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 

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.

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:

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.

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:

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:

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:

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.

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.

Visit our website

A Time To Celebrate

A Time to Celebrate  

In May 2022 the SHINGO Institute recognized our team with a coveted SHINGO Publication Award for our book – TPM: A foundation of Operational Excellence.   

The team behind the book, the authors Peter Willmott, Andy Brunskill, and John Quirke along with Alex Everitt our graphic designer,  were able to finally meet to celebrate this momentous achievement at a lunch in Bath, UK.

It was a great chance for the team to reflect on their publication journey and its success.  The book has been widely acclaimed by industry experts for its practical guidance; detailed case studies and a model that will drive both asset optimization but also employee engagement.  

Total Productive Manufacturing is an established approach to asset optimization that supports operational excellence, reduces waste, and improves employee engagement.  It also has a well-documented impact on health and safety rates. 

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

Praise from reviewers has been unanimous: 

“This book will become a reference on how it should be done.  A paradigm shift to
Total Productive Manufacturing that is long overdue.”Greg Julich, Director Global Reliability, Pfizer Inc, USA

“I know of no other publication on TPM that comes close to the scope, detail and practical
utility of this book, that is likely to become THE standard text on the topic.”John Bicheno, Prof. of Lean Enterprise, University of Buckingham, UK 


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


The team were both grateful and delighted to finally be able to celebrate in person as it’s been a long but rewarding journey.  They would like to thank the members of The SHINGO Institute for the honour bestowed upon them.  

The book is available from Amazon HERE

You can also download our quick guide to the TPM 11-Step Model HERE

For more information contact:  

Jeff Williams supports Fareshare on their journey to Enterprise Excellence

As part of our Care Programme, we provide both financial and in-kind support to charities around the world.  Jeff Williams, our Director of Business Development was delighted to spend a day with the team at one of our much-loved charities Fareshare to support them with business improvement and their journey to Enterprise Excellence.   


FareShare redistributes quality surplus foods from across the food industry to over 9500 frontline charities and community groups. It is made up of 18 independent organisations.  These charities support school breakfast clubs, older people’s lunch clubs, homeless shelters, and community cafés.  Every week they provide enough food to create almost a million meals for the most vulnerable people in the UK.  


Andy Parkinson, Head of Food & Operations at FareShare Midlands said: 

Many thanks to Jeff Williams of S A Partners for spending the day with us all at Fareshare Midlands depot in Nottingham. Jeff shared with us the popular and successful ‘Enterprise Excellence Approach’ that S A Partners have implemented in the UK food industry and other sectors around the world, and brought it to life for us in the context of the work we do in the food industry. It was great to see how this model has been successfully implemented in numerous food manufacturers and retailers through the coaching and development of people by Jeff and his colleagues at S A Partners.  


I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jeff in various previous organisations, and his enthusiasm and ‘story-telling’ has not diminished over the years! We look forward to embarking on our own journey here at FareShare in the Midlands, and are delighted that Jeff has offered his support voluntarily as a guide and ‘wise owl’!   


If you would like to find out more about how we may be able to support you or the charities you work with please do contact:

+44 (0) 783 222 3453

Celebrating Ideal Behaviours

Every July we recognize some of our amazing team for their contribution to the business.  This annual award is given each July and builds on our monthly reward and recognition program. Both of the programs are designed to recognize those individuals that go above and beyond in demonstrating our core values and the behaviours we believe in.

This year we are delighted to recognize these amazing colleagues:

Juliette Packham

Juliette always supports her colleagues and helps people whenever she can.  She has coached and supported people across the business – often in her own time at evenings and weekends.  This year she has set up our monthly training days and improved our performance management process.  Juliette continues to play an active role in the partnership, and she is committed to helping every person in the business become the best version of themselves.

