Enabling Digital Transformation

Join Ishan Sellahewa as he talks through ‘Enabling Digital Transformation’

Contact Ishan with any questions: ishan.sellahewa@sapartners.com

From Training Academy to Training Ecosystem

Ailsa Carson

May 14th, 2024


I recently undertook ‘onboarding’ training with a software company. They provided access to numerous tutorials, video’s, live tutors, and live events. No doubt it saves them time and money in providing this level of resource. Software providers such as Salesforce, Nintex, Cvent and numerous others have led the way in creating these training ecosystems that deliver valuable training for their employees, but also their customers, suppliers and channel partners. It got me thinking and reflecting on my own experience of learning in these environments, how effective they are, and how this thinking can be leveraged to build training systems that support business change and transformation agendas. 

At S A Partners we have supported numerous organizations build their own training academies for Lean, leadership and transformation,  so we thought we would share our 6 simple steps to build a training ecosystem that delivers real results: 

  1. Assess Training Needs

Often called a TNA (Training Needs Analysis) you must identify Skill Gaps: Begin by conducting a thorough analysis of the existing skills of the workforce and identifying gaps that could potentially hinder the achievement of business goals, you should at this point also consider the needs of customers, suppliers and partners to ensure you are considering your entire training ecosystem. This could involve skills audits, employee surveys, customer surveys and consultation with key stakeholders. In a nutshell, if you want to transform or drive a change agenda, then what do you need your people to actually be able to do? And also ask do they currently have the hard and soft skills to do that most effectively? 

Also consider what standardized training you need to provide for legislative and compliance purposes (i.e. Diversity & Inclusion; Health & Safety Training) 

  1. Strategically Align with your Business Objectives:

Ensure that the training programs are aligned with the strategic goals of the company. This alignment helps in prioritizing training initiatives that offer the most significant impact. This also helps you frame training results by way of impact on business outcomes, rather than just capability or training metrics. 

  1.  Design the Learning Modules

Customize Content:  If you have ticked off points 1 and 2, then you will quickly realize that an out of the  box training solution will rarely meet your TNA or strategic objectives exactly.  Develop tailored training modules based on the roles, responsibilities, transformation objectives and career paths of employees. This personalized approach makes learning more relevant and effective to the employee and the business 

 Incorporate a mix of learning approaches such as e-learning, instructor-led training, on-the-job training, and blended learning to cater to different learning preferences and requirements. Most learning is realized in practice, so make sure you think about where learners will practice their new skills and give enough time to do that. 

  1.  Leverage Technology

Implement a Learning Management System to deliver, track, and manage training activities more efficiently. An LMS can help in scheduling training, administering content, tracking learner progress and certifications, and tracking associated business results (i.e. improvements from projects). 

Use advanced technologies like AI to create adaptive learning experiences that adjust the difficulty level or suggest resources based on individual learner performance and preferences. 

  1.  Engage your Teams

Your Training Ecosystem will only deliver results if you create a culture of learning within your organization. Consider: 

  • Leadership Involvement: Encourage senior management to actively participate in training sessions, as learners, facilitators and sponsors. Their involvement can significantly enhance the learning culture by setting a precedent. 
  • Recognition and Incentives: Establish a recognition system that rewards continuous learning and application of new skills. This could be in the form of badges, certificates, or career advancement opportunities. 
  • Certification by an accredited organization such as LCS or Shingo will add gravitas to your program and value to those that take the courses. 
  • Consider the artefacts you could use to encourage engagement (badges, lanyards, certificates etc.) 
  1.  Sustain your program by building in Continuous Improvement & Governance

Seek regular feedback from employees regarding the training they receive and the business regarding the outputs this is providing. This feedback is vital for assessing the effectiveness of the training programs and identifying areas for improvement. 

Treat the development of the training ecosystem as an ongoing process. Regular updates and iterations based on feedback and changing business needs are essential. 

