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Insights from the 2016 Lean Business System Conference

The 2016 LBS Conference was another thought provoking day with lots of candour and honest insights from the speakers reflecting on the challenges of Lean/CI transformation. The repeating theme was the importance of creating the right culture for Lean/CI to be sustainable.

One of the presentations that particularly resonated with the audience was the presentation from Stuart Williams (Newscorp) – The Importance of Failure on the Way to Success.

As one of the delegates said in their feedback on the event, “accepting that it’s OK to fail and being open about your mistakes is a message that is particularly hard to communicate and hard for managers to accept’. Becoming an organisation that learns from its failures, where managers and staff feel comfortable speaking out about mistakes, is key to creating the right culture for Lean/CI to thrive and be sustained. This culture was clearly evident in the presentation from Adrienne Smith about Midcoast Trucks and is key to the success of their business.

If staff hide mistakes from managers and managers focus on who made the mistake rather than why it happened, staff will not to engage in solving problems. As Louis Sylvester explained in the Auckland Leisure story, you will probably find that initially the problems raised by staff/managers are fairly superficial. Resolve these and there will be an initial buzz but without trust and transparency you will never truly get to the root cause and may not even be focussing on the most significant problems.

sufficient to sustain the initial enthusiasm for Lean/CI and the momentum is lost. Louis and his Centre Managers had created ‘wailing walls’ where staff could post the issues that frustrated them.

For a safety critical activity like helicopter maintenance this is even more important as Ken Miller from Airbus explained. For them creating a culture where staff were encouraged to report mistakes was critical, a mistake could cost lives.

The Commonwealth Bank and RAA presentations highlighted how they are using Visual Management Boards and team huddles to foster an openness around raising and resolving problems.

These are some of the other key learnings on this topic

  • encourage managers to lead by example, practise humility. It’s Ok to admit to your teams and colleagues that you didn’t get it right first time.
  • encourage staff to take risks and try new ways of working without fear of recrimination if it doesn’t work out.
  • look at failure positively, become an organisation that learns from its mistakes.
  • don’t look for someone to blame when something goes wrong and don’t single out individuals. Mistakes arise when processes are not working effectively. Find out what caused
    the failure and work together as a team to put measures in place to prevent it from happening again.
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