Be Kind, Please Rewind! – “On Demand” Operational Excellence Hacks from Netflix and Uber

Be Kind, Please Rewind! - 5 On Demand Operational Excellence Hacks…

The first film I watched on video was Blade Runner.

Dad managed to wangle borrowing the office video player for my brother’s birthday. Along with Blade Runner, my parents also hired Raiders of The Lost Ark for us from the most exciting place in the world, the local video shop.

We must have watched both films, back to back, at least 5 times over the course of that weekend.

It would be years before I saw either again but that memory will always have a special place in my heart whenever I catch either of them on TV now.

Today of course, we don’t have to wait ages until films come out on video, or go on a waiting list to hire the latest blockbuster, or navigate the different sections of video shops – the experience of which I dearly miss.


Because today we live in an “on demand” digital world.

Sayings like: “Be kind, please rewind”, “where on earth are we? I know I’ll just check the A to Z!” or “I’m just popping down to Boots to to get my holiday photos developed” have no real meaning anymore.

And the way organisations like Netflix and Uber have massively shaken up their industries can provide interesting insights for the world of operational excellence and transformation, which I believe also could do with a bit of a shake up.


Because ‘typical’ models of transformation and change that drive operational excellence usually go something like this; set up a massive programme, recruit a huge team of people from across the business and then try to boil the ocean – and in the process driving the transformation from the centre. 

Think of this as “push” transformation.


And this approach is pretty much the go to model for transforming a business and hasn’t really changed that greatly over the years.

It’s no wonder that most transformation programmes fail. This was recently proven again – with McKinsey revalidating the famous 70% of transformation efforts not achieving their desired goals. It’s a great article by the way and well worth a read if you get time, with some good insights on ‘beating the odds’ of transformation failure. 

Now I’m not saying that the push method is the wrong way of approaching transformation, because its always situational, doesn’t have to be this way.

So what about flipping this thinking and standing it on its head?  


By adopting a “pull” approach where the business approaches operational excellence itself rather than being driven from the centre.

Now of course it needs to be orchestrated and supported to get it up and running, but here’s the thing – by working with a business area on a major problem whilst adopting a mix of strategic and tactical approaches you can get the business to the same sweet spot of operational effectiveness much more efficiently.

In the end it’s just a different method to try.

There is a real shift going on in this kind of push vs pull thinking and the masters of “pull” thinking who have changed the game in their industries is Netflix and Uber. 


I’m fascinated by this and think there are some pretty major parallels to transforming a business.

So here are 5 methods that Netflix and uber employ as part of their core business models that can be employed in any business focusing on operational excellence;

  • Think Choice. Both Netflix and Uber give their customers massive choice. Want to watch your to show on your tv or on the go? No problem. Want to choose your driver? Why not. Transformation should be no different. Instead of imposing an approach, plan or change leader on the business, create some options and then let the business choose what they want and how they proceed.
  • Think Ride Share. Uber allows its riders to co-share a ride in order to get a cheaper fare, called uberPOOL. So here’s the idea...Functional improvement programmes are all well and good. But how about where processes up and down stream are impacted? Ideally, an end to end process review is followed – but this isn’t always the case, with departments wanting to focus on “their bit”. So tap the UberPOOL share approach and look at partnering with another department on sharing the journey – by sharing resources along the way. You’ll maximise the chances of success, save costs and get to the same destination together, faster.


  • Think Box Set. Netflix brilliantly allows customers to watch content as fast or as slow as they wish. It even coined the phrase “binge watching”. So why not think of operational excellence like a tv show? With “episodes each season” (i.e. The changes being made) which the organisation can decide to adopt as quickly or slowly as they wish, all “on demand”. Trailers for future shows (upcoming changes) can even be used to keep people watching and drive up employee engagement on the way.
  • Think Rating. After each show or ride, Netflix and Uber encourage customers to rate the experience. But in transformation, honestly, when was the last time you were asked for your feedback on “an experience” for part of the programme? Typically these are conducted at the end of the programme aren’t they? We should be thinking feedback, feedback, feedback all the time. This can provide valuable data to ensure the initiative stays on track. I’m not talking death by feedback form but small pulse checks like a quick text message to a key stakeholder and ask them to reply by emoji for example after a key event. Keep it simple but remember to keep rating!


  • Think “On Demand” Change. Finally and here’s the big one…Both Uber and Netflix are “always on” and ready to satisfy demand. Yes they have massive algorithms and are always learning about their customers, but the thing is they stand ready to anticipate demand. Operational excellence should be the same – by understanding the core challenges of the business, this should not be about a programme or initiative, but more about “how things are done” in the business. Think less about setting up programmes and more about addressing challenges and equipping people to do this so they can “pull transformation”.

Operational Excellence is often referred to as a journey. But how to get the organisation through the journey is the challenge. 


A paradigm shift is needed.

By flipping thinking from push to pull and helping the business move to an “on demand” model of transformation, the sweet spot of operational excellence can be driven at a far greater speed, considerable revenue and cost savings maximised, investment minimised with a much greater chances of success.

Your next transformation episode will start in 15 seconds…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s