Clearing the Air: A Lesson in Process Mapping

Keivan Zokaei

April 8th, 2024


In the midst of a fulfilling job, it’s disheartening to find oneself bogged down by negative comments and feedback from colleagues. Such was the case with one of my coachees who, despite enjoying their role, found themselves increasingly frustrated and hurt by after-hours criticisms via email or SMS from colleagues in other departments.

Feeling the weight of unfairness and defensiveness, my coachee and I recognized the need for a resolution. We agreed that a “clear the air” session was necessary, but with conflicting schedules, I enlisted the support of a fellow SA Partner to facilitate it in my absence.

Upon my return, I eagerly checked in on the session’s outcome and was pleased to hear that it went exceptionally well. What was intriguing, however, was the method used to achieve clarity. Instead of delving into deep introspection, the solution came through process mapping—a methodical approach to identifying and rectifying systemic issues.

During the preparation for the workshop, my colleague astutely noticed signs of a poorly understood and documented process. Rather than focusing solely on individual feedback and communication styles, he opted for a “four fields” process mapping session.

As the session unfolded, it became apparent that inadequate documentation and understanding of the process were at the root of the conflicts. By collaboratively documenting the process, team members gained insights into each other’s needs and contributions, diminishing the perceived conflicts and personality clashes.

While team dynamics and individual behaviors undoubtedly play a role in workplace harmony, it’s essential to consider the impact of flawed processes. Before embarking on soul-searching endeavors, ensuring that operational processes are clear and effective can preempt unnecessary conflicts and frustrations.

Creating a standard approach to problem solving

Rachel Doyle,

25th March, 2024


In the world of medical device manufacturing, efficient problem-solving methodologies are essential for ensuring product quality and regulatory compliance. This case study delves into the transformation of problem-solving practices within a medical device manufacturing facility, highlighting the challenges faced, strategies implemented, and the resulting benefits.


The Challenge:

Operating within a highly regulated industry, our manufacturing facility grappled with recurring quality issues despite rigorous investigation efforts. Subject matter experts (SMEs) often resorted to ad-hoc solutions, bypassing structured methodologies. This led to prolonged resolution times, resource drain, and heightened management involvement in issue mitigation.


What We Did:

Recognizing the need for a standardized approach, we embarked on a journey to develop and implement a comprehensive problem-solving framework. Leveraging our expertise and insights gained from extensive experience in life science manufacturing, we crafted a tailored solution adaptable to various complexities.

Utilizing this framework, we addressed a critical quality issue that plagued our operations. Engaging a cross-functional team, we facilitated collaborative problem-solving sessions guided by the newly established standard. The utilization of this structured approach not only expedited the identification of root causes but also fostered a culture of teamwork and accountability.



The adoption of a standardised problem-solving approach yielded tangible benefits for our facility:

  • Swift identification and validation of root causes, leading to targeted remediation efforts
  • Enhanced skill development among team members through active participation and collaboration
  • Increased engagement and enthusiasm towards problem-solving activities, transforming them from burdensome tasks to opportunities for improvement and learning


Key Learnings:

Our journey towards optimising problem-solving practices unveiled several key insights:

  • The importance of establishing clear standards for root cause analysis (RCA) to streamline investigative efforts
  • The need for flexibility within defined principles to accommodate varying complexities and scenarios
  • The significance of ongoing skill development initiatives to empower teams to apply problem-solving principles effectively


Next Steps:

Building on our successes, we are committed to further enhancing our problem-solving capabilities:

  • Continued investment in skill development through targeted training programs and mentorship opportunities
  • Integration of routine problem-solving sessions into our operational practices to foster a proactive approach toward issue resolution


How do we make problem-solving fun? 

A lot of my experience is life science manufacturing, including work on problem-solving, and the processes and skills needed for quality investigations. I love problem-solving, the excitement of learning about something new, working with great colleagues, and the opportunity to make things better permanently. But I have come to realise that isn’t an
opinion shared by everyone, especially when investigating quality issues in manufacturing. In my experience these tasks are barriers to batch release, or even worse are preventing manufacturing, so the pressure is on to come up with an answer and close it down quickly, rather than learning and looking to solve the root cause.
So how do we make this work fun? We recently did an experiment where we ran problem-solving in two adjacent rooms, one where we used digital tools, and people grouped around a screen, and the other where we used post-it notes and flip charts. The difference was immediately noticeable, there was laughter and engagement from the team who had gone analog, whilst the digital team was focused on what was going into the digital tool. I know sometimes digital is necessary, but the human contact and creativity of problem-solving is something that shouldn’t be
underestimated. You also need to remove barriers for effective problem solving, one of those is to create a standard for problem solving. If people are unsure how to tackle something they are less likely to.

Please do contact me if you would like to discuss how we can help you create a standard approach to problem solving.

Rachel Doyle

Changemakers 2024: Rapid Mass Engagement Frank Devine

Frank Devine, author of Rapid Mass Engagement inspires the audience at Chanagemakers 2024 with insights from both hi book and decades of experience supporting companies on their journey to Excellence

Changemakers 2024: Rapid Mass Engagement, Frank Devine

Changemakers 2024: Rapid Mass Engagement, Frank Devine

Changemakers 2024: Deep Excellence, John Quirke, Juliette Packham

John Quirke & Juliette Packham presenting insights into their leadership book Deep Excellence: Seeing and hearing a culture of deep excellence.

Changemakers 2024: Deep Excellence, John Quirke, Juliette Packham

Changemakers 2024: Deep Excellence, John Quirke, Juliette Packham Video

Behavioral change: Critical Behavioral Levers

Colin Scott,

18th March, 2024


Having assisted numerous clients in establishing their business systems as part of their overarching Business Operating System model, I’ve observed intriguing linkages between systems and behaviors. Through this journey, three critical attributes emerged, which I’ve dubbed the “Critical System Behavioral Levers”.

Development #1:

Unveiling the Levers In my experience, successful systems possess:

  • A Clear Aim: More than a goal, it entails a motivational purpose inclusive of ‘how’.
  • Defined Measurement: The metrics significantly impact behaviors, both directly through scorecards and indirectly via managerial preferences.
  • Standard Work: This serves as the human interface to most systems, promoting adherence through user-friendly, intuitive practices.

Development #2:

The Power of Synchronization Recognizing the interconnectedness of these levers, I devised a triangle model. Alignment is key; standard work must support the aim and be measured by aligned metrics. Misalignment can lead to behavioral variability or informal systems.

Development #3:

The Leadership Factor Despite synchronized levers, something was amiss. Leadership engagement emerged as pivotal during a workshop. Leaders’ shadows fundamentally shape behaviors, necessitating their active involvement and interface with other systems.

Achieving optimal business performance requires more than just focusing on systems; it demands building connections and engaging leadership. By understanding and synchronizing critical system levers and fostering leadership involvement, businesses can drive behaviors effectively and achieve desired results.


Aligning Problem Solving With Strategy

Nik Taylor,

11th March, 2024


In today’s fast-paced business landscape, aligning problem-solving activities with strategic objectives is paramount to unleashing the full potential of your organization. It’s not just about finding solutions; it’s about creating capacity, driving customer value, and fostering colleague engagement. However, many organizations fall into the trap of adopting problem-solving tools without considering how they fit into the bigger picture.

Case Study: The Park – Encirc, a Large Wine Manufacturer in Bristol

At The Park – Encirc, a leading wine manufacturer in Bristol, they’ve embraced a strategic approach to problem-solving. They’ve established a golden thread of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that cascade from executives to the front line. For instance, Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) isn’t just a metric; it’s a driver of cost, cash flow, and capacity. The emphasis on OEE aligns with Kotter’s model of change, focusing on creating a climate for change and communicating a burning platform.

Aligning Problem-Solving Across Levels

To ensure problem-solving efforts are aligned with organizational strategy, Encirc has implemented a tiered approach:

  1. Executive Level: Strategic initiatives such as Black Belt, Agile, or Prince projects aim to improve OEE. These projects are informed by bottom-up trends and improvements and reviewed quarterly by site leadership.
  2. Mid-tier: Process improvement projects like A3 DMAIC are implemented to address OEE based on weekly and monthly trends. These initiatives are periodically reviewed by operations leadership.
  3. Front Line: Task-based improvements, such as the 3C approach, are conducted every three hours on the front line. These efforts are tracked and monitored through a line-based improvement system, feeding into a daily review the next morning.

Building Problem-Solving Capabilities

Encirc invests in developing problem-solving skills throughout the organization. They utilize the Park Lean Academy to train White Belts, Yellow Belts, Green Belts, and Black Belts. Additionally, they reinforce problem-solving habits through leader standard work and Gemba walks, integrating problem-solving sessions into daily routines.

Creating a Culture of Continuous Improvement

By prioritizing daily problem-solving activities and fostering a culture of continuous improvement, Encirc has witnessed remarkable results. Teams have experienced incremental improvements in OEE, increased engagement levels, and enhanced skills. The capacity released through these improvements is reinvested into further continuous improvement initiatives.


Build your Problem-Solving Capability With Our Improvement Coach Programme

25 Years Of Enterprise Excellence Tips For Success

Jeff Williams,

4th March, 2024


After dedicating the last 25 years to supporting clients in implementing a culture of Enterprise Excellence across various sectors globally, it’s time to share some insights for success. Here are my key observations to consider:


  • Simplicity is Key: Craft a concise one-page strategic direction statement spanning three years, outlining key outcomes and clarifying the “why.”
  • Functional Buy-In: Encourage every relevant function to define its version of the strategic direction to ensure alignment and buy-in.
  • Site Strategy: Don’t wait for a group strategy; you can define a substantial portion of an effective site strategy independently.


Alignment (Deployment)

  • Actionable KPIs: Deploy “Running Today” Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for proactive decision-making, not just reporting.
  • Clear KPI Definitions: Define Green, Amber, and Red performance indicators explicitly to avoid ambiguity.
  • Ownership and Deadlines: Assign effective owners and completion dates for any Red/Amber KPI status.
  • Meaningful KBIs: Ensure behavior-based Key Behavior Indicators (KBIs) add value to teams rather than being merely politically correct.
  • Tiered Management Meetings: Regularly review and improve the relevance and alignment of your management meeting framework.



  • People-Centric Approach: Demonstrate the importance of people by establishing an effective end-to-end “People system” that connects all aspects.
  • Identify Management Layers: Address any inefficiencies in management structures through targeted change management efforts.
  • Leadership Impact: Effective leadership positively impacts team performance and mental well-being.



  • Eliminating Waste: Recognize and address the “8 wastes” within business processes, akin to how you would in personal endeavors.
  • Process Awareness: Ensure a clear understanding of core end-to-end processes across the organization.
  • Process Involvement: Acknowledge that everyone operates within processes within their roles.



  • Root Cause Problem Solving: Embrace simple and complex root cause problem-solving as a cornerstone of management meetings.
  • Training Needs: Understand the necessary number of improvement specialists and ongoing requirements before initiating training.
  • Competence Requirement: Leading an excellence journey demands distinct competencies from managing day-to-day operations.