Set your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and measure the effectiveness of the training programs. Common KPIs include completion rates, learner satisfaction, and performance improvements, but to get a full ROI on training, it must be linked to business KPIs and results (ideally aligned to point 2). 

Use data analytics to gain insights into how training programs are performing. This data can help in making informed decisions about future training investments and strategies. 

By fostering a culture that values and promotes ongoing professional development and continuous improvement, companies can enhance their competitiveness and retain a highly skilled workforce. Implementing a well-thought-out training ecosystem is not merely an investment in employee development but a foundational element of long-term business success. 

A training ecosystem is more than just a suite of training sessions, it is a whole system of learning that is designed to develop people and deliver strategic business results, be they employees, customers, suppliers or wider stakeholders.  

Please do reach out if you would like to discuss your Training Ecosystem 


Digital Requirements

For those who have worked with me in the past, something that I’ve harped on about is the importance of ensuring that technology follows process, not the other way around 

I’ve said this from years of experience seeing organisations taking the approach of ‘our existing tools won’t change and we’re not going to get any new ones, so how can we shape our processes around them?’.  The artificial limitations that this approach produces means that you are almost certainly imposing inefficiencies on yourself, deviating away from the path that would result in the best customer results, and you are setting yourself up for failure looking for work arounds (and hence making standardisation impossible).  

The approach that I’ve always championed has been to start by designing your optimised process and then looking for the tools that allow you to perform your process.  

Recently though, I’ve been questioning myself on this. Whilst I think building your processes around the constraints of legacy systems is still the wrong approach, what about when you’re looking for new technology? Does it always make sense by designing your process and then going to market – or might a technology first approach be more reasonable?  

Fundamentally, what tech vendors are doing is selling us processes. Salesforce have a process for us to create and convert leads, Monday have a process for us to manage processes, Slack has a process for us to communicate. Equally Microsoft Dynamics offers a different sales process, Asana has a different project management process, and Microsoft Teams has a different take on how we should communicate.  

The question then becomes, where do we start? Under the old paradigm that I encouraged, I would have suggested that you design your ideal sales process, and then have a look at which of the solutions in the market allows you to most closely execute your process. I no longer think that’s the right approach.  


Let’s start by defining a process as the steps needed to convert a set of inputs into a set of desired outputs.  

With this definition in mind, I think what we need to be doing is deciding on what the inputs to our business system are, what outputs the business systems need to produce, any key milestones, and finally the performance targets that we measure the business system against.  

For example, we might decide that our sales business system needs to take contacts (the input) and convert them into new customers (the output) at a rate of 30% within 120 days (the performance target). Along the way, we need to manage the conversion of a contact to a lead, a lead to an opportunity, and an opportunity to a proposal (the milestones).  

From here you should then take these business system requirements, present them to your target vendors, and leave it to them to propose a process for converting your inputs to outputs. You then need to assess and compare the proposed processes and decide which will allow you to most consistently and efficiently achieve your performance targets while balancing any other relevant considerations (such as price and support).  

Would you like to assess the maturity of your ability to identify Digital Requirements? 

The ability to define the requirements of any Digital use case is one of the six elements of Digital Excellence. You can complete a free self-assessment on all six elements, including Digital Requirements here The assessment should take 15 minutes to complete after which you’ll receive an email with your results.  

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

Ishan Sellahewa 



Organic v. Planned Expansion

Process Management initiatives often start in a certain part of an organisation to solve a specific business problem. For example, we may find that our Customer Satisfaction Score is below target, so we prioritise our process management efforts to focus on our customer services processes. This may be the entire scope of our process management initiative, or it may be the number one priority on our way to rolling out to the rest of the organisation.  

Processes don’t sit in isolation; they have dependencies on other processes which produce their inputs or use their outputs which sit outside of the original scope. In our example, if we collected and retained better customer data during the sales process the customer service process would be more effective. So, whilst process management, when limited to a certain part of an organisation, can drive significant value, the real benefit comes where the scope of the initiative is expanded to capture upstream and downstream processes. As a result, eventually the question is inevitability asked, how do we expand?  

