PRESS RELEASE: S A Partners Announces Appointment of New CEO, Garry Corbet

13 June 2024

Global training and consultancy company S A Partners, is pleased to announce the appointment of Garry Corbet as its new Chief Executive Officer. Garry who is currently Head of the European Division will take over from current CEO Simon Grogan on 1 July 2024.

Garry joined the Partnership over five years ago and brings with him a wealth of experience and a proven track record of success within industry. Since joining S A Partners he has overseen the growth of the European division and so is well positioned to take on the global role.  Prior to joining S A Partners Garry held several key leadership positions, demonstrating exceptional strategic vision, operational expertise, and a commitment to driving growth and innovation.

“I am thrilled to announce the appointment of Garry Corbet to S A Partners as our new global CEO,” said Simon Grogan, who has been CEO of the organisation for the last 8 years. “His extensive experience and leadership qualities make him the ideal candidate to lead S A Partners into its next phase of growth and success. We are confident that under Garry’s guidance, S A Partners will continue to thrive and deliver value to our customers, employees, and shareholders.”

Garry expressed his excitement about becoming the new CEO and his vision for the future, stating, “I am honoured to lead S A Partners and build upon its strong foundation. I am committed to driving innovation, fostering a culture of collaboration, and delivering exceptional value for our customers. We have such a talented team and I am confident that we will achieve new levels of success.”

Prior to joining S A Partners, Garry held senior leadership positions in the food and IT Industries, he has a BCom and an MSc in Lean Operations.

S A Partners extends its gratitude to Simon Grogan who has been with the company for 21 years, In which time he has shown an outstanding level of dedication and leadership making the organization the success it is today. Simon will continue to work with our clients and will be heading up our Academy Programme. He will also be providing ongoing advice and support to the business and its customers.


For media inquiries, please contact:

Ailsa Carson

+44 (0) 783-222-3453

About S A Partners

Since 1993, S A Partners has been dedicated to helping organisations worldwide achieve Enterprise Excellence. Through accredited training, personalized coaching, and expert consultancy, we empower businesses to build and leverage their capabilities for success. With a global presence and a team of exceptional professionals, we’re committed to driving growth and transformation for our clients.


Garry Corbet, CEO S A Partners

Garry Corbet has been a Partner for over six years.  He has over 10 years experience working in continuous improvement using Lean principals and has held several senior leadership roles prior to joining the company.  Garry’s background is in finance and he has over 15 years experience in the food industry where he held many different roles including the Head of Finance & IT, Continuous Improvement and Human Resources.

He also held the role of Director of Service and Continuous Improvement in the IT industry. Garry has an MSc in Lean Operations and is passionate about supporting our customers focus on people and engagement across all levels of their organisation.  Garry also has significant experience developing and managing the end to end (design, develop, submission, audit and claim) Enterprise Ireland Lean training programmes. He is a Shingo Facilitator and supports many of our clients with both training and consultancy support.

Developing Leadership Agility

by Dr. Bryan Cutliff FACHE
Leaders today engage in many diverse and complex activities and face a new set of challenges requiring agility.

These could span from accepting new roles and responsibilities to taking organizations to new heights, to navigating tremendous internal and external pressures to adopt new ways of thinking around diversity, equity, and inclusion, or directing the efforts of an organization to divest parts of itself to
make space for a new venture.
In each of these circumstances, leaders might find themselves in situations where the problem’s solution is not easily obtained and is often elusive. Solving them will require the leader’s dedication, perseverance, grit, and personal purpose to motivate themselves and others to engage in the work ahead.

In 2009, Ronald Heifetz, Alexandar Grashow, and Marty Linksy (leading authors in the space of Adaptive Leadership) suggested that the challenges the world faces today, “are not amenable to authoritative expertise, although people might hope that if the right subject matter expert could only be found, these problems would be solved. These are what we call adaptive challenges, gaps generated by bold aspirations amid challenging realities. For these, the world needs to build new ways of being, and responding, beyond the current repertories of available know-how. What is needed from a leadership perspective are new forms of improvisational expertise, a kind of process expertise that knows prudently how to experiment with never-been-tried-before relationships, means of communication, and ways of interacting that will help people develop solutions that build upon and surpass the wisdom of today’s experts.

The answers cannot come only from on high. The world needs distributed leadership because the solutions to our collective challenges must come from many places, with people developing micro-adaptations to all the different micro-environments of families, neighborhoods, and organizations around the globe.”

To develop leadership agility and truly empower those who trust us to care for the strategy of the organization, we must:
  1. Find your personal leadership story
  2. Develop a desire to learn and adapt,
  3. Create personal space for reflection
  4. Build personal resilience; and
  5. Become more empathetic to the world around us.

These may seem like monumental tasks for some, but any transformation, small or large, starts with only a few critical steps.

First, carve out a time to ask yourself the following questions in the coming week:
  1. What patterns in my earlier life were most significant in shaping my current leadership philosophy?
  2. What experiences have I had that helped to develop my current passions?
  3. As I think about a recent failure, what were some of the learning opportunities that failure provided that could help me achieve my
    current goals?
  4. What behavior could I adopt tomorrow to help me answer the above questions?
By participating in this reflective activity, you create your personal leadership story and an adaptive framework where you make it a habit to
look at past performance for clues and opportunities to improve your future performance. One key deliverable from creating personal time to reflect is that you have just started building the first four steps to creating an agile leadership presence. Some of the most inspirational leaders I have met had a strong sense of who they were and what propelled them to lead others. This story and reflection can then be used to create a realistic and personal plan to accelerate our ability to influence others for good.

The last step comes from showing empathy to yourself through this process and then subsequently to others. When we fail, we often assume that we are incapable or trusted to perform at the expected level. This mental conclusion is frequently based on an erroneous assumption, leading to poorer performance. This thinking is also often applied to others (known as the ladder of inference). In that, we assume that a person’s action today is due to some negative attribute we have labeled them with or experienced in the path. This thinking does not consider that each day brings new challenges and external forces that may cause a person to act positively or negatively in any given circumstance.

To interrupt this automatic thought process, we must 1) recognize that this happens in all of us, 2) adopt a mutual learning mindset in that we state what we are experiencing or feeling so that others know the reason for our comments, and 3) adopt an inquiring mind in which we ask the person to clarify the reason for their comments, behaviors, or results. In doing this, we become more empathetic to the situations we often put ourselves in or as we work with others on transformation efforts.
In summary, as we create personal reflection opportunities, we will learn to look at our past successes or failures as an opportunity to learn. With this learning, we will be better positioned to create an individual plan that breaks our larger goals into smaller ones, thus making it more manageable to start the change process. Lastly, we will become more empathetic with ourselves and others. As we reflect, we will start to see things that we didn’t notice now, which will help us to be less directed by negative emotions and become more hopeful about the possibilities in front of us, thus increasing our confidence, capability, and motivation to engage in the challenging work of leading others.
If your Leadership Team would benefit from coaching or mentoring please do contact me:

Factory of the Future or Factory for the Planet?

by John Quirke

The “Factory for the Planet” concept represents a visionary approach to industrial operations that prioritizes environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and long-term business viability. As a business model it aligns with global efforts to address climate change, resource depletion, and evolving consumer expectations for ethical and eco-friendly products and services.

I have seen, heard, and read a lot about the factory of the future. It describes the interconnection of things. The availability of real-time data to allow for accurate and rapid decision-making and process control. It speaks to the seamless way humans will interact with robots or cobots to eliminate repetitive mundane tasks and how data will flow between customers, manufacturers, and suppliers.

Whilst in many businesses elements of this future state have become a reality, in many others it has become yet another source of complexity and waste.  Information technology infrastructure has not been adequately integrated. Processes that were inefficient and overly complex have become more complex and more inefficient. Technical knowledge and skills have not kept pace with the introduction of new equipment and technology. Previous poor practices in maintenance and process optimisation continue and are now exaggerated by the critical reliance on innovative technologies.  Poor validation practices and complex quality management creates a complex web into which the process regularly stumbles.

So, it may be time to pause and rethink the notion of the Factory of the Future and consider what we need from our factories in the future. It is also time to consider what products the factories of the future will make and where these factories will be. Maybe we should be considering not just Factories of the Future but Factories for the Planet.

As the impacts and limits of our current levels of ‘stuff’ making become clear organisations are beginning to respond to market and legislative pressures.  However, while companies are tinkering with the concepts of net zero, biodiversity and social responsibility, the challenges to business will reach a whole new level over the next ten years.

Humans by our nature will always need stuff. Food, cloths, tools, medicines, homes, furnishing, gadgets, and playthings. But what this stuff is, how it is made, and what it is made from will be determined by pending legislative reform to ensure better use of scarce resources and the necessary drive to reduce global warming.

There are many discussions around what the future will look like for business. Imagine your business is given a carbon budget with limits set for the yearly maximum amount of carbon emissions arising from your business activities, all of them. Many products will be banned from the marketplace if they cannot support the right to repair, be recycled effectively or ensure no long-term impacts on the environment. Some business will simply no longer exist.

It all sounds gloomy, and it actually is! The speed at which the necessary changes are being made is far too slow. Vested interests and ignorance are slowing and, in some cases, actively preventing the requisite changes.

If you want to change the future, you must change what you’re doing in the present.

