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.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles – Japan Lean Experience

This month I am putting together the final touches in preparation for my trip to Japan in April 2018, attending the “Japan Lean Experience” with my colleagues from Tokyo .

This will be my fourth week long homage to the spiritual home of Kaizen and Lean thinking, and I will be traveling with a small band of brothers from NZ seeking inspiration from the world’s leading practitioners of Lean Management.

Our variety of factory tours provide a perfect combination of education, exposure to best-in-class Lean practices, unique relationship building, in-depth tours, interactive discussion, and comfort.

In addition to the formal tours, there will be time to take in some sights and experience Japan culture and of course a ride on the bullet train!

The Shinkansen, or Bullet Train cruises at between 280-320KPH and is one of those experiences that is not to be missed. I confess that this for me is one of the highlights, and epitomizes what Japan is all about, efficient, reliable, high quality and on time!


Of course, we have the home of 5S, with everything in it’s place, and a place for everything, there is so much inspiration in their factories, offices and even around town!


Japan also has history and culture by the bucket load and there are some amazing things to see and visit whilst you make your way around.

I’ll be adding a few extra days to the tour and our group will take in some of the sights. A personal favourite is Kyoto, the ancient capital, and a deeply religious place.

It is also a place that brings home some of the things that mankind is not so proud of, the atomic bomb. I recommend a visit to Hiroshima for a poignant reminder of the horror of war and devastation it brings.


Finally, there’s plenty of great food to try and taste. I am pleased to announce that Japan has pizza and pasta and Hagen Daas ice cream, but the local cuisine is very special and well worth a try!

S A Partners will be running a one week study tour to Japan in the near future.

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!

Update from the Auckland CI Conference

Auckland, Sept 7th saw our second annual Continuous Improvement Conference, hosted in partnership with Massey University and Minitab (presentations available for download below).

Above, Chris Butterworth gives the  opening keynote speech to over 80 attendees there on the day, and it was a great opportunity to hear some great stories, learn from others and the lunch was quite good too!

This year’s theme’s were on how to sustain enterprise excellence and some of the leadership challenges in engaging employees in improving value for the customer.

Here’s some of the comments from the attendees:

“Excellent day, good speakers that focused on the Continuous Improvement message over a good variety of industries”

This was a great session. Affirmation of what I’m doing is correct. Left with some new ideas to implement”

” Great diversity of presentation and content, using real situations, not just theoretical principles, really enjoyed the day!”



Those that came in our inaugural year commented that they enjoyed the diverse speakers, in particular Mark Powell, Massey and Chris Till from HRINZ, who complimented other speakers who shared their Continuous Improvement stories.

Feedback was very good and in the spirit of Continuous Improvement the Massey and SA Partners team will look to work together on other events and opportunities to showcase empowering people and organisations to reach new levels of performance.

Chris Till MECC conference presentation

Mark Powell Conference Presentation

Rob McGee's Conference Presentation

Jonathan Elms conference presentation

Nathan's conference presentation

Guest Speaker at the Asda Sustainability Conference

Jeff Williams, Head of our Food & Drink Sector at S A Partners, recently presented at the high profile Asda Supplier Sustainability Conference to an audience of 300’ food manufacturing companies/leaders.

Jeff’s session urged food manufacturing companies to consider lean as an holistic approach to Continuous Improvement of the whole business, rather than a tactical, short-term activity limited to shop floor operations.

Audience feedback on Jeff’s presentation: ‘a great prompt into asking some tough questions when back on-site re how we’re approaching lean’

If you would like more information on how Jeff and his team work with Food & Drink companies, please contact Jeff directly.

Jeff on stage at the Asda conference

You may also be interested in the Lean Scorecard Maturity Assessment article.

Supporting the Airbus Group AP Lean Journey (case study)

A brand new case study has been published highlighting the benefits achieved by our Australian and NZ based group at  Airbus.

With more than 1700 staff at 19 sites across Australia and New Zealand, Airbus Group Australia Pacific delivers new Airbus aircraft and supports more than 500 aircraft through a network of local facilities. The company also assembles and supports 22 ARH Tiger and 47 MRH90 helicopters for the Australian Army.