  • Strategic Alignment: Foster a culture where employees understand their contribution to the business’s strategic direction.
  • Continuous Engagement: Regularly assess engagement levels in the excellence journey.
  • Persistence: Recognize that progress often involves setbacks; perseverance is key.


Customer Results

  • Value Perception: Don’t assume customer preferences; actively seek feedback to understand their true needs.
  • Beyond Financial Benefits: While financial gains are crucial, acknowledge the broader effectiveness improvements.
  • Consultant Role: External consultants aim to empower clients for success, not to claim credit for achievements.
  • Holistic Benefits: Highlight the comprehensive benefits beyond financial gains resulting from the excellence journey.


My Top 5 Tips for Successful Engagement

Sonja Allen,

4th March, 2024


Who agrees that team engagement is one of the key drivers that will make or break an organisation’s success? I hazard a guess and I’ll say most of you.


Employee engagement is one of the most referenced topics in conversations with my clients. It’s on the agenda of every organisation I’ve seen, often part of their values and embedded in their strategy. Regardless, it often remains an aspiration or something that is seen in “pockets of greatness” rather than a sustainable, everyday reality.


Employee engagement as a concept & its importance made its first appearance in mainstream management theory in the 1990s. That was 34 years ago! 34 years of knowing that to achieve excellence, deploy strategy, deliver our ambition, and sustain the success we must “get good” at engagement; so, why aren’t we reliably, consistently, and intrinsically great at it as organisations? And as leaders? What can we do to get better?


Here’s my personal top 5 engagement accelerators:


Be curiousask better questions and learn to listen without a call to action.


You expected me to start with purpose, didn’t you? Well, I won’t. Before we get into purpose, which is about stuff, we should start with ourselves and our ability to create meaningful connections, which is about people.

Engagement, in an organisational context, means that our people connect with the important stuff in our business. In order to drive engagement in our organisation we must as leaders therefore connect with our people first.


The Oxford English Dictionary defines curiosity as a strong desire to know or learn something. The expression of the desire to learn in human interaction is in the quality of the questions we ask and in our ability to listen without making what we hear about ourselves; I listen to get to know YOU, as opposed to trying to figure out what I think about what you are saying or if there’s an action in there for me.


Really good questions typically start open and then become more specific. Really good listeners often play back what they hear and will ask follow-up questions on that. Really good questions are more often Why, What, and How questions. Really good listening allows for silence because I am more curious about what you have to say after you had time to think about it than fazed by what’s on my mind.


An easy trick to start developing your curiosity and listening to create a meaningful connection is by starting a conversation with “Tell me about…” and following with a “Tell me more!” rather than an “I think.”


Make it about purposemobilising contextual communities who care.


Well, it had to feature, didn’t it? Once we connect with each other, we need to connect with the things that we want to achieve together. We need to form communities around meaningful contexts, and we must all care about achieving them together.


From a leadership perspective the corresponding skill is storytelling – how do you tell your story so clearly and cohesively that it allows people to connect to it? See it, feel it, envision it & believe it is achievable?

When we choose to support a purpose, there is an emotional component to that. Great storytelling is what allows organisations and leaders to tap into emotion & make that emotional connection.


A great story speaks of outcomes over outputs. Outputs are a thing that must of course be controlled and improved in the realm of management systems but can in organisational life feature in clunky and almost always not very successful attempts to create the link between their team and their purpose.


An example: I am an operator working in a value stream that produces chemotherapy. The output will be X units to Y quality standard in Z time. The outcome is I am saving lives.

Which do you think lends itself better to engage me in our purpose?


Co-createkeep your biases in check.


I sometimes say building the skill of collaboration and co-creation starts with striking the phrase “Yeah, but…” from your vocabulary.

Why? Because we are endlessly biased beings. We often assume that our thinking is more right than others’ thinking. We often assume that when we disagree, we are right and the other person is wrong.


In the context of engagement, this is a huge blocker. People need to be involved in shaping their work, they need to have an input into how their work is done, and how it is changed and improved to fully connect and engage. And they need to feel safe to do so. Co-creation breeds ownership. Ownership is the deepest expression of engagement.


Successful co-creation starts with the belief that we will do better when we do it together. It is expressed in our curiosity and the corresponding skills which I already described above. It is demonstrated by losing the self-importance of “I” and “me” language, the finger-pointing of “they” and “them” when talking about others in our organisation and rigorously adopting “we” and “us” language, behaviours, and mindset.


Addressing our biases is the hardest thing we must learn as leaders. But to truly enable a culture of engagement, co-creation is a must and we must therefore become aware of the risk our biases pose to it. If you want to start the process of identifying and addressing your biases, here are a couple of useful questions to ask yourself:


  • What core beliefs do I hold?
  • How might these beliefs limit or enable me and my colleagues at work?


Flex itadapt your style to your audience and the situation.


Do you remember how a while ago everything became about coaching? And how leaders of pretty much any organisation was shipped off to coaching classes? I always thought of that as a nice, but somewhat misguided sentiment in its simplicity. While coaching is a fantastic skill to have, it is not the be-all and end-all that will engage everyone in the right way all the time.


Great, engaging leadership lies in our ability to judge a situation and lead our conversation appropriately to it. I cannot coach you into learning a new IT system. I will need to give you some information about it, it’s much more of a “tell & check if you understood” than a “let me ask you some really good questions!”. If I am trying to engage a senior engineer in problem-solving on an issue in their area, I probably don’t need to mentor them through to the solution.


Flexibility of style and situational appropriateness help us get engagement right in any scenario and for any audience and are therefore probably two of the most important skills we must develop if we are looking to shape an engagement culture.


Let gowhen engagement becomes empowerment.


And for your final trick: Learn to let go. What comes after engagement? Well, the outcome of successful engagement surely is an organisation where everyone is driving towards the same purpose that they feel deeply connected with and are creating together every day.


As leaders, we have a different role now. When team engagement has been done well, we reach a tipping point at which we need to step back and entrust.

In order to do that successfully, we must have the right systems and artifacts in place that will allow our engaged teams to deliver, change, and improve largely autonomously as long as what they do is delivering on our defined purpose.


What is our job then? Well, simple: While our teams manage the delivery, achievement, and improvement of our system and processes or current strategy & key projects today, we circle back to purpose and shape tomorrow. We are asking ourselves where do we play next? And how do we continue to win together? We set that direction. We write that compelling story. We connect.


In short: The cycle of engagement begins anew.

The Journey of a Continuous Improvement (CI) Leader

Who Am I?

I’m a seasoned Accelerate Automotive CI Leader with nearly three decades of experience. My journey began in 1997, and since then, I’ve embraced every challenge with enthusiasm. I thrive on the satisfaction of overcoming seemingly impossible tasks, and I believe in the power of hard work. For me, work isn’t just a duty; it’s a test of perseverance and determination. I was raised in an era where values like discipline, accountability, and pride mattered. Learning from mistakes has been instrumental in shaping my leadership style. While I initially adhered strictly to instructions, I’ve learned to inspire, care for, and understand those I lead.

Why Become a CI Leader?

Are you tired of repeating the same mistakes? Do you long for a collaborative environment where everyone strives for excellence? Becoming a CI Leader might just be the answer. It’s about doing the right thing, witnessing success, and implementing innovative ideas that drive progress.

The Experience of Being a CI Leader

The Challenges:

Being a CI Leader isn’t without its hardships. It can feel lonely and thankless at times. Public mistakes, relentless scrutiny, and the pressure to perform are all part of the job. But amidst the challenges lies the opportunity for growth and resilience.

The Rewards:

However, the rewards are immeasurable. Witnessing the growth and success of your team, seeing your ideas come to fruition, and contributing to long-term sustainability are just a few of the gratifying aspects of the role.

What Do You Need?

To succeed as a CI Leader, you’ll need unwavering support, a clear purpose, and resilience. Embrace collaboration, acknowledge your limitations, and recalibrate your definition of success as you evolve in your role.

Is There a Shelf Life?

Like any profession, there’s a shelf life to being a CI Leader. It’s essential to stay energized and seek inspiration to adapt to changing times. Continuous learning and an openness to new ideas are key to sustaining long-term success.

Ready to Embrace the Journey?

Becoming a CI Leader is not just a career choice; it’s a calling. If you’re ready to embark on this rewarding journey of growth, innovation, and leadership, take the first step today.




The Invaluable Power of Vulnerability In Leadership Teams

In the often stoic and authoritative realm of senior leadership, the notion of vulnerability might seem counterintuitive. However, a closer examination reveals that embracing vulnerability can be a powerful catalyst for positive change, fostering a culture of trust, collaboration, and innovation within senior leadership teams. As all leaders cast a shadow, this trait of vulnerability will engender a stronger employee culture as a result.

Redefining Vulnerability

Before delving into its value, it is essential to clarify what is meant by vulnerability in the context of senior leadership. Vulnerability, in this context, does not denote weakness or incompetence. Instead, it refers to the willingness to be open, authentic, and honest about one’s thoughts, feelings, and uncertainties. It involves acknowledging and sharing personal and professional challenges, as well as admitting when one doesn’t have all the answers.

Building Trust and Connection

Trust is the bedrock of effective leadership, and vulnerability is the key to building that trust. When leaders allow themselves to be vulnerable, it humanises them in the eyes of their team. It creates a sense of connection as team members see their leaders as real people with struggles, fears, and aspirations, just like everyone else. In senior leadership teams, where decisions carry significant weight and the stakes are high, trust is non-negotiable. When leaders are open about their experiences, both successes and failures, it establishes a foundation of trust within the team. Team members are more likely to trust leaders who are willing to share not only their triumphs but also the lessons learned from setbacks.

Encouraging Open Communication

Vulnerability breaks down communication barriers within senior leadership teams. In an environment where hierarchy can sometimes stifle open dialogue, leaders who express vulnerability encourage others to do the same. When team members feel safe to share their thoughts, concerns, and ideas without fear of judgment, it advances a culture of open communication. In a senior leadership context, where decisions impact the entire organisation, the free exchange of ideas is paramount. Vulnerability creates an atmosphere where team members feel heard and valued, leading to more informed and collaborative decision-making processes.

Embracing Innovation

Innovation often thrives in an environment where individuals feel free to express unconventional ideas without the fear of reprisal. Senior leaders who embrace vulnerability signal to their teams that creativity and innovative thinking are not only welcomed but encouraged. When leaders share their own creative processes or admit that they are exploring unconventional solutions, it sets a precedent for the team to think outside the box. This can be a powerful driver for innovation, as team members feel empowered to challenge the status quo and explore new approaches without the fear of failure.

