I have learned working with several clients over the past several years that some achieve operational excellence at a faster pace than others. Here is what I have observed and experienced:
1) Achieving operational excellence is much like riding a bicycle. It has two components: the back wheel, which represents your management methodology, and the front wheel, which represents leadership and creating the environment for your associates to embrace the change. The production associates drive the day to day operations, and the leadership role is to support and facilitate continuous improvement, including creativity and innovation.
2) The most important ingredient in realizing this vision is a winning team. This requires all the managers to be on board and committed and mutually accountable to making it happen. Senior leaders must make sure that everyone belongs on the team and is in the right role. Having the right people is a company's number one ingredient to achieving success.
3) Once you have the right people, then the managers must have the mindset that "the people doing the job know how to do it best". This process may take several months as they learn to give up control. At the end of the day, effective management is the key to associate engagement.
4) Finally, the sooner you can get production associates involved, the sooner new leaders emerge and the flywheel accelerates. Obtain short term wins quickly and start in an area where success is guaranteed.