S A Partners Gain Investors In People Recognition

We are pleased to announce that after carrying out the IIP Assessment in accordance with the requirements of UKCES, the Investors in People organisation have confirmed that S A Partners have been awarded Investors in People Silver Standard, and thus recognised as an Investors in People organisation.

This is a significant achievement for S A Partners after a year of change, and one that demonstrates the strengths in the organisation and its commitment to continuous improvement for itself and its clients.

Their prestigious accreditation is recognised across the world as a mark of excellence, and is based around optimising performance by championing best practice in people management and equipping organisations with the tools to succeed. Organisations that demonstrate the Investors in People standards achieve the accreditation through a rigorous and objective assessment to determine performance.

Investors in People is owned by the UK government, managed nationally by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills and supported by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).  Investors in People provides a best practice people management standard, offering accreditation to organisations that adhere to the Investors in People framework. Investors in People assessments are conducted locally through seven local Delivery Centres.

IIP was formed in 1991 to protect the integrity of the Investors in People framework. It was a non-departmental public body and received funding from the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

Certified Shingo Training – Discover the Principles of Enterprise Excellence

SHingo Discover excellence badge

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

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.

Creating a Lean and Green Business System

Things that are good for the planet are also good for business. Numerous studies from the likes of the Economist Intelligence Unit, Harvard, MIT Sloan, and others indicate that organizations that commit to goals of zero waste, zero harmful emissions, and zero use of nonrenewable resources clearly outperform their competition.

Like lean thinking, greening your business is not just a ‘nice to have’; at least not anymore. It is now a key economic driver for many forward looking firms. This book is packed with case studies and examples that illustrate how leading firms use lean and green as simultaneous sources of inspiration in various sectors of industry – from automotive and retail to textile and brewing. Take Toyota as an example, the holy grail of economic efficiency for decades. This book, shows that Toyota tops the green chart too, describing Toyota’s notion of Monozukuri: sustainable manufacturing.

Creating a Lean and Green Business System: Techniques for Improving Profits and Sustainability offers opportunities for innovation that can simultaneously reduce dependence on natural resources and enhance global prosperity. It explores less understood aspects of lean and green – discussing their evolution independently as well as the opportunities that exist in their integration, highlighting the importance of a cultural shift across the whole company.

Outlining a systematic way to eliminate harmful waste while generating green value, the book explains how to:

  • Become economically successful and environmentally sustainable by adopting the lean and green business system model
  • Adopt a systematic approach to become lean and green, and develop your own roadmap to success
  • Use the cutting edge tools, techniques, and methodologies developed by the authors
  • Translate the techniques and culture that underpin lean into environmental improvements

Creating a Lean and Green Business System: Techniques for Improving Profits and Sustainability supplies a new way of thinking that will allow you to boost improvement efforts and create a positively charged work environment – while contributing to the long-term well-being of the environment.

Purchase this book.

The Power of the Pen in a Digital Age

We’re a process manufacturer and have worked hard on involving our shop floor guys heavily in process improvements. Until recently, this was all done using the good, old-fashioned whiteboard.

The team kept regular notes on cycle times, identified and noted down quality issues, and regularly made suggestions about how to tweak both in order to improve them.

They did all this on handwritten boards. Indeed, you couldn’t walk down the line without encountering a sea of green, red and blue ink on the boards.

But then we had an edict from our European headquarters to move into the digital age. They wanted to ensure we were capturing all relevant manufacturing and production data as a group, and digital data capture offers a far more accurate and convenient system than pen and paper.

However, the effect on the shopfloor has, to put it mildly, been unenthusiastic. There’s been a discernible mood change ever since the new system was announced. I mean it’s not open mutiny, but the guys just don’t seem to be as up for process improvement as before. The spring has gone from their step and we’ve seen some signs of disengagement with data capture.

I asked some on the shopfloor why this is and they said they liked the manual methods we used to employ because they were simple to comprehend and easy to implement. They said they felt less comfortable working with digital technology because it is unfamiliar and tough to understand.