Navigating Uncertainty with Grace

In the lonely halls of senior leadership, uncertainty is a constant companion. Market shifts, economic fluctuations, and unforeseen challenges can create an atmosphere of ambiguity. Leaders who are willing to be vulnerable to their own uncertainties send a powerful message to their teams. Acknowledging uncertainty doesn’t imply indecision or lack of leadership; rather, it demonstrates authenticity. When leaders admit that they don’t have all the answers but are committed to finding solutions collaboratively, it builds confidence within the team. It fosters a culture of resilience, adaptability, and shared responsibility for navigating uncertainty.

Strengthening Resilience

Vulnerability is closely linked to resilience. Senior leaders who openly share their experiences of overcoming challenges demonstrate resilience in action. By discussing how they faced setbacks, learned from failures, and persisted in the face of adversity, leaders inspire their teams to approach challenges with a similar resilient mindset. This shared vulnerability creates a collective sense of purpose and determination within the senior leadership team. Team members see that challenges are not insurmountable obstacles but opportunities for growth and learning. It instils a culture of resilience that permeates the entire organisation, reinforcing the idea that setbacks are temporary and can be overcome with collective effort.

Intentionality and the Shadows We Cast

In addition to fostering trust among leadership teams, vulnerability has a ripple effect throughout the organisation, positively impacting employee engagement. When leaders are intentional about their influence and model vulnerability, it encourages employees at all levels to bring their whole selves to work. Employees who witness their leaders expressing vulnerability are more likely to feel a sense of belonging and connection to the organisation. This, in turn, leads to increased job satisfaction, higher morale, and a more engaged workforce. It allows for additional discretionary effort to flourish. When leaders demonstrate that it’s acceptable to be authentic at work, employees are more likely to invest emotionally in their roles and contribute passionately to the organisation’s success.

Developing Self-Aware Leaders

Vulnerability is intertwined with self-awareness, a cornerstone of effective leadership. Leaders who embrace vulnerability are more attuned to their own strengths and weaknesses. This self-awareness enables them to make more informed decisions, seek input from others where needed, and continually grow and develop as leaders. In senior leadership teams, self-aware leaders set an example for their peers and subordinates. When leaders openly acknowledge areas for improvement or seek feedback on their leadership style, it creates an environment that values continuous learning and development.

Overcoming the Fear of Vulnerability

While the benefits of vulnerability are clear, it’s essential to acknowledge that embracing vulnerability can be challenging. The fear of appearing weak or the concern about potential negative perceptions can be formidable obstacles. However, the rewards far outweigh the risks. Leaders can overcome the fear of vulnerability by reframing it as a strength rather than a weakness. Vulnerability is not about revealing every personal detail; it’s about sharing appropriately and strategically. Leaders can start by sharing small aspects of their experiences, gradually building trust within the team. Additionally, leaders can create a supportive environment by encouraging vulnerability among team members. When leaders openly appreciate and value vulnerability in others, it sets the stage for a reciprocal and supportive culture.


In the high-stakes world of senior leadership, vulnerability emerges as a transformative force that enhances trust, communication, psychological safety, and innovation. Leaders who embrace vulnerability create environments where teams feel empowered to communicate openly, navigate uncertainty with resilience, and drive positive change. By sharing their authentic selves, admitting uncertainties, and embracing failures as learning opportunities, senior leaders pave the way for a culture that values both individual and collective growth.

As senior leaders continue to navigate the complexities of the modern business landscape, the recognition and integration of vulnerability will be instrumental in shaping resilient, innovative, and high-performing leadership teams.

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


Conor Dawson

9th February 2024

Shingo & Lean Forum with Frank Devine Full Recording

The Shingo and Lean Forums exists to encourage the sharing of ideas on Best Practice, Continuous Improvement and lean through networking, visits and workshops. This edition we welcome Frank Devine as our guest speaker

Shingo & Lean Forum with Frank Devine

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Shingo Forum

Shingo Executive Overview Webinar Recording

Embark on a transformative journey with our upcoming virtual workshop, where practical insights pave the way for your company’s success. Here’s what you can expect from the session:

Cultural Insight: Delve into the profound impact of culture on transformation, gaining valuable insights for sustainable change.

Strategic Vision: Compare your current state to the desired future, unlocking the strategic vision essential for progress.

Practical Roadmap: Navigate change confidently with a roadmap adorned with tools like Lean, Six Sigma, TPM, and Huddle boards.

Leadership Psychology: Elevate your leadership effectiveness by understanding the psychology behind decision-making and coaching.

Shingo Executive Overview Recording


Unlocking Digital Transformation: The Importance Of Standardization Recording





Unlocking Digital Transformation: The Importance Of Standardization Webinar Recording

Most, if not all organizations, have embarked on a Process Management initiative at some point or other.

The outcome of these initiatives is mixed. For some organizations, process management becomes part of their DNA, and they successfully develop a process-driven culture where everyone understands the importance of standardization and continuous improvement. Other organizations, however, struggle to make process management stick and end up with process documents that are forgotten.

In this webinar, Ishan Sellahewa will:

  • Delve into the difference between process documentation and process management
  • Underline the importance of process management
  • Unfold why so many process management initiatives fail
  • Present you with a best-in-class approach to process management

Achieving Excellence: How To Leverage process optimisation & automation Webinars 1 & 2

Sessions 1 & 2 of our partnered workshop with Synergi all around process optimisation and automation

Achieving Excellence: How To Leverage process optimisation & automation session 1 & 2

Achieving Excellence: How To Leverage process optimisation & automation session 1 & 2 recording




Case Study: Blenders Transformation Year 1 to Year 3

In 1989, the Simpson family founded Blenders and have been perfecting sauces for over 30 years. Today, the second generation, Harry and James, lead a dedicated and experienced team.


S A Partners were brought in for an initial benchmarking assessment and established the next steps to continue their journey to excellence. From lean awareness for their team of 140 to process standardization this case study breaks down the changes implemented by Blenders and S A Partners


Click the button in the blue bar above to download the free case study

Creating A Sense Of Belonging

In the realm of organizational practices, a diverse range of research from esteemed thought leaders is often employed. These insights span strategy development, operations management, financial acumen, risk assessment, process refinement, and adept problem-solving. These conventional management domains are pivotal in crafting robust workflows that steer organizations toward their missions. Yet, within this landscape, there exists a lesser-explored realm – the realm of social psychology.

Social psychology delves into the dynamics of human interactions and their impacts on individual behavior. Renowned experiments such as the Asch Conformity, Bobo Doll, Stanford Prison, and Milgram Experiments present compelling evidence that our actions are indeed influenced by the actions of those around us ( The collective actions and activities of a group leave a profound and enduring imprint on the decision-making processes of each individual.

Why does this happen? The answer lies in our innate desire to belong, to be a part of a larger collective. In this quest, individuals seek out cues that align their values and aspirations with those of the group. How then can organizations demonstrate that they are the right haven for this sense of belonging? One avenue lies in the language they employ.

Consider these strategies to convey a sense of belonging:

  1. Cultivate Curiosity: Curiosity begets understanding and feelings of connectedness. Framing questions with openness and expansiveness is pivotal. For instance, during team meetings, rather than dictating the agenda, inquire about what topics they wish to discuss for their weekly objectives. This approach empowers individuals, ignites action, and offers insights into the elements that bolster or impede progress.
  2. Express Personal Investment: One-on-one interactions present an opportunity to not only delve into tasks but also the emotional landscape. Skillfully navigating these conversations reveals your vested interest not only in their work but in their holistic well-being. For example, a leader could not only ask questions about the progress of a work task but also ask timely questions about how an employee is doing after a difficult objective has been completed. This allows space for them to open up about their current successes and struggles. Thus, creating belonging.
  3. Seek Consent: A powerful gesture of respect and acknowledgment lies in seeking permission before proffering advice. Often, our impulse is to provide guidance, assuming that others are grappling with challenges. However, unsolicited advice might be construed as condescension. Instead, by asking for permission, you convey care and esteem.

In conclusion, while the troves of knowledge from conventional management fields are undoubtedly invaluable, the often-overlooked domain of social psychology wields tremendous influence. The experiments that underscore our susceptibility to social dynamics serve as a reminder of the significant role these dynamics play in organizational ecosystems. Establishing a sense of belonging and cohesion isn’t confined to conventional strategies; fostering a communal spirit can be conveyed through language and interaction.



Speak To Lead: How To Embrace Your Challenge Voice Webinar Recording

Are you ready to revolutionize the way you communicate and lead? Doctor of Psychology Bryan Cutliff leads this webinar centred around the transformative concept of the “challenge voice”. Discover how this unique and dynamic vocal technique can reshape your interactions, amplify your influence, and supercharge your team’s productivity.

Speak To Lead: How To Embrace Your Challenge Voice recording & transcript

Speak To Lead: How To Embrace Your Challenge Voice Full Recording

Why Curiosity is Essential for Gemba

In the world of effective leadership, one invaluable skill often goes overlooked—Gemba. While Gemba is often associated with process improvement, its true power lies in its ability to transform leadership communication. In this blog, we’ll explore the critical role of communication in Gemba and provide you with two essential tips to enhance your Gemba skills in this regard.

The Power of Communication in Gemba

Effective communication is at the heart of Gemba. When leaders engage in Gemba, they’re not just inspecting processes; they’re building connections, fostering understanding, and driving positive change through dialogue. It’s not about talking; it’s about listening, observing, and engaging in meaningful conversations.

Tip 1: Embrace Active Listening

Listening is the cornerstone of successful Gemba. To truly understand your team and their challenges, you must become an active listener. Here’s how:

  • Be Present: When you’re in Gemba, be fully present. Put away distractions, clear your mind, and focus on the person you’re engaging with.
  • Ask Open-Ended Questions: Encourage open dialogue by asking questions that invite discussion. Instead of closed questions with yes/no answers, use inquiries that begin with “how,” “what,” and “why.” This encourages your team to share their insights and concerns.
  • Paraphrase and Clarify: After someone speaks, paraphrase their statements to show you’re actively listening and to ensure you’ve understood correctly. Ask for clarification when needed.
  • Resist the Urge to Interrupt: Allow the speaker to finish their thoughts without interruption. Interrupting can stifle open communication and prevent valuable insights from emerging.

Tip 2: Practice the 80/20 Rule

Ritsuo Shingo’s advice to have “Big Ears, Big Eyes, and a small mouth” in Gemba couldn’t be truer. Aim to spend 80% of your Gemba time listening and observing, and just 20% talking. Here’s how to implement this rule effectively:

  • Observe Actively: Pay attention to details in the workplace. Observe how tasks are performed, note any obstacles or inefficiencies, and identify areas for improvement.
  • Encourage Feedback: During your Gemba visits, encourage your team members to share their thoughts and experiences. Create a safe space for them to provide feedback, knowing that their input is valued and will lead to positive change.
  • Lead by Example: As a leader, your actions speak volumes. When you prioritize listening and observing, your team will follow suit. By modeling the 80/20 rule, you set a standard for open communication.