The case study highlights some great financial benefits which include direct savings of more than $44.2 million dollars.

View the full case study.



Why is it so difficult for us to demonstrate constancy of purpose?

Surveys show that failure to display constancy of purpose contributes most to dissatisfaction within organisations- more than any other Shingo principle.

From my experience it’s down to token strategies, boardroom mission, vision and values, leaders who cannot communicate, not knowing your market, process or people.

Within constancy of purpose we need to be strong and champion the strategy. This means creating a simple concise vision that is understood and influenced by everyone. As leaders we need to show empathy and understanding for our people, constant re-enforcement of the WHY message.

Leaders need to show they are willing to take personal risk to maintain constancy of purpose, our people, our processes and our people are the way we do things around here.

A huge contributing factor is maintaining trust within the strategy – trust is developed when leaders show integrity (we are vulnerable) benevolence (we care) and capability (we know what we are doing). An alarming statistic is that 90% of change programmes don’t make it past year 2- blame for this is often put down to a lack of engagement, but is it more down to a poorly defined change programme built around a lack of trust.

Success can be achieved, but it requires a constant reinforcement of the reasons why, via conversations with people who do the do. Walk the walk, talk the talk.

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.

Deployment Goes on and on…

Deployment takes our strategy and pushes it down into the organisation so everyone knows what part they have to play in delivering strategy…..correct?

I have seen so many strategies that exist with the senior team and go nowhere near the business, where they do leak out of the boardroom they are too complex and generally run out of steam at mid management.

Deployment is also seen as a mathematical process where we set up the dreaded kpi’s and measure the business to death.

Deployment is alignment yes, but its also engagement, teams need to consider if we are driving a new strategy, do we have the capability to solve the problems it will throw up and are we prepared to manage differently as the strategy may necessitate us to do so.

Deployment for me needs to be become a key business function, the senior team needs to commit to it and recognise in order to change a business we all have to work at it.

Functional deployment is a great place to start, yes it will drive silos but we need to start somewhere. I would recommend that we add behaviour coaching into our thinking and look at audit in the first instance to develop a standard methodology.

Once we embedded a behaviour lets turn it on its head and start having departments working together-look at SIPOC for improved KPI alignment, action learning groups, suggestion schemes, and escalation processes.

As we mature we need to go on and on! Involve our people more and perhaps involve them in the creation of strategy itself. Move from ‘plan and do’ to ‘check and act’ within our activities.

Deployment should be a key business function and be owned at the highest level.

98% of all 5S programs are dead within 6 months


  1. 5s was seen at another organisation and “copied” the tool was copied and not the system of improvement.
  2. 5s was implemented via step 1 clean up and became “cleaning” at step 3, at which point people lost interest.
  3. 5s was introduced to improve the business in isolation- it had no “purpose”.
  4. External bodies “trained” the front line staff in 5s, handed out certificates, claimed benefits and walked away.
  5. 5s improved what it had to but the was no “next steps” teams did not know how to build on gains made.

How do you breathe life into 5s?

  1. Implement systems of improvement and use 5s to stabilise your process
  2. 5s is a great problem solving tool, set its goals, develop its improvement systems and use steps 1, 2 and 3 to develop the process.
  3. Give 5s is a purpose, continually challenge targets, recalibrate improvements, and involve people.
  4. Make 5s part of work, don’t wait for Friday to tidy up or the third Friday in every month to problem solve- do it all day every day.
  5. Step 5 of 5s is continuous improvement, take the team’s further, use as your building blocks for complex activities such as TPM and Six Sigma.

What are some of the Myths and Realities of OEE?

Myth No 1 -An Overall Equipment Effectiveness level of 85% is ‘World Class’
It certainly is not if you are running, say, a flour mill or an off-shore oil platform !! In this case if you’re not hitting 90% + OEE then you’ll soon be out of business. We didn’t let the Japanese finish off the sentence of what they told us 20+ years ago –and that is that ‘’85% is World Class……..(we then rushed out of the room, before they added)…. for a typical Machining Centre that has a significant number of Changeovers’’

Myth No 2-OEE is a Management tool to use as a benchmark and comparator-
This misses the point of the OEE being a Manufacturing Floor problem solving tool.
If however, ‘Corporate’ insists on benchmarking, then beware of not comparing like with like-Not just ‘apples with apples’ But ‘Bramleys with Bramleys’!!!
Also 5 x questions to answer

  1. What is the impact of the number and variety of product changeovers?
  2.  Who sets the standards for performance rates when running? (Production Planning; Equipment Supplier or Engineering?)
  3.  How big an impact does manning levels and skill levels have on cycle time?
  4.  Are all minor stoppages recorded?
  5.  Are we measuring all aspects of quality including packaging materials?