– Mark Twain

It all seems so crazy. 

Imagine you are living in a Martian space station.  The walls and seals of the space station are deteriorating causing precious oxygen to leak out into the lifeless Martian atmosphere.  You have a solution to control the issue, a paste than can be spread over the cracks and seals that will reduce the loss of oxygen, a loss that is accelerating as the system continues to deteriorate.  But the people who fly the ships to resupply oxygen have concerns. What if the paste is toxic to the inhabitants of the space station? What if its colour affects the ambiance of the interior and residents get depressed and start killing each other just like in the movies? The oxygen shipment lobbies their networks and insist on detailed studies on the effectiveness of the paste as a solution.

The paste inquiry and review process take years. But meanwhile, business is good.  The more oxygen that leaks the more deliveries are needed and the more jobs are created flying and building oxygen cargo ships.  Each time the paste control measure is raised the science around its efficacy as a solution is thrown into doubt. Anyway, we need to keep the supply chains going! If we solved the oxygen leak issue, there would be fewer cargo ships and the cost of transport to the colony would increase making the whole project unsustainable. What a tragedy that would be!

The real problem is that there just will not be enough oxygen to continually resupply the Martian colony in which you live.  The oxygen freight companies know this, the government who fund them know this, but business is good, tax is up, and people have jobs and sure are not we funding some genetic research stuff that will help people survive with less oxygen maybe even convert to nitrogen to sustain life, and sure we’ve tonnes of that! All will be good.

But unfortunately, it will not.

It is easy to despair.

But we all have a circle of influence. Now is the time to put it to good use!

Whilst the challenge is immense so are the opportunities.  Humans will always need stuff. The opportunity today is to really consider the ideal factory for the planet and start building foundations now. As a continuous improvement professional or business leader you know all this.

Inefficient and wasteful industries will be rooted out either by their competitors, legislators, or the market. Products that are shipped for thousands of miles by air and sea will need to be sourced locally, creating opportunities to re-introduce or renovate old industries. The circular economy will grow. The demand for repair, refurbishment and upcycling of products will increase creating more opportunity for new businesses and new factories. Supply chains will become more fragile through resource shortage and political instability. Onshoring of both manufacturing of subcomponents and raw material will be a reality. Upcoming legislation will ban some product for public health, resource scarcity or inadequate design. Whilst these issues create significant challenges, they also provide opportunities – but only if companies plan now and begin considering what their factories might look like.

So, what would the ideal Factory for the Planet look like?

It will need to be agile. The future will change, and products will change. A factory for the planet is a system that enables successful manufacturing within prescribed boundaries. We can see situations arising in the market which through legislative controls, will impact an organisation’s ability to bring a product to market. Permission to do so will be dependent on both the need the product is serving, and the extent to which the products manufacture, use and the disposal impacts on a defined set planetary boundaries and associated human and ecological health.

Some key elements of the design and operation of a Factory for the Planet are outlined below:


All energy needs are provided through renewable energy sources.  Energy-efficient technologies are used to minimize the efficient and effective use of this energy.  Any surplus energy is distributed to local community power grids with local employees seeing major savings in energy costs.

Supply chains:

Wherever possible raw material and consumable items are sourced locally.  Circular economic practices are present throughout the business, reducing waste and maximizing the use of recycled materials. Factories are co located to take advantages of product repair and recycling requirements. Waste in any form is a resource for another process. Low-grade energy and heat are recovered for alternative use such as onsite horticulture. Factories actively collaborate with suppliers to source recycled and sustainable materials for manufacturing processes and facility construction.

Social Impacts:

The factory is to the forefront of social improvement in its locality. Fair labour practices, employee well-being, and opportunities for professional development are well established.  Outreach programmes within local schools and universities support skill development and learning needed in the area. The voice of the employee is actively sought. Employee involvement in decision-making processes is a defined process which leads to increased job satisfaction and a sense of ownership among employees.

Job creation will include a range of part-time and job-sharing options and will cover sponsored activity with community development initiatives. A strong outreach programme is in place to bring in local students as part of their education programme. Diversity and inclusion will be a cornerstone of the workforce and supply chain. Physical and neural diversity are catered for through sheltered work and occupational development schemes run within the workplace.  These are supported by employees who have volunteered to received specialised training to support these programmes.

As the number and severity of extreme weather events increases, the factory for the planet will have contingency support plans in place for their local community.

During the tragedy that was hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, many factories were the only source of emergency power and clean water and outside communication for their local communities.

Process Improvement and Innovation:

Innovation and efficiency are embraced with a passion. Efficiency will always be balanced with effectiveness. There is no tolerance for efficiently doing the wrong thing! Processes are optimised and simplified not only to create space for alternative products but to allow for greater team development time or paid time for employees in social and community activity.

Detailed and effective process monitoring has resulted in the elimination of waste and rejected products. Any waste that generated which cannot be reused in house enters the circular economy. Process innovation and improvement ideas are driven by work teams who are energetically supported and inspired by skilled and committed leadership teams.

Customer Value:

The level of connection with customer is at a whole new level. Customers in general will be educated on a form of product selection criteria that is based on an environmental impact scale.  This scale not only covers the use of the product during its lifetime but also the impact of its manufacture and its disposal.  To reduce risks of redundancy and failed new product introductions, customer feedback is constantly sought in relation to product design and functionality.

Customers are encouraged to visit the factory and local community.  They are made aware of the environmental and community initiatives and are engaged with these initiatives.  Customers within a specified radius of the factory receive generous discounts on products though the factory outlet which also functions as a product repair and recycling depot.  Customers returning a used product receive significant discount on replacement.

Building Design:

The look and design of a Factory for the Planet will be different.  The orientation and design of buildings will maximise energy efficiency.  The fabric of the building will include sustainable construction materials, green roofs, and other features that contribute to energy and water conservation. Access to the factory will prioritise public transport cycling and walking.  Electric car charging will be available with energy provided free of charge to employee and visitors.

The factory design and construction will include features that make it resilient to extreme weather events and adaptable to changing environmental conditions.

Internally the building fit out will consist of eco-friendly infrastructure to enhance and improve air quality and reduce reliance on air-conditioning and artificial lighting.

Natural Environment:

External spaces will incorporate significant green spaces, preserving natural habitats and promoting biodiversity. This will include green belts, wildlife corridors, and specific areas for native plant species.  Where appropriate there will be clearly defined buffer zones to preserve natural habitats on the property.

Aggressive sustainable water management and conservation measures are in place including rainwater capture, secondary reuse, and onsite irrigation.  Permeable surfaces will be used for parking lots and walkways to allow rainwater to penetrate the ground, reducing runoff and supporting groundwater recharge.

Sustainable agriculture practices take place on the factory’s land. Including community and employee gardens, intense vertical farming activity and other initiatives that promote local food security and local sustainability. Where possible low-grade heat from water and air are captured to heat green houses to extend growing seasons in winter periods or reduce running cost for high intensity horticulture activity.

What can be considered right now to move towards a Factory for the Planet?

  1. Take a detailed look at your supply chain to assess risks over the next five and ten years.
  2. Take steps to reduce reliance on extended air freight and shipping.
  3. Find local suppliers where possible. Higher local cost may be offset by lower inventory holding.
  4. Review each product value stream in detail. Map your material and energy flows in detail. Begin a rootless process to eliminate waste and inefficiency within both the individual process steps, the links between process steps and the surrounding support functions. This process should extend beyond the walls of the factory and deep into the supply chain.
  5. Simplify your product portfolio – With a clear view of product value streams and their associated demand identify and eliminate the ‘dogs and cats’ in your product portfolio. Focus on 80:20. The twenty percent of your products that give eight percent of revenue and profit. A focus on the efficient delivery of the twenty percent will more than cover any revenue losses from the eighty. The focus on the twenty percent will align the business to true customer value which will generate more revenue opportunities for your business.
  6. Technology – Where possible adopt technology but carefully. Consider whether the proposed technology provides the flexibility needed in a volatile landscape. Will existing business systems integrate with information flows and the quality management requirements arising from this new technology? If digital and technology is a route for your business, build the necessary skills for operation maintenance and support internally within your team and get these teams involved as early as possible in the design and selection of the solution. Engage with local schools and colleges to develop necessary skills for the future.
  7. Adopt the latest thinking and innovation during the construction of any new build project and incorporate as many aspects of the design of a Factory for the Planet as discussed in this article.
  8. Focus on Process Efficiency and Effectiveness – Stop making product for which there is no current demand. Instead use the time to develop your teams’ skills and improve your processes. Eliminate complexity and focus on process robustness, simplicity and elegance in work design and work and work instruction.
  9. Identify all opportunities to reduce energy consumption inhouse resulting from manufacturing and data storage. Extend this activity offsite within supplier interactions and communications. Move all remaining energy needs to sustainable sources. Use every opportunity onsite to generate green energy through wind, solar, and heat recovery.
  10. Locally source raw materials and consumable supplies wherever possible. All physical waste from process activity should be eliminated but what remains may provide raw material for other businesses. Seek out these opportunities.
  11. Look at your green areas and consider opportunities for rewilding and forestry. Encourage employees to develop horticulture projects and nature conservation. Bee keeping seems to be a growing trend on facilities across Europe!
  12. Look for opportunities to support your local community in meaningful ways. Education and real opportunities for work experience for youth and individuals with disabilities is a good place to start. Support investment in local recreational and cultural facilities and activities.  All these provide immensely powerful messages to your workforce and your community.