Megan James

Megan James

Megan has made an incredible impact on our ability to rebuild the European sales pipeline and has also enabled us to improve our global sales system.  She is regularly acknowledged by her colleagues for the support she provides everyone in the business not just in the area of lead generation.  Her management of the sales process has helped us improve our bid writing, tenders, and proposals.  She volunteers regularly to support events and has taken an active role to support Jeff and Garry with Business Development.

John Quirke

John Quirke

John is John, you don’t get many! He is creative, supportive, and sensitive. John consistently demonstrates ideal behaviours – he is thoughtful, respectful, and leads with humility. He does his own thing in his own way but we are very lucky he is part of our team.  He has brought us the Life Science Sector which has been the backbone of our success over the past 5 years.  He is well respected in the SHINGO circles as both a workshop facilitator and now a published author.  John continues to stretch and challenge us with his thinking and thought leadership.

Richard Lynch

Richard has led the development of our operations system –  ensuring everyone works at the optimum and we maximise profitability from the work we win. In addition to this, he has been responsible for landing and resourcing the biggest account in S A Partners history most of which is delivered globally in German. Whilst doing all this he has done some great work coaching Mark Fillingham, Donna Samuel, and Garry Corbet enabling the team to maximise their potential.  Richard has played a pivotal role in the Leadership Team helping us to transform S A Partners into the business we are all proud of today.

Jim Mikulski

Jim has taken on a very complex training assignment with one of our multi-national life sciences clients – running cohorts in the USA, Europe, and Asia Pacific. Whilst it’s been a massive learning curve he has always remained positive and supportive with both his customer and colleagues. Jim has supported the growth of the US business and he consistently demonstrates ideal behaviours – which makes us proud to call him one of our colleagues.

Keivan Zokaei

Keivan cannot sit still, he is always looking for different ways to do things and different ways to be successful, he is full of ideas. He has brought us a new Route to Market partner and is continually challenging our “nice guys without ties” image and making us think about the future. His ambitions help us all to think differently, but his heart beats S A Partners. He believes in his “brothers and sisters” and wants us all to succeed.

Thank you for all that you do for our company, and the support you provide to our global team.


Simon Grogan

Managing Director

S A Partners

Why Do An Assessment?

Enterprise Excellence is the goal for most, however so few organsitions achieve it, and even fewer sustain it. Having worked with many organsiations over the years on this journey I know it is rarely a simple journey, or one that can be copied from others. It’s not something a leader can impose, or build on their own as it’s not just about deploying systems and processes, it is about how people think, act and behave. 

With the right approach and the right leadership, it’s a journey that is possible. However, the journey there can look very different from one organisation to the next, and navigating your way towards “world-class” can often feel overwhelming.  

It doesn’t need to be… 

Step one on the journey is to truly understand your ‘Ideal Future State’, to do this ask yourself a number of questions: 

  • What does good look like? 
  • What does “Excellence” mean for us as an organisation? 
  • What will you hear, see and feel when you get there? 
  • What do the Ideal Behaviours look and feel like? 

To do this effectively it is worth considering using SHINGO as a framework as the model and philosophy focus on how to create the most effective systems that will in turn drive the right behaviours enabling you to achieve your ideal results.  The Shingo Discover Excellence course, or Introduction to Shingo can be really valuable as a starting point. 

Understanding the Gap 

After you understand where you are going it’s necessary to get a clear picture of where you are now, so you can determine the gap.  Ask the following questions: 

  • What is your current level of Enterprise Excellence maturity? 
  • What are your strengths? 
  • What are your weaknesses (your opportunities for improvement) 
  • Do your systems enable or disable the right behaviours? 
  • Do the Leadership and Engagement Systems support Continuous Improvement? 

An Enterprise Excellence assessment can provide you with this insight. This assessment delves deeply into all aspects of your organisation – it’s systems, processes, and behaviours. We use an assessment aligned to both SHINGO and our own Enterprise Excellence Model. 

Identifying your Roadmap  

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

At S A Partners, we have supported countless organisations on this journey.   

