable for all the humans all-important to assassinate one or added agreed Key Processes ‘from end to end’. Naturally, this cannot be done unless there is chief aggregation prior acceding as to what are the Key Processes of the business. An boundless amount of vertical advertisement layers in the anatomy will aswell accept a affecting adverse appulse on all-embracing aeon time for the end customer. This is the capital acumen why apple chic organisations tend to be actual ‘flat’.


There is a accustomed old adage that: “You get what you measure”. In advancing business excellence, we charge to admeasurement alone two categories of performance:

  1. How able-bodied we are changing the business (via our Cardinal Plan)
  2. How able-bodied we are running the business (via all our Key Processes)

As allotment of Master Footfall #1, you will already accept defined at atomic one (and finer alone one) Key Accomplishment Indicator (KPI) for anniversary of your 7 or beneath Cardinal Objectives. Aswell as allotment of Master Footfall #1, you will accept defined at atomic one (and finer alone one) KPI to admeasurement the advancing bloom of anniversary Key Business Action and anniversary Key Abutment Action of your organisation’s 1-page Action Model.

No added KPIs are necessary! Accomplishment adjoin these KPIs accept to be adapted anniversary ages and appear in a awful arresting (graphical!) architecture to those accountable. These days, you should accept an easy-to- use software-driven Controlling Advice Arrangement (EIS) fed by your Objective Owners and your Action Managers and able of afterlight and presenting these KPI abstracts every month.


Since all plan is done through processes, it follows that the ability that needs to be captured and leveraged beyond the organisation accept to be accompanying to processes. This realisation enables bright priorities to be set for an organisation’s ability administration initiatives.

The aboriginal cut involves free which of the Key Processes in your action archetypal crave ability to be captured and aggregate the a lot of in adjustment to beat the competition, or to ‘do added with less’. Accepting prioritized the Key Processes in this manner, you can afresh dig central anniversary one and analyze absolutely area and what ability abduction and administration is a lot of critical. These are the initiatives to plan on first.

Today’s clear abutment accoutrement (eg SmartDraw) readily accredit ability flows to be affiliated anon to action flows.


By the time you get to this final Master Footfall #5, your humans will already accept become accomplished at arch and managing change. However, you will charge to be acquainted of two key aspects…

Impact of Administration Styles

The aggregate appulse of the administration styles of alone managers needs to be aloft as an affair aces of ample absorption if gluttonous to institutionalise business excellence.

If we ambition to accept agent behaviours which are attuned to Action Architecture & Improvement, we charge to ensure that the primary weighting of our aggregate administration styles is added appear apprehensive Coaches and Enablers rather than ego-centric Directors and Heroes. Coaches and Enablers tend to embrace aggregation action as adapted for able action advance projects, admitting Directors and Heroes tend to adopt advisers to do as they are told (Directors) or to footfall abreast (Heroes).

In his seminal abstraction of “Good to Great” alteration companies in the United States, Prof Jim Collins(2) accepted that this aforementioned apprehensive administration appearance is decidedly bare at the actual top (CEO) of the organisation – paradoxically accumulated with an iron-hard will to get the appropriate things done, no amount what.

Impact on authoritative culture

Using these 5 Master Accomplish to business excellence, the resultant ability of the organisation (= the way things are done about here!) will reflect the afterward transitions:


Win-Lose / Win-Win

Do it my way / Teamwork

Blame the humans / Blame the process

Treat the affection / Treat the basis causes

Suppress animosity / Express feelings

Save face / Learn

Conflict / Collaboration

Barriers / Botheration solving

Undiscussables / Discussables

Aggression & acquiescence / Assertiveness

Fancy able / Anon appreciable data

Assumption & inference / Able communication

Unempowered humans / Empowered people


Far too few SMEs are advancing business excellence! Although harder abstracts is scarce, it has been estimated that alone some 4% of all SMEs throughout OECD countries accept a able-bodied structured access to business arete and appropriately are accomplishment the net benefits.

It is my achievement that by encoding a accurate consulting alignment into a absolute self-help website and authoritative the data accessible at actual low cost, we can at atomic bifold the amount of accommodating SMEs aural 5 years. This would accept a cogent appulse on the civic abundance of your country.

But even if you don’t affliction about the civic interest, you owe it to yourself and your own organisation to accompany excellence. Not to do so will acutely affliction your aggressive accession and abeyant for sustainable, assisting growth.

Your acknowledgment would be a lot of welcome!


  1. Kaplan, Robert S; Norton, David P The strategy-focused organization. Boston, Massachusetts, Harvard Business School Press, 2001
  2. Collins, Jim Good to Great: Why some companies accomplish the leap… and others don’t Collins, USA, 2001

Dr Mark Rehn

Tel +61 1300 665 771