There is clearly a power to the pen and being able, quite literally, to make your mark, at least partly because manual systems are tangible and immediate. In fact, I believe even the best lean manufacturing practitioners are fans of manual systems – at Toyota, plant managers read from a hand-updated whiteboard at each station.

Having said that, as a business we simply can’t afford to stand still, and tracking and traceability are certainly improved by using digital methods.

So we face a predicament; my question is how do I stop the negative attitude among the workforce taking root without defying HQ?

Kevin Eyre of SA Partners gives the expert view…

Not so much a predicament as a dilemma, by which I mean that any path you choose will present you with a downside – a disappointed HQ or a de-motivated team. Dilemmas are matters for leaders; problems are issues for managers. You therefore face a test of your leadership, not so much of your management, as if the stakes weren’t high enough already.

I could offer you my sympathy, but you’d be better off with some options. Churchill once quipped, ‘keep your experts on tap, not on top’. I’ll provide you with some options (which you can adapt), but the decision is yours.

Option 1 – Hold firm. The gains you have made have been considerable and you have clearly brought about the engagement and the enablement of your workforce. There are a number of ways to protect this.

Firstly, appoint a small number of numerate graduates looking for an internship opportunity and have them collect, collate, analyse and report the numbers to HQ making sure that they are consistent with the workforce numbers.

Secondly, extend the role of the most personable of these graduates to see if the workforce might get interested in the use of the HQ system. If so, move towards a hybrid approach of chalk and gadgets. If not, leave it well alone.

Thirdly, increase the communication to HQ advising them of the benefits to be gained from ‘handwritten boards’. When you come under pressure, stand your ground. You may experience some negative reactions.

Option 2 – Embrace the future. You have built a reputation for progressive thinking and action. There are ways to cement this. Run an experiment in which a small part of the workforce is invited to use the HQ system following detailed training and compare the results of this experiment with the handwritten boards approach.

Ensure that there are measures of effectiveness and efficiency in evaluating the result and invite the teams to decide how the best of both worlds might be accommodated. Where there are signs of enthusiasm for the new approach, push hard for more extensive use. You may experience some negative reactions.

Option 3 – Take the agenda to HQ. Alert HQ to the threat faced by the adoption of the new system and seek their involvement in helping to overcome the obstacles faced.

Explain to the team the approach you plan to take and seek their support and involvement making clear that your advocacy of their approach may ultimately fail.

This is a complex position to hold and you might easily be accused of seeking a messy compromise. You will experience some negative reactions.

This ‘expert’ may have helped to stimulate some better ideas. That is what experts do best. What leaders do best is to assess the art of the possible while holding firm to core believes.

Which option will you choose?

Next Shingo Workshop Host Wins World Class Manufacturing Award

S A Partners are pleased to announce that the company hosting the next Shingo Discover Excellence Workshop in January, Accolade Wines, have won the much coveted title of World Class Manufacturing at The Manufacturer MX Awards Ceremony & Gala Dinner, which was held on November 26 at The ICC, Birmingham.

A crowd of around a 1,000 guests from manufacturing companies and supporting organisations attended and the winners were congratulated by Levi Roots, Musician, Entrepreneur and Founder of Reggae Reggae Sauce and Conor La Grue, Engineering Lead, BLOODHOUND SSC.

This award is recognition of all the hard work the organisation has put in over the years for sustainable continuous improvement, and highlights how the culture within the company is deeply embedded at all levels of the organisation.  We have a case study available on our site illustrating how the company has gone from a Push Lean approach, to one of Pull Lean.

Accolade Wines are the number one wine company by volume in the UK and Australia, with a portfolio of brands ranging from the historic Hardys, the number one Australian wine brand in the UK and significant wine brand in Mainland Europe, through to Kumala, the number one South African wine brand in the UK.

The company has more than 1600 employees in Australia, the UK, Europe, North America, Asia, Chile, New Zealand and South Africa.