In conclusion, Gemba is not just a tool for process improvement; it’s a powerful means of leadership communication. By actively listening and adhering to the 80/20 rule, you can enhance your Gemba skills and transform your leadership approach. These skills will not only improve your ability to lead effectively but also foster a culture of open communication and continuous improvement within your team. So, start your Gemba journey today, and watch your leadership skills soar to new heights.




Explore / Control / Position: What’s the Difference and Why Should you Care?​

Effective communication is the lifeblood of any successful organization. It’s not merely a tool for interaction; it’s the very essence of how we navigate challenges, share ideas, and collaborate. Yet, there are pitfalls to be aware of when it comes to communication.

The Pitfalls of Communication:

  1. Unconscious Communication: Often, we communicate without conscious thought, assuming that our words are having the desired impact. However, unintended consequences can arise when we don’t pause to consider the effects of our words.
  2. Diverse Communication Styles: People employ three distinct communication styles—Explore, Control, and Position—in unique and personalized ways. These styles can greatly influence the effectiveness of communication.
    • Explore: Used to ask questions that facilitate discussions, deepen understanding, or reveal new information.
    • Control: Used when providing instructions or information, making corrections or challenging for change.
    • Position:  Employed to assert a point of view or simplify complex ideas.

Recognizing Communication Tendencies:

We all have communication tendencies, and sometimes these tendencies can hinder effective communication. For example:

  • Are you familiar with the person who dominates conversations with their opinions, leaving no room for others to contribute?
  • Have you encountered someone who bombards you with questions but divulges little about themselves, making conversations feel one-sided?
  • Or perhaps you’ve met someone who challenges or criticizes almost everything, making you want to avoid interactions with them.

These extremes can limit our impact and lead to unintended outcomes.


Unlocking Effective Communication:

So, what can you do to enhance your communication skills? Start by discovering your communication tendencies using the Voiceprint psychometric tool. This tool reveals your hidden communication biases—whether you’re an inquisitive asker, an assertive positioner, or a relentless controller and challenger.

Once you understand your communication preferences, consider how they align with your role and the outcomes you aim to achieve in your interactions.



Tailoring Communication to Your Goals:

For instance, if your role involves coaching, and you lean towards positioning communication, you may need to adjust your approach. Instead of providing answers, focus on asking more questions:

  • “Tell me more about your idea.”
  • “How do you plan to get started?”
  • “What obstacles do you anticipate?”

On the other hand, if your organization requires strict adherence to standard procedures, embracing the exploratory voice can lead to more variation. In this scenario, leaders with strong control voices can excel by setting clear expectations:

  • “Let’s revisit our workplace standards. We have a procedure for this; let’s refresh our knowledge and follow it.”

Communication is a powerful tool that shapes our professional lives. Understanding your communication preferences and adapting them to the situation can amplify your impact. The psychometric approach provides insights, while leadership development based on these insights enhances your communication skills, enabling you to achieve better outcomes in your daily interactions. Unlock the power of effective communication by mastering your Voiceprint.


Master your challenge voice with our upcoming webinar Speak to Lead: Embracing your Challenge Voice, Register for free here

Why do team members get offended by your challenges?

Why do people get offended by our challenge voice? 

The challenge voice is one of the voices we most readily recognize; it’s the voice that stimulates our prehistoric brain most easily.  It triggers our most primitive reactions – flight, fight, or freeze.  Typically, when we are challenged, we know we have been so.

When people react badly to a challenge, it’s often because they didn’t see it coming or it wasn’t skillfully applied and leaves others feeling attacked.  As a leader, we need to learn not only to deliver skillful challenges but also to be able to accept them!

The challenge voice is designed to make us stop and think; to interrupt what we know from our own perspective and switch our thinking to another point of view.  It helps us make better decisions and create a wider perspective.


What stops us from using challenge effectively? 

Some of us may have tried in the past to challenge and been met by defensive behavior or unwelcomed return attacks, resulting in us avoiding using this voice again.  Some organizations have gone through a past history where challenge has created a toxic culture which makes it feel unsafe to challenge others for fear of recreating that working environment.


How can YOU get better at embracing the challenge voice?

For teams that have had bad experiences of challenge and where it sends them into a state of silence (freeze or flight), help the team understand that this voice is an important part of allowing us to progress.  In the first instance, signpost the challenge by saying things like “I’d like to challenge that point…” “My challenge to you is…” – This allows the receiver to know that something we may not want to hear is coming.

Once we’ve been through the challenge cycle, have a bit of reflection time with the team asking questions like “Which part of that challenge felt most uncomfortable”,  “Was that a reasonable challenge?”, “Which part of this challenge felt unreasonable?”.  These sorts of questions allow both the challenger and the team to practice how they challenge effectively.  Be sure you are open to the feedback without getting defensive and potentially attacking back otherwise, you will lose the trust of the team.  9/10 times, when teams think about what was unreasonable about a challenge, they recognize the answer is nothing, and that they just don’t like being picked up on something they missed!

If you yourself are someone who challenges openly but experiences a lot of attacking or defensive behavior in return, it’s likely that your challenges are not landing effectively and you may be unskilfully applying.  Again, signposting is one way to soften the blow.

Ensure that when you are challenging you keep it away from the personal and always use facts to help ground the challenge.  Give others time to formulate their answer and respond, you don’t need to challenge everything!


Develop the art of Leadership communication with this intensive 3-day course REGISTER HERE

Pocket Guide to Digital Transformation

Why Should you Digitally Transform? 

Every organisation wants to do more with less while simultaneously increasing the level of service that they deliver to their customers. Given this, seemingly impossible task, winning and losing will almost certainly be determined by an organisation’s ability to leverage technology to improve the way that they work. 

Digital Transformation is more than just investing in technology, in fact, research suggests that 70% of Digital Transformations fail to meet their objectives, so the question becomes – what can be done to maximise your chances of success?


Tip 1: Align Digital Transformation with your Strategy

Using an ever-increasing amount of technology isn’t necessarily going to solve your problems. In fact, excessive, unnecessary use of technology can have the opposite effect leaving people confused as to how work should be done while creating an unnecessary IT management overhead. Technology shouldn’t be used for the sake of using technology, there has to be a strategic reason.  



The key is to create a Digital Strategy relating to your existing Business Strategy which, in turn, needs to be formulated in support of achieving your organisation’s purpose.  

Every Digital transformation that you make must have a clear line of sight of your ability to achieve your overarching purpose.  


Tip 2: Prioritise, Prioritise, Prioritise

You will almost certainly have more ideas of opportunities to digitise than resources to successfully implement these ideas, so rather than spreading yourself too thin you need to diligently prioritise your efforts.  

This prioritisation needs to be driven by your Digital Strategy – every idea needs to be assessed against your strategy and only those which align should proceed.  

Don’t let good ideas absorb resources that could be directed toward great ideas.  


Tip 3: Consider all available solutions

Have you found a new tool that looks like it can solve all of your problems? Before you sign on the dotted line and jump into implementation you need to confirm the best path forward.  

First and foremost you need to begin with process optimisation. If your underlying process has problems, then automating that process is only going to scale those problems up.  

Once you have a stable process, the next step is requirements gathering where you define exactly what you need the system to do. You then need to survey the market and decide if an off-the-shelf product exists that is fit for purpose or if there’s a need for custom development.  


Tip 4: Don’t forget to change

Too often Digital Transformation revolves around identifying and implementing the right technology. The reality is that the best technology in the world will only deliver value if people use it.



In order to deliver business outcomes, you need not only an implementation roadmap that outlines your technical implementation but also a change roadmap that ensures that you bring people along for the ride and make Digital Transformation a human-central, tech-enabled business process change.  


Tip 5: Continuously Improve

At the end of a successful Digital Transformation initiative, there’s a temptation to pat yourself on the back and move on.  

The Concorde Fallacy tells the story of how the British and French governments continued to fund the Concorde project for years after it became apparent there was no economic case to justify the money that had already been spent.  

The Concorde Fallacy is ripe in Digital Transformation. Too often organisations are unwilling to replace their existing technology with new technology due to the money and time invested in the old solution.  

The reality is, things change. Your requirements change. The state of the art changes. What was once the best solution may now no longer be fit for purpose. You need to be continually reviewing your ways of working and be ready and able to take it from the top.  


Successful Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation is at the top of everyone’s agenda however studies show that 70% of Digital Transformation efforts fail. The people who achieve success don’t do so by accident and, in this 15 minute webinar, Ishan Sellahewa explains what sets success apart from failure.


Managing Regional Process Variation

Many of the clients that I work with operate out of multiple national and global sites. This then naturally gives rise to the question ‘how do we deal with these geographic variations?’

I doubt I need to explain in too much detail why organisations want to get rid of their variations, there can’t be two best ways of doing something, but at the same time, we need to appreciate that variations are not always evil. There are valid reasons for variations, different regions have different rules and regulations governing how processes need to be performed, sites are set up in different ways, or customers may have different requirements just to name a few. As a result, my advice on how to deal with variations is typically three-phased:

  1. Capture the as-is and understand how your process vary
  2. Decide what you’re going to do with these variations
  3. Use change management best practises to standardise where appropriate.


Step 1: Capture your variations

As an example, imagine that I want to capture the process of how our staff catches taxis around the world. I’ll start by picking one country (often the head office), and map out how the process works there. In this case, let’s start by mapping how we catch taxis in the UK.


Capture the process

What we would do next is share this process with SMEs in our different offices and ask them if it aligns with the way they perform the process. Hopefully, their response is ‘yes, it’s identical’, however, this is rarely the case. Where we identify variation, we can’t just pretend like it doesn’t exist or simply jump straight to standardisation, we need to capture this variation so we can properly understand and assess it.

In our example, let’s say that we find that our American office said their process is the same, but our Australian office said that they perform it differently. If that’s the case, let’s apply and capture the variation.


Create process variations


What I’ve done here is specified that the process that I have already mapped is our ‘Rest of the World’ process and have now added a new variation for Australia. We have also introduced a new layer of governance. Our process has a Global Process Owner and Global Process Expert who are ultimately responsible for the performance of the process across all geographies, but now we have also introduced ‘Variation experts’ who are SMEs at the variation level.

The next part is to document the As-Is Australian process, capturing exactly how it varies from the ROW. If the Australian process is completely different from the ROW, you could build it from scratch, however in practise what we often find is that processes are similar to a point. Rather than starting from scratch then, using Nintex Process Manager, I would compare the Australian variation with the ROW and select the common elements:


Build process variations


In this case, I might start by importing all of the process items from ROW to my Australian process and then tweak them. Specifically, I am going to capture the variation that, unlike the ROW who catch Taxis, in Australia Ubers are caught (when I make the changes, the differences are clearly highlighted in Nintex Process Manager as shown below). Additionally, I’ve also added two new activities to the end to show that in Australia, once the ride has been completed, they must rate the driver and then submit an expense report.



Compare variations



Compare variations


Step 2: Understand and assess your variations

If I then toggle back to the ROW variation, you will notice that this variation hasn’t changed.