But first. Engage your workforce in this struggle.

There is a considerable amount of misinformation and a degree of fear around the subject of climate change. Individuals feel helpless, unable to do anything to impact this immense problem. Bring your team on the journey.  It is and will be a struggle.  Seek out opportunities, educate and support them and their communities.  Lay out a future with purpose not despair. It is in their interests to help build a factory for the planet in their community. Their future, the future of their community and that of their children will depend on it.

Our future is as certain or uncertain as we make it.

Be bold.


John Quirke

S A Partners Dec 2023.

TPM as a system to support your long-term sustainability and cultural transformation goals

By John Quirke, Partner

If you consider TPM (Total Productive Manufacturing) only as a tool in your continuous improvement toolbox you are missing a major opportunity.  TPM provides a core system and philosophy to transform the culture of your manufacturing operation and bring life to your aspirations of greater sustainable environmentally business performance.

What is TPM?

TPM is an aligned philosophy of “critical” asset optimization by engaging people and systems to deliver on business objectives, whilst constantly improving overall results.

TPM is an integrated core system that acts as an enabler to support the optimization of your teams and the assets they use in delivering customer value.


What does TPM bring to your sustainability goals?

There are ten key areas where TPM aligns directly with the enhancement of your ability to develop a deeper level of environmental awareness in your business.  These overlaps also create opportunities for deeper learning, engagement, and social accountability within your frontline teams.   Creating greater awareness with teams of overall processes effectiveness, it’s use of energy, raw materials and time is a start.  However, giving teams the skills, tools, time and levels of trust to make a difference brings engagement levels to a completely different level.

TPM also provides a framework to align sometimes disparate areas of focus such as EHS, CI, quality and engineering under a common objective of excellent effective consistent and sustainable manufacturing.

Below we have a gathered the ten areas where we see overlap between philosophy behind TPM and environmental sustainability.  However, there is an important caveat here.  You may be manufacturing in the most effective and efficient way possible but are you manufacturing a product soon to be relegated to the manufacturing dustbin of history.

Many products we see today may struggle for space in markets focused on sustainability, health, and resource conservation.  Everybody needs to consider the hard reality of pending legislative changes, resources constraints and consumer trends and their impact on the services and products they provide.

Your product of today maybe the six-inch floppy disc (remember them?) or the single use plastic bag of tomorrow.

  1. Efficiency and Waste Reduction: TPM focuses on maximizing operational efficiency and effectiveness by eliminating waste in manufacturing processes. This aligns with the sustainability goal of minimizing resource consumption and reducing waste generation, contributing to environmental conservation.
  2. Asset Optimization: TPM emphasizes the proactive maintenance and optimization of machinery and equipment to ensure maximum productivity. TPM also seeks to reduce and improve the maintenance process itself.  Increase parts life through improved design and reducing un-necessary oil and consumable usage. Sustainable businesses seek to optimize resource utilization, including machinery and equipment, to minimize environmental impact and promote longevity.
  3. Employee Involvement and Empowerment: TPM encourages employee involvement and empowerment through frontline operator asset care practices and single point lessons. TPM also creates an environment of equipment consciousness and learning.  Operators themselves identify and largely implement opportunities for improvement.  Engaged employees are more likely to contribute positively to sustainable business practices, including suggesting energy-saving measures, waste reduction strategies, and innovative solutions for environmental sustainability.
  4. Time: TPM focuses on the effective and efficient use of assets within organisations. With this laser focus, TPM identifies and delivers additional capacity within operations.  But what to do with the extra capacity?  Does the organisations produce more stuff? Maybe so.  But this treasure trove of capacity and time also provides opportunities for employee development, community support, R&D or more improvement activity?  Finding additional capacity gives a business choice in how time and resources can be used for the greatest positive impact.
  5. Continuous Improvement: TPM fosters a culture of continuous improvement, where teams strive for incremental enhancements in process performance, productivity, and quality. Sustainable businesses similarly embrace continuous improvement to enhance their environmental performance, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, conserving water and energy, eliminating waste, and adopting sustainable materials and practices.
  6. Quality Management: TPM emphasizes the importance of quality management to ensure products meet or exceed customer expectations. The focus is on delivering only what is needed when it’s needed by optimising flow and reducing inventory levels. Sustainable businesses often prioritize product quality to enhance customer satisfaction and promote long-term relationships, aligning with TPM’s focus on quality improvement.
  7. Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE): TPM utilizes metrics like Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) to measure and improve equipment performance. By maximizing OEE, manufacturers reduce resource consumption, improve productivity, and minimize environmental impact, aligning with sustainable business objectives.
  8. Long-Term Perspective: Both TPM and sustainable business practices emphasize long-term sustainability over short-term gains. TPM’s focus on preventive maintenance, employee engagement, and continuous improvement aligns with sustainable business strategies aimed at fostering resilience, reducing risks, and ensuring long-term viability. What a potentially powerful message could be presented where instead of reducing headcount due to greater levels of capacity and efficiency, an organisation uses this time to train and develop their employees and actively support the surrounding communities in which they operate.
  9. Life Cycle Thinking: As part of early equipment design and introduction good TPM programs consider the entire life cycle of equipment and products for optimal performance and maintenance.  A sustainable business adopts life cycle thinking to assess and minimize the environmental and social impacts of products and services now and in the future.
  10. Cost Savings: TPM initiatives often lead to cost savings through improved efficiency, reduced downtime, and optimized resource utilization. Sustainable businesses similarly seek to minimize costs through resource efficiency, waste reduction, and sustainable practices, aligning TPM’s objectives with financial sustainability.

Overall, the alignment between TPM and the aspiration of a sustainable business is strong.  Both philosophies share common goals of maximizing efficiency, reducing waste, empowering employees, fostering continuous improvement, and ensuring long-term viability while minimizing environmental impact.  By truly integrating TPM principles and philosophies into their operations, asset reliant businesses will contribute to their sustainability goals while improving overall performance.  It will also uncover the gifts of time, capacity, and innovation.

If you’d like to have a discussion on how we at S A Partners can support you with your TPM or sustainability programs please do contact me


Bryan Cutliff earns top Healthcare Management Credential

Brighton, MI – 3 January 2024

Bryan Cutliff, PsyD, FACHE, Partner at S A Partners Inc. – strategy deployment consultants based in Michigan, recently became a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, the nation’s leading professional society for healthcare leaders.

“The healthcare management field plays a vital role in providing high-quality care to the people in our communities, which makes having a standard of excellence promoted by a professional organization critically important,” says Deborah J. Bowen, FACHE, CAE, president and CEO of ACHE. “By becoming an ACHE Fellow and earning the distinction of board certification from ACHE, healthcare leaders demonstrate a commitment to excellence in serving their patients and the community.”

Fellow status represents the achievement of the highest standard of professional development. Only 8,866 healthcare executives hold this distinction. To obtain Fellow status, candidates must fulfill multiple requirements, including meeting academic and experiential criteria, earning continuing education hours, demonstrating professional/community involvement, and passing a comprehensive examination. Fellows are also committed to ongoing professional development and undergo recertification every three years.

Dr. Cutliff of S A Partners, Michigan, is privileged to bear the FACHE® credential, which signifies board certification in healthcare management as an ACHE Fellow.

For more information regarding the FACHE credential, please contact the ACHE Department of Member Services by calling (312) 424-9400, emailing, or visiting


ABOUT the American College of Healthcare Executives

The American College of Healthcare Executives is an international professional society of more than 48,000 healthcare executives who lead hospitals, healthcare systems, and other healthcare organizations. ACHE’s mission is to advance our members and healthcare management excellence. ACHE offers its prestigious FACHE® credential, signifying board certification in healthcare management. ACHE’s established network of 77 chapters provides access to networking, education, and career development at the local level. In addition, ACHE is known for its magazine, Healthcare Executive, and its career development and public policy programs. Through such efforts, ACHE works toward its vision of being the preeminent professional society for leaders dedicated to improving health. The Foundation of the American College of Healthcare Executives was established to further advance healthcare management excellence through education and research. The Foundation of ACHE is known for its educational programs— including the annual Congress on Healthcare Leadership, which draws more than 4,000 participants—and groundbreaking research. Its publishing division, Health Administration Press, is one of the largest publishers of books and journals on health services management, including textbooks for college and university courses. For more information, visit



S A Partners are global strategy deployment specialists working with organizations to support them in achieving Enterprise Excellence. We do this through a combination of accredited training, coaching, and consultancy services.  Working together, we support our customers in aligning, engaging, and improving both their capabilities and business systems to ensure they achieve sustainable business improvement and ideal results.

Established in 1993, we have trained and certified over 30,000 people.  We have published numerous award-winning books, including The Essence of Excellence, TPM: A Foundation of Operational Excellence, and our latest Deep Excellence: Seeing and Hearing a Culture of Deep Excellence.  We are official partners and affiliates of the SHINGO Institute, Nintex, Blanchard Corporation, and Soundwave and continue to challenge thinking within Strategy deployment, Leadership, and Continuous Improvement circles.