Suggestion Scheme Goes Sour

We launched a factory suggestion scheme for the first time just over a year ago in tandem with our continuous improvement programme. It began with a honeymoon period: ideas flooded in and most were of such high quality that we implemented them straight away. However, in recent months the suggestion scheme has mutated into a Pandora’s box.

Our entire workforce has been targeted through KPIs to submit at least one suggestion a month and have three ideas implemented a year. The idea must either save time, save money, add value to customers or reduce waste from our manufacturing process.

During the early days there was a discernible buzz on the shopfloor about taking part. You used to hear operators teasing their colleagues about ‘only being able to come up with a £1,000 saving’ or submitting ‘just the one idea’ this month. As a management team we tapped into this competitive spirit and decided to reward the person who came up with the best idea with a £500 prize  and a week away in the director’s holiday apartment in the South of France.

The suggestions rolled in and helped us reduce defects, cut lead times and generally improve the business. Then we hit an iceberg. We started to find that the best ideas were all coming from the same dozen or so employees. Everybody else’s suggestions, after an encouraging start, began to grow more obscure and increasingly pernicious.

For example, last month, we were graced with: ‘invest in better quality coffee and biscuits at the canteen’ and ‘give us quilted toilet paper in the gents’. But the management team decided to turn the other cheek as we have a rule that we only provide feedback on the successful suggestions.

Then, to make matters worse, there was a fracas on the factory floor last week after one employee accused another of ‘stealing his idea and getting the reward for it’. Why do you think things have gone so badly wrong for us? Is there anything we can do to get the whole factory team back on track?

How would you handle this? Kevin Eyre gives his view…

Do we really need to incentivise people to be creative? What is it about organisational life that leads otherwise sane people to believe that the best way to get new and improved ideas out of people is to reward them for it? Why did we forget about the ‘intrinsic’ motivation that is so closely associated with creativity – a reward in itself?

Suggestion schemes serve a purpose. In particular, they can introduce the idea of looking systematically for improvement. But how often is it that we hear of the schemes becoming bureaucratic, contentious and lacking in vitality?

Answer… it’s pretty often. So the case here is not unusual. What should you do?

First, build from the best of what you have created. Remind employees not of the strength of the scheme, but of the worth of their ideas, of their imaginations and desire to want to see improvement happen. Create a gallery or roadshow of the best and the worst of the last two years, from small improvements to big ones; the crazy ideas that turned out to be great and the plausible ideas that didn’t really work, but from which much learning was had.

Secondly, acknowledge that the life of the current scheme has probably run its course and invite ideas on how to replace it. Make this formal. Consider a small working party of previously strong and weak contributors. Allow feedback to the management team after a month.

Thirdly, think hard about what you are trying to reward. The evidence says that effort is a more reliable indicator of longer term performance than immediate excellence. Effort enables learning, the cycle of success and failure. How do you recognise and reward this? Not perhaps the ‘best’ ideas, but the most ideas?

Fourthly, and irrespective of the strength of response to item three, work out how to build improvement systems into the work that people do rather than making it a bolt-on. Real-time problem solving is the answer here; Jidoka and all that that implies. Sustainable improvement only really comes this way. When it’s oneoff big shot stuff, it seldom lasts longer than management ‘bribery and cajoling’ will allow.

As for the shopfloor fracas, there is learning here for the management team. Isn’t this behaviour a perfectly rational response to the conditions created by management? If you set up a competition then people compete; if people compete, there are winners and losers and sometimes losers cheat. Creativity functions best in a climate of collaboration, not competition.

People as Assets (they are important)

In lean we are forever diagnosing processes, identifying wastes, looking for bottlenecks, measuring inventory and talking to customers. How often do we consider the people within an organisation and their effectiveness.

Labour costs in manufacturing industries can be low but the consequences of bad practice can be massive. The impact of labour within the service industry is obviously critical. I am yet to find an organisation that truly regards and manages its people as an asset.