Myth No3 –OEE should be calculated automatically by computer
The computation approach is far less important than the interpretation. Whilst initially calculating manually or inputting manually you can be asking ‘why? x 5 times’ .Once you’ve proven the manual measurement process-then mechanise it.

Myth No 4-OEE on non-bottleneck equipment is unimportant
OEE provides a route to guide problem solving. The main requirement is for an objective measure of hidden losses even on equipment elsewhere in the chain especially if it is generating controllable waste or non-value adding.

Myth No 5-We don’t need any more output, so why raise the OEE?
Management’s job is to maximise the value generated from the Company’s assets. This includes business development .Accepting a low OEE defies commercial common–sense. If you are able to increase the OEE from say 60% to 80% by tackling the relevant 6x Losses, you will have increased the productive capacity of that asset by 33%-which means you can produce the same output in 2/3rds of the current time-or make 33% more in the same time. Either way it gives you a choice of flexibility at 80% OEE that you do not enjoy at 60%

Myth No 6-OEE is not useful because it doesn’t consider planned utilisation losses and, for example labour co-ordination/diversion losses and material supply starvation losses
The OEE is one measure, but not the only one used. Others will include productivity, cost , quality ,delivery, safety , morale and environment. Often these ‘Door to Door’ or ‘Management ‘losses (as opposed to equipment based Manufacturing team ‘Floor to Floor’ losses) are vitally important. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to OEE .The trick is to adapt OEE to your business (as opposed to blindly adopting it in the classic sense) What you must not do however is corrupt it ,so it becomes unrecognisable and doesn’t point you at the problems & hence opportunities

Billy and the Duchess Café

Mr Parker a senior purchasing manager from a leading welsh automotive company is going to London for a conference on the benefits of big picture mapping. His expectations for the course is nice buffet, a new pen, have had a nice little jolly and be home in time for Eastenders.

Mr Parker not one to mingle and “network” likes to turn up for his courses just in the nick of time, so with 25 minutes to kill he spies a Café and decides to pop in for a coffee. On entering the Café Mr Parker is impressed by its cleanliness and its mission statement “coffee is a science” a professional looking lot! In the café there are four other professional gentlemen staring at empty tables.

Mr Parker walks up to the counter and is met by the café owner Billy. Mr Parker asks for a coffee, white no sugar please. Billy the café owner looks around and says to Mr Parker “one moment please”. Billy walks to a shelf above the counter and fetches a pad –about 5 yards there and back about 20 seconds in all. Billy then says to Mr Parker sorry about that I’m forever loosing the bloody thing, “Right what did you want again?”

“Coffee white no sugar please.”

Billy has introduced an order card that allows him to tick off what the customer wants on to the pad directly, Coffee tick, Milk Tick, Sugar Tick.

This only takes 10 seconds.

My Revolutionary Plan
Billy has been going to night school they have taught him “how to introduce modern business controls into your business”. Billy has studied hard and developed a computer programme that can predict how to make the perfect cup of coffee, in fact this has been the driving force in Billy’s mission statement “coffee is a science”.  My revolutionary Plan or MRP as Billy likes to call it.

Billy walks over to the terminal behind the counter and loads up the programme. The terminal is conveniently situated about two yards behind the counter and it takes about 30 seconds to load the programme.  Billy has 4 other order cards and explains to Mr Parker, I load the cards up in batches of 5, I find its easier for me and I don’t have to keep reloading the programme, I don’t think people mind waiting a couple of minutes.