We have offices in the UK, Ireland, Germany, USA, and Australia and support various multinational companies across 18 countries. Find out more:



Ailsa Carson
Partner; Marketing & Communications
S A Partners

Unleashing Innovation: The Crucial Role of Creativity in Modern Business

By Conor Dawson, Head of Ireland Region

In today’s fast-paced and ever-evolving business landscape, the ability to innovate has become a cornerstone of success. As organisations strive to stay ahead of the competition, adapt to technological advancements, meet looming legal ESG imperatives, and meet the changing needs of consumers, creativity emerges as a driving force behind meaningful innovation. This blog explores the symbiotic relationship between creativity and innovation, highlighting the ways in which fostering a creative culture can unlock unprecedented business potential.

The Foundation of Innovation

Innovation is the lifeblood of business growth and sustainability. It goes beyond simply introducing new products or services; true innovation involves transformative thinking that revolutionises the way a company operates. At the heart of this transformative thinking lies creativity—the capacity to generate novel ideas, approaches, and solutions. In essence, creativity provides the foundation upon which innovation is built.

Creativity is not confined to the realm of artistic expression; rather, it is a dynamic and multifaceted cognitive process that can be harnessed across all business functions. From marketing and product development to problem-solving and customer service, a creative mindset allows individuals and teams to approach challenges with fresh perspectives, leading to innovative breakthroughs.

Adaptive Advantage

In today’s business environment, marked by constant change and disruption, the ability to adapt is a key determinant of success. Creativity equips individuals and organisations with the agility to navigate uncertainty and embrace change as an opportunity rather than a threat. Creative thinking encourages a willingness to experiment, take calculated risks, and learn from failures, fostering a culture of resilience and adaptability.

Consider a tech startup that continuously explores novel ways to address emerging market needs. By encouraging creative thinking, this company remains agile in the face of technological advancements and changing consumer preferences. The ability to adapt becomes a competitive advantage, positioning the organisation at the forefront of innovation within its industry.

Problem Solving and Decision-Making

Creativity is an indispensable tool in the arsenal of problem-solving and decision-making. In a business context, challenges and complexities are inevitable. A creative mindset empowers individuals to approach problems with curiosity and open-mindedness, enabling them to devise inventive solutions.

When faced with a business dilemma, a team that values creativity is more likely to generate a diverse range of potential solutions. By exploring unconventional ideas and perspectives, these teams are better equipped to address complex issues creatively. Moreover, creative problem-solving often involves collaboration, as diverse minds contribute unique insights, leading to more comprehensive and effective solutions. Instead of saying ‘we can’t’ we should be saying ‘what’s possible?’

Fostering a Creative Culture

Building a creative culture within an organisation requires a strategic and intentional approach. Leaders play a pivotal role in shaping the work environment, setting the tone for creativity to flourish. Here are some key elements to foster a culture that nurtures creativity:

  1. Encourage Open Communication: Create an environment where team members feel comfortable expressing their ideas without fear of criticism. Open communication channels facilitate the free flow of ideas, sparking creative discussions that can lead to innovative solutions.
  2. Embrace Diversity: Diverse teams bring a wealth of perspectives and experiences to the table. By fostering diversity and inclusion, organisations tap into a rich pool of creativity. Different backgrounds, cultures, and ways of thinking contribute to a more dynamic and innovative workplace.
  3. Provide Time for Exploration: Innovation often requires time for exploration and experimentation. Encourage employees to allocate time for creative pursuits, allowing them to explore ideas outside their usual scope of work. Google’s famous “20% time” is a prime example of this approach, where employees are encouraged to spend a portion of their work hours on personal projects.
  4. Celebrate and Learn from Failure: In a creative culture, failure is viewed as a stepping stone to success. Instead of punishing failure, organizations can celebrate it as a natural part of the creative process. Analysing failures provides valuable insights that contribute to continuous improvement and future innovation. In some companies, a ‘mess-up of the week’ is celebrated and then examined for learning potential.
  5. Invest in Learning and Development: Provide opportunities for skill development and continuous learning. Creative thinking can be honed and refined through training programs, workshops, and exposure to diverse learning experiences. Design thinking is one such module of learning which can lead to user-defined solutions when thinking about NPD/NPI

The Creative Spark in Marketing

In the realm of marketing, creativity is not just a tool; it’s a driving force that fuels brand differentiation and consumer engagement. Innovative marketing campaigns capture attention, evoke emotions, and leave a lasting impact on audiences. Take, for example, the “Share a Coke” campaign by Coca-Cola, where personalised labels transformed a ubiquitous product into a highly shareable and memorable experience. This creative approach not only boosted sales but also generated widespread social media engagement.

Creativity in marketing extends beyond advertising to product positioning, storytelling, and customer experience. Brands that infuse creativity into their marketing strategies stand out in a crowded marketplace, creating meaningful connections with consumers.

The Tech Frontier: Creativity in Technology

In the rapidly evolving landscape of technology, creativity is a catalyst for groundbreaking advancements. The most successful tech companies recognise the importance of fostering a creative mindset among their teams. Silicon Valley giants like Apple and Google are renowned for their innovative products, and at the core of their success is a commitment to creativity.

Consider the development of the iPhone—a product that revolutionised the way we communicate, work, and live. Steve Jobs, the visionary co-founder of Apple, was known for his emphasis on design and user experience. The iPhone’s success was not solely based on technological prowess but on the creative integration of technology into a seamless and intuitive user interface.

Moreover, in the realm of artificial intelligence and machine learning, creativity plays a pivotal role in developing algorithms and systems that can think, learn, and adapt. Creative problem-solving is essential in addressing the ethical considerations and potential biases inherent in AI technologies, ensuring responsible and inclusive innovation.

Unlocking Employee Engagement

A creative work environment is not only conducive to innovation but also contributes to higher levels of employee engagement. When individuals feel empowered to express their creativity, they experience a sense of ownership and fulfilment in their work. This intrinsic motivation translates into increased productivity, job satisfaction, and overall well-being.

In contrast, workplaces that stifle creativity risk disengagement and a decline in employee morale. Monotonous tasks and rigid structures can lead to burnout and limit employees’ enthusiasm to contribute their best ideas. Fostering a creative culture, on the other hand, encourages employees to bring their whole selves to work, fostering a sense of purpose and camaraderie.


In conclusion, the symbiotic relationship between creativity and innovation is a driving force behind success in the modern business landscape. Organisations that prioritise and nurture creativity within their culture are better positioned to adapt to change, solve complex problems, and unlock unprecedented business potential. From marketing strategies that captivate audiences to technological advancements that disrupt how we live, creativity is the spark that ignites the flame of innovation. As we navigate the challenges and opportunities of the future, embracing and cultivating creativity will be the key to staying ahead of the curve and thriving in the dynamic world of business.

Please do contact me if you would like support building Creativity in your organisation.

Conor Dawson

To find out more about this topic please consider the upcoming Changemakers Conference in Barberstown Castle, Straffan, Co. Kildare, Ireland, on March 7th 2024

What makes a great Deployment Leader?

by Simon Grogan

Great deployment leaders possess a unique set of skills and qualities that enable them to lead their teams toward Enterprise Excellence. Do you have what it takes?

Ask yourself these three questions…

I know who I am, what I’m good at, how I speak, listen, and think, I know what brings me down and I know what motivates me, I am continually looking to better myself.

What best describes you against this statement?

  • I am fully self aware and always operate at my best
  • I know some things about myself and do have the occasional good day
  • I really don’t know myself and I don’t know here I’m going

I know what I have to do and I know how to do it, I understand system thinking, KPI’s, KBI’s, projects, horizons, leader standard work etc

What best describes you against this statement?

  • I understand all those things and I can implement them successfully.
  • I understand some of those things and every now and then when I implement them, they work
  • I have no idea what those things are and the thought of them scares me


I understand my team and what we need to do together to achieve our goals, I appreciate everyone is different and no two days or circumstances are the same.

What best describes you against this statement?

  • I am closely connected with all my team; we work as a collective to deliver our goals
  • I quite enjoy working with some of my teams and we have had some success.
  • I have no idea who my team are, I don’t like them.

Most of us go down the middle as leaders, I know bits about myself, my team and what we need to do.

What I  have observed, working with some of the world’s largest organizations is that leaders need to invest much more in themselves.  They need to learn about how they behave and react to situations, develop their ability to lead in all sorts of circumstances.  Essentially, they need to master the art of leadership communication and that starts by openly reflecting their personal traits, and be honest about what they are good and not so good at.

Great Deployment Leaders should role model what they expect from their people, show them humility, respect, vulnerability, and commitment to getting the job done. Next they need to create a system where everyone understands what needs to be done and how it needs to be done.  Go build some systems and  standards.  Your aim should be to make work harder to get wrong than right. The next step is to continuously measure and improve what you do.

Finally, once you know yourself and what you want to do, go work with your people, learn to instruct, mentor, coach and delegate, get the best out of people, make them better than you, delight in their success and not just your own.

Crazy ideas I know but if you think about it, it makes sense, know yourself, understand what you have to do and help your team do it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, please reach out if you’d like to chat…



5 Great Reasons to Undertake an Assessment

We all need to grow, innovate and compete. To do this we need to have a deep understanding of our organization’s current state – hence the need to build a regular benchmarking assessment into your strategic plan.

