Certified Shingo Training – Discover the Principles of Enterprise Excellence

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The Shingo Model™ is not an additional Lean program or change initiative to implement. Rather, it introduces the 10 Shingo Guiding Principles on which to anchor your current initiatives. It fills the gaps in your efforts towards ideal results and enterprise excellence.”

We offer the full range of Shingo courses both online and in-house, and have been for many years. However, for the first time in New Zealand we are excited to be able to offer the foundation workshop, Discover Excellence and two of the follow on workshops, Enterprise Alignment and Cultural Enablers, for those who have already attended Discover Excellence and want a deeper understanding of the Principles.

Successful businesses have a shared vision, they are great places to work where performance excellence is deeply embedded in the organisations culture.

In these workshops developed by the Shingo Institute you will learn about a behavioural based approach to improvement that encompasses the whole organisation in what we call Enterprise Excellence.

“Lean leaders around the world invest substantial time and money on change initiatives that achieve positive results. Most often, they find it is hard to sustain momentum. Each new Lean tool becomes another possible solution or “best practice” only to create a temporary boost in results and a small taste of victory. It doesn’t take many such cycles for associates to feel jaded, frustrated and even burnt out.

Lean Leadership Workshop – Update

In the same week as our Continuous Improvement conference hosted at Massey University, Chris Butterworth, MD Asia Pacific, led our world class, Lean Leadership seminar in Auckland.

This two-day workshop is designed for business leaders and senior managers looking to embed continuous improvement practices in their organisations, and Chris shares how to create a sustainable continuous improvement culture in addition to the tangible benefits from Lean.

Chris brings a wealth of experience and case studies relevant to NZ organisations who are starting the Lean journey and wish to understand the role that leadership plays in embedding continuous improvement principles as part of the “way of life”.

Many thanks to Chris for bringing Lean to life and sharing his expertise and we’ll look forward to Oct, when he’ll be back!

Workshop Outcomes:

Learn how these results are built upon and sustained also how to engage the workforce and create a sustainable Lean culture.

  • Understand how Lean thinking provides the basis for a profitable, growing and customer focused business
  • Understand the key elements of creating a sustainable culture of continuous improvement
  • Identify the priority actions to achieve this vision and start developing a roadmap to get you there
  • Understand the role of the senior team in creating a Lean enterprise

Auckland Leisure – Shingo Update

Early April saw 16 participants for our Discover Shingo Awareness seminar, kindly hosted by Auckland Leisure and presented expertly by S A Partners.

Our Shingo training is brought to our clients as we are a fully affiliated to the Shingo Institute https://www.shingoprize.org/

The Shingo Training Discover Excellence programme is a foundational, two day workshop that introduces the Shingo Guiding Principles and the Three Insights to Enterprise Excellence. It is designed to raise awareness amongst Leaders and Managers on how Enterprise Excellence can benefit their organisation.

The course is a blend of expert input, discussion and best practice learning combined with real time application of learning via “Go and See” assessments.

On this occasion we were hosted at West Wave Recreation and Leisure Centre which gave the participants the opportunity to apply the learning first hand, to see how Shingo principles drive behaviour throughout the entire organisation to deliver world class results.

At the end of this Shingo workshop participants were be able to:

  • Understand the principles of enterprise excellence.
  • Learn the key insights of ideal behaviours.
  • Understand the relationship between behaviours, systems and principles.
  • Learn how systems and behaviours drive results.
  • Learn how KBI’s drive KPI’s and how this leads to excellent results.
  • Use “Go and See” to understand the practical application of the Shingo Guiding Principles.

Many thanks to Chris for the opportunity to get to grips with Shingo and we look forward to next time and further Shingo insights on your next visits.

Welcome – Tenison Maingay

It is with great pleasure to introduce our latest team member at SA Partners NZ.

Tenison is a recent Massey University Graduate who studied a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons), Majoring in Product Development and minoring in Mechatronics.

Over the past 15 months he has been working for S A Partners New Zealand on a number of business improvement projects. The practical and technical skills learned at varsity have been the foundation for assisting CI specialist teams and client projects with data analysis outlining key opportunities with mathematical reasoning.

Tenison’s specialties are in Total Productive Maintenance and Sustainability.

Tenison began lean education in 2015 and is developing skills through as a Lean Coach the Lean Competency System and practical improvement projects working alongside Richard Steel.

Hold the Date – 3rd Annual NZ CI Conference – 30th August 2017

Join us on the 30th August for the third annual Continuous Improvement Conference hosted at Massey University in Albany.