Billy enters the data into the computer which takes no more than 10 seconds, the computer processes the information and 2 seconds later, a full list of how to make each cup of coffee is produced. It details to the nearest half gramme how much coffee, sugar, water and milk will be required to make the coffee, “the science”. Billy then goes to print out the list and produces two copies, one for him to make the coffee and one for his darling wife who he affectionately calls the “Duchess”.

Billy has been clever and bought three part ncr paper, top copy yellow, middle blue and bottom copy pink – this stops him having to print them twice. Billy presses the key and the printer starts to print, this takes about 10 seconds normally, but halfway through the print the ncr paper jams up and Billy has to pull the paper out and reset it. This takes about 30 seconds – its not the first time and Billy is becoming an expert at doing this.

Finally, Billy gets his requirements sheet out and hands the pink copy to the duchess, sticks his yellow copy above the counter and waits for the duchess to fetch him the ingredients. The blue copy is spare and thrown in the bin.

The Duchess has also been to night school but she is a little ahead of Billy and has developed her own programme – she calls it’s her min max system. The duchess takes the pink order card and loads it into her computer min max system, this automatically updates computer stocks. After months of working through the stockroom the duchess now takes full control of all materials and in fact won’t let Billy near it – unless it’s an emergency or her darts afternoon.

All ingredients are stored in a fridge in the back room about 10 yards from the counter and each ingredient, coffee, milk and sugar each have their own location. The min max system sets out how much of each item is to be held and tells the duchess when she needs to buy more. Each Friday afternoon the duchess runs the min max system and produces a shopping list.

Billy’s brother Stu runs a café supply business, the Duchess faxes the shopping list to Stu who has agreed to hold stocks of key items and will supply next day when required. When Stu delivers he must bring in a pink delivery note so the Duchess can update her system.

The whole process takes no more than 20 minutes per week.

Stu’s Café supplies
Stu is a big Oxford United fan and will never work on a Saturday. Stu has many customers and to be honest only works for Billy because he’s his brother and as for those pink notes she wants, “well I make them up as I go along they never check the quantities”.

Milk, Sugar and Coffee
The Duchess decants the correct amount of coffee and places each serving into a specific holder (a set of 20 matching pink egg cups she had as a wedding present). According to min max we have enough coffee to make 6,000 cups of coffee for 6 months. Next she looks for the sugar and starts decanting the correct amount out and after emptying out 3 egg cup fulls, she finds there is no sugar left and remembers she gave a pound to her mother to bake Billy’s birthday cake – must have forgot to book it off the system. According to min max we should have had one pound, enough for one day.

Never mind, she phones Stu who will bring it around in the van for a bacon sandwich which takes Stu about 5 minutes. Whilst she’s waiting, the duchess continues preparing the ingredients – what next? Milk. She goes to the milk store and opens the first bottle – on pouring out the quantity she notices a funny smell – the milk is off – how did that happen?

According to min max we should have had one weeks worth. She fetches another bottle and checks the remaining stock it all seems ok. She puts the sour milk back in the fridge and makes a mental note to remove it later.  She then finishes decanting out the milk and Stu arrives with the sugar. In all the rush he’s forgotten his pink delivery note. The Duchess is in such a flap that she forgets to ask Stu for the note anyway.

She finishes decanting the sugar and asks Stu if he’d like a bacon sandwich-Stu says yes please and takes a seat in the café. The duchess puts all the egg cups on a tray and takes them the 10 yards to the counter and her beloved Billy.

The decanting process normally takes about 2 minutes

The kettles
Billy is in charge of kettles and after a recommendation from Stu, Billy bought ten Korean kettles as they are half the price of UK kettles, they look good too!

Billy has built a shelf in the café to hold his kettles, as they have a chrome finish Billy thinks they look decorative as well as functional. On receiving the tray of ingredients Billy goes to fetch one of the kettles, it’s about a 5 yard walk there and back. The sink is positioned under the counter so there’s no waste there!

Billy has 5 cups of coffee to make so he fills the kettle to the top, enough for six cups bit extra for spillage.

This takes no more than 20 seconds

Billy plugs the kettle in and waits for it to boil. Boiling the kettle normally takes about 30 seconds per cup full but after two minutes Billy returns to the kettle and finds it stone cold. He then remembers he had a problem with the element on one of the kettles last time it ran – this must have been it.