We’ve identified 5 compelling reasons to kick start an assessment:

  1. Identifying Gaps

One of the primary reasons to initiate an assessment is to identify existing gaps and challenges within your organization. These gaps can range from operational inefficiencies to skill deficiencies. By conducting a thorough assessment, you can pinpoint these areas and create targeted strategies for improvement. This proactive approach can prevent potential issues from escalating and negatively impacting your business.

  1. Enhancing Decision-Making

Data-driven decision-making has become a cornerstone of successful organizations. An organization-wide assessment provides you with valuable data and analytics to support informed decision-making. Having comprehensive insights into your organization’s current state enables you to make decisions that are aligned with your strategic goals and objectives.

  1. Foster Organizational Alignment

Another key benefit of conducting an assessment is the ability to foster alignment across different departments and teams. Often, organizations face challenges due to siloed operations and conflicting objectives. A holistic assessment encourages collaboration and ensures that everyone is working towards a shared vision. This alignment is crucial for achieving long-term success and sustained growth.

  1. Adapting to Change

The business landscape is continuously evolving, and organizations must adapt to stay competitive. An assessment not only provides a snapshot of your current state but also helps you anticipate future challenges and requirements. By identifying potential risks and opportunities, you can proactively adjust your strategies and remain agile in a rapidly changing environment.

  1. Employee Engagement and Development

An assessment can shed light on the strengths and weaknesses of your workforce. This information can be used to design targeted training and development programs, fostering employee engagement and career growth. Engaged employees are more likely to contribute to the organization’s success and longevity.

Embarking on an organization-wide assessment is not just a wise choice; it’s a strategic imperative for organizations aspiring to thrive in today’s competitive business landscape. The insights gained from such assessments serve as the foundation for informed decisions and strategic planning, enabling businesses to navigate the complexities of the modern marketplace with confidence.

After the Assessment

Once you’ve established where you are, and where you want to go then a clear roadmap can be created to get you there. It’s this roadmap that then acts as a map that helps you navigate the journey from A-B and an assessment is a waste of time unless you translate this into a plan of improvement. It’s only then that you can start to bring an Enterprise Excellence journey to life for your organisation.

For a link to our high-level Organizational Assessment CLICK HERE

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like to discuss this further:

You may also find the following resources useful:


Creating a Roadmap for Enterprise Excellence

The Power of Benchmarking

By Ailsa Carson, Partner

Benchmarking is defined as the act or practice of measuring something against a standard, or of testing in order to develop such a standard[i]. Most organizations that are invested in best practice or continuous improvement will use benchmarking either formally or informally to support their journey. It can take place within the organisation, between departments, within local supply chains or business networks (such as the Lean Forum) or more formally through organized visit programs.

When you undertake intentional benchmarking activities either formally or informally you are assessing your organization or an aspect of it such as a process, with the one you are visiting.  You could be looking at a specific process, a problem or a system.

It’s not about whether one is better than the other, its about seeing different approaches to common challenges. It’s about seeing how different processes, systems and people interact with their work. It is a mechanism for continuous improvement.  Seeing how others have developed their systems and processes can be powerful and help drive rapid improvement.  For example, seeing how an organization has developed and deployed effective tiered meetings and how they communicate strategy can drive you to improve your own systems in this area.

Yes every product and company is different in how they operate, but many of the problems they face are common – employee engagement; waste; right first time; health and safety are common to all.

What we see through Onsite Insights[ii] which has been running since the 1980’s is that the benefit is not only for the visitor but also for the host site. Why? Because every person, will look at a process with a different lens. It could be a process or systems lens, a people lens, a health and safety lens, for example.  Visitors will therefore provide input that you may not receive from your own employees as they will be looking at things from a different perspective.

It is also clear that the benchmarking activity itself is not the only thing that provokes idea generation and solutions – its’ the act of immersing yourself in another environment for a period of time that can stimulate fresh ideas and thoughts and enable you to approach problems and challenges with fresh eyes.  Having met thousands of people on visits over the last 20 years, it is common to hear the phrase – it’s just being outside of the day-to-day that helps me think of solutions to challenges.

According to Allen Braun, “walking gives your mind a break. You get to take a pause from being analytical, which allows you to tap into your creativity and problem-solving skills”.[iii]  So benchmarking visits serve in two ways – to release us from our day-to-day to think more creatively and they provide a means to observe how others manage their processes, systems and people.

One site we have visited, Ipsen Pharmaceutical, who were awarded a Bronze Medallion by the Shingo Institute, undertake a program of benchmarking between departments. This has a myriad of benefits. It helps with inter-company communication, the sharing of best practice between departments and employee engagement.  Host sites have often remarked that one of the benefits they get from hosting benchmarking visits is the impact on the team. The visits allow the host company to reflect on how far they have come, what they have achieved in their continuous improvement journey and share with pride the results.  Employees that may not naturally have external networks get to share what they have achieved with like-minded people from different sectors.

Can the tools seen on site visits be taught in a classroom or read in a book – sure! But a real understanding of how they have been applied, what has worked and why as well as what hasn’t work can’t be taught this way.  Seeing process improvements first hand in the environment they were developed for is a powerful tool in seeing how simple changes can generate huge productivity and performance improvements.  It is the essence and power of both Gemba and Jishuken – tools that underpin lean manufacturing and support the pursuit of excellence.

Many organizations with long-service teams, may also find that sending these people on visits stimulates fresh thinking.  It allows people to see different environments and create networks that they can then discuss challenges and problems with.

One of my colleagues says that benchmarking ensures you “Don’t swallow your own bullshit!” I love this even if it is a bit harsh. What it does is provides external (or internal) validation of how well you are doing compared to other organisations either within your own sector or outside of it. I have assessed hundreds of sites globally and it is generally those that feel they still have a long way to go are performing better than those that feel they are at the top of their game.  Not wanting to use another phrase but after all – complacency can breed contempt!

I had a great debate with a colleague once on whether benchmarking leads to complacency. His belief was that if we compare ourselves against others and only seek to achieve what they have we will all only every achieve mediocre results.  I don’t agree, but I do feel, that alongside benchmarking organizations need to be clear and ambitious about their long term vision and direction of travel to ensure they don’t fall into the trap of just performing as well as the next company.

Whilst we would love to see you all on the visit program – Onsite Insights, we also want to encourage everyone to invest in benchmarking in whatever form it takes – set up an internal benchmarking framework (we can help with this!) or visit within your supply chain or customer network.  You can also join more informal networking groups like the LEAN FORUM to gain inspiration from your desk!

Please do contact me for further information or for support and recommendations on potential visits.


For information on the visit programme please do contact me or visit our website



[ii] Onsite Insights is an international visit programme owned and operated by S A Partners LLP. Established in 2003 the program supports organisations improve through a series of one day visits to best practice sites.

[iii] Allen Braun, WRAIR,

The Role of Leadership in Digital Transformation

By Jack Worboys, Consultant 

Technology is changing the world in which we live faster and more exponentially than ever. Our use of technology pervades every aspect of our lives and it is therefore imperative that every organisation has a digital transformation that is aligned to their strategic objectives. It is however all too easy to get digital transformation wrong, and what could become your competitive advantage can quickly become an expensive anchor dragging you back.  

Full-scale digital transformation is a comprehensive reimagining of business processes, models, and customer interactions through the integration of digital technologies. The ultimate goal is to improve operational efficiency, enhance customer experiences, and remain competitive.  

In this article, we will discuss various factors you might want to take into account when integrating digital tools into your business. 

It’s clear if you get this right, you will reap rewards that are well worth the investment. You will achieve:  

  • Improved Customer Experiences: A big trend these days is first party data (your own database). Using this data effectively can provide insights into your customers behaviours, values and preferences – enabling you to understand your customers better and provide tailored experiences. This in turn can lead to increased customer loyalty and revenue. 
  • Increased Efficiency: Automating processes and leveraging data-driven insights leads to less waste, more value-added work, higher customer satisfaction, reduced costs, and increased profit. 
  • Competitive Advantage: Businesses that lead in digital transformation gain a competitive edge, as they can respond to market volatility and offer innovative solutions.  

As with any business, it is vital that the leaders of the business have a clear and compelling vision of the Digital future they wish to create. This vision serves as a North Star, guiding the actions of everyone in the organization throughout the transformation process. 

To succeed, leaders must create an open-minded culture that embraces change, fosters innovation, and encourages collaboration across all levels. If your culture is not open minded about changing the way they work, any transformation is going to hit major roadblocks along the way. 

Having a vision isn’t sufficient – digital transformation should be a core pillar within your strategic plan. You should assess your digital maturity, identify areas of improvement, set clear objectives, and develop an achievable roadmap to get to where you want to be. It’s crucial to prioritise initiatives that make commercial sense, digital transformation is often a significant investment, so in most cases it must pay. 

The digital landscape is dynamic, tools change, and the opportunities available at the start of your journey could look totally different at the end. The best approach is to embrace an iterative process, adapt to market changes, and be willing to pivot, when necessary, while maintaining focus on your overall organisational purpose. Traditional, rigid structures are less effective in the digital era. 