Your average £50k engineer may cost you well over £1.5m during their employment. Try this challenge – would we introduce a £1.5m asset without project plans, feasibility studies, commissioning teams and TPM (Total Production Maintenance) schedules? How do we introduce and manage, maintain and retire our people by comparison.

How often do we talk about increased risk to processes brought about by our people, what is a people poka yoke, what is people OEE-are they available? Can they work at the pace we require? Is the quality of work what we require?

Too often these conversations occur at performance reviews or belong to HR, I’d like operations to truly manage our people and treat them with the same importance we would if we had just installed a new £1.5m paint line!

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.

The foodmanufacture.co.uk publishes a podcast by Jeff Williams

During one of S A Partners Learn Share Grow workshops at Aimia foods, Jeff Williams, partner and head of the food and drink sector, was interviewed by Rod Addy of the Food Manufacture website. This interview was recorded and is now available as a podcast on their website.

Jeff Williams podcast:


In the interview Jeff explains the importance of having an ‘end to end’ system in place in order to sustain business excellence in an organisation. In Jeff’s many years of experience, visiting many organisations, the usual approach he’s found is that they only implement snippets of improvement, such as tools and techniques, visual boards and problem solving  etc.

But when he asks the question, ‘show me the end to end system, thats driven by targets, visual management,  boards etc’ that end to end system is usually missing.

Jeff goes on to explain that engaging the shop floor in the continuous improvement process is critical to its long term success.

You can hear the full podcast on the manufacture.co.uk website by following the link below.





Systems Thinking: From Heresay to Practice

An exploration into the application of systems thinking to a variety of public and private sector service organisations. Written in accessible language by leading experts (practitioners and management theorists) it draws out the distinctions between conventional approaches to change in both service and manufacturing organisations and those using systems thinking methods.

The work illustrates the counter-intuitive truths revealed by studying service organisations as systems and uses case studies to demonstrate how organisations have been re-designed using systems principles and the strong impact these have on performance and morale.

Purchase this book.

Staying Lean: Thriving, Not Just Surviving

Staying Lean: Thriving, not just surviving has just been awarded a Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence 2009, in the Research and Professional Publication category. The book draws on the story of a multi-national company that has successfully implemented Lean in its manufacturing and commercial areas to help turnaround the organisation s financial performance.

The story is based around the Lean Iceberg Model of sustainable change and addresses the often invisible, and hard to copy, enabling elements of successful Lean Management in manufacturing organisations: Strategy and Alignment, Leadership, Behaviour and Engagement as well as the more visible features: Process Management and the application of Lean Technology, Value Stream Tools and Techniques. Staying Lean is designed to be used as a practical workbook to guide practitioners along their own Lean journey so that Lean becomes embedded in the organisation and sustains the performance improvements over the long-term; often enabling them to outperform low-cost economies and thus compete in a global marketplace.

Purchase this book.

Lean Evolution: Lessons from the Workplace

Lean thinking is a powerful method that allows organizations to improve the productivity, efficiency and quality of their products or services. Achieving these benefits requires good teamwork, clear communication, intelligent use of resources and a commitment to continuous improvement.

This 2006 book shows how lean thinking can be applied in practice, highlighting the key challenges and pitfalls. The authors, based at a leading centre for lean enterprise research, begin with an overview of the theory of lean thinking. They then explain the core tools and techniques and show how they can be applied successfully. The detailed implementation of lean thinking is illustrated by several case studies, from a range of industries, in which the authors had unprecedented access to the management teams. With its focus on implementation and practical solutions, this book will appeal to managers at all levels, as well as to business students and researchers in lean thinking.

Purchase this book.

The Lean Enterprise: Designing and Managing Strategic Processes for Customer-Winning Performance

The Lean Enterprise is an in-depth study of what it is to be lean, and how to do it. In a lean enterprise, management fuses the core competencies and expertise of the company and its external partners, and focuses on a vital few “strategic processes, ” with the goal of delivering superior value to customers.

