The Four Phases of Operational Excellence

Stephen is Senior Practice Director at ReSource Pro Consulting.

Managing Operations is Like Golf

Typically, to become an elite golfer, one must first learn the essentials of the game—grip, stance, how to keep score, the rules, etc. With instruction and practice, the golfer can effectively hit the golf ball and play the game. This is where most weekend golfers stop. The good golfers learn to become more efficient in their game. They learn how to manage the game, when to play it safe and how to recover from a mistake without taking unnecessary strokes. The great golfers put it all together, consistently hitting the ball, managing the game, playing by the rules, and working to get better every time they play. These golfers become elite and excellent.

In the quest for service excellence, managing operations can be a lot like golf. Like golf, many operations stop after getting the essentials down. Unfortunately, I have encountered many of these operations that barely had the essentials down yet claimed to be a “Center of Excellence.”

To consistently deliver excellent service and be a true “Center of Excellence” the operation must master the four phases of excellence: essentials, effectiveness, efficiency, and excellence.

Each phase must be mastered before moving to the next phase. Just like the golfer needed to learn how to hit the ball, how to keep score, and understand the rules before they could even play a game, businesses must also master the foundational essentials first.


The essentials are establishing standardized processes for consistent and repeatable delivery of products/services and understanding the allowable expense environment. Processes need to be documented, trained, and executed consistently so the customer experience is the same every time. Leadership must also understand the allowable expense level supported by pricing. In this phase, it may not be possible to operate at or below the allowable expense level, but the business should be acutely aware of where it needs to be.


Once the basics are mastered, the focus shifts to effectively delivering on the promises made to customers. Completing the product or service within the promised timeframe with acceptable quality is the ultimate objective of this phase. Early in this phase it may be necessary to overstaff to meet expectations. As processes and inventory control improve, staffing levels stabilize and approach allowable targets. Having the right resources in the right place at the right time is the lynchpin for moving into the efficiency phase.


The efficiency phase of the journey towards excellence focuses on improving how products and services are delivered to clients. In this phase, processes are maturing and improving as the organization invests in technology, improved quality, reduced cycle times as well as better and more productive employees. True performance metrics with formal quality assessment programs tied to incentives provide critical leverage to maximize efficiency.


The journey to excellence cannot be completed without mastering the essential foundational processes and expense controls, effectively delivering on the promise to customers and continuously improving on that delivery efficiency. Bringing all of these dimensions together with scorecards and strategic alignment will move the organization into a state of excellence. Now top tier service and having the right people in the right place with the right skills at the right time becomes the standard. Typically, employees are paid more, customers receive more while unit costs drop.

Want to learn how ReSource Pro can help you discover the tools, frameworks, and processes for achieving excellence in your operations? Visit our Carrier Consulting page.