To find out what this could look like for you, don’t hesitate to contact me:  

You may also find the following resources useful: 

Embracing Sustainability

The drive for sustainability is a guiding principle of many organisations, not simply because it makes sound financial sense. Embracing sustainability is not only about manufacturing/producing, or supplying in a sustainable manner but also about the long-term future of the organisation which will be achieved through taking a holistic view of the operation from a resources, people, environmental and financial perspective.

We often focus solely on the financial return of improvement programmes and this is an important factor. Poor performing machinery, under-utilisation and breakdowns all contribute to higher energy utilisation, waste and cost. These are the visible wastes and those that we can address pro-actively. But as this current heatwave reminds us, we have a duty to the global community in which we live to consider our impact on the environment and our communities.

Zokaei, Hines et al in an article published in the Sloane Review (2014) looked at the approach taken to sustainability by Toyota through Monozukuri.

What Is Monozukuri?

The Japanese word monozukuri has a literal meaning of “production” — “mono” is the thing that is made or created, and “zukuri” refers to the act of making. Monozukuri, however, has meanings beyond the literal; it can be best compared to the word “craftsmanship” in English, which describes the making of an object with particular skill, care, or artistry.

There is, however, a difference between the two concepts: “craftsmanship” emphasizes the skill and attentiveness of the maker, whereas monozukuri focuses more on the qualities of the object being made and less on the qualities of the person making it. This subtle difference reflects the Japanese sense of responsibility for the inherent value of the materials of production and their deep respect for the world around them, both animate and inanimate.

In the Japanese tradition of monozukuri, the craftsman takes great care using resources so as not to be wasteful or futile. When an item or human effort is taken into use, there needs to be a benefit for the society in the result — while, at the same time, the balance between production, resources and the society should be maintained.

Monozukuri, therefore, is manufacturing that is in harmony with nature — one that adds value for the society. You could even say monozukuri is the older sister of the concept of sustainable manufacturing.

Using these principles we can start to consider and simplify our approach to create a system within our organizations that not only supports and drives sustainability but is continuously improving and evolving as new knowledge and resources emerge – such as the growth in digitalization and automation which has both improved and hindered companies sustainability agendas.


From Reactive to Proactive Strategies

In the book Creating a Lean & Green Business System (2013), Zokaei et al used the following diagram to describe the likely impact of different strategies on carbon reduction:

Taking this we can evolve this thinking towards the wider topic of sustainability and define our Proactive and Reactive strategies in relation to sustainability and identify their likely impact.

The New Nature of Business

Our colleague, John Quirke has been championing sustainability both within our organisation and within the clients he supports, and he talks about ‘The New Nature of Business’ and what this means. The new nature of business focuses on ensuring that every aspect of an organization’s activity considers sustainability, and that sustainability can not exist as an isolated system. In his new book due for release this autumn “DEEP EXCELLENCE”, John describes how low productivity and performance has such a dire impact on our environment and planet. That we owe it not just to our employees and shareholders to be more efficient, but to the world in which we live.

Using the S A Partners Enterprise Excellence Model sustainability can be considered in terms of:

  • Purpose – is your organisation aligned to a sustainable future through your desired future state. This would also incorporate profitability

  • People – ensure your organisation is acting sustainably in relation to its employees – through training; succession planning and support.
  • Process – understand how your products and the way you work impacts the environment and the sustainability of our operations (resource utilization etc.)


First steps toward a better future:

We are frequently asked by organizations where to begin. Our advice is to keep it simple and align any activity to your Enterprise Excellence or Continuous Improvement Journey.

The following five steps can be driven by you and your team, or supported by S A Partners:

  1. Benchmark & Assess your current state
  2. Develop an Improvement Roadmap / Sustainability System
  3. Focus on Engaging your People & your Suppliers
  4. Implement Improvement Plans
  5. Review and Improve

For more information on how we can support you please contact



Zokeai et al “Creating a Lean and Green Business System” (2013), CRC Press

Systems – The Architecture of Deep Excellence and Sustainability

“In spite of the fact that management is responsible for the system, or for lack of the system, I find in my experience that few people in industry know what constitutes a system.” W Edward Deming


If you want to learn something new read an old book, said a wise man once.

