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Month: October 2016



Changing a culture in an organisation is no easy task. It takes dedication, strategy, and a heck of a lot of learning and experience to avoid the numerous pitfalls along the way.

Some won’t succeed the first or even second time of trying, but some will come back and try again.

Let me introduce you to a poultry processor taking a different approach – they have taken in past learnings and are committed to a very real and personal journey. Even better, they’re doing it for all the right reasons.

LMAC are proudly supporting Tegel on their Simplify journey. They are doing the hard stuff, making sure tough decisions are made for the long term and by creating and maintaining their own internal momentum. Our role is smaller, but still important. Providing guidance on what works well, and what doesn’t. Together, we make a good team.

Let’s re-cap on 3 key messages from the video:

  • Keep the message simple. Committing to making things simpler for everyone in the organisation is absorbed much more easily than talking of high ideals of Operational Excellence and eliminating waste.
  • Keep the message real by living and breathing it. Hearts and minds will never be won if it looks like another “flavour of the day”.
  • Of course, cost benefits are important, but please let it be more than a cost reduction exercise.

The key to sustaining improvements – create a win-win

Let’s look at the client’s rally call “SIMPLIFY”. By simplifying the roles and tasks of every individual, they are in fact creating a win-win scenario. Waste is eliminated which benefits the business, frustration is eliminated which benefits the individual. A key difference in this case is that the organisation is leading with a positive.

Lean Entropy


At Last, a scientific analogy of Lean failures and Lean Mediocrity

Managers across the world imagine a utopia of “self-managing teams” working hard to continually take their organisation to the next level of perfection.  For many, progress will be made, only for decline and recession to dash their dreams, and force a compromise with reality.  The problem is, many people take things like “Operational Excellence” too lightly – they treat it like another initiative, something to do rather than something to be.  They underestimate the energy and commitment required of themselves, and their management team not only to get their organisation to industry best, but more importantly, the energy and commitment to keep it there.  They fail to consider ENTROPY.

Until the other day, I had never come across the word “entropy”, so please don’t mistake me for one that reads a thesaurus for evening relaxation.  I was having an interesting discussion with one of my Senior Lean Consultant’s, Peter, who happens to have a degree in Chemistry.  He mentioned that in the scientific world of thermodynamics, there is a law that dictates that entropy will always increase with time.  Time to explain the meaning of ENTROPY:

lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder

My learned colleague went on to explain, “there is no such thing as perpetual motion or free energy in thermodynamics, unless additional energy is constantly applied, ENTROPY will prevail”.

The light bulb went on – actually, there is no such thing as perpetual motion or free energy full stop.  So in terms of Lean, can we logically assume that there is a law concerning Entropy?   I think we can.

Entropy in business operations might look like the following




Culture Change to sustain!

A lot has been written about culture change being the most important element in sustaining Lean and continuous improvement benefits and providing a platform for future improvement.  We often hear the mantra “we must develop a culture of continuous improvement” from management teams across the globe.  But what about LEAN ENTROPY?  Any images of Eutopia should shatter at this point, because in reality sustaining the culture that sustains improvement will be an even bigger challenge.

So what sustains a business organisation culture?

Answer: ENERGY, it needs to be in the form of Leadership Energy, and unfortunately it isn’t free.   Prior to consulting, I felt this first-hand over 13 years within Toyota Motor Manufacturing UK.  I often thought about the culture we had developed there and how much it differed to other car manufacturers just down the road.  I also wondered how long it would take for us to drift back to let’s say a more “traditional” British car manufacturing culture without constant leadership drive and energy.   Not long I suspect.

Do the basics well, and more importantly, reward them well!

Doing the leadership basics well is time consuming and often undervalued, yet it is the basics that are most important.  Senior leaders walking the floor daily, looking at visual performance boards without invite, commenting on successes, advising upon closing gaps to targets – all actions that drive behaviours and ultimately culture.  Those junior managers that can respond instantly to the leader’s comments and questions are on the ball, and probably do their basics well too.  This is the kind of energy that senior leaders must look for in their management teams – it will fuel sustainability and stop Entropy in its tracks.

LMAC are internationally recognised Lean experts with consultants in Australasia, UK and China. Our strategic Lean thinking approach takes organisations beyond simple ‘Lean tools’. We have extensive experience in many sectors including FMCG, Protein Processing, Manufacturing and Service. If you would like to know more about LMAC and how we could assist your organisation’s Lean implementation Contact us
lean performance


The obvious
Quick and simple is not always sustainable, that’s the hard bit. However, on occasion there may be a sudden need to increase performance in a “step” manner. For example, there may be a sudden peak demand on a business that is beyond output capacity. There will always be extra potential in any process, and putting a clear business need for improvement around it may provide an opportunity to create a new benchmark.