Building on the success of the past two events we are looking to bring you a great event, and a chance to network and learn from others

Our event also features the NZ book launch of 4 + 1: Embedding a Culture of Continuous Improvement in Financial Services by Dr Morgan L. Jones, Chris Butterworth & Brenton Harder

We are in the early stages of lining up a great selection of key note speakers and stream activities including additional speakers and workshop activities to make the day informative, engaging and fun. Our current line up includes:

Dr Morgan Jones – Commonwealth Bank of Australia

Paul Salmon – Lean IT

Chris Till – HR Institute NZ

Farah Palmer – Former Captain, Black Ferms

Adam Bentley – Countdown Supermarkets

Rob McGee – Auckland Leisure

We are finalising the full programme this month and aim to have the full details ready in early March.

So mark the diary and join us on the 30th August to join the throng!

Shingo News

S A Partners have been the European Affiliate for the Shingo Institute, who have their annual conference this coming April from the 25th to the 29th, since 2014.

This year, Simon Grogan (MD Europe), John Quirke and our colleague at S A Partners Pty Asia Pacific, Chris Butterworth are to go through the challenging process of becoming Shingo Assessors, but currently are all Shingo 4-Core Facilitators .

Simon works with clients all over the world in Life Science, Utilities, Distribution and Manufacturing, while John heads up our Ireland operation, the Life Science sector  and is the lead for our Total Productive Maintenance programme (TPM).

Chris supports our team in the Asia Pacific region working with a wide range of clients including Financial Services, Insurance, Education, Healthcare and Defence. One of our clients, Commonwealth Bank of Australia were recently awarded a Shingo Silver Medallion – the first in the world in financial services.

Focus on the Food & Drink Sector for February

Head of the Food & Drink Sector, Jeff Williams, is in demand. He’s been interviewed for Snacks magazine and is also speaking at a prestigious conference.

Could your operations reduce costs by 10 to 15% at the same time as boosting productivity, improving customer satisfaction and creating a healthier, safer working environment for employees? Welcome to the world of waste reduction through lean manufacturing. Jeff Williams, Partner and Head of the Food & Drink Sector for S A Partners covered this subject in his recent interview as a recognised ‘Thought Leader’ for the prestigious publication ‘Snacks Magazine’ – the official journal of the European Snacks Association (ESA). https://thesnacksmagazine.com

Snacks logo

This resulted in an article published in the Winter Issue of Snacks Magazine entitled ‘Lean Thinking’. In the article Jeff describes how the application of a sustainable approach to ‘Lean Thinking’ can help improve performance, eliminate waste and reduce costs by understanding what customers value.

The magazine is published quarterly. It is one of the industry’s leading sources of news and information about the European savoury snacks and peanut markets and is one of the Association’s prime vehicles of communication with its members and the international snack food industry.

Membership spans the European Union and beyond and reaches top managers throughout the world. The core readership within the EU today includes the growing markets of Central and Eastern Europe although and the magazine is also read as far afield as North and South America, the Middle and Far East, Pacific Rim, Africa, Asia and Australasia.

Jeff is also a guest speaker at the prestigious National Skills Academy (NSA) for Food & Drink ‘Skills Conference’ in February 2016.

He will share his experience on the importance of end to end improvement systems that deliver real benefits.

If you want to know more about our services to the Food & Drink sector, contact Jeff Williams.

Thought Leaders who Inspire and Motivate January

Are you looking for a speaker at your next event or conference?

Thought Provoking. Inspiring. Enlightening. Energising. And Informative.

These powerful adjectives are used to describe our exclusive group of Thought Leaders who specialise in performance, productivity and leadership effectiveness. Some are also authors of award winning books and are instrumental in the design and development of our globally recognised, accredited training programmes and consulting interventions.

This month we focus upon John Quirke, Partner, MD of our Ireland business, Head of Life Sciences Sector for S A Partners and regular speaker at high profile Industry and Shingo related events. John has been a speaker at many conferences and institutions around Europe, and is also a Shingo Institute Facilitator.


If you would like to engage John for one of your prestigious events, please contact info@sapartners.co.uk with an overview of your request.

The Top 100 Lean books by John Bicheno

John Bicheno continues to maintain and publish the definitive ‘Top 100 Lean Books’. This is an excellent resource and point of reference for our S A Partners Lean Academy candidates.

He is the author of several best-selling books which include The Service Systems Toolbox, The Lean Toolbox, and The Lean Games Book.

He has been mentor to numerous manufacturing and service organisations in UK, Ireland, South Africa and Denmark, and is now director of the MSc in Lean Enterprise at the University of Buckingham.