Billy goes back to the shelf and fetches another kettle, he pours the water from the first into the second and boils the kettle. Whilst the second kettle boils, Billy puts the first kettle back on the shelf.

In line with Billy’s calculation the second kettle boils 3 minutes later

The kettle has boiled, now how about some cups. Billy goes to the cup rack, its about 2 yards behind the counter. As he picks up the cup he smiles to himself and remembers the after hours session he had with the duchess under the cup rack on Tuesday night – had to buy new cups.

Anyway the new cups are more mug size, chrome in colour to match the kettles. Billy goes back to the counter, puts the 5 cups down and starts making the coffee.
He puts the first egg cup of coffee, milk and sugar in the first mug and pours on the boiling water, Billy always makes sure you have a full cup. He then looks around for a spoon to stir it with but Billy can’t find one. He looks in the sink under the pile of plate’s cups and cutlery and Billy finally finds a spoon.
He gives it a quick rinse and it’s ready for use.

This takes him about 1 minute

Billy stirs the first cup and it’s ready for tasting, Billy believes in tasting each cup he makes – you can’t afford to make mistakes. Anyway it tastes great so
Billy proceeds to make the remaining four cups of coffee. Each cup takes around 30 seconds to make. As he pours the last cup Billy notices there’s only enough water to fill about two thirds of a cup – strange, he thinks, I put enough water in to make 6 cups not 5? Must be them mugs are bigger. Billy decides to give the two thirds cup to the Welsh geezer after all he was last in!

Billy fetches a chrome tray from a shelf by the kettles about 5 yards there and back and Billy puts all 5 mugs onto the tray. He fetches the yellow order sheet, tucks them into his shirt pocket and walks proudly into the café.

This takes no more than 30 seconds

Payment only takes about 30 seconds per cup, however, to his amazement of the five customers he had, only two are left. He walks to the first of the two and finds that he has opened a can of pop that he bought from the shop opposite whilst he was waiting. Billy has no hesitation and throws the punter out of his café – what a cheek!

He goes to the remaining customer – our Mr Parker, and hands him the two thirds mug and smiles. Mr Parker takes a sip from the mug and spits it out, I didn’t ask for sugar he exclaims. Billy replies I think you did it’s on my order card, Billy then asks for his money, £2 sir please. Mr Parker can’t believe his ears and walks out of the café-without paying.

All this chaos takes about 4 minutes to resolve

The Bank
Billy sits on a chair in his empty café with 4 and two thirds cups of coffee. His mobile rings in his top pocket, It’s Martin from the bank. Martin asks Billy how’s business? Billy replies ok.

Martin is after payment on the business start up loan he gave Billy, his boss is putting pressure on him. Martin’s boss is keen on developing foreign resources, the bars in Ibiza are showing real return that is where this bank should be investing.

Martin and Billy begin a very uncomfortable conversation.

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.

Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap, and Others Don’t

The best-selling Built to Last answered the question of what it takes to build an enduring, great company from the ground up. Good to Great answers an even more compelling question: can a good company become a great one and, if so, how?

After a five-year research project, Collins concludes that good to great can and does happen. In this book, he uncovers the underlying variables that enable any type of organization to make the leap from good to great while other organizations remain only good. Rigorously supported by evidence, his findings are surprising – at times even shocking – to the modern mind.

Good to Great achieves a rare distinction: a management book full of vital ideas that reads as well as a fast-paced novel.

Purchase this book.

Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation

This book is aimed at any manager interested in sustaining growth within their industry. They define “lean thinking” as the elimination of unnecessary waste in business, and by outlining the principles and applications of this, they link their theories to value for the customer.

Womack and Jones demonstrate the effectiveness of their approach through their research in both the U.S. and Europe. Citing examples from both simple and complex manufacturing processes, and from traditional technologies to high-tech companies, they show how their theories have been put into action.

Based on the belief that companies should compete against perfection rather than each other, Lean Thinking provides a valuable new insight into methods of production management. And by applying the theories outlined in this book, managers across all sectors of the economy will be able to reduce waste and increase profitability.

Purchase this book.