The Lean Enterprise presents this groundbreaking system through the recent and often radical experiences of Western firms facing swift and aggressive competitors in the global economy. With years of research and observation behind them in the United States, Europe, and Japan, authors Dan Dimancescu, Peter Hines, and Nick Rich offer a multidimensional view into the implementation of strategic processes. The Lean Enterprise makes a strong case for implementation of the three-tier system by companies of any size.

Backed by their research at the Cardiff Business School’s Lean Enterprise Research Center, the authors highlight several unique British firms whose implementation of the system speaks to the rapid and dynamic evolution of the Welsh and English economies.

Purchase this book.

Lean Higher Education

In an environment of diminishing resources, growing enrollment, and increasing expectations of accountability, Lean Higher Education: Increasing the Value and Performance of University Processes provides the understanding and the tools required to return education to the consumers it was designed to serve—the students. It supplies a unifying framework for implementing and sustaining a Lean Higher Education (LHE) transformation at any institution, regardless of size or mission.

Using straightforward language, relevant examples, and step-by-step guidelines for introducing Lean interventions, this authoritative resource explains how to involve stakeholders in the delivery of quality every step of the way. The author details a flexible series of steps to help ensure stakeholders understand all critical work processes. He presents a wealth of empirical evidence that highlights successful applications of Lean concepts at major universities and provides proven methods for uncovering and eliminating activities that overburden staff yet contribute little or no added value to stakeholders.

Purchase this book.

Practical Lean Leadership: A Strategic Leadership Guide For Executives

His is the first book to present Lean leadership in ways that are specific and actionable for executives to apply at work every day. It links Lean principles and tools directly to leadership beliefs, behaviors, and competencies in new and innovative ways that connect to workplace and marketplace realities.

It goes far beyond the common understanding of leadership and the training methods used for leadership development. The workbook can be used individually or by a leadership team in self-paced group training. Senior managers will be inspired by the proven approaches to improving their understanding and practice of strategic leadership.

Purchase this book.

The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership

Since The Machine that Changed the World (1991) defined lean production (based on the model of the Toyota Production System) as the next new paradigm of management since the mass production revolution, lean has spread from automotive, to the rest of industry globally, to defense, to financial services, to government, to health care, and more. As it expanded globally we have learned to think more deeply about lean as a way of linking a company’s business strategy to operational excellence through a culture of continuous improvement. Lean organizations constantly surface problems, find the root cause (Plan), attempt countermeasures (Do), check what happened, and act on what they learned (PDCA). The role of leadership in a lean organization is to live the values, show the way, and develop others to improve processes using PDCA through daily coaching.

Unfortunately, there is no quick-fix recipe to transform leaders from a short-term focus on quarterly returns to a long-term focus on developing people to achieve operational excellence. The typical leader is almost 180 degrees away from a model of lean leadership. Changing values and leadership behavior is every bit as challenging as trying to convince overweight people to change their lifestyle to healthy eating and regular exercise.

They must want it badly and transform themselves. Leaders that succeed in changing themselves to lead, teach, and coach on the long-term journey to continuous improvement throughout the organization will change the game in their industry. In this book we define a model of lean leadership based on Gary’s 25 years of experience with NUMMI, Toyota, and then as CEO of Dana and Jeff’s 30 years of deep study of Toyota. We explain the model through stories from our collective experiences and give practical advice for the long hard road leaders must commit to in order to truly self develop.

Purchase this book.

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.

The art of the perfect rebuke

It’s not uncommon for managers to avoid difficult conversations with their people. But we all know that a failure to address issues clearly and directly can risk the continuation of potentially damaging behaviour.

Obvious examples are persistent lateness at work or a failure to follow health and safety procedures.

Another example is the sustained effort required for continuous improvement. In this context, there’s a need to reduce variation in process performance to create stable and repeatable processes that guarantee high quality product and/or service delivery.