John began learning about Lean in 1982 with Toyota in South Africa, when he was Professor of Industrial Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand.

You can download and read his latest version.



Lean Leaders and the Power of Seven

Download the Flyer

This is a peer learning group for those leading lean strategy and implementation. If you’re based in Ireland and your business is experiencing the following and similar challenges, then this group is for you:


  • We cannot get the buy-in and engagement of our senior and middle managers.
  • We cannot engage the shop floor.
  • We have been working with Lean/Lean Six Sigma for a few years and have got stuck or it has failed.

A survey of LinkedIn’s 80,000 community members came out with 5 major problems they are facing in todays working environment.

How does it work?

A Lean Leaders group has already started with a number of successful meetings underway. We have a vacancy for an additional member our next meeting is on April 23rd 2015 at Klasmann-Deilmann Near Mullingar.

You meet with six other senior level lean leaders from other companies every two months. Other leaders who are facing similar challenges to you. In this highly confidential environment with expert facilitation you earn the trust and respect of each other through sharing and helping to solve each others problems.

‘Essentially the Power of Seven is your personal board of confidants and advisors to support you on your lean leadership journey’.

How Can This Help You?

Members exchange their expertise, experience, problem solving capability and solutions that have worked for them in similar situations. Most of all they offer objectivity on the challenges you are facing, helping you to clear the ‘wood from the trees’. Your peers and the facilitator give you feedback, help you brainstorm new possibilities, and set up accountability structures that keep you focused and on track. It’s a community of supportive colleagues who brainstorm together to move everyone to new heights and advance each others careers.

In addition to peer support you will have access to the latest academic research and thinking around continuous improvement (CI) within organisations from the SA Partners team led by John  Quirke (Partner and MD, Ireland) and other other SA Partners guest speakers.

The team at SA Partners is made up of hands on CI practitioners and academic researchers who work at all organisational levels. They have a wide depth of experience from practical hands on application of CI tools and techniques, to the development and implementation of enabling systems to support the necessary culture and behaviours to embed CI as a ‘way of working’. Our team has also worked with many companies to develop focused business strategies to enable growth. There will also be an opportunity to hear case studies from these SA Partners clients.


Barry Walsh is a very experienced facilitator of peer groups having developed the Power of Seven concept over eight years ago. Whilst this background is in lean he also is expert in leadership and culture development.

What’s Different?

This is not a training course, it’s a professional development forum where you learn and gain insights from your peers and Lean/CI experts. The facilitation and structure allows members quality ‘air time’ to share their critical issues and get feedback/advice from peers in similar situations whom they respect and learn from.

It is totally confidential.

How can I get involved?

You can get involved by doing the following:

  1. Email or phone with your expression of interest to Barry Walsh barry.walsh@sapartners.com +353 (0)87 2905 322
  2. Telephone conversation with Barry to discuss any questions you may have, and for Barry to access your suitability for the group.
  3. Experience (at no cost) the first meeting when you will meet other potential group members in late April/early May 2015 (date TBD).

If you and SA Partners mutually agree that you are suitable for the group then you are welcomed on board with a commitment to attending for the next twelve months, with a meeting every two months (dates will be agreed three meetings in advance).

Note: An existing group has a vacancy for one new member. This is a group of well known brand name companies who meet at each others sites, they have developed an excellent platform for sharing best practice and supporting each other on lean implementation challenges. Contact Barry ASAP as this group next meets on April 23rd.

Download the Flyer

The challenge of coaching the coach

Put your lean know-how to the test in this continuous improvement dilemma

We are what I believe to be a successful and forward-thinking manufacturing business. We’ve been implementing our own form of CI over the past two years with good results; we spent a lot of time researching successful lean implementations in other organisations before we began our journey and believe that we profited from that investment.

The process is led from the top. We make every effort to incorporate continuous improvement into the normal way in which ‘work works’ so that we avoid the idea of it being a ‘project’.

We’re scrupulous in our use of the plan, do, check, act (PDCA) cycle and have understood how well we learn when we use this simple tool well. I could go on, but you get the point; we’re serious about it.

Recently, one issue has arisen for which we don’t have a straightforward answer. Some time ago we developed coaching skills in our managers and we’re also trying to introduce the idea of ‘coaching the coach’. Coaching as part of CI makes sense to us; how else do people learn to tackle their own issues? We recognise it as a key part of sustainability. We’ve trained our people very thoroughly, but despite this we notice big variations in the quality of both direct coaching and in ‘coaching the coach’.

