The good news is most companies are involved in improvement initiatives and programs. The bad news is the track record for sustainable and meaningful results is spotty! What tools and methods are available to help discriminate between valid improvement investments, keep initiatives focused, and align top floor and shop floor?

One method is to create an Operations Vision. The Operations Vision provides context for lean, six sigma, and kaizen investments. It describes a destination so that leadership can harness the energy of all their resources toward common goals. At a minimum, the Operations Vision is "future oriented," provides organizational stretch, is compelling and concisely communicates direction. This article describes an Operations Visioning process to help readers understand how the vision can enhance a company's improvement strategy.

What Does the Operations Vision Do for Your Company?

For leadership to get excited and invest resources in developing an Operations Vision, there must be a value proposition. Part of the reason improvement initiatives fail is there is no common thread among various, numerous and diverse improvement activities. In many cases, it is simply action without context. The value of vision in an improvement strategy can be summed up in the following verse:

"Vision without action is merely a dream;
Action without vision just passes the time;
Vision with action can change the world."
Author Unknown

The Operations Vision serves three primary purposes. First, the visioning process provides a meaningful opportunity for the leadership of an entity (corporation, division, plant, etc.) to openly and objectively assess what is important to the entity, understand where and how they may be at "cross-purposes" with one another, and learn about what a "lean" business means. The participants in and users of the process cut across all functions.

Second, the Operations Vision is a visible and important tool to create operational alignment. As a company is bombarded with varied and diverse improvement project opportunities, there is a tendency to defer to what is "hot," what the boss wants or what is easiest. Without the Operations Vision as sounding board, irrational decisions may be made. Horses hitched to the same wagon and pulling in the same direction get much better results than if the horses are pulling in different directions.

Finally, the vision is used to assess whether improvement investments, initiatives, and projects fit the company's direction and align the entity with the corporate goals. In short, the vision helps filter out those initiatives that do not support the direction and raises the urgency of those that do.