There are a number of options you will need to overcome:

  • Resistance to Change: Managing Change is challenging and there will be resistance. This could be a result of previous experience or failed technology attempts. Leaders must pro-actively manage change and gain commitment. Repeatedly communicating the benefits, ensure extensive training and support exists to ease the transition. Direct line managers play a key role in supporting, or blocking, the rollout of new tools.  
  • Data Privacy and Security: The digital transformation process often involves collecting and utilising vast amounts of data. Leaders must prioritise data security and privacy, complying with relevant regulations and ensuring customer trust. Get this wrong and it can cause a real headache.  
  • Technological Complexity: Integrating multiple technologies can be complex and challenging. Reiterating the importance of planning, it’s essential to have a robust IT strategy and an architecture that can adapt to evolving digital needs. Avoid getting locked into a system that limits your integration opportunities down the line.  
  • Talent Gap: Operating your processes in a digital environment is a different experience to how your people work today. However, most can transition with ease, provided they have the right support and training. One area that is often short on investment is the skills (internal or external) to correctly configure the systems you implement. So often, organisations have tools that could provide huge value, but due to how they were configured, cause more pain than relief.  

It’s clear digital transformation is not something to rush, or a short-term endeavour. It should form an integrated part of your long-term transformation journey. You should take time to consider how each step in the journey links back to your organisational purpose. Take small steps, learn as you go and take your people on the journey with you. If they believe and see the value, they will help drive the transformation on your behalf.  


Delivering Process Improvement

We all want to improve the way that we work. Process improvement (digital or otherwise) doesn’t just happen though, someone has to drive these projects. Whose responsibility should this be? Should we ask our divisions to improve their own processes or do we create a transformation team to do it for them.  


To start, let’s quickly recap S A Partner’s Improvement journey:  

SA Partners Improvement Journey 

The model explains that to reach excellence, you need to: 

  1. Standardise the way that work is done 
  2. Optimise your process by removing waste  
  3. Use technology to scale your processes  

While there are more nuances, at a high level it really is that simple. The question then becomes, how, or rather who, needs to support this journey.  

There are three approaches that you can take when it comes to improvement:  


Under a central model, a central team is formed of skilled and experienced people whose day job it is to deliver improvement. These central resources may be employees of the organisation itself, external consultants, or a combination of the two. The division will remain involved; however, they will be stakeholders rather than being responsible for delivering projects.  


Under a decentralised model, the responsibility for process management and improvement will sit with the division themselves with limited, if any, central support.  


Under a hybrid model, a central team exists however the delivery work is shared with the division. The role of the central team can vary, and be anything from providing centralised planning and oversight, all the way through to doing the lion’s share of the delivery work.  

As you might imagine, there are advantages of each approach.  

A centralised approach:  

  • Helps ensure that the quality of development is consistent and in accordance to the established standards  
  • Accelerates the development of solutions by providing dedicated resources 
  • Reduces the time and cost of development through specialisation and economies of scale 
  • Helps to prevent shadow IT  
  • Minimises the duplication of work through the creation of reusable assets  
  • Allows the business to focus on their day job  
  • Ability to implement strong governance frameworks  

A de-centralised approach:  

  • Empowers Process Owners and Participants to improve their own processes  
  • May result in higher adoption from the business for solutions that they build  
  • Uncovers use cases that would otherwise have not been known 
  • Reduced the need to wait on a central team to become available  
  • Has lower central resource overhead requirements  

Clearly then there is no one best approach. In making the decision there are a few things to consider:  

  • Your strategy. Is there a business benefit for your division to diverting time from their day job to work on process improvement?  
  • Capability. Do your people have the skills needed to successfully deliver improvement themselves?  
  • Capacity. Do your people have the time to be able to deliver improvement projects while continuing to perform their day job?  


Again, while there is no one answer, I can offer some best practice guidance depending on the type of improvement work being done. Broadly speaking, we can split improvement work up into two arms, process management and process digitisation.  

Process Management  

Process Management involves documenting as-is processes, standardising the way that work is done, and improving these processes by removing waste. My recommendation is to decentralise this work.  

There is a huge strategic benefit of the division doing this work – they are the ones with their boots on the ground and therefore have the best understanding of where the process can be improved, what pain-points exist, and what the root cause of the underlying issues are. I would argue that asking your team to do this work is not taking time away from their day job, it is their day job.  

This of course does not mean that there is no need for a central team. You may have some large strategic projects that are too complicated to ask the division to deliver themselves, so you still should have access to central, highly skilled and experienced resources to deliver these projects as well as to support the division as they deliver projects themselves.  

Having agreed that there is a strategic benefit to decentralising this work, we now need to consider capacity and capability.  

Starting with capacity. There’s no point asking your divisional team to perform improvement work if they are already working at 110% utilisation. Something will need to change and overtime you need to ensure that everyone has time formally built into their performance plans to focus on improvement.  

Capability is much easier. Everyone across your organisation should have some amount of process management, improvement, and problem-solving skills; the level to which will depend on the extent to which they are expected to participate and lead improvement initiatives. As a starting point, here is our guidelines for the skills required:  


Process Digitisation 

The second arm of process improvement is digitisation and automation. This involves using technology to improve processes which may be as anything from implementing an off the shelf tool, automating process steps, or building custom applications.  

These activities do not necessarily have a strategic benefit of being performed by the division. Once we identify that our process has a step that can be automated for example, there is no strategic benefit for the division to build the automation itself. In this case, you would be better off leveraging experienced, competent professionals to perform the technical build and testing while the division focuses on their day job. There is however a benefit in the division receiving basic training on process digitisation and automation as, by understanding the art of the possible, they will then be well placed to flag where there are opportunities to incorporate technology in their processes.  

In summary then, as obvious as it sounds, if you want to improve your processes you need to consider who is going to perform the improvement work. This decision needs to be anchored in strategy and supported by realistic capability and capacity planning. Finally, this decision needs to be fluid, as your organisation and the environment in which it operates evolves, so too should your execution model.  

 Please do reach out if you would like to discuss this in any way. 

Ishan Sellahewa 

The SHINGO© Model that drives Enterprise Excellence & the focus on Culture & Behaviours that matter

By John Quirke, Author

In 1988 as a recognition for his work across a broad range of industry sectors, Shigeo Shingo was awarded an honorary Doctor of Management from Utah State University.  Over the course of his life Dr. Shingo wrote eighteen books on the improvement of work and the processes that support the effectiveness of work.  Many terms we use widely today such as ‘single minute exchange of die’ (SMED) and ‘go see activity’ or ‘going to Gemba’ originated in Dr Shingo’s writings.  The adoption and expansion of Dr. Shingo’s thinking and philosophy led to the development of the Shingo Enterprise Excellence Model, and the formation of the Shingo Institute, within the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University.

The Shingo Institute

has drawn on a wide range of expertise and research to expand the philosophy behind the original model to include a critical focus on the quality of leadership, organisational culture, and the critical link between desired behaviours and the impact of business system on these behaviours.

The outcome of the majority of business activity is based on a human behaviour and the actions that result for that behaviour.

The behaviours that count, are the ones that result in an action that we could see or hear.

  • An employee may see a problem but fail to raise it as an issue.
  • A leader fails to react to an obvious breach of agreed standards of work or safety protocols.
  • A supervisor may angrily chastise a team for poor performance.
  • A quality engineer develops a poor corrective action without seeing or ‘touching’ the process.

All the above are behaviours that will result in possible customer dissatisfaction, loss of trust, or loss of integrity.  At S A Partners we refer to these behaviours as ‘NIBs’, ‘Not Ideal Behaviours’.  Consider all the NIBs in your organisation.  How many have a direct impact on your bottom line?

I like to use the ‘two click rule’ to get serious about dealing with NIBs.  If that employee allows the damaged product to pass their workstation (click 1), and that part is missed during quality sampling (click 2), there will be an impact on the bottom line and the integrity of our product in the marketplace.

As an example, we regularly see a focus on generating improvement ideas in organisations.  This is seen as key behavioural indicator.  The idea being, that incremental ideas add together as marginal gains to improve overall performance.  This is a fine a laudable approach when process is stable, and we are seeking incremental improvements.  But when the process is in the red zone of variation and firefighting there are many KPI’s, alarms and often customers screaming at us to tell us what the problems/opportunities are now!  Yes, we need improvement ideas, but these ideas must be focused on the issues and problems at hand.  They require strong direction and good leadership to ensure teams are not distracted and get the time and support to implement their ideas effectively.

So where should focus behavioural measures in the above example?  Good implementation of employee ideas?  Well maybe.  But initially the behavioural measures must focus on the quality of leadership.  Are leaders spending time with their teams to support and understand their issues?  Are leaders appropriately recognising effort and exemplar behaviours within their work teams?  Are leaders actively involved in supporting and facilitating cross functional problem solving.  Gaining control and exiting the ‘red zone’ is dependent on the quality of leadership not on the random improvement suggestions of employees.

The point is organisations can spend a lot of effort measuring behaviours that do not have a direct impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of the work that needs to take place to meet customer expectations.  At the end of the day, it is about delivering measurable results.

The Shingo Model’s focus on culture and behaviour is there so that organisations become laser focused on the behaviours necessary to make the difference between winning or losing.

Systems Thinking

An important insight brought by the Shingo Enterprise Excellence Philosophy is that expressed behaviours (actions or conversations) whether they are good or bad are a result of the quality of the systems within the business, or the absence of them.  The employee who passes a defective part may be measured for the most part on units produced per minute.  The quality engineer is driven by a corporate quality system that focuses on corrective action closeout rather than effective problem solving.