Broadly speaking there are two options: organic or strategic.  

Organic expansion involves relying on word of mouth, where people outside of the original scope see process management in action and ask how they can get involved and bring it to their business unit.  

Strategic expansion involves centrally deciding the order in which new parts of the organisation will be brought on, and then proactively approaching those areas to engage when the time comes.  


So, which is better?  

The key to expanding is that, to be successful, you need to have the desire of the business to engage. Most people’s day jobs take up 110% of their time, on top of which we all have a backlog of side projects, so unless the people in the business unit see the value in process management this will just get added to the list of projects that are never looked at.  

The organic option then immediately addresses this requirement. If the operations team are chomping at the bit to get involved and get their processes mapped because they’ve seen how it helped the finance team, given some support and guidance they are likely to be your low hanging fruit.  

The strategic option however requires much more effort. Going in, you need to assume that the people within the business unit don’t see the value in process management and therefore won’t want to direct their precious resources to the initiative. Depending on where you sit in the organisation, you may not be the right person to make the ask. Initially this needs to be raised by a strong executive sponsor at as high a level as is possible. This sponsor needs to align process management with the organisations purpose and ensure that priorities and resources are aligned to make sure that the incentives of the business unit are aligned with their participation in the process management initiative (e.g. making sure that the business unit leaders have process related KPIs, ensuring that either something is taken off their plate to free up resources to engage in process management or additional resources are provided).  

With all of this in mind, it may seem like the organic approach is the sensible option. The challenge is that it is very reactive. First and foremost, it relies on the business putting up their hand to get involved which doesn’t always happen without a prod. Beyond that, it also means that you have no say in the order in which you expand. Going back to the idea of the benefits of mapping up and downstream, if you start by mapping your sales process and then move onto your IT Helpdesk processes, while yes you are expanding, you’re not going to see the synergistic benefits that you would if you went from sales to account management.  

If I were to make a recommendation then, it would be to be strategic. From the outset you should produce a game plan for how you would like to roll out process management to your organisation and ensure that you have the support of your executive team including a strong executive sponsor. From there, approach any organic expansion opportunities with care – on the one hand we need to pick the low hanging fruit when it presents itself, but also consider the overheard to support their rollout; the worst case scenario is that you spread yourself too thin by trying to do everything and the group that you’ve identified as high priority loses momentum as you focus elsewhere, and the groups that want to engage lose their excitement when they don’t get the support they need.   


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

Ishan Sellahewa 



Are you struggling to automate? Try standardization instead.

Many of the clients with whom I work have identified that process Digitization and Automation are critical to their ability to survive, let alone grow. And as such they invest. They hire teams of automation experts. They train their teams to be citizen developers. They buy automation tools. And nothing happens.  

The problem here is that this approach gives the organization everything they need to use technology to solve process problems but fails to help the organization identify the process problems in the first instance.  

When we talk about problem solving, we talk about a four-step approach:  



The approach of providing people with the tools and training needed to automate is essentially jumping straight to stage 3, developing and implementing a solution. Jumping straight to phase 3 will result in one of three outcomes:  

  1. Nothing. The business doesn’t identify process problems, so they have no use for the automation tools and techniques that are provided to them.  
  2. The production of Automated Waste. The business automates a process because they identify an ability to automate a process. Without performing a root cause analysis or optimising the process first, they end up simply automating the production of waste.  
  3. Success! Without going through the motions, the business may stumble on the right solution to the right problem. It is unlikely and unpredictable, but it can happen.

So, what can you do to increase the impact of your automation efforts? My recommendation is to accept that you can’t jump straight to automation, rather you need to start with process management. First up is to document your as-is process, stabilize it by eliminating variation, and then standardise.  