In particular, we notice that while managers can be reasonably good at coaching in highly structured situations, like in front of the metrics board, they seem to revert to old habits when they are operating outside of these ‘highly cued’ situations. Direct reports of these managers report inconsistent behaviour. Offering more training has had some impact on coaching and on ‘coaching the coach’, but not enough to make a real difference and we’re losing faith with one or two people. We’d rather find a way of sticking with them. What do we do?

Kevin Eyre gives his view

First of all, let me congratulate you on a job well done. Not all organisations have understood the critical importance of coaching in CI.

The variation you notice in the quality of coaching provided by your managers is quite normal. It’s like any type of variation. Why would we expect uniform coaching performance of diverse people after the same training input? Some people find it harder than others to adopt a coaching style of leading and a few of your people are falling into this category. The tendency to fall back on more directive and solution-oriented styles of
managing is strong, remember this.

I like your term, ‘highly cued situations’ for this is what they are. The structure helps people to realise new behaviours, but it doesn’t necessarily make them habitual – we all stop at a zebra crossing, but few of us stop for so long when we cross the road in its absence.

Unless coaching behaviour becomes a natural way of operating it will only operate in certain situations. That, as you state, risks default and more directive behaviour having free reign and people seeing the coaching of their managers as sporadic and inauthentic.

So what should you so? In all probability, your strugglers are good people, technically strong and believers in the benefits of coaching; they just can’t do it very well. The likely reason is that they lack the necessary patience or tolerance and experience a strong sense of frustration when their coaches fail to get to an answer fast. The solution to this lies in an examination of the reason for this impatience and the development of an ability to manage the emotional trigger that causes it.

This needs close work with very regular feedback and lots of practice, but it doesn’t need more skills training. Stick at it and the people will pull through. You should expect them to need sustained support for as long as nine months; it’s probably taken 30 or 40 years for them to have developed their preferred styles of operating and these won’t be coaching oriented.

‘Coaching the coach’ is a tougher challenge still, but it follows the same principles as coaching and demands at least the same investment. Its purpose is to focus on the quality of the dialogue within the organisation and to make sure that the quality of coaching improves. In this sense it’s little different from focusing on product quality.

Only managers who are competent coaches should ‘coach the coach’ so keep your slower learners away from this in the short term, but make clear that this will be an expectation of the role. One way to speed the development of your less capable coaches is to have your better coaches ‘coach the coach’ with the strugglers. In this way everyone benefits. Keep the faith.

Cardiff University Ranked 5th Best in UK and 2nd Best for Research Impact

S A Partners would like to congratulate Cardiff University’s achievement in being ranked 5th best University in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), a national assessment of research quality by the four UK funding bodies, placing it in the top ranks of research universities of the Russell Group.

For the first time, funding councils sought to measure the impact of research, asking how university research is helping to tackle major challenges facing society, the economy and the environment. Cardiff ranked 2nd in the UK for the impact of research as measured in the REF 2014, with breakthroughs in a number of important research areas.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Riordan said: “This extraordinary achievement marks us out as a world leader and puts Cardiff on the map globally and nationally. We are an extremely ambitious and innovative University and we are not afraid to set challenging goals.”

S A Partners’ training, education and coaching programmes are aligned to and accredited by Cardiff University’s Lean Competency System (LCS). We look forward to a continuing partnership with this world-class University in future years.

Dodging bullets in a scattergun approach

I am a factory manager of a medium-sized engineering company (with around 250 employees). We started down the road to lean manufacturing two years ago after our managing director and operations director went on a course about continuous improvement. However, this road has proved decidedly bumpy.

They came back fired up with enthusiasm for CI, seeing it as the answer to all our problems. Until that point, we had been in the doldrums as a business for three or four years and seemed to be drifting, with no clear vision or direction.

The trouble was the senior managers got carried away and became obsessed with the tools and techniques associated with CI. As a result, I was told to implement 5S, quick changeover, value stream mapping, and a host of other initiatives without any preparation or forethought.

The operations director did nothing to prepare me personally for the CI introduction and so I was in the dark when it came to most of the tools and techniques; my boss simply gave me his training notes and expected me to work out from these how to implement what was demanded. Our employees were as ignorant of CI as I was; it was the blind leading the blind.

And the implementation proved to be a scattergun approach that caused disruption and confusion on the shopfloor. This, in turn, led to cynicism among almost everybody, even those who were initially enthusiastic.

Hardly anyone is now prepared to buy into the notion of continuous improvement so I know it will be an uphill struggle to bring in even the simplest CI initiative – the kaizen ground has effectively been poisoned by the cack-handed approach to introducing the process in the first place.

Is there anything we do to retrieve the situation and quash the scepticism and distrust of CI initiatives among the vast majority of our employees?