“If you need to change behaviour you must consider the systems and processes that drive the behaviour you need to change.”

S A Partners Improvement Journey Model

The power of the guiding principles

Many companies speak to high level values.  But very few connect these values to what is important for business success.  Even fewer translate values into observable effective winning behaviours. The ten guiding principles within the Shingo Enterprise Excellence model give organisations ‘lenses’ through which to view the work that they do and give insight into the necessary ideal behaviours necessary to support sustainable excellent performance.  The principles can be backed into’ set organisational values yet give a firm guide as to what aspirational values need to look a feel like where the value adding work gets done.

Taking some examples:

Does everyone in your organisation feel respected as an individual? Are they are listened to?  If their concerns or ideas are not listened to, if they are not developing as individuals or the organisation is not keeping them safe physically and psychologically, then they are not being respected.

If leaders spend their time telling teams what they should or should not do they are not leading with humility and the team will become dependent.  There will be no organisational learning, and poor leadership habits at senior level will be amplified as we travel down the organisational layers.

Equally if we consider some of the principles within the Shingo dimension of Continuous Improvement, do you see a true Focus on Process within your teams where standards are clear current, understood and regularly reviewed and improved by those who use them?

Or how about Flow and Pull?  Do we have a clear line of sight as to how you flow customer value through all aspect of work?  From sales to delivery and receipt of payment?  Do processes really flow or are they overly complex, bound up in compliance culture and continually prone to error and delay?  The flow of value in response to the pull or demand of the customer, thrives on elegance in process and work design.  It requires detailed knowledge of the work and the factors that impact the speed and reliability of the work.  The individuals who discover and cherish this knowledge are those individuals who are closest to the work. These individuals have incredible leadership who are excited by these discoveries and actively celebrate the constant improvement of the work by the team.

I encourage the reader to read their definitions along with the remaining principles in the freely available Shingo Handbook from the website.

While the Shingo Enterprise Excellence Model is an incredibly powerful approach to developing sustained levels of excellence in an organisation it does bring challenges.  It requires real and genuine commitment for a site leadership team.  They as a team must own it.

Another challenge we see arises from the complexity within corporations and their approach to enterprise excellence.  Often, we see sites who have gone on a ‘solo run’ having gained initial approval for the approach but then find themselves in a sea of confusion as attempts are made to align the Shingo Model with corporate values, improvement systems even branding!

Personally, I see the Shingo Enterprise Excellence model as providing an extremely powerful framework to develop a holistic approach to sustainable organisational excellence.  Many existing programmes and systems can be aligned to a clear unambiguous focus on excellence.  A focus that is supported by leadership skills that enable their teams to be brilliant at what they do.

It is a tough journey, but it can also be extremely rewarding.

Please do, get in touch or join us at an upcoming Intro to Shingo Workshop



About John Quirke

John Quirke is a partner with S A Partners and is a Shingo Examiner.

John holds a BSc, MSc and BCL degrees and has over twenty five year experience in the area of operational excellence.

John co-authored the Shingo Prize winning Publication TPM a Foundation of Operational Excellence with colleagues Peter Wilmott (RIP) and Any Brunskill.

John has recently published Deep Excellence – Seeing and Hearing a Culture of Deep Excellence, with contributions for colleagues Juliette Packham, Bryan Cutliff and Simon Grogan.

For more information please visit and



Align, Engage, Improve with Effective Tiered Meetings

By Sonja Allen Image of Sonja Allen

Have you ever considered…

  • How many meetings you have a week?
  • How many of these meetings could be an email?
  • How many of these meetings have few or no results?
  • How many rabbit holes do your meeting conversations go down?
  • How regularly do you talk about what really matters, in a focused fashion?

And more importantly have you asked if there is a way to ensure you and your team leave every meeting feeling it had value and purpose and moved you forward.

Getting the right team together to make the right decisions at the right time is hard. Often it’s made harder by the fact that we don’t naturally approach communications and decision-making in the same intentional and systematic fashion as we would other business processes.

To sustainably deliver great customer results all organisation must align their business systems and processes to deliver on the organisation’s purpose…

engage all their people into that purpose

and into continuously improving the business processes they are responsible for

In the world of Enterprise Excellence, we achieve this by deploying a Management System – a structured, interlinked set of measures, meetings, actions and decisions which allow us to run today’s business and shape tomorrows. It provides a right time, right place, right focus, right pace decision-making focus at every level of an organisation, or, as we call it at S A Partners: The Align Engage Improve System (AEI for short).

AEI brings all of the elements together to make your improvement journey successful. It aligns teams on the organisational purpose, engages everyone in delivering towards it and surfaces opportunities to improve, which is why embedding AEI into a transformation journey means rooting it in the culture and behaviours that will sustain it.

You may think “HUH?” at this point. How practical is this? The answer is simple – management systems really are at their core just a better way of organising our meetings.

To be effective Meetings need to visually focus on the things that are most important to each team.  To do this we use a few basic principles:

  • Make organisational goals / purpose clear and visual.
  • Help your team understand their personal contribution to goals and track the actions required to achieve them.
  • Show where you are winning and where you are losing.
  • Help your team understand the expected behaviours.
  • Create a standard approach for all meetings across the business.
  • Define clear escalation & feedback pathways.​

Organisations embed AEI or any management system, to align to & deliver on strategic priorities, speed up problem solving and escalation, reduce time spent in meetings, reduce fire-fighting, shape organisational culture in an intentional fashion and engage and empower the whole organisation to become part of their Enterprise Excellence journey.

After you have stabilized your meeting structure you can focus on taking a holistic view of the organization. In this phase you will create a schedule of meetings, also known as an inventory of meetings. This is where you hold information on all regular pulse meetings, attendees, frequency, purpose and  how the effectiveness of the meeting is reviewed. As with all other processes – meetings should be subject to review and refinement. Redundant meetings can cease, duplicate meetings merged – by holding this information in one place the senior leadership team have complete oversight of how the various meetings contribute to the companies objectives.

If you want to find out how we can help you develop and deploy an effective tiered meeting system please do contact me..

Understanding Lean Leadership

By MEGAN JAMES, European Business Development Manager

I previously shared the S A Partners implementation model for Enterprise Excellence and how to use this to build effective training programmes. In case you missed it, you can find it HERE. I received some great queries specifically about the design of the Leadership element so I wanted to share some further insights on how we develop this with our customers and why it is so critical.

Fundamentally, the role of Lean Leadership is to create the right environment in which a culture of continuous improvement can be realized, where every individual has the capacity and capability to solve problems; improve their task, processes and systems on a daily basis. It is not just about tools and techniques but also about understanding the systems required to achieve Enterprise Excellence and how those systems can drive the right culture and behaviors.

To do this a different approach to Lean Leadership is required – one that truly equips leaders for the challenge ahead. Over the years we have seen Continuous Improvement & Lean programmes live and die because of the Leader in charge, the culture they have created.

Leaders that have the accountability for deploying Continuous Improvement and Lean, potentially need to change the way their teams work, think and behave. They, themselves will need much more than an understanding of Lean tools and principles. They need to understand which systems are required to drive the right behaviours; and how to engage their team in those systems to make them sustainable.

This is a very different skill set to what is traditionally taught in “Lean Leadership”. Many organisations have general leadership programmes that teach core skills, but these often don’t provide the specific lean context, alternatively some programmes do provide an understanding of the principles of Lean but focus too much on Lean tools rather than the required Lean leadership capabilities. Somewhere in the middle there is a gap, leaving leaders ill-equipped to face the challenges ahead.

With this in mind, S A Partners has developed a Lean Leadership programme that supports leaders to be the enablers of Lean that we need them to be. This programme focuses on 3 core capabilities:

Who I am:

All Leaders at all levels first need to develop a deep understanding who they are, how they think, speak, listen and connect with others. We have characterised this as the Leaders DNA, what makes them tick, what they are good at and what can they improve.



What I do:

This element focuses on what needs to be done. To do this we use the Enterprise Excellence model which provides a framework for understanding what makes an effective organization, business, department, or team. It looks at purpose, process and people in conjunction with how the organisation aligns, engages and improves to deliver sustainable customer results. Leaders are taught how signature systems are constructed, how to create their own development plans and learn how to diagnose their own activities and teams. Leaders will learn how to effectively use Go-look-see as a way of understanding the current state, measuring progress against their roadmap and engaging with their teams.



My Team:

The third element is developing the skills necessary to engage and align the team. To do this we use a tried and tested framework to first identify what needs to be done and then develop the essential leadership skills to ensure it is delivered. Leaders are first taught how to diagnose current reality, set improvement goals, understand development needs and reflect the right leadership style. Following this their skills are developed enabling them to successfully instruct, mentor, coach and delegate.




70:20:10 Learning Philosophy

By focusing on the 70:20:10 learning approach (see below) we put the emphasis on supporting every Leader throughout their Leaning journey, translating the learning into a roadmap for their part of the organization that will truly drive and sustain change.

Lombardo, Michael M; Eichinger, Robert W (1996)
The Career Architect Development Planner


If you’d like to find out more about how we could work with your leaders then do get in touch with our team on or visit our website for further resources.