In performing this act of understanding how work is done today, your team will be guaranteed to identify problems which will lead to producing ways to incorporate technology into their processes. While this approach will take your team longer to get to the stage of automation, they are almost guaranteed to identify more use cases for automation and, importantly, will end up creating solutions that deliver results.  

For more information on how to achieve standardisation see my earlier blog Process Standardisation and Stabilisation.  

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

Ishan Sellahewa 


Lean Fundamentals

This paper sets out to describe where the Early Equipment Management(EEM) principle embedded within the TPM philosophy can bring substantial improvements to a company’s existing new product development and introduction processes involving capital physical assets. EEM is driven by a belief that behind the plant and equipment used in any production process there are three functional groups that are essential partners for optimising new product and equipment introduction, namely:

  • Commercial (sales, marketing, and finance)
  • Engineering (design, product, tooling, equipment, process and procurement)
  • Operations (operators and maintainers).

Beyond The Buzz

Join Ishan Sellahewa as he talks through ‘Beyond The Buzz: Building your Future through Digital Transformation’

Contact Ishan with any questions: ishan.sellahewa@sapartners.com

Managing Process Variations


Join Ishan Sellahewa as he talks through ‘Managing Process Variations’

Shingo Journey Guide

Check out our latest guide to your Shingo Journey – an approach to truly sustainable Enterprise Excellence.

How to align, engage and improve using effective Tiered meetings Webinar Recording

Join Sonja Allen and Megan James for this bite size webinar where they will share how to improve the effectiveness of your tiered or cross-organisational meetings using the tried and tested AEI (Align, Engage, Improve) System. Discover the principles, features and key benefits of deploying an AEI system​.​

Download the recording here.

How to align, engage and improve using effective Tiered meetings

Start your Digital Transformation Journey today…

Listen in to find out how you can begin your digital transformation journey today. Ishan Sellahewa shares how to align both your digital transformation with your Enterprise Excellence journey.

Contact ishan.sellahewa@sapartners.com with any questions

Align, Engage, Improve – Tiered Management System

Discover how the Align, Engage, Improve (AEI) system can support your organisation to deploy an effective and engaging Tiered Management System

Contact juliette.packham@sapartners.com or keivan.zokaei@sapartners.com with any questions

Lean Fundamentals: The Problem with Problem Solving

Across various industries, there has been a consistent demand to improveproblem-solving skills within businesses. Organizations often prioritize theuse of problem-solving tools and approaches, considering probleminvestigation and resolution as critical aspects of regulatory compliance.However, the prevailing culture associated with compliance-drivenproblem solving often leads to shallow investigations, rushed resolutions,and recurring issues.

Pocket Guide to: Changeover Optimisation

Manufacturing organisations are under pressure to increase productivity and improve flexibility & responsiveness to customer needs. Changeover optimisation is a means of improving performance to create a more flexible manufacturing environment. Equipment flexibility & responsiveness are core requirements of all modern manufacturing thinking and largely determined by process changeover capability.

To download click the download button above

Your IT department might be unknowingly undermining your culture

We all know humans are inherently lazy – we tend to take the path of least resistance. This makes sense; both mental and physical activity takes a lot of energy, something that was scarce at the time when we had to hunt and gather for our next meal. For a more recent example, if you put more bins out in the street, people are less likely to litter.

The Shingo Model© reinforces this thinking. The second Shingo insight states that system design influences the behaviour of individuals operating within a system. The model also states:

“Cultural transformation requires a shift in behaviours and systems drive behaviour. In the end, an organization will most likely need to adjust old systems, create new systems, and eliminate systems that no longer drive desired behaviour or are misaligned.”

Harvard Business Review suggests culture “guides activity through shared assumptions and group norms.” (Groysberg, Lee, Price and Cheng, 2018).

Shingo would say that these group norms are heavily influenced by the systems of work that exist within organisations.

However, a neuroscience study published on eLife online suggests that theory could go one step further. It suggests our decision-making abilities can be swayed by the level of difficulty involved in reaching the result. That doesn’t mean we knowingly settle for less because it’s easier – we see the easier result as being more desirable in the first place.