Understand and assess variations



This is important, just because the Australian process is updated shouldn’t mean that the ROW process should be updated too. This comes down to the Variation Expert of ROW (in this case me) to assess how Australia performs its process differently from the ROW and then decide if ROW needs to maintain its variations or if we should standardise.

You may notice that next to the title of the ROW process it says ‘Shared activity update’ which is telling me that one of the shared activities has been updated in another variation (as the Variation Expert I would also have received a dashboard notification).

When I edit the ROW variation, I am clearly shown what changes have been made and then I have the ability to either reject or accept them.


Accept or reject variations


In this case, I might decide that due to our UK and American insurance policies, staff are not covered if they catch an Uber, so I’m going to reject that change and maintain the variation. Equally, as we are not catching Ubers, I don’t need to rate the driver but I think submitting an expense report is a good idea, so I’ll bring that new activity over to my ROW process.



Step 3: Drive Change

Now that I’ve made the change, as the Variation Expert, it’s up to me to ensure that this new process is performed (i.e. that staff in non-Australian locations now also submit an expense report). This will be helped by Nintex Process Manager itself – as soon as I publish the change all stakeholders will receive notifications explaining the change which they need to acknowledge, but it is also up to me to monitor the situation and ensure that the lived process moves to the new version of the documented process and take corrective action where it does not.


In this case, we’ve understood our variations, standardised as much of the process as we could, but ultimately decided that we can’t standardise the entire process and some level of variation is required. This may change over time, perhaps in the future we’ll get a new insurance provider who covers Uber rides, at which point we will archive the variations and just have one ‘Catch a taxi’ process.


To summarise:

  • Don’t just jump to trying to create one variation-free process, at best this will result in a process document that is ignored, at worst it will result in processes no longer being compliant with local rules, regulations, and/ or customer expectations
  • Consider variation ownership – each variation needs to have an expert who can assess a variation and make a decision to standardise or not
  • Don’t just change your process documentation and hope that you achieve standardisation, ensure that everyone is aware that their process has changed, monitor what is happening in the real world, and take corrective action as needed
  • Appreciate that this is a moving target, as the landscape changes you may need to add/ remove variations


Taking this approach will allow you to find the balance between flexing to meet market conditions while standardising to drive efficiencies and share best practises.


In this post, I have used Nintex Process Manager as the process management tool. For more information on how it can be used to simplify variation management (or process management in general) please let me know.

Ishan Sellahewa

Digital  Transformation Business Manager   

Does Process Management Hinder Creativity?

Often, when I talk about process management and explain the benefits of having clear processes with detailed work instructions, I’ll get pushback like ‘we hire professionals to do a job, we don’t want to tell them exactly how to do it’.  

In short, the push back is on how much detail the process needs. The concern is we run the risk of turning competent professionals into robots and in doing so kill creativity.  

Process vs Creativity 

So, does process kill creativity? Potentially yes. This is something that we need to consider and, depending on the process, find balance between giving our teams discretion to bring their own flavour and personality to the way that they work on the one hand, and following standard and best practice on the other.  

As a real example, at SA Partners we are forging ahead with Digital Transformation and cross training our global consulting team to deliver these new services. As we expand, I’m asking myself how much guidance should I provide? When documenting our delivery processes, I could include scripts and recordings of how I would run a session, but doing so means that we run the risk of consultants mechanically running sessions which are not engaging or effective. But we could go too far in the other direction. The methodologies that I use have been polished over the years by myself and my predecessors with a focus on delivering the most impact to clients in the shortest amount of time – why would we not want our wider consulting team to benefit from these years of experience?   

How to make the decision 

Let’s take an example:  

Process mapped in Nintex Process Manager

This process has been kept very high level.  In Activity 3 task a, the Director of Legal is asked to ‘review and approve the contract’ without any further details provided on what this review involves and what good looks like.  

In this case, the argument can be made that as the Director of Legal, this person will have sufficient experience to complete a contract review using their professional discretion and further details are not required.  


Compare that approach with a small tweak as follows:  

Process mapped in Nintex Process Manager In this example, attached to Activity 3 task a, a work instruction has been attached explaining exactly how the contract needs to be assessed.  

There are a few benefits of this approach, specifically:  

  • Because we are leaving less to professional discretion, we can reduce risk by formalising exactly how the process is performed  
  • By making this process more mechanical we may be able to reassign the review from an experienced Director to an early-stage Associate and reduce the cost of the process while maintaining quality  
  • By formalising what good looks like, it will be easier to explain to the Sales Executive what is required for the contract to be approved, and thus reduce rework  


In making this decision, it’s no one size fits all approach. If this organisation works on a few complex seven figure contracts at any given time, it may be impossible to codify what a review involves. A highly experienced legal practitioner would use their decades of experience to perform an analysis. Conversely, if this organisation is more transactional, reviewing hundreds of low value standardised contracts, relying on expensive, experienced legal practitioners will make the process untenable. As a result, tightly defining how it’s run, and allowing it to be run by cheaper resources, is more appropriate.  


Your decision-making should include several factors:  

  • How complicated is the process? Is there significant variance between cycles?   
  • Is there a risk if the processes are not performed in a defined way? 
  • Is creativity or standardisation more important for this process?  
  • Is there a requirement (e.g., regulation) that the process must be performed by someone with certain credentials and/ or experience?  
  • Is there a cost pressure on this process for it to be tenable?  


Personally, I prefer more detail. When mapping our internal processes I will likely include recordings, instructor guides, and talking points. That way, if a consultant in Australia needs urgent support while I’m asleep, they’ll be able to easily go into our single source of truth (Nintex Process Manager) and self-serve. However, I would also pair this with a culture that encourages consultants to use their own judgement to deviate from the guidance where they feel it’s appropriate and, in doing so, hopefully achieve the best of both worlds.     


Finding this balance can be difficult so I’m happy to offer a free one-hour process conversion workshop. All you need to do is come with a process in mind and we’ll work together to create meaningful process documentation that has just the right amount of detail based on the flexibility that you require. Drop me an email at the details below and we can get something scheduled.  



Ishan Sellahewa

Digital Transformation Business Manager

+44 (0) 79263 89523


Celebrating 30 years of S A Partners

We are 30 years old and we are celebrating just how far we have come.. from our early years as a spin-out from Cardiff University’s Lean Enterprise Research Centre (LERC) our founders Peter Hines & Paul Morris founded a company that now has a global team and offices in the UK, Ireland, Germany, the USA, and Australia.


One thing that has endured over the years is a sense of camaraderie, friendship, and fun.  We asked the team for some of their best memories, which were far-reaching and included:


  • Recording the ‘Lean inspired’ Beatles covers in a studio. The evidence of which has recently been uncovered. (enjoy at your own risk)
  • Robin Jaques being interviewed for ITV for the HSBC Business Awards

  • Video filming ranked highly in people’s memories, from recording our team sharing insights into OEE – only to realise several years later that the numbers didn’t add up, Jeff Williams bloopers, and another Partner on a stepper explaining utilisation.
  • Quite a few of the team hold the annual get together in Tenby as a powerful memory, apparently, it snowed and there were a lot of other moments that can’t be mentioned here.
  • Conquering the three peaks challenge in the worst weather known to man
  • Supporting VALE in their Shingo challenge and seeing them win the Shingo Silver Medallion
  • Seeing our models and materials proudly included in the M&S Supplier Guide.
  • A Lean workshop in Llandudno with Status Quo practicing next door
  • Coaching teams without words in Clarecastle
  • Breaking an antique chair at Peter’s house – we weren’t invited back!


We were initially called the Supplier Association Partnership – our name may have changed but our purpose has remained steadfast – we exist to support organisations on their journey to excellence.


Jeff Williams recalls his early days…


“When I joined in 1999, we had 1 laptop and an overhead projector that we used for our black and white slides. I remember dropping the slides in a puddle once and all the ink running and then had to use them to present a workshop”


One common theme in everyone’s reflections is some absolutely hilarious, but mostly unprintable travel memoirs, we’d love to share – maybe we should create a new book called Travels with a Consultant!


Together, the Power to Improve has been our motto for decades. It’s who we are at heart. We love working with our customers, colleagues, associates, and partners to move the dial on our customer’s journey toward enterprise excellence.


Thanking all those that have supported us on our journey would take us another 30 years, but we will reach out and try. We are looking forward to another great thirty years of continued growth and prosperity but, most importantly, we are committed to building an organization that makes a positive impact on all those that it comes into contact with.


Looking forward to the next 30 years!

How to Sell Process Management

Driving engagement with Process Management requires more than just telling your people that they must now be process driven.

Lets consider the Prosci change management model.

This clearly demonstrates the need to manage not just the technical side of change (documenting processes), but also the people side of change to enable a transition from the current state (work is done differently every time it’s done) to our desired future state (work gets done the same way, regardless of when or by whom its done).

The Prosci model tells us that, in order to move our people from their current state to our desired future state, we need to help them pass through ‘ADKAR’ barrier points.

The first ‘A’, Awareness requires effort but is relatively straight forward. As long as you create and diligently execute a communication plan it shouldn’t be too difficult to ensure that all your stakeholders are aware of your process management initiative.

More challenging though is progressing your stakeholders through the ‘D’ for Desire barrier point. If you ask the average person what process management means to them, often the answer they give will be some version of the word ‘bureaucracy’. So, how then do you get people excited about process management?


Here are my top five reasons for how organisations and teams benefit from process management:

  1. Standardisation and Stabilisation

When work is done differently every time it’s performed, the work is going to produce inconsistent outputs. The inconsistency of these outputs will almost always result in customer complaints, and therefore employees and managers will waste time fixing problems and pacifying upset customers. This means that, for managers, much of their time is spent reactively responding to issues, and for employees, there’s frustration as they struggle to meet their targets (let alone grow) which will result in turnover. As such standardisation and stability will make everyone’s life better – employees will have more clarity on how to do their jobs in such a way that they can keep their internal and external customers happy, and managers will have more time to be forward thinking, focusing on growth and development, which will further benefit their teams. I’ve done a deep dive on the importance of standardisation in this earlier blog post.


  1. Process Improvement and Automation

When we are no longer chasing our tail fixing issues, we can dedicate time to improving the way that we work. This could mean improving our processes with the objective of further increasing the quality and consistency of their outputs, or finding ways to produce the same quality of outputs faster and with fewer resources. Doing so will lead to an even better customer experiences, but also by removing the mundane parts of our jobs we (as employees) will have more time to spend doing the work that we enjoy and on stretch projects that accelerate our development.

If you start talking about streamlining and automation people may become concerned that this initiative is about a headcount reduction which will turn them into detractors rather than supporters. Positioning is therefore particularly important here, you need to make it clear that this is not about downsizing, rather clearly state the personal benefits your team will experience from these optimisation and automation initiatives.