It is scary and often depressing to realise how true this statement is. When we read about the contributions by Deming in the eighties and nineties, to true quality and productivity effectiveness, one can only wonder – what if? What if every organisation really grasped what Deming was putting forward in relation to quality output and people’s engagement with the work that they do? How much more efficient, effective, and harmonious could workplaces be today?

It is incredible to think that there are organizations today running processes at efficiency levels below fifteen percent! This low level of performance can only be maintained by the exorbitant profits achievable within certain sectors. One can only wonder how much more benefit could be brought to civilisation if they could run their businesses at say sixty or even eighty percent efficiency? How much waste would be prevented? How much energy could be saved? Is the acceptance of these low levels of efficiency a vestige of some deep tribal element of our stone age brain that might be holding us back for such noble and altruistic types of thinking? As long as our tribe is doing OK, that’s all that matters.

Given the challenges we now face in relation to climate change and the loss of biodiversity this stone age thinking is no longer acceptable. We need to find better ways to review, manage and improve the way our businesses work, both internally and externally.

This wider integrated approach can only be achieved through a systems-based philosophy focused on the way organisations are designed, managed and constantly improved. However, as we will explain in another article, it is far more than an awareness of individual system structure. The true power of a systems-based philosophy is the integration between business systems and how that integration is constantly improved.

If we use the analogy of our neural network to describe how the various systems integrate. The optic nerve controls the eye. The vagus nerve the stomach, the various nerves that sense touch, taste, heat. None of these systems can work alone. They integrate with other important systems, our muscles our digestive system, our brain through key junction points, called nodes.

If we were to map key systems in our business, how we generate sales, how we make stuff, how we design new stuff, how we develop appropriate skills, how we maintain and improve our critical assets, how we constantly improve the performance and quality of our processes, where would the nodes connect?

How well does information between these systems flow? What would the monitoring and feedback systems tell us?

As young boy I was fascinated by the natural world, in particular the ocean. This ultimately led me to a Master’s degree in oceanography. My research involved the review of the way in which heavy metals from man’s industrial and domestic activity could be traced through the sediments, water column and organisms of our oceans. My studies involved trips to the Artic circle the East Coast of the United States and the West and East coasts of Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Photo of John Quirke sampling sediments off East Coast of USA and Artic Circle.

My work with metal chemistry led me to a role in the electronics company Fujistu where I developed and managed Electroplating and Ink Manufacturing processes. I stayed in the manufacturing field finally ending up in medical device and pharmaceutical environments and from there into the world of consulting.

But my studies and work in oceanography have always stayed with me. As I progressed in my career two things became clear. Industry did not optimise its processes to minimise the use of precious resources, thereby creating a lot of waste. This waste would eventually end up in some part of our natural environment where it’s impact would be studied by another research student!

Secondly business did not work with an integrated systems mindset. Even as a young fresh engineer it was clear that organisations were not set up to optimise the way important elements of the business worked together for the benefit of the whole.

My studies in oceanography revealed the web of integrated natural systems that have been in place for millennia. I could find traces of copper, lead and zinc which had originated from man’s land based activity in the deep ocean sediments. These contaminants were carried there through the cross over between living biological systems, and the physical circulatory and sedimentation systems of our great oceans.

James Lovelock author of the Gaia hypothesis showed just how interdependent and finely tuned our natural planetary systems are. During his research in the nineteen eighties, he describes how tiny marine plants called phytoplankton release the gas dimethylsulphide (DMS) which when it oxidises in the upper atmosphere is a major source of cloud-condensation nuclei (CCN). Thus, where there is an abundance of plankton the presence of DMS and resulting CCN cause clouds to form, reducing light levels and supressing excessive plankton growth.