The Machine That Changed the World: The Story of Lean Production

The Machine That Changed the World: The Story of Lean Production– Toyota’s Secret Weapon in the Global Car Wars That Is Now Revolutionizing

Based upon MIT’s five-million-dollar, five-year study on the future of the automobile, a groundbreaking analysis of the worldwide move from mass production to lean production”.The fundamentals of this system are applicable to every industry across the globe…[and] will have a profound impact on human society–it will truly change the world”. “–New York Times Magazine”.

Purchase this book.

Environmentally-friendly business is profitable business

Many associate sustainability with expense, but companies that have embraced it are financially outperforming.

This excerpt is taken from www.theGuardian.com

The failure of policymakers to make binding commitments at the Rio+20 Summit resulted, at best, in a lowest common denominator agreement that delivers few real benefits. In 2010, the UK Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) was axed as part of the government’s spending cuts. In the US, Republican efforts to defund the entire Environmental Protection Agency risk even deeper structural shifts.

International governments’ inaction and lack of leadership is clearly worrying but, at the same time, the proactive approaches of a few leading-edge companies are encouraging. Toyota, Sainsbury’s, WalMart, DuPont, Tesco, UnileverMarks & Spencer and General Electric have made tackling environmental wastes a key economic driver. As Jonathon Porritt, director of Forum for the Future, observed, a “governance shift” is occurring in the field of sustainability, with governments stepping back and businesses stepping forward to lead the change.

DuPont, one of the early adopters, committed itself to a 65% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the 10 years prior to 2010. By 2007, DuPont was saving $2.2bn a year through energy efficiency, the same as its total declared profits that year. General Electric aims to reduce the energy intensity of its operations by 50% by 2015.

Unilever plans to double its revenue over the next 10 years while halving the environmental impact of its products. In 2010, WalMart announced that it will cut total carbon emissions by 20m metric tons by 2015. Closer to home, Sainsbury’s has announced its industry-leading “20×20 Sustainability Plan” which is the cornerstone of the company’s business strategy. It seems to be on track. In April this year, Sainsbury’s said it had achieved its target of a 50% relative reduction in water consumption.

Tesco has announced that it will reduce emissions from stores and distribution centres by half by 2020 and that it will become a zero-carbon enterprise altogether by 2050. Toyota, already in its fifth five-year Environmental Action Plan, announced that it will improve the average fuel efficiency of its vehicles by 25% in all regions by 2015 compared to that of 2005. In manufacturing, Toyota has already reduced emissions per vehicle by 47% between 2001 and 2012.

Companies such as Tesco and WalMart, are not committing to environmental goals out of the goodness of their hearts, and neither should they. The reason for their actions is a simple yet powerful realisation that the environmental and economic footprints are most often aligned. When M&S launched its “Plan A” sustainability programme in 2007, it was believed that it would cost more than £200m in the first five years. However, the initiative had generated £105m by 2011/12 according the company’s report.

When we prevent physical waste, increase energy efficiency or improve resource productivity, we save money, improve profitability and enhance competitiveness. In fact, there are often huge “quick win” opportunities, thanks to years of neglect.

Environmental waste is the best proxy for identifying and eliminating economic waste. That’s the secret of these companies.

Read the full article 

Drucker’s strategies for success in difficult times

In a recently published mini e-book, Peter Drucker identifies four strategies for weathering the economic storm:

  1. Organised abandonment – abandonment of the unproductive and obsolete and unproductive is the only real way to practice successful cost-cutting and achieving more with less
  2. Continuous productivity improvement – success gets sustained by cultivating the right efforts and by getting everyone in the organisation to do things a little better and get better results
  3. Exploiting success – starving problems and feeding opportunities
  4. Innovation – allowing people to be entrepreneurial

These strategies are not discrete but highly interdependent. Furthermore, they are integral to any organisation with enough vision to realise that successful lean transformation requires an holistic and systems approach, demands shedloads of practice, must accommodate failure and error, and, is a journey without end.

We have long argued that sustained lean transformation requires a systems perspective. We have developed close and long-lasting relationships with a number of organisations that have demonstrated sustained and on-going improvement over time, in order to deepen our understanding of what differentiates these organisations from others. To hear the practical application story of one such organisation and gain profound insight as a result, please join Professor Peter Hines at one of the following two forthcoming events in June and July:

If you want to read more from Drucker, download the pdf

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.