I would also like to know what sort of preparation should be done to ensure, as far as is possible, we achieve a successful CI implementation?

The Solution

Before I answer your two questions I’d like to be a little provocative and discuss the general sense of ‘dereliction of duty’ that I read in your letter.

First, your elders and betters have evidenced not so much delegation as abdication. What were they thinking? In fact, what, if anything, had they learned from attending their course on CI? Do they not have a duty of care towards their staff? Are they not responsible to shareholders for business performance? I don’t detect much thoughtful or responsible behaviour, let alone any ‘leading with
humility’, one of the latest watchwords in lean thinking. What did you see?

Which brings me to my second point; what about you?

So you knowingly accepted the poisoned chalice. Why? How did you try to influence their thinking; how did you try to constructively subvert their scheme? How culpable were you for your own loss of sight (‘the blind leading the blind’)? I’m sorry that this is so challenging, but you could have said: “No, this won’t work. I’m going to find a better way”. Not easy I know, but possible. Ruminate, please.

As to the first of your questions here’s my reply. Dump the lingo, ditch the tools and go back to the heart of what CI is about – leveraging the ingenuity of your people to make improvements.
And do it in the following way. Start by asking team members to make a point of identifying, one by one, all of the problems they face in doing their job. Ask them to write these on a card and post it on the wall behind them.

For every card that describes a surfaced problem, place a gold star on it and go to the worker responsible and coach him to find a solution. Place a second gold star on the card to indicate that the problem is being worked on. When the improvement is made, move the card to a separate and adjacent list entitled, ‘Improvements implemented’ and add a third gold star. Do this and nothing else for three months and watch interest in CI increase dramatically.

As to your second question, don’t implement CI. Begin, as I have described above, seeking to tackle the real problems faced by real people and allow the approach to CI to emerge. As people begin to understand more, allow them to research and experiment with the use of the lean and CI tools that exist; there are plenty of them.

If all this is a little too loose and you feel the need for more structure, do two things – measure the number of improvements made each week and estimate the elapsed time in closing out each problem. You should see that you do more, faster. Secondly, review learning regularly. The ‘check’ phase of CI is usually missed or given scant attention, but it is the most critical; dare to be different.

I look forward to hearing about your progress and your self-reflection.

When you can’t handle the truth

Why not put your lean know-how to the test in this continuous improvement dilemma below:

Our business was really badly hit by the recession and has embraced a change programme to help us survive. We brought in a lean consultant and they helped us create a really exciting strategy geared around continuous improvement ideals. If we could make a series of marginal improvements then we’d salvage the business without having to take drastic measures like job losses or shutdowns. Time and again, we heard that our success or failure would depend on our ability as a management team to bring the people with us.

That was a big challenge as it’s fair to say our site is best described as ‘old-school’. The shopfloor parts like the Red Sea whenever a senior manager makes an appearance as operators scarper as far away from ‘one of them’ as possible.

But we vowed to change our culture. Each manager launched a series of face-to-face meetings with shift teams. We promised employees total honesty about our predicament and we asked them to be completely candid in return. The ‘town hall meetings’ were a great hit.

The managers pulled no punches. If we didn’t change, the factory was gone. In return, after plenty of nervous glances, our operators began to open up about their frustrations from a lifetime working in a command and control environment. A few months in and an engaged shopfloor had been instrumental in reductions in lead times and cutting inventory. I was just beginning to day dream about the team taking the stage at the Best Factory Awards when the phone rang. “John,” said an angry voice on the other end of the line, I instantly recognised as that of our MD. “I’ve just come up from a town hall meeting and I will not have it. I want Smith, Robson and Jackson given warnings for misconduct. They openly belittled me and my judgment. I’m all for honesty, but those testy little blighters need to be given a few home truths about the consequences of biting the hand that feeds. Haul them in and shift them out by the end of the month.”

The phone line went dead. I immediately asked a witness what had happened and he explained that the shopfloor trio had gone to town when critiquing some practices handed down by the hierarchy of old. They’d used some industrial language to make their point and may just have overstepped the line. However, I think they had some valid points. How do I resolve this situation? If I do what our MD wants I’ll destroy the trust that’s allowed our improvement initiative to thrive. If I refuse, I could find myself joining Smith, Robson and Jackson down at the local Jobcentre.

Kevin Eyre of SA Partners gives the expert view…
Okay, so it’s time to test your mettle. The change programme is working. Performance is improving and you’ve connected this success to the new openness that you’ve worked hard to introduce. If you follow the MD’s demand to sack ‘the outspoken ones’ then the programme will collapse, the plant will close, and you’ll find yourself looking for a new job anyway – only this time from a position of failure. Go find your cojones quick!