Why I’m uneasy with the term ‘True North’ by John Quirke

I came in for a bit of teasing by a work colleague recently over my uneasiness with the term True North.   We were working with a leadership community in a large automotive business, and he used the term True North, which brought about an obvious and over exaggerated wince from me which raised a few giggles in the room!   Following a recent webinar, I was also asked why I was so uneasy with the term.


A senior leader in a different organisation pointed to a one sentence slogan on a wall in a conference and explained to me ‘That’s our True North. We may never get there but that’s what we call Our True North’.


So, here’s my thoughts on the use of True North when we talk about business culture, business transformation, or the pursuit of enterprise wide excellence.


First off, and cards on the table, I am a keen sailor.


I own a sailboat and myself and my family have sailed the South and West coasts of Ireland and the Mediterranean.  I have also sailed East and Southern coasts of the United States.  Understanding and using a boats compass is critical skill on a sailboat especially during long sea passages, during night sailing or in poor visibility.


Choosing a direction to navigate is always based on your relative position to North.  But there are two Norths!  There is a geographical North Pole and there is a Magnetic North.  Magnetic North is the force that influences a compass bearing.  In choosing any course a skipper must take into account this magnetic variation. This is the difference between geographical or True North and Magnetic North. But the extent of magnetic variation is dependent on where you are on the globe.  At each location a skipper must consult with information provided on local charts to define the magnetic variation in the area and account for it in calculations on a given course.


In addition, the sailboat itself may introduce some element of magnetic interference know as deviation into the calculation due to the presence of metals or electric currents within the boat itself. These are generally small deviations.  However, on some occasions a carelessly placed mobile phone can have a dramatic impact on compass readings!


While all these factors relate to the compass and the influences on it, there are also some important environmental factors that influence any course selection. These are the prevailing wind conditions and tidal currents which can either combine or cancel each other to have a profound effect on a sailboat’s course. There are also hazards that may be encountered during the voyage. Rocks, hidden reefs, or areas of busy commercial marine traffic.


What we end up with after taking all these factors into account, is a calculation of a course to steer.  This is the guidance we give to crew as they take the helm for their watch.  It is the information we enter in our log of the voyage.  During a tight entrance to a harbour this course to steer will be closely followed. But during longer sea passages the course to steer may have limits, no higher than and no lower than a few degrees either way. On long passages the variation when managed well, cancel out allowing the vessel to arrive at the chosen destination.  But on these long passages the course to steer must always be reviewed based on the ever changes conditions of the external environment.  If during a watch on deck the crew cannot maintain the course within defined limits, they are given the authority to adjust the sails and allow the vessel to maintain its defined course.  The crew are also given clear directions on what issues must be escalated to the skipper.


Seldom can a skipper plan a direct point to point voyage over extended distances.  More often skippers need to carefully plan the journey.   A skipper will plan a route in stages aiming to arrive at an intermediate port where crew and boat systems can be reviewed and maintained. If all is well, they proceed to the next port. If not, the necessary changes or repairs are made before the voyage can continue.


A shrewd skipper will also plan ports of refuge.  Safe locations to bring the vessel to in the event of bad weather or serious problems with equipment or crew.  There will be points on the voyage where the skipper, unbeknown to the crew, will assess how things are going.  At these points (waypoints) the skipper will make the call.  Do we proceed, or do we need to head for safe port to repair, review or reflect?


So, just like in business choosing a defined course is complicated.


It needs accurate information to improve our chances of achieving the desired outcome.  It will require careful thought and consultation with others especially the crew who may be more familiar with the local waters.  It will also require the skipper to study the local conditions of tide and wind and how they may change over the course of the voyage.


The skipper will also need to be acutely aware of the subtle magnetic deviations arising from the vessel itself and the factors that can exaggerate it.  The skipper will also constantly check to ensure his crew are ‘onboard’ in that they are actively attending to their individual tasks and logging and monitoring progress and noting any corrections or observations made during the voyage.


So, when a leader in an organisation points to a sentence on a wall or power point presentation saying ‘that’s our True North’, I think okay, but tell me about the reasoning behind choosing that course?


What are the clear stages on the journey?

  • At what point do we assess the vessel the crew and our overall progress?
  • What are the equivalent weather and tidal conditions i.e. market conditions you have taken into account?  How are these likely to change over the course of the journey?
  • How have we considered the unique challenges ‘deviations’ with this vessel (business) and what are the situations that can exaggerate them?
  • What are the planned ports of refuge if the voyage is not as smooth as expected?
  • How do you check that your crew are ‘onboard’?


But most importantly:


Why is that destination so important to the business?


Many leaders point to a True North without either understanding the details of the voyage to get there, or engaging the team in the science and reasoning behind the the voyage and the destination.


A good skipper always communicates with the crew. Explaining the background and thinking behind the chosen course to steer.  Hazards will be noted and made clear. Crew will be given authority to make decisions within defined frameworks.  Waypoints and progress will be clear. At these defined points reviews are made, current information considered and where necessary the course is refined.


By simply pointing to a sentence saying that’s the direction we are going ‘Our True North’ a leader can quickly loose the confidence of the crew.


The crew must understand why the destination is so important.  They must be clear on the challenges that must be faced and overcome during the duration of the voyage.  They must also understand their responsibilities to the voyage and how they contribute to the adventure.


A very experienced skipper once told me that good navigation is both a science and a culture.  The science and calculations are useless unless the crew understand their role and the details behind a chosen course to steer.



John Quirke

Senior Partner

Author of Deep Excellence (2023); TPM: A foundation of Operational Excellence (2021)

Shingo Publication Award Recipient

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Team Celebrates Shingo Publication Award for TPM: A foundation of Operational Excellence

On May 19 in Orlando, Florida, John Quirke, Life Science Practice Leader at global consulting company, S A Partners, received the SHINGO Publication Award on behalf of the team for the book TPM (Total Productive Manufacturing): A Foundation of Operational Excellence.  John, along with business colleagues Andy Brunskill and Peter Willmott, are authors of the book which has been hailed as a key reference text in relation to operational excellence.

John Quirke who has been working with S A Partners for the past thirteen years commented:

“It is great to receive this honour from the SHINGO Institute who are recognised as an international benchmark for Enterprise Excellence.  It is also great recognition for the level of operational excellence that exists in Ireland too as, in writing the book, we drew on multiple projects from across the world.

At S A Partners we support businesses in Ireland, UK, Europe, North and South America and Australia with Enterprise Excellence, of which TPM is a critical part.  We are passionate about TPM as it is a mechanism that can drive improved reliability and asset utilisation for any organisation (not just manufacturing); it drives waste reduction, improves health and safety and enables employee engagement”

At a basic level, our approach to TPM is about creating an environment and culture that allows teams to understand the equipment they use and the processes they support in much greater detail.  The approach develops higher levels of equipment consciousness, where teams become more engaged with their work and improving that work.  Teams learn new skills and rekindle old ones that allow them to improve the way equipment and processes perform, eliminating waste, reducing cost and increasing output.

The book outlines a tried and tested 11 Step model which will support any organisation in delivering an excellent TPM programme.  Through the case studies interspersed throughout, the authors observed that those companies that successfully deployed TPM and sustained excellence were those that demonstrated a number of key mind-sets – all of which are outlined in the easy to digest book.  This includes illustrating how TPM can align with the systems thinking and ideal behaviors implicit in the Shingo Model™.

What sets this book apart is the focus on how to engage all employees in the TPM cycle of improvement, not just the maintenance team or engineering.  TPM is a foundational system that should be at the heart of every manufacturing and utility operation as it provides the reliability and stability required for successful and profitable value adding performance. 

At the awards ceremony in Florida, John gave thanks to his co-authors Peter Willmott, Andy Brunskill and the books designer Alex Everitt.

For more information on TPM or how we can support your organisation please do contact our head of TPM services

The book is available for purchase from AMAZON here

For more information, please contact:

Ailsa Carson
S A Partners
Phone: +44 (0) 783 222 3453

Some expert reaction to the book:

“This book will become a reference on how it should be done.  A paradigm shift to Total Productive Manufacturing that is long overdue.”

Greg Julich, Director Global Reliability, Pfizer Inc, USA

“I know of no other publication on TPM that comes close to the scope, detail and practical utility of this book, that is likely to become THE standard text on the topic.”

John Bicheno, University of Buckingham, UK

“The book provides a road map for success with practical guidance and first-hand case studies that help bring the model to life.”

Michael Hempton, Moy Park, UK


About the SHINGO Publication Award

The SHINGO Publication Award recognises and promotes writing that has had a significant impact and advances the body of knowledge regarding operational excellence.  The SHINGO awards are issued by the US-based SHINGO Institute whose mission is to promote the process of improvement by conducting cutting edge research, providing relevant education, performing insightful organisational assessments and recognising organisations committed to achieving sustainable world-class results.


– Ends –


About S A Partners

S A Partners is a leading global consultancy that delivers business transformation programmes.  They also deliver training, events and workshops to support organisations improve and achieve Enterprise Excellence. They are accredited by both the Shingo Institute and the Blanchard Corporation and have offices in the UK, Ireland, North America and Australia.  S A Partners was established in 1993 and is widely acclaimed by its customers for supporting them to drive change through people engagement and leadership.