Is Leans View on Horse Meat a Load of Bull

Interesting to see that Tesco have just made a huge public apology across the UK about how it has let it’s customers down with horse meat in beef products. There’s no doubt that the CEO of Tesco must be wringing his hands with despair over this issue, with the company’s reputation and share price taking a further nose dive as a result of the scandal.

There is also no doubt in my mind that a majority of honest, hard working businesses in food supply have been damaged by the murky practices of a minority – not to mention an expected reduction in beef consumption that will affect farmers.

But what has lean got to say or do about this? We are not a law enforcement office, of course, but we can begin to shape a lean perspective on the issue.

I believe that one of the reasons that this type of practice exists is due to the complexity of the many food value streams that create common food products.

Lean talks about ‘making the offering flow, without rework, waste and delay’ while ensuring that ‘every step focuses on adding value to the ultimate consumer’.

There are great examples of our food value streams that are appealingly simple – from primary producer to consumer in a minimum of steps. A great example of this would be fresh shrimp and langoustine direct from trawler to store.

Many are a far cry from this, with multiple organisations involved in processing and storing materials and much of what is used, particularly in the lower price point products, traded as a commodity – all of this activity adds complexity and in our terms ‘waste’ associated largely with handling, storage and movement. And that’s not taking into account the extra carbon used to fuel these complex value streams.

Sadly often the reaction to such scandals is to put in place more stringent checks, rather than learning how to build safety and quality into the process. Einstein taught us that you cannot solve problems with the same mentality that created them in the first place. The food industry has to finally wake up and embrace the modern system of management thought espoused by Deming.

So what to do about it? It is often very revealing to take a ‘whole value stream’ view and, using the Value Stream toolkit, get to the bottom of the actual practices and complexity that characterise the value stream for a typical product.

As lean practitioners we would encourage our retailers to really get into the detail of the end to end model, invest in taking an holistic view and, in doing so, learn more about how the product is made and how to make it simpler thereby avoiding the type of damaging incidents for brands, share prices, reputations and consumer confidence that we’ve recently witnessed.

Challenging Our Deeply Held Beliefs

The main reason we are still talking and learning about lean thirty years after the term was coined in Krafcik’s paper (1988) and popularised by Womack, Jones and Roos (1990), is that it is that lean is both common sense and counterintuitive. It requires us to challenge many of our assumptions and change our ways as a result. You often hear this referred to as ‘mindset’ change.

With practice challenging our own assumptions becomes addictive and part of our systematic and scientific approach to problem-solving. For those challenge junkies out there, take a look at the frantically animated film that questions our deeply held beliefs about what motivates us and others. It offers compelling evidence that we all need to rethink the basic beliefs that underpin our recognition and reward systems. I promise that you will be challenged and I welcome any comments.


J. Krafcik,1988, The Triumph of the Lean Production System, Sloan Management Review 301, pp. 41-52

J. Womack, D. Jones and D. Roos, 1990, The Machine That Changed The World, Rawson Associates, NY


Issue-Driven Strategy Formation

Mike Dale argues that in spite of the vast literature on strategy, strategy remains a difficult and elusive leadership task. Mike argues that strategic management differs from operational management in terms of processes, skills and mental outlook. In this paper he concentrates on one of those aspects: the process of strategy formation. He offers his issue-driven approach to strategy formation as a tried and tested way forward. His starting point is one of defining what he means by an issue. An issue can be a problem, an opportunity, uncertainly or controversy. He argues that this definition provides a mechanism for collecting up what is really happening in the business. It also provides an ability to handle the politics within businesses. Strategy formation is a highly political process.

After some filtering of all the issues identified, the next stage of the approach is  to carefully define the issues with  careful use of language. This issue definition activity is the part of the process that is most testing but also most productive. Mike argues that if we make the effort to share our perspectives and assumptions, check for evidence and then produce a definition that everyone can sign up to, we will achieve a huge step forward both in terms of clarity in thinking and in team alignment. It means that in at the issues resolution stage of the process, some solutions are obvious since such clarity has been brought to the matter.