Ref: Oceanic phytoplankton, atmospheric sulphur, cloud albedo and climate By Robert J. Charlson, James E. Lovelock, Meinrat O. Andreae & Stephen G. Warren. Published in Nature Vol. 326 No. 6114, 16 April 1987.

Now, all too late, our stone age brain is realising the power of interconnected natural systems to control and regulate our life support system – planet earth.

Within business we must begin to grasp the idea of integrated systems to ensure our businesses work as effectively and efficiently as possible. To neglect to do so is against the new nature of business.

Only businesses have the ingenuity and resources to react at the speeds necessary to mitigate the oncoming challenges to our planet. An integrated systems-based approach is critical to allow us to move out of our stone age brain and strive for a business environment that reflects deep excellence.

Celebrating Our New Doctor of Psychology – Bryan Cutliff

Congratulations to Bryan Cutliff, a pivotal member of our US Division who has recently been awarded his Doctor of Psychology in Leadership Psychology.  Bryan has brought a unique insight into leadership and the psychology of leading change to our team over recent years.  Having worked previously in executive leadership positions in healthcare in the US, Bryan now supports a number of our clients across the US and Europe.

Bryan is in good company as S A Partners is also home to Dr. Keivan Zokaei, Dr. Toni Whitehead, Dr. Donna Samuels, and Dr. Fiona Buttrey – who make a difference every day to our clients with their in-depth knowledge and skills in their chosen fields.

The Doctor of Psychology in Leadership Psychology program at William James College is a 4-year program that explores a unique approach to understanding how individuals function as leaders and followers.

This area of study examines those who are leaders themselves, who are followers, and those who advise leaders. The goal is to understand the elements of being a great leader, how individuals transition between being a leader and a follower based on the situation in an organizational setting, and what behaviors generate a culture where engaged and innovative workers can thrive. Students who study leadership psychology believe that the way an individual performs as a leader influences the performance of their team and colleagues.


Bryan’s research focused on the antecedents of work engagement. Specifically, he wanted to understand what increases it and through what mechanism that relationship exists. His research led him to the construct of self-leadership.

Self-leadership refers to strategies individuals can deploy to develop a sense of competence, self-determination, and purpose. He hypothesized that self-leadership is positively related to and predicts one’s level of work engagement by increasing a person’s internal sense of hope, optimism, resilience, and self-efficacy (collectively known as psychological capital).

Through statistical analysis, Bryan found evidence that individuals who employed various self-leadership strategies were consistently more engaged in their work than those who did not. Additionally, these individuals were also found to appraise themselves as having more psychological capital. Organizational leaders could benefit from this research in that it presents an alternative view of how to impact work engagement.

Traditional engagement models have often focused on a positional leader’s ability to increase an employee’s level of engagement. However, work engagement is an internal and personal process, and the burden to improve one’s engagement is best kept with the individual. This research suggests that if organizations teach their employees how to deploy self-leadership strategies independently, their people will experience more work engagement and become more self-efficacious, resilient, optimistic, and hopeful.

Please get in touch with or visit Bryans profile here if you would like further information on this research or to discuss how he may help you.

Three new partners appointed at fast growing consultancy firm S A Partners

Following rapid growth, S A Partners is welcoming three new members to its partnership team –
Clare Pryce; Kenneth Wisinski and Jim Mikulski.

Simon Grogan, Managing Director is delighted to welcome these new appointments:

“Over the last two years, we have seen some remarkable changes within our businesses and even more remarkable growth.  We have expanded our US operations and seen growth across all the regions in which we operate – the US, Europe, and Australia.  We have developed new offers that enable us to support our clients both in-person and virtually.  These individuals have already demonstrated a commitment to supporting others as they improve.  It’s what we believe in as an organisation – I am grateful that they have chosen to share their journey with us.”