The tricky priority is the MD. (Smith, Robson and Jackson need dealing with, but that’s a straightforward affair to which we’ll return). Here’s the thing; most leaders are deeply forgiving of misdemeanours where performance is good, and deeply intolerant of it when it’s poor. Call the MD and talk performance. Explain to him by how much it’s improved and the benefit that this result has for him personally. Assure him that you are clear about what you’re doing and that it’s the way you are managing the business that is responsible for the result.

Explain, that you intend to stick to your recipe for success and that you’d consider it risky to change course now. And naturally, any action that would inhibit the new openness is to be avoided. You’ve thought hard about it and you’ve decided that Smith, Robson and Jackson are going to be severely dealt with, but they will remain a part of the business. Indeed, their outspokenness ought to be regarded as an indication of their commitment, not their opposition.

It’s the sneaky, silent ones that you have to be wary of.

Finally, politely remind the MD that you are accountable for the performance and are committed to see the change through. Having held your nerve, find a quiet room and tremble privately.

As for ‘los tres amigos’, haul them in and read them the riot act. All comments and questions are valued and welcome, but there is no place for disrespect. They should consider this conversation a final warning. Remind them of the role the MD played in creating the business and suggest that they seriously consider writing a letter of apology in which they can express their commitment to the organisation and the passion they feel for it – which goes some way to explaining their outspokenness.

How Can you Implement 5S Without Stress

“We’re six months into our continuous improvement journey and, despite some early wins, have hit some major teething troubles. The problems began with our attempt to introduce a 5S campaign.

“We sat the guys down in their teams and spent days training them on the theory of sorting, sweeping, spic and span, sifting and sustain. We showed them the obvious benefits of a clean, ordered working environment on production speed and quality.

“The majority of our guys seemed very enthusiastic and eagerly agreed to kick things off by having a clean out of their garbage. The management team agreed to provide recycling bins and look favourably on requests for new racking and shelving where it could be demonstrated to have an obvious business benefit. We even offered to come and help repaint shabby areas of the factory floor.

“One of the production teams, in particular, leapt at the opportunity. A day later the shift leader, Steve, knocked on my door and had pages of designs and notes. Steve’s team had stayed late to work out a new floor plan. They had calculated a 20% reduction in muda by bringing some key components to a new lineside rack and were eager to smarten their manufacturing cell area up with a lick of paint.

“I was bowled over by Steve’s enthusiasm and didn’t hesitate to sign everything off. It all seemed to be going so well; Steve’s team wielded paintbrushes and screwdrivers and, within a few days, their area looked totally transformed. I had hoped this would lay down a marker to all the other shifts, but the reverse was true. I noticed Steve’s team were sitting in isolation from all the other guys in the staff canteen during shift breaks.

“Furthermore, we’ve become aware of graffiti in the factory toilets which reads: ‘G Shift [Steve’s] are a bunch of kiss arses’. I’m pretty sure I know who the ringleaders are, but how can I solve this without jeopardising our CI programme and further reinforcing Steve’s reputation as a management suck-up?”

To find out how this problem could be corrected, read Kevin Eyre’s answer on the Works Management site. You can also read Prof. Peter Hine’s blog on defining Continuous Improvement.

Cultech Lean Academy Success

S A Partners were delighted to award Lean Academy certificates to delegates at Cultech following the successful completion of training and improvement projects funded by the Food and Drink programme. Since being established in 1994, Cultech has become internationally recognised as both an innovator and premium quality manufacturer within the nutritional supplement industry. Future success within their industry will increasingly rely upon innovative products to allow differentiation from competitors. Robust and predictable operating systems will enable Cultech to focus on what will make the difference going forward.

Cultech General Management, Alan Jones, said this about the projects of two groups of delegates,

‘During the course of the projects, both teams used both lean and six sigma tools and techniques in order to reach their proposed solutions, the outcome of which, was a significant cost saving for the company through reductions in labour, material waste and product cycle times.

Supplementary benefits for the company was the personal development of all participants in using lean and six sigma tools and techniques, stakeholder management and team working, which they can apply to other improvement projects.’

What’s in a word – The power of language for improving organisational culture

What’s in a word?

The power of language as a catalyst for improving not only company culture but the bottom-line performance of business is frequently overlooked. But, when it accounts for the vast majority of our communication, isn’t it time we started thinking before we speak?