  1. Training and Onboarding

The way that most organisation train today still seems to revolve hoping that new starters will learn by observing the way that existing staff work. This shadow based approach results in new starters picking up the bad habits of our existing team members, forgetting a significant amount of what they are taught, as well as delaying the new starters ramp to being productive. Ultimately, it moves us further away from achieving standardisation and stability.


By taking a process driven approach to onboarding, where new starters are taught with the aid of documented processes, we are teaching new starters the correct and agreed way of working from day one. This means that they are less likely to pick up bad habits and will have access to clear process guidance while they learn the process (we generally need to perform a process +/- 10 times before we commit it to memory). This approach also free’s up our existing staff members to get on with their day jobs as new starters can self-serve rather than having to seek assistance whenever they need a reminder on how things are done.


  1. Prevent process information walking out the door

When your process are undocumented, your processes don’t belong to your organisation, they belong to the people who work in your organisation. Aside from the problems associated with needing to rely on our long standing staff to answer questions whenever anyone has a question that starts with ‘How do I do….’, any day that these people leave the organisation they’ll take this knowledge with them.

In general, we need to build a culture where our processes are seen as assets of our business; we want our people to believe that one of the reasons why we will execute on our mission is because of the quality of our processes. If this is the case, it’s critical that our processes are formally documented so our ability to execute is not reliant on key individuals remaining within the organisation.


  1. Improved Risk Management

One of the biggest problems with the way that most organisations manage risk, is that risk management a seen as the responsibility of our risk managers. What we need is a culture where everyone in the organisation believes that risk management is part of their job which, in many cases, will simply mean doing their job by following the documented processes so that they perform all necessary controls/ treatments. By taking a process driven approach to risk management we’re able to change risk management from being a theoretical exercise to one that tangibly benefits the organisation.

This is also a topic that I have previously explored in detail which you can access here.


The final piece of advice that I have for you to effectively build desire across your organisation to engage with process management, is to consider who needs to deliver this message. Messaging certainly needs to come from your Executive Sponsor who should align process management with your organisation’s mission. Your people managers then need to take this overarching vision and deliver clear, targeted messaging on how this initiative will help the team and individuals achieve their specific objectives.

Coming back to the Prosci model, organisations don’t change, individuals change, so making sure each individual is clear on how process management will impact them personally is critical for your process management initiative to stick.


Ishan Sellahewa

Digital  Transformation Business Manager   


Digital Transformation in your organisations improvement journey – FREE webinar recording

Download the full transcript here



Digital Transformation in your organisations improvement journey – FREE webinar recording

Ishan Sellahewa and Conor Dawson presented at the recent Lean Business Ireland Conference. During the presentation, they discussed how organisations can use Digital Transformation to move from a state of chaos to consistency and truly achieve business excellence

View the full webinar and transcript below

Digital Transformation in your organisations improvement journey recording

Process Management and Risk

Speaking with Risk Managers, I find that risk management is often performed in Excel.

There’ll be a ‘Risk Register’ file, where (generally) the Risk team document an exhaustive list of risks in one column, and in another column treatments/ controls for those risks. This Excel file typically lives in a SharePoint folder, is maintained by the Risk team, and provided to auditors come Audit season.

The key problem with this approach is that the process participants who are supposed to be performing these treatments/ controls have no idea that the Risk Register exists. This can also mean they have no idea that these treatments/ controls exist ). These treatment/s controls are therefore never actually performed and subsequently risk management turns into a theoretical exercise that may be sufficient for audit purposes but drives limited tangible benefits to the business.


A better approach: linking risk management with process management

If the current approach is broken, what then is the solution? Let’s start by defining a control as a step in a process that reduces the chance of an incident taking place and/ or reduces the severity if the incident does take place. The key words here are ‘a step in a process’ – your risks, controls/ treatments, and processes all need to be linked.

Let’s take an example. We identify a risk that, like all organisations, we have exposure to phishing attacks. Step one is to register this risk and the screenshot below shows how this is done in Nintex Process Manager:


There are a few things to note here: The traditional approach to risk management is that it leads to a culture where the organisation sees risk management as the responsibility of the Risk team; to be effective in risk management it’s critical that we build a culture where risk management is seen as part of everyone’s job.

In this example, I’ve assigned this risk to the Finance portfolio. The Finance Portfolio will have a named Risk Manager who comes from the Finance team.  This person has ultimate ownership and accountability for all the risks in this portfolio. Because, in a group like finance, there will be many risks, rather than having one person own all the finance risks, I have assigned a specific owner to this specific risk, we will call him Hugo. Further, to aid with the idea that risk management is part of everyone’s job, you might notice that the title that I’ve given this risk is clear and lacking any jargon – it is simply in the format of bad outcome followed by specific cause. At this stage I’ve assigned it a Likelihood and Severity which is used to calculate the inherent risk score. If a treatment/ control is already in place I can assess it, which will then calculate a residual risk score/  In many cases you will start by identifying a risk and the next stage would be to design and implement a control.


It’s now time to add a control. As I mentioned, ideally your controls should be steps in a process. So below we have documented our ‘Transfer funds to supplier’ process in Nintex Process Manager:

Currently, this is a three-activity process where, inside activity 2, the Finance Manager is asked to complete a payments checklist which will help to determine if the payment is/ is not aligned with the company policy.

While this might have been sufficient in the past, perhaps we decide that given the sophistication of today’s phishing scams, this process needs to be updated with a more robust control.


screen shot 3

And so we add a new activity (activity 3 above) where the finance manager needs to have a phone or face to face conversation with the person asking for the payment if it is over a certain value (in this case £5,000).


It’s now time to link this control with the risk that we identified as follows:


A few things to note here:

  • I’ve assigned the treatment of the risk to the specific activity in the process that was just created
  • We need to make sure that treatment is taking place and effective, to do this we need people to sign off. There are a few options here, in this case I’ve decided the best people to sign off are the swim lane participants who are supposed to be performing the treatment (Finance Managers). I’ve also decided that every Finance Manager needs to sign off that this treatment is in place and effective every 6 months.


Finally, we need to assign this treatment an effectiveness rating (in this case I’ve assigned it ‘strong’) so that we can get our Residual score.


And now everything has been linked. From my risk register in Nintex Process Manager I can see the risk, the treatment to the risk, and can easily navigate to the process that contains the treatment:


And equally, when I’m in the process, I now see a warning icon in the top right corner of Activity 3 which tells me that it’s a treatment to a risk (and therefore I should pay especially close attention) and can also show me what risk it’s treating:


In summary then, for risk management to be effective:

  • We need to have a culture where risk management is seen as part of everyone’s job, not just risk managers
  • We need to make sure that our risks, treatments, and processes are all linked
  • We need governance (from the line of business) built-in with periodic signoff requirements


If you’re interested in learning more about the risk management process that I’ve described above using Nintex Process Manager please reach out and I’ll be happy to take you through a guided example.

Ishan Sellahewa

Digital  Transformation Business Manager   

DEEP EXCELLENCE: A call to action for a new style of leadership

This book will challenge your thinking about how you lead; and how you can add value to those around you.  You will discover and explore ways in which you can bring meaning to your work and how you can engage the heads; hands and hearts to create a culture of Deep Excellence in your organization.  

Through a focus on behaviours and systems-thinking the authors take you on a journey, where they share their decades of experience supporting organisations achieve their ideal results.  They provide guidance on how to create the positive behaviours required in today’s world; and how you as a leader can create sustainable change.  

Deep Excellence is a book about people, human nature, humanity and preparing for the future. Written in a thoughtful, unpretentious, and empathetic style, the authors usher the reader through a story of learning, challenging current mental models, provoking new ways of thinking and acting with purpose.

Excerpt from Foreword by Rose Heathcote, CEO


The book combines useful ideas; insights and models which will guide and inspire the reader, to make a real difference

Lacey Garner of IRI Worldwide said

“The book comes a time when the need for sustainability in organizations is greater than ever before… The book delves into the various challenges that organizations face when improving culture and performance and offers concreate strategies for addressing them.


Marianela Alfonso of Hologic commented..

This book not only teaches us important concepts about operational excellence but also allows us to explore and learn about the importance of our behaviors, either as leaders and or any person and, what is our role as creators of culture and continuous improvement processes.


Over the last 30 years, S A PARTNERS has supported organizations on their journey to Enterprise ExcellenceWe know that improvement happens when we work together to build the capabilities and systems required to achieve a culture of deep excellence – hence our motto ‘Together, the Power to Improve’. As an organisation we provide accredited training, coaching, and specialist consultancy services.  

Simon Grogan, one of the co-authors and Managing Director of S A Partners commented:  

“After being involved in Continuous Improvement since 1993, it was great to reflect back on why great things happen. They happen because of great people, not because of great systems, fancy forms or IT systems. These great people are often not the most skilled, best paid or highest educated, they are the people who like people, people who want to see things made better, people who inspire others and have a vision of what things could look like. Raising awareness of who these people are and what skills they possess or could possess is critically important for any long term organisational – go find them, love them and look after them – they make your difference.”


This is the fifth book published by S A Partners to promote the sharing of knowledge and best practice to the wider business communityThe book will be available from AMAZON from 1 April 2023. To order your copy now follow the link below.  


I’d like to order several for my team 


What Industry Experts Have Said…

“Deep Excellence, in posing the right questions and challenges, makes for interesting, insightful, and thought-provoking reading.”

Darrin Taylor, South East Technological University, Ireland


“This book delivers a rare view of “the dark side of the moon”, a view which it’s readers can use to guide their own journey to the stars.”

Simon Leonard, LGC


“Every leader needs to spend some time in this thoughtfully curated work to learn how to engage more our ourselvesmind, heart and spirit!  Then we will be armed with the ability to lead our teams, organizations and societies effectively through sustainable transformational change.” 

Joanna Cooper, Daimler


From someone who has read a lot of academic literature over the years, Deep Excellence is by far the most intuitive book I have read… helping me understand the link between head, heart and hands in a corporate results-based environment and where priorities must start for ideal results

Elizabeth O’Callaghan, University of Limerick

About The Authors

John Quirke

John Quirke originally graduated from the National University of Ireland Maynooth with an honour’s degree in Chemistry and Biology. John subsequently completed a master’s degree in chemical oceanography with University College Galway. A specialisation in metal chemistry led John to an early career as a chemical process engineer with Fujitsu Isotec, where he spent time in Japan studying Japanese manufacturing and engineering techniques. John’s knowledge of process chemistry and toxicology resulted in a move to safety and environmental management with a blue-chip life science corporation. John’s frustration with poor equipment design and poor process performance resulted in the early adoption of lean thinking within this organisation. The success of subsequent programmes, giving rise to improvements in process performance and waste reduction, led to global roles as director of business excellence and twenty-five years continuous improvement experience working across all business sectors.  In 2019 along with his colleagues Peter Willmott, and Andy Brunskill John published TPM a Foundation of Operational Excellence.  The publication won the Shingo Institutes’ international publication research award in 2022. John is a senior partner at S A Partners and leads the Global Life Science and Health sector. John supports the development and publication of thought leadership within the business.  John’s other specialist areas include coaching and lean leadership, strategy deployment, process design for lean, and problem-solving. John is a certified Shingo Institute Facilitator and a Master Lean Coach from Cardiff University. In addition to BSc (Hons) and MSc, John holds a Law Degree from University College Cork. 