Clare Pryce joined S A Partners in 2005 has been appointed as a Partner in recognition and appreciation of her contribution to the successful growth of the business. Robin Jaques, Senior Partner and Finance Director commented:

“We are absolutely delighted that Clare has chosen to join the partnership team as she is an integral part of our global team, supporting every member of the business on a daily basis. The appointment also breaks a long standing tradition to only appoint fee-earning partners – a clear sign of the maturity of our growing business”.

Kenneth Wisinski has been working within our US business as a Senior Consultant for over three years and brings extensive experience in Program and operations management, with a focus on continuous improvement.  Kenneth is a certified Shingo facilitator and is currently working with a number of our large multi-national clients supporting them with both their SHINGO journey and their leadership development programmes.  Prior to joining S A Partners, Kenneth held senior roles at Toyota, Kautex, Magna, and United Technologies. He is a Project Management Professional (PMP); Professional Scrum Master, Six Sigma Black Belt, and Lean practitioner.

Jim Mikulski joined S A Partners in 2020, following a career in Enterprise Excellence holding both consultancy and operational management positions.  He has trained over 1,700 people in Lean Six Sigma and certified 340 green belts, black belts and Lean Masters.  Jim is a certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Lean Master and holds a Masters in Manufacturing Management. He will continue to support our US and international clients and support the development of our new product offers.

7 phases of Business Transformation

Every organisation will move through cycles of growth, change and at times decline.


To strive for success and Enterprise Excellence requires a focus on continuous improvement and the alignment of the organisations purpose, people, and processes. Employee Engagement & culture affect an organisations ability to realise its ideal results, by ensuring your transformation programme engages all employees and stakeholders will improve your chance of sustainability and success.


This 7 Phase approach outlines how we can support you with your Transformation journey.  The journey will engage all the stakeholders and provide you with a framework to achieve your desired results.

The Insights Podcast – Continuous Improvement in Utilities with Megan James

Megan James speaks to SA Partners Mat Jackson on his experience of deploying and sustaining operational excellence within the utilities sector. Understand why continuous improvement is needed now more than ever today within the sector, and how the approach can and should be adapted to fit the unique needs of the sector. For more information on the unique application of operational excellence within the sector please contact

The Insights Podcast – CI in Utilities

Megan James speaks to SA Partners Mat Jackson on his experience of deploying and sustaining operational excellence within the utilities sector. Understand why continuous improvement is needed now more than ever today within the sector, and how the approach can and should be adapted to fit the unique needs of the sector.

Onsite Insights Returns in 2022!

Relaunch of the Best Practice Visit Programme in the UK

We are delighted to announce the relaunch of Onsite Insights – the UK’s national best practice visit programme.

The programme has been put on hold during the last two years but we are delighted that our host sites have once again agreed to welcome visitors back in 2022.  Onsite Insights was originally founded as Inside UK Enterprise in 1983 by the Department of Trade & Industry. It became Onsite Insights in 2004 and became part of the S A Partners group in 2018.  The programme exists to encourage the sharing of innovation and best practice between companies. It has supported thousands of businesses over the last thirty years on their journey to operational excellence.  We will continue to run a number of visits virtually over the next year and will also support the virtual forums that have been so successful over the last two years.

Ailsa Carson who has been running the programme since 2001 said:

“The programme is popular as it provides an insight into what works and why – directly from companies that have achieved success.  Both the visitors and host sites benefit from the sharing of knowledge; the networking and the informal benchmarking.  I’m so grateful to the host sites for getting back involved after what has been a challenging and disruptive period.  We’ve had a huge number of requests over recent weeks for visits which is testimony to the value of the visits and the desire to get back out to see best practice”

For more information on the upcoming visits please do visit: or email

S A Partners launch Carbon Neutral Programme

We are pleased to announce that S A Partners has begun its journey to Carbon Neutrality by supporting the Ocean Foundation, a blue carbon initiative focusing on the support and rebuilding of ocean habitats through the replantation of Seagrass, mangroves, and blue carbon education.