Achieving this stage will have been a journey hard won in time and cash. The application of lean tools will signify the arrival of standardisation, a prerequisite for continuous improvement. But what happens if people don’t adhere to the processes they’ve been trained to follow?

Our research shows that managers have two broad strategies for dealing with failure to adhere. The first is to ignore it, either completely or they wait for a good time to raise it; the second is to go in hard and punish. These strategies reflect deep-seated underlying preferences for managing conflict. The first allows (often tacitly) for non-compliant behaviour to continue, undermining weeks of solid investment in trying to create new ways of working; the second heightens resentment, diminishes relationships and ultimately affects performance.

In fact, what managers need to do well is admonish. Admonish – an old-fashioned word, more frequently found in the novels of Charles Dickens – means to re-establish boundaries or to correct. This is done calmly, factually, clearly and with an understanding of the offending individual’s limitations.

There is no punishment in admonishment (“Fail to do that again and I’ll have your…”); there is no delay (“I need to talk to you about something, are you free tomorrow?”); and, in particular, there is no sarcasm (“Good grief Tony, you actually managed to get one right!”).

When we admonish, we keep it simple, we deal with the issue immediately and we encourage the individual to take ownership of the need for adherence. Done well, this style of dialogue takes just a few minutes, deepens respect in the workplace and is learnable inside an hour. Taking it from a technique to a work of art takes practice, increased tolerance and often a little courage, but the results are significant in terms of hard benefit and employee engagement.

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.


Summary Paper of the Webinar, “Thought Leadership in the Area of Lean Culture”

This paper has been prepared in support of a webinar presented by Kevin Eyre in March 2013 entitled Thought Leadership in the Area of Lean Culture. S A Partners has an historic interest in the ‘people’ dimension of lean and business improvement. Our interest has driven us to embark on some primary research in this area. Our research is premised on our belief that actions, and the organisational culture that is formed, are the result of the very many small conversations that take place between people throughout the working day. These conversations, consciously or unconsciously, stimulate people to want to, or to not want to, make improvements.

Our research explores the hypothesis that business improvement can be ‘talked into existence’ but is very often ‘talked out of existence’. In this paper we present some of our early findings which we believe are profound for any organisation making a sizeable financial investment in improvement.

The good news is that we can change the way we talk. Changing the way we talk can have a huge impact on our improvement efforts.

The original webinar on which this paper is based is also available to view.

The 8 Principles of the Lean Business System

In this paper Professor Peter Hines revisits at the well-known five lean principles: value, value streams, flow, pull and perfection. While the principles proved highly remained robust in many ways, it may be time to take a fresh at these principles not least because our thinking has moved on since they were first proposed in Lean Thinking (1996). For example the environmental imperative is far more resonant for organisations today than it was then. At the same time, our understanding of the ‘people side of lean’ has taken shape with the benefit of hindsight.

Professor Hines suggests that we should now be thinking about our organisations in terms of the eight Ps: purpose; process; people; pull; prevention; partnering; planet; and, perfection. He goes onto examine each of the eight principles in turn. He proposed that one way to approach lean is through the development of a lean business system. This approach ensures that an holistic view of lean is taken which embraces each of the eight principles and avoids some of the pitfalls commonly encountered in lean implementation.

Leaders Need To Zoom In and Zoom Out

We should never underestimate the power of a metaphor. Harvard Professor, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, recently identified an important leadership competence through a metaphor of a camera zoom button. Leaders must to be able to ‘zoom in’ and ‘zoom out’.

Lean demands an appreciation of the ‘big picture’, the fact that the ‘devil is in the detail’ and the need to ‘speak with data’. Moss Kanter captures this skill well through her ‘camera zoom button’ metaphor, identifying the advantages and disadvantages of the both the worm’s eye and the bird’s eye view. Leaders must master both but the first important step is awareness.

