In Pursuit of Operational Excellence 📈

Jan 06, 2023 3:01 pm

Happy Friday!

I hope you had a lovely New Year. I stopped making resolutions since I'd always pick something too ambitious and feel stuck because of it. Instead, I just loosely answer the question, "What would make me feel great about this year?" Then I ask, "What would make me feel good," and finally, "What would I be just fine with?" It may not be thrilling, but it helps me feel out what is important to me right now and exactly why it is that way.

The subject of this little newsletter is about something that I've been getting louder and louder about with my clients and in my own head. The idea of operational excellence is that products or businesses are operated so well that they don't require constant oversight and intervention.


I was recently handed a team at a client and told to prove that there was a better way of doing things. In my head, I had a grinchy grin since this was exactly what I'm good at. My client's definition of success was to get a product out in a reasonable amount of time, and it shouldn't be too expensive, either.

We shipped our first product within four months with zero defects and zero customer support.

That little team I worked on went from a group that was typical in many ways thinking that if they just built more code, things would work out. By the end, they still loved coding but also saw the liability of code out in the wild and took measures to protect their nights and weekends from pager duty calls.

That team launched that little product over two years ago, and to this day has never had a bug and never had a customer support need. This product is used for tens of millions of merchandise sales every year for a Fortune 10 company.

That's operational excellence.

Sadly, most groups think that putting a dent in a topic like this is too slow or too costly to take any steps in, so they dust off their Hope-Based-Development and hope things don't get too bad and that if they do that, they'll get the chance to fix them, which is sort of like waiting to break your leg before someone tells you that your form was dangerously wrong.

So what can you do, in practical terms, today to take a few steps? The two areas I'd recommend focusing on in the beginning are:

  • Writing unit tests without mocking frameworks
  • Write tests that prove your infrastructure is operating

That's plenty, but it makes a huge impact rather quickly. The best part is, you don't usually need to, and I'd advise against treating these as distinct initiatives. Just fold in adding something from these as a part of normal work.

Those two items, while not enough to ensure operational excellence, will eliminate some of the biggest sources of trouble that you'll have while also freeing up your team's velocity for new things!

If you want to hear more about some of this, let me know or set up some time and we can have a chat!



PS: If you haven't signed up to keep updated with my new business,, you should!