The Carbon Neutral Programme aims to completely offset the business’s carbon production from activities such as travel (both by car and airplane) and our events and workshops both virtual and in-person.


Why the Ocean Foundation?

As mentioned earlier the Ocean Foundation supports Blue Carbon projects across the world. S A Partners will be supporting their Blue Resilience initiative based in Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and Mosquito Bay, Vieques in Puerto Rico. “Blue Carbon” is estimated to store up to 10 times the amount of carbon per hectare compared to terrestrial forest but it’s not just a Carbon project, seagrass provides new habitats for endangered marine life and acts as a natural water filter leading to improved water quality. Seagrass meadows, mangrove forests and salt marshes also act as a natural defence for nearby civilizations from flooding. Along with this the ocean foundation supports local communities through education on Blue Carbon protection.

One of the creators of our Carbon Neutral Programme, Jordan Squire, had this to say about the Ocean Foundation “When we first heard about Blue Carbon it immediately piqued our interest. Many of our colleagues in S A Partners have a connection with the sea and it was a quick way to begin offsetting our carbon production. We then found the ocean foundation and were blown away by the work that they do, they weren’t just a charity to offset your carbon, you could tell they truly had a passion for what they were doing, and it wasn’t just about Carbon, the work on protecting habitats and supporting local civilizations and communities was astounding. ‘Together, the power to improve’ doesn’t just account for our work, we think of it much wider than that and The Ocean Foundation epitomized that belief


The Lean Forum Sustainability Working Group

We are not just focusing on our own Carbon Offset Programme, we want to support and hear about other businesses Sustainability efforts, The Lean Forum is launching a monthly working group to help businesses address the idea of sustainable working, the purpose of the group will be to discuss sustainability and what it means for our organisations, develop an understanding of what best practice in this area looks like and share our knowledge for mutual benefit. We hope that as a result individuals can either set or contribute to their organisations sustainability agenda.


For more information on this contact

Coaching Triads

We have been running coaching triads in our business for over ten years to support learning and development.  More recently we have introduced Coaching Triads as part of our onboarding process. They have delivered unforeseen benefits, colleagues are collaborating across continents in ways we never thought possible. The Triads are yielding some great insights into how as a business we could improve and grow.

So what are they and how do they work?

A coaching triad involves a group of peers coming together (we run them weekly) and each member of the group takes it in turn to coach one another.  Whilst some companies use this for teams that work in similar disciplines we have found that cross functional and cross company teams work just as well.

Normally, as the name implies there are three people in each team, however you can run as larger groups and then use breakouts – but clearly multiples of three are ideal.  In the active session individuals will take on the role of either Coach, Coachee or Observer.

  • Coach: The Coach is responsible for asking probing questions, listening to the coachee, challenging their assumptions and giving feedback, but should not offer solutions or give advice. They may follow a structure, such as the GROW model (see across), or may simply ask questions designed to get the coachee to think through the issues and options and move forward to action.


  • Coachee: The coachee will respond to the Coach and will bring an issue to be considered, they must agree to be open and honest when addressing the questions put by the coach and also be prepared to take action as a result of the coaching conversation.


  • Observer: The observer(s) watch and listen to the coaching conversation and provide feedback to the coach and coachee. The intention is to provide constructive feedback on what has been said, for example, highlighting points that appeared to be particularly effective or less effective. The observer might point out questions that had moved the coachee forward or points where the coach stepped outside the coaching role and offered advice.


The group needs to be mutually supportive, there are no requirements to be an experienced coach but it is useful for the team to understand some basic principles of coaching and listening.

We included a Soundwave assessment at the beginning of the process so that each member could understand their communication style and preference.

Our Head of Learning & Development,  Juliette Packham introduced the Triads to enable the new team members to create a support network across the business and she commented:

“We have been running coaching triads across the business for over ten years and they have allowed us to develop our own skills so it seemed natural to introduce these into our induction process as the team is growing so quickly.  They encourage individuals to develop their own skills and build employee-led learning – the added benefit is the connectivity across the growing international team.