Simon Grogan

Simon Grogan has dyspraxia, which means whilst being particularly bad at any sport that requires co-ordination, he is clumsy, falls over, gets lost a lot, can be frustrated easily, and worst of all finds reading and writing very difficult. Growing up in the nineteen seventies Simon’s dyspraxia was never diagnosed – he was treated as a kid who was just a bit thick. Out of sheer bloody-mindedness, Simon learnt to cope with his dyspraxia and managed to bundle his way through his education. Work has been much easier, systems, numbers, processes, and deadlines all help, they provide structure and help him think. As his career progressed Simon became successful occupying various senior management positions and winning various best factory awards. In the year two thousand two crazy things happened in Simon’s life the first was the birth of his daughter Molly, and the second was joining S A Partners. Both have taught him so much about people and helped him try to bring the best version of himself to work each day. Today he is the Managing Director and Chairman of S A Partners. If someone told the embarrassed eight-year-old boy, as his teacher tore up his English homework in front of the class, that one day he would be he would be a joint author of a book he would never have believed them. 



Juliette Packham graduated from Coventry University with an honours degree in Industrial Product Design. After a short time as a Design Engineer, Juliette was appointed to a major Business Lean Transformation Project. Here she grew her Lean thinking skills in Operations, Logistics and Warehousing where she quickly realised problems within these areas often stemmed from a poor approach to New Product Introduction. Observations of the lack of systemic thinking during this time also helped pique her interest in leadership behaviours and managing change. Juliette went on to head up an Engineering Department and spent time working on systemic transformation by integrating teams across the business to reduce lead times and improve connectivity. Since joining S A Partners in 2004, Juliette has built on her passion for Leadership Development and Culture Change and supports a wide range of companies in different sectors as both a consultant, coach, and mentor. She is the Global People Director and a Partner within the business, a Master practitioner in SoundWave and VoicePrint, an EMCC accredited Senior Coach/Mentor and is working towards a Diploma in Behavioural Science. Her passion for New Product Development systems continues, and she also spends much of her time working in Strategy Deployment, Tier Management Systems, and with Leaders working on Organisational Culture Change. 


Bryan Cutliff

Before joining S A Partners, Bryan served as a Chief Executive Officer in small to medium-sized businesses, specifically within the healthcare industry. During this time, he promoted the importance of creating value for customers, employees, and stakeholders by focusing business resources and efforts on enhancing organizational engagement. Bryan specializes in helping organizations leverage their strategic vision and use communication models to improve the safety and quality of the services rendered, deliver an exceptional customer experience, deepen relationships with employees, and achieve operational objectives. Bryan’s expertise also includes organizational assessment, leadership development, personal and team development and coaching, conflict management and resolution, business negotiations, program facilitation, and change management. Within these areas, Bryan has worked with front-line employees, regional, and national executives to cascade the organization’s purpose while improving the quality and safety metrics throughout enterprises in which he served. Bryan holds a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communication from Utah State University, Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Health Administration from The University of Alabama at Birmingham, and a Doctor of Psychology in Leadership Psychology from William James College. 



Phone (44) 783 222 3453 

Process Management and Agile

Periodically when talking about process management, I’ll be told ’process management isn’t for us, we’re agile’.  Is agile a fair excuse to avoid process management? Short answer, in my opinion, absolutely not; in fact an agile environment makes process management more important if anything.

Here’s why.


Agile and the Agile Trap

First, let’s start by defining agile. Whilst agile originated from software development, it’s since become synonymous with continuous improvement following the Japanese concept of Kaizen, which means to make small incremental improvements continuously. The idea is that we should always be looking at the way that we work and seeking to improve rather than blindly performing old, ingrained processes.

It is easy to see why people categorize agile and process management as two competing ideologies, with the former focusing on change and growth, whilst the latter prioritises stability.

Let’s consider the SA Partners Improvement Journey:



SA Partners Improvement Journey


When you are in the reactive phase, you’re likely to be experiencing:

  • Inconsistency in the way that work is performed, depending on who is doing the work and/ or when the work is being done
  • Inconsistency in the outputs that are produced by your processes, resulting in a highly variable customer experience
  • Significant management time spent responding to, and resolving problems

And this can be the agile trap – if you adopt an uncontrolled, ungoverned approach to continuous improvement you run the risk of trapping yourself in the reactive phase with process participants given license to perform their work differently every time they do it and call it agile.

Process Management

How then does process management come in to save the day? Simply put, it means that we are fostering an environment of continuous improvement, however tying governance around it.

This starts with standardisation. Whilst it may seem counter-intuitive, for us to improve we need to start from a platform of stability so that we are all trying to improve the same process (see my earlier post where I explore the idea of standardisation in more detail).  Once we’ve achieved stability, we’re ready to start thinking about improvement. While yes, we want everyone in the organisation to be empowered to drive change, it’s critical that processes have clearly defined ownership so that whilst anyone can suggest a change, it is the process owner who makes the decision to adopt the change and deviate from the agreed, ‘stablised’ process.

To make this happen, every process needs to have a clear process owner and expert as can be seen in the screenshot below where the process has been captured in Nintex Process Manager and Julien and Madlyn have been named as the Process Owner and Expert.



Process Ownership


Once this ownership has been defined, anyone should be able to leave feedback on the process to suggest a change, but this feedback needs to be funneled to our process owner and expert to assess the feedback and decide what action, if any, will be taken. An example of this can be seen below in the screenshot where I’ve left feedback on the process which has gone to Julien who has provided his response.


Process feedback


The benefits of tying governance around improvement are:

  • Process owners are in a position where they can see the bigger picture; while something may appear to be an obvious improvement to us as process participants, it may cause issues down and up stream.
  • There is control over the path forward, are we okay to go ahead and implement the idea? Do we need to pilot the idea in a controlled environment? Does the idea need to be parked for now?
  • While a process participant may make a suggestion, it could be a band-aid fix. The value of the suggestion is often not the proposed fix itself, rather a flag to the process owner that there is a problem that requires root cause analysis.
  • If we, the process participant, do indeed have a valuable improvement suggestion, this approach will mean that it’s more likely to stick – it shouldn’t just be us that changes the way we work, everyone should adopt the new and improved process (which should then become the starting point for future improvement)

In summary then, process management and agile shouldn’t be seen as competing ideologies rather process management will help you to be agile and drive effective, meaningful change.

Ishan Sellahewa

Digital  Transformation Business Manager   


Resourcing For Successful Process Management

Process Management: The Ikea Approach 


What does Ikea and Process Management have in common?  


The decentralisation of the build phase. One way in which Ikea is able to offer furniture at a price point below its competition is that, unlike its competitors who pay labourers to assemble their furniture, Ikea makes use of free labour (i.e. you).  


Similarly, many process management initiatives adopt a decentralised build approach where Process Owners within the line of business are asked to map their own processes. This is not necessarily a bad choice as it can result in better adoption – in the same way, that we are more likely to maintain and hang onto furniture that we assembled with our own hands, we may be more likely to use, enforce, and maintain processes that we mapped out ourselves. The problem however comes when organisations simply assume that if we ask the business to map their own processes it will get done. So, in this post, I’d like to explore how to resource your process management build phase to ensure success.  


  1. Consider your scope and estimate your resource requirements  

Before you start, you need to understand what you’re trying to achieve and how fast you want to achieve it. You may, for example, say that the scope of this initiative is to map out all of your organisation’s processes within the year, or perhaps it’s to map out 70% of your sales, finance, and HR processes within the next 18 months. Once you know what you’d like to achieve, you need to estimate what resources are required to achieve these objectives.  


2. Secure your resources  

Often, an Executive Sponsor driving a process management initiative will make the decision that a decentralised approach to the build phase will be taken, and then it is left to a Project Manager to make it happen. This approach not only assumes that the line of business has enough capacity to absorb this additional workload, but also they are happy to assign this excess capacity to mapping processes (spoiler alert, in the real world neither of these assumptions hold true).   

Clearly, its not enough for your Executive Sponsor to make a decision to decentralise rather, once they have decided that decentralisation is the most appropriate approach, they then need to go and secure the resources. This will involve selling the benefits of Process Management to the wider business and winning the hearts and minds of the people managers who own the time of your process owners and experts. Ideally, the work shouldn’t stop here, to maximise your chances of success, the next step is to secure these resources by updating the performance targets and objectives of the process owners to include their process management expectations (e.g. in Q2 you will spend 5 days on process management and will map out the Accounts Payable processes) . At the end of the day, we spend our time on the activities against which we are measured; given that most people have more objectives than they have time, side projects invariably get forgotten (or at best deprioritised) so it’s critical that process management is a defined objective, not just something on the side.  

If done correctly, you will now have a reasonably accurate understanding of the mapping resources at your disposal.  


3. Align your resources with your scope  

Once you have identified how much mapping resources you have available, you should compare this with the resources required to achieve your objectives. If the numbers align, you’re good to go, if not, you have a few different options:  

  • Go back to the line of business and ask for more resources  
  • Move to a more centralised approach by either building a central team in-house or engaging consultants to provide external resources  
  • Narrow the scope of the initiative by mapping fewer groups, or fewer processes per group within the original timeframe 
  • Extend the timeframe so that you achieve your original scope, but do so over a longer period of time  
  • Reduce the quality expectations (e.g. only identify the requirement for Work Instructions rather than creating and attaching them) to reduce the amount of time required per process such that you can achieve your original scope within your original timeframe  


Returning to the Ikea metaphor, if we find ourselves with one weekend to build all of the furniture for our new house in addition to our regular weekend activities, we can choose to either involve more members of our family to assist with the assembly, agree that this weekend we will prioritise just the bedroom furniture and tackle the rest of the house over the coming weeks, or just get an army of air-taskers in to assemble everything for us.  


Ultimately, you need to end up in a situation where the numbers balance between the resources required, and the resources available.  


One of the biggest reasons why organisations fail to achieve their process management goals is that they assume that the business will drop everything to give you mapping resources and therefore never get out of the build phase. My message here is to be realistic – understand what you need, what you have, and, if the two don’t align, work out how you are going to balance the equation.   

Ishan Sellahewa

Digital  Transformation Business Manager   


Case Study: Launching a multi-site Lean Programme in the Utilities Sector

Over the last five years, we have been supporting one of Europe’s largest utility companies to implement a multi-site/organisation-wide Lean programme. This paper shares how this organisation built both Leadership and Lean Capability throughout their organisation, as well as how the transformation programme has continued to deliver a return on investment.