A huge amount of effort and resources spent on reworking business process doesn’t deliver the promised results because it doesn’t address the culture that sits around it. Among other things, culture is made up of all the small conversations we have on a day-to-day basis but as businesses we often fail to look at this language element when we’re trying to effect change. But when you compare it to modifying human behaviours and values, language is relatively easy to change and can have an immediate impact.

Most people learn contextually- specific patterns of language to use in certain situations. If you think of a sports star with a microphone thrust in front of them, it’s a classic situation when a person might fall into patterns of words and sentences and end up sounding uninteresting and clichéd.

If an organisation promotes success by encouraging people to talk about problems and their solutions, then everybody learns that pattern of language and it forms a culture oriented towards problem resolution.

What we’re trying to do is unpick negative patterns of language and give people new words, phrases and contexts to make their use of language more effective.

The preferred styles for most leaders are what we call advocacy or advisory types of language. These are what you’d expect from senior business people, but both of these styles suggest answers and are not particularly useful if you want to stimulate and encourage people to explore everyday problems.

I recently worked with the leadership team of an automotive plant in Eastern Europe who couldn’t work out why many of the talented people they’d employed didn’t contribute much to the organisation and why their process improvement work had stalled. Their collective psychometric testing indicated a group preference for probing language that almost reached the point of interrogation when the situation was stressful.

After six months of coaching, they had quadrupled the amount of time that their conversations used open questions with an exploratory voice and it had quite a profound effect on company culture and process improvement. Staff felt that they could contribute a lot more and were confident that their voices would be heard, and the management team reported lower levels of stress.

Another interesting example was a senior director who was struggling to control a complex engineering programme, which kept over-running. Through the testing we realised he couldn’t recognise situations where he should use admonishment to control and direct and, as a result, was unable to hold his subordinates accountable for their failure to meet deadlines.

Through coaching, he went through a classic change experience and struggled with confidence for a while, but came out the other side able to assert himself fairly and effectively without appearing to overplay his hand.

Most people want to be more effective at work but often they don’t see language as a barrier to them achieving this. Our experience shows there are some subtle changes they can make to enable them to read and respond to situations more effectively. That can be very empowering for the individual and positive for the organisation.

Robin Jaques will be presenting a workshop in February 2014 titled Accelerating Business Performance – How to create a culture of Business Improvement. Find out more.

This article first appeared in the HSBS Summer edition of Corporate World.

Toyota Kata : Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness and Superior Results

This game-changing book puts you behind the curtain of Toyota, providing new insight into the legendary automaker’s management practices and offering practical guidance for leading and developing people in a way that makes the best use of their brainpower.

Drawing on six years of research into Toyota’s employee-management routines, Toyota Kata examines and elucidates, for the first time, the company’s organizational routines–called kata–that power its success with continuous improvement and adaptation.

The book also reaches beyond Toyota to explain issues of human behavior in organizations and provide specific answers to questions such as: How can we make improvement and adaptation part of everyday work throughout the organization? How can we develop and utilize the capability of everyone in the organization to repeatedly work toward and achieve new levels of performance? How can we give an organization the power to handle dynamic, unpredictable situations and keep satisfying customers?

With clear detail, an abundance of practical examples, and a cohesive explanation from start to finish, Toyota Kata gives executives and managers at any level actionable routines of thought and behavior that produce superior results and sustained competitive advantage.

You can read a great blog on continuous improvement by Prof Peter Hines.

Purchase this book.

What’s all this fuss about coaching?

In his recent blog post, Jack Welch nails it. Jack points out that the journey to success, that probably got you into a leadership position in the first instance, is all about you. Being a successful leader once there, however, is all about coaching others in a team. There are many definitions of coaching. These two are simply my favourites:

Unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance.  It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them

 (Whitmore 2003)

The art of facilitating the performance, learning and development of another

(Downey, 2003)

For a lovely little language-free animation of how coaching works, click here:


It is one thing to understand what coaching is and how it works and quite another to become an effective coach. Coaching is a craft that most of us will have to learn. In fact we will probably have to do some unlearning first. The demands of coaching often challenge our most fundamental and deeply embedded behaviours. At S A Partners we have found an effective mechanism for addressing those demands is through a deep understanding of language – our prevailing language preferences and associated behaviours. We are carrying out some exciting and ground breaking research on the language of leadership. To see and read more, click below to a webinar transmitted earlier this year and a white paper summarising the webinar:



Look out for follow-on webinars and white papers in the autumn detailing how we are applying the ideas in practice and the results being achieved.


The Role of Coaching in Lean Leadership

These days there is widespread acceptance that coaching has a critical role to play in effective leadership. Untapped human potential is a serious waste in most organisations and coaching is a key mechanism for unlocking that potential. S A Partners has a comprehensive training and coaching offering, and leads the way in organisational change.