This may be the child of the new virtual world but it is one that I would whole heartedly encourage others to embrace.

For more information please do contact either Juliette Packham or Ailsa Carson.

The GROW Model

Sir John Whitmore’s GROW Model Coaching for Performance (Whitmore 2019)

Making it Happen: The Art of Executing Strategy – J Mark Fillingham

Our research shows that one of the key missing elements in most organisations’ transformation journey towards excellence is successful strategy execution.

Effective strategy execution provides the mechanism to achieve the ideal results your organisation seeks, in the shortest possible time and with least possible resources and cost. Nonetheless, research shows that having an effective ‘strategic management process’ is one of the key hurdles to success in many organisations. A recent Harvard Business School article, claimed that 90 percent of businesses fail to reach their strategic goals, which is down to the gap between strategic planning and execution. Moreover, another HBS research illustrates that 95% of employees are unaware of, or do not understand, their company’s strategy.

Not only, did we share insights into popular approaches such as OKRs, Hoshin and MIS/MOS, but also shared ideas on how to socialise strategy within your teams to drive true ownership and widespread engagement. We also covered how to build true cultural transformation by developing the habits and systems that enable success.

Download J Mark Fillingham’s presentation from the button above

Making it Happen: The Art of Executing Strategy – Toby Hayles

Our research shows that one of the key missing elements in most organisations’ transformation journey towards excellence is successful strategy execution.

Effective strategy execution provides the mechanism to achieve the ideal results your organisation seeks, in the shortest possible time and with least possible resources and cost. Nonetheless, research shows that having an effective ‘strategic management process’ is one of the key hurdles to success in many organisations. A recent Harvard Business School article, claimed that 90 percent of businesses fail to reach their strategic goals, which is down to the gap between strategic planning and execution. Moreover, another HBS research illustrates that 95% of employees are unaware of, or do not understand, their company’s strategy.

Not only, did we share insights into popular approaches such as OKRs, Hoshin and MIS/MOS, but also shared ideas on how to socialise strategy within your teams to drive true ownership and widespread engagement. We also covered how to build true cultural transformation by developing the habits and systems that enable success.

Download Toby Hayles’ presentation from the button above

Making it Happen: The Art of Executing Strategy – Noel Hennessy

Our research shows that one of the key missing elements in most organisations’ transformation journey towards excellence is successful strategy execution.

Effective strategy execution provides the mechanism to achieve the ideal results your organisation seeks, in the shortest possible time and with least possible resources and cost. Nonetheless, research shows that having an effective ‘strategic management process’ is one of the key hurdles to success in many organisations. A recent Harvard Business School article, claimed that 90 percent of businesses fail to reach their strategic goals, which is down to the gap between strategic planning and execution. Moreover, another HBS research illustrates that 95% of employees are unaware of, or do not understand, their company’s strategy.

Not only, did we share insights into popular approaches such as OKRs, Hoshin and MIS/MOS, but also shared ideas on how to socialise strategy within your teams to drive true ownership and widespread engagement. We also covered how to build true cultural transformation by developing the habits and systems that enable success.

Download Noel Hennessy’s presentation from the button above

Total Asset Care in major Agrifresh Food Suppliers

This case study shows how TPM was adapted to support two international food producers, supplying agrifresh products to major supermarkets globally.

Our customers recognised that in order to meet increased sales demand for their retail fresh and coated product lines an increase in productivity was required using existing resources, without the need for capital expenditure. The opportunity for a reduced staff turnover level brought along the requirement to upskill their existing operations staff and tap into unrealised human potential.

Download the Case Study for free on the download link provided.


S A Partners 7 step guide to planning your SHINGO Journey

Shingo is a philosophy to frame and sustain your journey to enterprise excellence

A common question we get asked about Shingo is “where do I start?”

This 7 step guide breaks down the Shingo journey, from where you start to where you can strive to be