The study explains:

“Imagine you are in an orchard, trying to decide which of the many apples to pick. On what do you base your decision? Most research into this type of decision-making has focused on how the brain uses visual information – about features such as colour, size and shape – to make a choice. But what about the effort required to obtain the apple? Does an apple at the top of the tree look more or less tempting than the low-hanging fruit?” (Hagura, Haggard and Diedrichsen, 2017).

So, what on earth does this have to do with your IT department?

Most IT departments will play a central role in selecting and configuring digital systems deployed in organisations. These systems are having increasingly wide-reaching impacts on businesses, creating rigid frameworks and workflows that inform how teams can work. However, these digital systems can also contain loopholes.

Say, for example, that you have a system through which you manage the procurement of parts. The ideal employee should log the purchase by entering information such as part number, part name, and quantity, which then becomes a purchase record in a database, over time this builds a history of purchasing patterns. This part number should in theory be the individual part number, but the part number isn’t always easy to identify, there’s no system to look-up the part number, and their manager is currently pushing to minimise the time to place the order.

This leads someone to create an umbrella code for miscellaneous parts. There’s no control against this and no guidance in the system to advise against it. Now, despite a fixed system, you have a workaround that allows the purchasers to place the order in half the time. Only problem is, three years down the line, you have no record of what was purchased, severely restricting your ability to make informed decisions.

There are two things happening here.

Firstly, the lack of available solution for easily and rapidly identifying the part number is creating a challenge for the end-user to overcome – it’s making the standard process hard to execute. Secondly, the lack of control within the digital system is providing the option for the end-user to bypass the standard. The human mind is generally not capable of consistently selecting the harder option when an easier option exists, particularly in the face of pressure, stress and other challenges. You have now created an implicit behaviour where the team is favouring efficiency over data integrity.

Now, imagine this is happening in other processes. In other systems. There are implicit behaviours being created in all corners of the business, influenced by challenges and loopholes in digital systems. We are now building a set of behavioural responses and group norms, which brings us neatly back to our definition of culture. The cherry on top of this cake is that all those difficult processes might actually be impairing our ability to make accurate judgements about what our customer values most.

So, what can we do about this?

Leaders and managers should communicate priorities, take time to understand challenges and have open conversations with teams to truly understand the way work is working in their areas. These are opportunities to surface problems and opportunities to improve. By asking genuinely curious questions about ‘how work works’ they should encourage an environment where it is safe for team members to surface frustrations and corner cutting.  It’s also important to map and understand the workflows that flow through digital systems. Once standard processes and expectations are in place, governance and improvement meetings should be wrapped around these workflows, enabling teams to provide feedback where there are challenges.

It’s important to engage the IT department – and any other teams that are responsible for maintaining and controlling digital systems in the business – in the improvement meetings and related activities that work teams use to act on problems and opportunities. This should create a healthy tension, connecting IT service providers with the reality of work, and work teams with the potential and constraints or unintended consequences of IT based changes.

These challenges can then be addressed by optimising, removing waste and simplifying those processes. Automation and specific digital solutions can be applied to remove work from teams or solve complex challenges.

Continuous improvement should be a continuous and open conversation, which delivers results when leaders mobilise teams to identify and address challenges as they are encountered. It’s more important than ever that the IT department is onboard and engaged with these efforts as they now hold the keys to more doors than ever before. It might be time to take your CIO for a coffee…


Jack Worboys

Analyst Consultant




Nobuhiro Hagura, Patrick Haggard, Jörn Diedrichsen (2017) Perceptual decisions are biased by the cost to act eLife 6:e18422 https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.18422

Harvard Business Review 2018, The Leader’s Guide to Corporate Culture, accessed 26th April 2023, < https://hbr.org/2018/01/the-leaders-guide-to-corporate-culture>


S A Partners Launches Online Learning Capability

Well, ok we may be a bit slow starting but I promise you that we have caught up fast. Over the past three years with the impact of COVID19 we have seen a significant shift in the way we all learn, we have become more comfortable with the use of technology in how we develop our skills and knowledge.