Applying Lean in the Public Sector

In this paper, Professor Peter Hines outlines his beliefs regarding the current state of applying lean in the public sector. He considers these applications to be shallow and like to suffer from sustainability issues in the future. He argues that this may be due to inappropriate advise received from third party agencies with ‘quick win’ solutions.

Professor Hines refers to the Lean Iceberg model to explain why lean in the public sector may  be falling short of the mark. The model identifies the common and visible manifestations of lean as being ‘above the waterline’. These are tools, techniques and processes all of which are well established in ‘off the shelf’ lean solutions. However, sustainable lean requires the application of the less visible manifestations of strategy, alignment, leadership, behaviour and engagements.

Most ‘off the shelf’ solutions pay ‘lip service’ to these more complex but crucial aspects of sustainable lean transformation.  In summary, the public sector is not immune to the benefits that lean can bring, however, it does currently suffer from the poor application of largely tool-based solutions.

Lean is Spreading: The spread of Lean into the Service Sector

The spread of Lean into the service sector is well underway. In a classic Harvard Business Review article Levitt (1976) advocated the desirability of transferring manufacturing practices to service operations. His view was endorsed by Chase (1978) in another classic HBR article in which he presented service organisations as typically having ‘front’ offices (dealing with customers) and ‘back’ offices (those processing work). This language is not common parlance in service sector circles.

The table below presents Snee and Heorl’s views on the differences and similarities in service and manufacturing processes.

Service processes lack suitable measurement systems.All work occurs through processes.
Service processes are not well defined or standardised.Processes provide information and data that can be used to improve them.
Service processes often have a greater human element.All Processes have ‘hidden factories’ that add cost and reduce output.
Service processes typically lack engineers.Undesired variation is a common source of process problems.

(Source: adapted from Snee and Heorl, 2009)

The authors conclude that service processes are more similar than different to manufacturing processes and advocate the widespread application of a Lean Six Sigma hybrid improvement methodology for services.Other authors have also proposed a role for Lean in the service sector since Womack and Jones (1996) first proposed the idea (see for example, Swank, 2003; Atkinson, 2004; May, 2005; Ehrlich, 2006; Abdi et al., 2006; Corbett, 2007). Some criticism has also emerged. For example, Sprigg and Jackson (2006) found negative consequences for worker morale and performance in call centre that had adopted Lean.

Overall, however, the application of Lean in the service sector is ongoing and evidence continues to emerge (Piercy and Rich, 2009). An example of such evidence is this recently published story which was also discussed on a radio 4 programme on Tues 30th October:


Aticles referred to in this blog:

Levitt, T. 1976. The Industrialisation of Service. Harvard Business Review 54(5), pp. 63-74

Chase, R. 1978. Where does the Customer fit in a Service Operation? Harvard Business Review 56(4), pp. 137-142.

Snee, R. and Hoerl, R. 2009. Turning to Service Sector. Industrial Engineer ( October).

Womack, J. and Jones, D. 1996. Lean Thinking. Simon and Schuster, NY.

Swank, C. 2003. The Lean Service Machine. Harvard Business Review (October).

Atkinson, P. 2004. Creating and Implementing Lean Strategies. Management Services 482, pp. 18-33.

May, M. 2005. Lean Thinking for Knowledge Work. Quality Progress 38(6), pp. 33-40.

Ehrlich, B. 2006. Service with a Smile: Lean Solutions Extend Beyond the Factory Floor. Industrial Engineer 38(8), pp. 40-44.

Abdi, F., Shavarini, S. and Hoseini, S. 2006. Glean Lean: How to Use Lean Approach in Services Industries. Journal of Services Research 6(special), pp. 191-206.

Corbett, S. 2007. Beyond Manufacturing: The Evolution of Lean Production. McKinsey Quarterly (3).

Sprigg, C. and Jackson, P. 2006. Call Centers as Lean Service Environments. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology 11(2), pp. 197-212.

Piercy, N. and Rich, N. 2009. Lean Transformation in the Pure Service Environment: the Case of the Call Centre Service. International Journal of Operations & Production Management 29(1), pp. 54-76.