Making a Sustainable Impact Full Recording & Transcript

During this webinar, Dr. Bryan Cutliff & Dr. Jeff Radford share their personal experiences, ideas, and techniques that have helped them, and a number of organizations overcome organizational and personal adversity while leading national institutions. We will discuss how to build a sustainable culture of excellence, and the need to stay true to your purpose amid organizational trials and challenges. Join us to discover how you can make a sustainable impact, re-attach yourself to your purpose, and support your workforce in doing the same.

Making A Sustainable Impact – Full Recording & Transcript

Process Standardisation and Stabilisation

When embarking on an improvement journey, organisations too often give into temptation and jump directly to process improvement, either by designing a new, optimised, Lean process, or attempting to immediately create a digitised, automated version of their existing manual process.  

While this approach of skipping ahead to your desired future state may seem like the best way to fast-track your improvement journey, more often than not it will result in the delivery of solutions that either miss the mark entirely or even exponentially increase your existing process problems.  

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”- Bill Gates 


SA Partners Improvement Journey


Using the SA Partners Improvement Journey pictured above, if you find yourself in the ‘Reactive’ phase, you are likely to be experiencing:

  • Inconsistency in the way that work is performed, depending on who is doing the work and/ or when the work is being done
  • Inconsistency in the outputs that are produced by your processes, resulting in a highly variable customer experience
  • Significant management time spent responding to and resolving problems
  • High rates of turnover with employees feeling like they are unable to achieve their assigned KPIs, and having no internal growth and learning opportunities

At this stage of your improvement journey, your focus should not be on improvement itself, but rather on achieving a state of stability where work is done in a standardised way regardless of when, where, or by whom the work is performed.

Achieving this level of standardisation will not only ensure that your processes produce consistent outputs, but will also lay the foundations for you to do proper root-cause analysis of process problems, and therefore ensure that future optimisation and automation projects deliver meaningful results.

The question then becomes, how can we get out of the red ‘squiggly’ line and achieve stability?


  1. Identify your processes

Step one is to simply identify your processes. Another common mistake I see organisations make is to jump straight into talking about the details of how their processes operate without giving enough consideration to what their processes are to begin with. An example here might be a sales team talking through their processes starting with how they qualify leads provided to them by marketing. Separately the marketing team may discuss their process ending with how they qualify leads before passing them over to sales. All of a sudden leads are qualified twice which is not only waste but also a cause of frustration to your prospective clients.

Before getting into the details then, you should run a scoping exercise where you identify your process groups, the boundaries of these process groups, and finally the processes inside these groups along with their boundaries. If we consider a process hierarchy, at this stage we are trying to define levels zero, one and two.


Process Hierarchy



2. Capture your As-Is processes

Now that we know what our processes are, we are ready to capture the As-Is (levels three, four, and five). The process capture sessions shouldn’t be performed by a process owner in isolation, rather a workshop should be held with a collection of SMEs so that what is captured represents what takes place in the real world, not what the manager thinks takes place. Determining who should attend this workshop is a critical decision, on the one hand, you don’t want to get into a position where you are stuck because no one in the room knows what happens next, but at the same time if you invite every man and his dog you’re going to go round and round in circles trying to come to an agreement. The approach that I take is inventing the absolute minimum number of people that will allow us to get something done and out the door.


When running these workshops there should be a number of ‘house rules’ – the following are the rules that I like to enforce:

  1. Spelling doesn’t matter
  2. All must contribute & be present
  3. No hierarchy + Vegas rules
  4. Start with the As-Is
  5. Stay on topic and use the parking lot
  6. Progress, not perfection. ELMO! (Enough, let’s move on)


During these capture sessions, it’s easy to get caught in the weeds and go round and round in circles trying to agree on exactly how a process is exactly performed or chasing each other down rabbit holes.  When facilitating these workshops I always focus on getting things done and set the bar as ‘Can we all live with this’ rather than ‘Is this right?’ with an understanding that we are just mapping version 1, which will be iterated over time.

Consideration should also be given to how you run these workshops and a consistent approach should be taken (i.e., every workshop should be run in the same way every time using the same templates). I prefer Miro, where I’ve developed the following capture template:


Process Mapping Template


I find that this template allows me to capture all the information that’s needed, and do so in a way where I can keep the group focused.

Importantly, during this workshop process ownership needs to be assigned. Who is going to be the Process Owner? Who is going to be the Process Expert? It will be these two people that will be responsible for making sure that the documented process becomes the lived process, as well as maintaining and updating the process moving forward. This decision is often the difference between process management being a theoretical exercise and getting us out of the red squiggly line.


3. Map and Share your As-Is Process

Whatever tool you decide to use for your process capture workshop is simply that, a tool for the process capture workshop. You need to quickly take the output of these workshops and document your processes in a proper process management solution.

SA Partners have been involved in Process Management projects since our inception 30 years ago, and over that time we’ve used almost every major process mapping tool in the market. After extensive research and experience, we’ve identified Nintex’s Process Management tool as our tool of choice, and is what we recommend to our clients.


Process Manager Process


Once your process has been documented in your process management solution, it should be shared with the workshop attendees and other key SMEs. This is something that I like to be timebound, I will say ‘here is a link to the process that we captured during our workshop, please review and leave any feedback by next Friday (March 24th) at which point I will submit it for approval’. This approach allows everyone to have a say without slowing us down if people get lazy.

This process is made very easy with Nintex Process Manager where a shareable link can be created allowing SMEs to interact with the process and leave feedback if needed (have a go yourself here).


4. Approve and Publish your Process

Once the relevant SMEs have provided their feedback (or have not raised any objections) it’s time to get the process out the door. While this stage might seem obvious, I find clients often struggle. Once they have captured something they want to hold onto the process and keep polishing it until it’s perfect before they release it. The problem is that the only way that you will achieve standardisation is if your process participants are actually given the process that you want them to follow; as such my recommendation is to get the process published ASAP.

There should, of course, be checks and balances, again if you use Nintex Process Manager this is all automated where the required process approvers will have to formally approve the new or changed process (all captured in the change log) and then have it published by an administrator.



5. Standardise and Stabalise

All we’ve done so far is come to an agreement on the current state process which we now need to operationalise. This starts with letting our process participants know that there is a new or changed process that’s relevant to them. Again Nintex Process Manager will automate this by issuing notifications to all relevant stakeholders:


Change Notification


If it is an existing process that is changed, we also need to make sure that process stakeholders are crystal clear on what specifically has changed. In the example below, by comparing the new version with the previously published version, I can see that the Manager no longer needs to reply to the applicant as this is now automated by the Workday system:


Change Description



Once our SMEs know that a change has taken place, and what specifically has changed, they should acknowledge the change to commit to changing the way that they work:


Change acknowledgement



6. Monitor and Enforce

Shortly after a new or changed process is published (appx two weeks) process owners should review reports to see who has/ has not acknowledged the change, and for those who have not, reach out to them to make sure that it gets done and they are fully committed to performing the process as it has been documented.


Change Report



It is also the responsibility of process owners and experts to monitor what is happening in the real world and ensure that the lived process is the documented process. Where there is a discrepancy it’s up to them to bring alignment which may involve using change management to bring process participants to the documented process, or updating and iterating the documented process so that it aligns with what is happening in the real world (prior to considering any desired future state).

My key message here is to not ignore the importance of standardisation and stabilisation. Not only will this provide the platform to make a meaningful improvement in the future, just the simple act of achieving standardisation and stability will deliver substantial benefits in and of itself.


Ishan Sellahewa

Digital Transformation Business Manager


From Control to Collaboration- Full Recording

From Control to Collaboration – discover the new era of Digital Process Management Full Recording

Join Ishan Sellahewa & Jack Worboys for a look into how digital process management platforms can help organisations improve by creating clear and sophisticated process maps, real-time feedback & collaboration, optimizing processes; eliminating and removing waste and bottlenecks; driving standardization and continuous improvement; and encouraging collaboration.

We are all aware of the benefits of process mapping in relation to:

  • Visualising process flow
  • Identifying improvements and efficiencies
  • Understanding interactions and handoffs
  • Managing systems of work
  • Problem solving
  • Governance

During the webinar we share how deploying a digital solution could revolutionise your process mapping and support you on your journey to Enterprise Excellence.

View the full webinar and transcript below

From Control to Collaboration Full Download and Transcript

Case Study: Develpoment of a Lean Academy in a Global Corporation

Our client was a global corporation with a head office in the USA. It supplies products to customers in 135 countries and employs over 12,000 employees worldwide generating revenue of over US $2 billion. Although successful, the business recognized significant opportunities for improvement back in 2020, aspiring to develop their own version of the Toyota Production System. They believed this would improve customer satisfaction and operational efficiency through the development and engagement of the workforce.

White Paper: Packaging Changeovers in Pharmaceutical Sector


Check out our latest white paper on Packaging Changeovers in the Pharmaceutical Industry

Over the last twenty-five years, pharmaceutical companies and packaging operations have struggled to respond quickly to market demand. Added to this, operational inefficiencies; the increase in the number and complexity of product configurations; and the ongoing demand for compliance has made it a challenge to maintain stable asset performance.

In this white paper, industry expert and author Andy Brunskill considers how a systematic approach to TPM can support manufacturing and packaging companies deliver sustainable improvement.

Download from the button above

Embracing Continuous Improvement in HR – Video and Transcript

View the full webinar and transcript of our recent webinar featuring Sharon Von Simson “Embracing Continuous Improvement in HR”

Embracing CI in HR Download

Embracing Continuous Improvement in HR – Full Recording with Transcript

S A Partners Named a Winner in 2022 Nintex Partner Awards

London, UK—September 28, 2022— S A Partners is pleased to announce it has been recognized as a Regional Spotlight Award winner of the 2022 Nintex Partner Awards.

S A Partners was recognized for its proven ability to help organizations accelerate digital transformation and drive business outcomes with the powerful and easy-to-use capabilities of the Nintex Process Platform.

“We’re proud to recognize S A Partners as a winner of the 2022 Nintex Partner Awards,” said Nintex CEO Eric Johnson. “Organizations across every industry and region rely on Nintex Partners, like S A Partners, to help accelerate digital transformation and solve process challenges with the Nintex Process Platform.”

“We are absolutely delighted to be recognized by Nintex in the 2022 Nintex Partner Awards; our partnership has enhanced the support we can offer our clients on their journey towards excellence.  We look forward to continuing to invest in our relationship with Nintex, and to a healthy and collaborative future where our clients and our own people tap into the amazing potentials of Nintex platforms” said Keivan Zokaei, Partner at S A Partners LLP.

To learn more about S A Partners’ partnership with Nintex, visit:

Media Contact

Ailsa Carson

Partner; Group Marketing Manager

P: +44 (0) 783 222 3453


About S A Partners

For over 30 years S A Partners has supported companies develop their continuous improvement capability through a combination of systems excellence consulting and bespoke Leadership and CI training programmes.  S A Partners is widely recognized for their exceptional people and behavioural based solutions that deliver sustainable results, productivity improvements, and employee engagement.

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