EXPERT INSIGHT – What does Enterprise Excellence really mean?

Enterprise Excellence – More than just a buzz word , a concept that can transform your business

In this Expert Insight, TriVista Managing Director Stephen Smith answers three questions about Enterprise Excellence – describing what it really means, the value it provides, and the steps you can take toward incorporating it throughout your organization.

Stephen has more than 30 years of executive experience in operations and enterprise leadership, and has been a trusted adviser to more than 200 companies worldwide. He apprenticed in Japan and the United States with founding members of the Toyota Autonomous Study group, the creators and implementers of what is now known as the Toyota Production System.  Later, he was part of the consulting firm whose work and clients were featured in the groundbreaking book, Lean Thinking.[1]


q1--EEStephen, we hear the term Enterprise Excellence a lot lately, but there seems to be many definitions. In what way is it different from operational excellence and lean thinking?

Operational excellence usually refers to improvement work done at the front-line of labor, on the shop floor, the surgical suite, or in order processing or packing. All too often, lean or Six Sigma initiatives have been limited to that area. Enterprise Excellence is a focus on bringing all aspects of an organization into the same improvement and management system. Sales, new product development, finance, human resources—even IT—need to speak the same language and use the same methodologies.

enterprise-excellence-umbrella-mediumEnterprise Excellence can be thought of as a big umbrella. The work made up of three pieces: a multi-dimensional toolset; a structured implementation methodology that includes the entire organization; and an inclusive people-engagement strategy. The toolset is based on the lean, Six Sigma, and Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) concepts. Implementation includes a robust assessment process and a structured, high cadence, implementation calendar that can include quick wins, multi-day, team-based learning and implementation (kaizen), or carefully managed project work. The inclusive people strategy means every single person in the organization is involved and eventually, everyone is relentlessly focused on waste elimination and value creation for the customer—not only in order fulfillment, but also new product development, order generation, and core business administrative activities.


q2-EEHow does Enterprise Excellence help increase market share, or fill a new-product pipeline?

Enterprise Excellence is all about two key concepts – focusing on the right areas and building capability. The first concept is about concentrating resources on activities that matter and can be measured by the business. All too often, continuous improvement resources are spent on good-for-you or feel-good/look-good activities.  Many handsome, clean, and organized facilities have gone out of business. Organizations need to relentlessly improve their top and bottom-line results. As a rule of thumb, if an improvement activity does not have direct line of sight to a top-line number, a bottom-line number, or a working-capital number, owners and leaders should look hard at resourcing the work.

The second concept is about capability building. In the end, most successful business strategies are founded on either expanding or creating organizational capabilities—to serve a new market, create new products/services for an existing market, or to create new synergies with partners. Enterprise Excellence keeps people focused on aligning all activities with those current and future opportunities.


q3-EEWhat are the first steps an organization can take toward Enterprise Excellence?


The first step is for leaders to consciously decide together that this is the right long-term strategy for the organization. Enterprise Excellence is not a project or a short-term initiative. It is a business strategy that, over time, will build an organization that can identify and execute opportunities faster than all other competitors. This means that the entire senior management team must be aligned around this concept theme – it will simply not work if it is only an operations, or a finance department initiative.

The second step is to create the infrastructure for success including a clearly stated direction, agreed-upon metrics, steering committees, identified internal and external resources, recognition and reward programs, and training capabilities.

The third is a leap: begin with enthusiasm. Work on areas that will have a big impact on the business. Constantly communicate the changes. Constantly raise expectations. Constantly remove obstacles. Excellence needs to be a habit.


[1] James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones, Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Organization. New York: Free Press, 1996.

To learn more about how you can achieve Enterprise Excellence through key business process improvements, call 949-218-4830, or email

Access Download

In order to access this download, we ask that you allow us to add you to our email list. If you have already done so, re-entering your information will not duplicate it. Thank you.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

About the Author:

Learn More about Our Experts

Sign Up for TriVista News

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.