In a recent post Ann Ponton identified four key principles that underpin coaching:

  1. Motivate – make people feel they are developing their skills, appeal to the What’s In It For Me?  question
  2. Ask questions, don’t answer them – letting people bring their own answer is critical to the human development with buy-in and goodwill
  3. Give goals, not tasks – the brain is designed to learn from mistakes
  4. Inspire – the role model you represent is like a slope that decreases or increases the speed at which the people following you are willing to grow

To read Ann’s entire blog click on the link below:


The S A Partners approach to the ‘people side’ of lean transformation also includes a pivotal role for coaching. However, we have expanded our response to the leadership challenge to language more broadly. We believe that leaders need to be tuned in to the impact and consequences of their everyday use of language and being tuned in can have a profound effect on their efforts to transform their organisations. Below is a link to a paper explaining the theoretical basis of our research on the language of leadership.

Why not find out more about our training and coaching offerings.

Are successful Sports coaches really successful Lean leaders in disguise?

I’ve been listening to, and reading some books and interviews, about the world of high performance sports coaching recently. I started to see many similarities in the minds of some of these leaders to those that you see in Lean leaders delivering great results and organisational transformations.

To be specific Dave Brailsfords’ UK SKY cycling team this year delivered 1st and 2nd in the Tour de France, won 7 of 10 Olympic track cycling gold medals and the Olympic time trial – phenomenal by anyone’s standards. So what does Brailsford put his success down to – he often refers to a snappy phrase called the pursuit of marginal gains and in his words,

 The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together,”

 he explains’

 “There’s fitness and conditioning, of course, but there are other things that might seem on the periphery, like sleeping in the right position, having the same pillow when you are away and training in different places.

 ‘Do you really know how to clean your hands without leaving the bits between your fingers?’ If you do things like that properly, you will get ill a little bit less.

 They’re tiny things but if you clump them together it makes a big difference.”

Translating across into the world of lean-speak Brailsford, in a very systematic manner, is driving a continuous improvement agenda., In particular, he is focusing on removing defects and waste, creating more time for value creating activity for his athletes, and doing it incrementally, from the bottom up, and not by a big shift (such as designing a new bike).

He also talks about the culture of challenge and learning within the team. For example, he brings in surgeons to talk about hygiene, psychiatrists from Rampton to create a mentality of phenomenal performance beyond the exceptional, learning from the Royal Ballet – these are all experiences that our research around great lean organisations support where a trait of learning and bringing ideas into the business are common.

If we switch our attention to Sir Clive Woodward, England rugby coach from 1998 to 2003, who created the most successful rugby team in Northern Hemisphere history, winning the 2003 world cup, defeating Australia 6 times in succession home and away and going into the world cup off the back of 10 straight wins against Australia, New Zealand and South Africa (apologies to my Celtic & Gallic friends for bringing this up).

Woodard talks about building a culture of team-ship, leadership and partnership and engaging the entire team in understand their mission, each unique role within it and their personal accountabilities – sounds somewhat like Hoshin Kanri or Strategy Deployment to my mind.

He also talks in his autobiography, Winning.  about his and the teams focus on more than just skills and training. He spent much of his time focusing on getting what he calls the critical non essentials right.

These are not necessarily what he would call the value adding moments, the best pass, tackle or scrummage but, rather, making sure the environment around the players reduced wasted time and effort and again gave more time for the essential value add stuff to be perfected . So Woodward and his team of elite coaches drove a collection of small changes such as:

­ CTC – Cross bar, touchline. Communicate – a team discipline to improve their awareness of space in match-play improving game management and opportunism.

­ Shirts – Working with Nike to develop skin tight rugby shirts that were harder to grab onto.

­ Training pitches – digging them up and relaying them to replicate Twickenhams’ turf.

­ Learning – bringing in advice from football, NFL, rowing and F1 among others.

­ TCUP _ thinking critically under pressure – working with Royal Marines to learn how to make critical decisions in the most extreme environments.

What rings true from Woodward’s description of becoming the first fully professional English Rugby coach is that he examined the whole value stream of English Rugby that brought through and optimised the English team – from initial selection through the organisational processes that created an international team.

I’m sure there are more sports coaches out there who would excel as leaders in organisational life, not because they do or need to understand how to make a car, run a hospital, a bank or service system, but because they have proven thinking and behaviour that challenges what we in lean know as waste. They think about the whole stream, they increment and they coach self-accountability and learning.

I’d be interested in your views and experience in the world of sport and how this relates to lean.