Evidence linking people and performance

Respect for people is central to Toyota. However, for many lean practitioners, respect for people is an elusive and aspirational concept. In spite of the best efforts of many, there are still lean practitioners out there who simply do not ‘buy into’ the people part of lean.

S A Partners have articulated the importance of people, culture and behaviours in a variety of ways over recent years: we have a people enabled processes element to our Lean Business Model®; we identified ‘under the waterline’ elements in our iceberg model; we continue to develop and research our lean culture offer; and, we focus on coaching as the primary mechanism for diffusing lean competence across an organisation. Our attention to the ‘people side of lean’ is built on our collective belief that this is crucial for successful and sustainable lean transformation. This belief, in turn, is informed and shaped by our experience of working alongside many diverse organisations over the last two decades.

Now, however, others are beginning to gather scientific evidence that good people management is directly inextricably linked to business results. Here are two examples I have come across recently:

First, Shingo have recently announced their new SCOPE product. The SCOPE acronym stands for Shingo Cultural Online Performance Evaluation. The idea is that companies carry out this self-assessment as a precursor to their annual business review and use the information as an input to guide their decision-making during that process. Over time, SCOPE will enable Shingo to gather data and evaluate the relationship between culture and performance. If companies do go ahead and carry out the assessment at different points in time, as Shingo suggest they should, it will allow all sorts of trends and patters confirming (or otherwise) that a focus on the ‘people side’ of the business really does improve the bottom line.

Second, Birkinshaw and Caulkin recently reported on an experiment carried out within a sales and service team at a Swedish insurance company. The idea was to test what many years of research had suggested: that the latent talent residing in employees could be released by giving them more freedom and autonomy in how they carried out their work, and by freeing up the manager of the group to spend more time on the sales floor coaching and helping them. The experiment required the design of new ways of working. After three weeks of the new way of working, the results were impressive. The headline results figure was a five per cent increase in sales over the period of the experiment, compared with the three previous weeks.

We will continue to collect and comment on the evidence that is beginning to accumulate that ‘good people management practices’ are not just altruistic aspirations that most of us cannot afford to pay real attention to, but that they really are integral to ensuring our organisations are fit for survival and prosperity.

A Leadership Skill to Set you Apart

In this article Shelly Prevost identifies a leadership skill that will come as a surprise to many – vulnerability. She defines what vulnerability is and how it manifests itself. The idea of vulnerability as a leadership skill is counter-intuitive. Most of us would perceive vulnerability to be a leadership and management weakness. However consider how frequently X Factor judges celebrate a performance in which the performer reveals vulnerability.

It is sure fire way to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the audience. Wining over the ‘hearts and minds’ of followers is key to successful leadership and management. Shelly constructs a convincing argument that demonstrating vulnerability can be an asset rather than a liability. Enjoy.

Lean Leadership

A commonly coined phrase tells that leadership is doing the right thing and management is doing things right. Without doubt, to be a great manager you will need to become a leader. In other words, you must have an ability to deliver the day-to-day tasks while also seeing opportunities for change, improvement and the big picture. Our Leadership Development Programme ensures you have the right level of leaders in your organisation, and at the right level.

But does leadership really matter and is leading in a lean environment different?

With regard to the first issue, last year we posted a discussion on Linked In asking our community to identify the most important lean behaviours. The top three responses clearly pointed to leadership needs: first, leaders must be consistent and comprehensive in their application of lean; second, leaders must develop and follow a systematic leadership process (like hoshin kanri or policy deployment); third, leaders must have the vision and belief to make empowerment and continual learning become a reality and not just an aspiration.

With regard to the latter issue, Bob Emiliani  (in his website news pages) highlighted a prevailing tendency for senior management to ‘cherry-pick’ lean tools and techniques rather than embrace the real and demanding challenges of lean leadership. Bob warns,

‘The tools and methods used to improve productivity and reduce costs are to executives what salt, fat and sugar are to dieters: irresistible temptations, but which can cause great harm.’

Professor Peter Hines

Founder, S A Partners