We have seen the traditional classroom replaced by the home office, flipcharts replaced with Miro boards and delegate folders replaced with online playbooks.

Over the past 30 years we have delivered exceptional courses to our clients pushing the boundaries of thinking in Shingo, Leadership, Improvement Coach and Six Sigma

As a business SA Partners has learned so much in this space, we have adapted our training, coaching and accreditation approaches to make this a fully flexible customer experience.

Our trainers and coaches have adapted really well to this technology, receiving fantastic feedback from Customers across the World. They are now fully comfortable delivering all our courses either face to face, online or as a blend of the both depending on your specific organizational needs.

We have developed our own Role tracker System that is capable of tracking candidate learning journeys, managing documentation flow and benefits generated from development programmes. We have further adapted this resource so it can be fully integrated into role development looking at specific role skills as well as formal training programmes. Finally, the System also has the capability to manage and track your performance reviews, so providing the complete learning package.

In addition to the Role Tracker System, we have partnered with an online learning organization that can develop and customize our existing training packages so they can be delivered fully online. Please try out our free Certified Lean/CI awareness course

To back up the whole process we have developed online diagnostics that can analyse your organization and help provide feedback around how your drive towards the next level in your improvement journey. Please look at the below links for more details.

TPM Online Assessment

Enterprise Excellence Online Assessment

Its all really exciting times and we will continue to develop our knowledge and skills.

Food Sector: Is it too busy too improve?

As someone who has worked with many, many Food companies around the world on their Continuous Improvement and Business Transformation journeys, there is not a lot that surprises me or unnerves me. As the old saying goes “I probably have seen it all”. I have worked across Branded Name and Own Label Food Manufacturers across every Food category you can think of. I have seen successful and sustainable Improvement journeys in companies I would have least expected it. I have seen disastrous Improvement journeys that have totally failed in others.

I am not going to define here, from my own 25 years plus experience, what makes a successful Improvement journey – there are lots of good books on that subject (including our own!) and plenty of solid case studies on the S A Partners Food sector page (https://sapartners.com/food-drink-resources-and-testimonials//. But what I would like to explore is what has changed over the past 2 years and what unnerves me in the Food sector as we move out of the covid pandemic.

You don’t need me to tell you that the UK Food labour pool has shrunk dramatically since Brexit or that covid has compounded the negative impact on available labour; or that there are not enough drivers out there to transport in bound/outbound materials to or from our Food Manufacturing sites etc, however, you may be surprised when I tell you that I am coming across many Food companies who are now using these issues as a reason to NOT continue with their Improvement journey!!- its this mentality that worries me.

I was even told by the MD of a multisite Food Manufacturer recently that “we won’t be able to commence our planned Transformational Improvement journey this year as we have lots of problems we need to fix!”

What I believe is the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle, is that due to the macro level impact Brexit and Covid have had on the Food Sector, their Transformational Improvement maturity has regressed.

Typical Maturity Pattern for Organisational Transformation in the Food Sector

What therefore needs to happen now is a vastly different approach to transformation which focuses back on Phase 1, which wouldn’t have worked in Phase 3.

There is an old saying when playing Golf (not that I do btw), that you need to use “different clubs for different challenges”. I sense a lot of Food companies are now still trying to use their putting club when in reality they are now back in the rough and require a different club, or worse still, they give up trying to play the game and just go home (or to the clubhouse)!!

In summary, never stop your Transformational journey, just reflect and realise your maturity has gone backwards and you just need to i) accept this fact and ii) refresh your roadmap to get you out of the rough

We are, as always, here to support you on your journey.

Jeff Williams

Head of Food & Drink Sector

S A Partners LLP