The Method (the “what”)
“Measure it, and it will improve” is the baseline concept with truth in it. From our years of experience across many industry sectors, by putting in a performance measure as a starting point, there will be an improvement in results, 20% just happens to be a common outcome. The key is to make the measure simple to understand and relevant to the specific process.

The “how”
Getting people to work harder is definitely NOT the request or approach. Nor is cutting corners with safety and quality. There is however a common human element of focusing in more when things are deemed important. As we focus, wasteful distractions reduce, and we “get the job done”. In terms of the specific Lean approach, it’s the beautifully simple concept of removing waste, but, consider a specific emphasis on motion and waiting. The important ingredient we’re adding here is the measure. If done correctly, adding the measure gives the message that it’s important. People on the process will begin to realise that the new important target is only attainable if they didn’t have to wait for this, and walk to fetch that, and so on.

Some simple steps to follow are:
1) Tell people why
“Call to action” appears to be the latest term doing the rounds. A basic principle it appears to support is that people will generally rally behind a cause if it is clear and generates a sense of urgency.

2) Be a leader
You don’t need to be the most inspirational leader on earth, just make sure the message is clear and that it means something real. Get the team together, explain the business need to improve, do it in a positive way, and ask for their input and support. CEO’s – use this as an opportunity to connect with the teams!

3) Commit to some basics
People fear change, not a headline concept I know. However, the reality remains that most people will know at least one person that has lost their job as a result of change. So what happens if they improve output by 20%? Think this through carefully, decide what the positive outcome will be and stick to it.

4) Lead by example
Get out of the office, look at the results and talk to the workforce in and around the processes – make it clear it’s important. Recognise people’s input and breakthroughs. Small actions go a long way in improving performance.

5) Sustain
Maintaining performance is the hard bit from an organisational and human perspective. However, the sequence and tools bit is fairly straight forward (yet often not followed).

The chances are that there is a significant amount of variation in the work process – for example in the form of output or quality. Variation is the main “Killer” of quality and efficiency. In my experience, the causes of this variation will fall into two buckets:

1) Genuine problems
2) Sloppy practices/behaviours

The initial problem though is that these issues tend to be a murky mixture in one bucket. Sloppy practices/behaviours “hide” behind the genuine problems.

Here’s the thing – fix the genuine problems and the sloppy practices and behaviours have nowhere to hide. In my experience, many of them will stop of their own accord. Complex human issues and performance management can be avoided.

Here is the basic sequence to follow:


In Summary: We firmly believe that it is possible to achieve a quick and simple 20% performance lift by doing the simple things well.
Measure: Follow steps 1 to 5
Control: Prioritise the genuine problems. Fix some easy things, and then apply Root Cause analysis to complex problems
Improve: A good foundation now exists to effectively deploy CI/Kaizen tools and approaches

LMAC are internationally recognised Lean experts with consultants in Australasia, UK and China. Our strategic Lean thinking approach takes organisations beyond simple ‘Lean tools’. We have extensive experience in many sectors including FMCG, Protein Processing, Manufacturing and Service. If you would like to know more about LMAC and how we could assist your organisation’s Lean implementation Contact us
Thinking Lean


Thinking Lean is something I do all the time, it comes with the territory. But at this time of the year I also like to do something else. Take a break and enjoy the very last throws of summer somewhere warm. This year I am lucky enough to be in a small Greek village on the north east coast of Corfu.

This is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Manufacturing or the rigorous demands of FMCG. A laid back place with just 5 tavernas, 2 waterside cafes and a couple of small shops. Not the sort of place you would expect to find good examples of lean processes or practices, however this started me thinking. Could I find any?

Not too surprisingly I found plenty and why wouldn’t there be. This village revolves around tourism, talking to the locals they experience huge swings in tourist volumes and demographic mix throughout the year. They have variation in external factors like the weather and economic factors. Even news articles reporting on the influx of refugees Greece has been experiencing has had a direct impact on the locals.

In many ways this village is exactly like any manufacturing operation or any other type of business. So this is the perfect place to dig in and look for examples of the locals thinking lean.

The story of my Greek Sunday roast

Yes, you heard right. A fantastic Sunday roast, whilst overlooking the cooling waters of the Mediterranean. But what could this possibly do with thinking lean?

Walking through the small village on a Sunday morning, suddenly the owner of a very nice taverna suddenly approached me and shook my hand. This was not so unusual, after all it is a small village that I have visited a number of times. ‘Come on in my friend and I will buy you a drink’. Of course we accepted and as we walked in a sat down he said ‘let me fetch the drinks and then we can talk business’

Business, on a Sunday morning?

He came back, and sat down with us.

‘Now my friend, I have been very busy this morning. I have been into the mountains and collected some very nice lamb. So today we are cooking fresh slow roasted lamb using a traditional recipe that my mother used to use with herbs, spices and roasted potatoes. But I am only offering this to my very best customers’

Bit of a wild tale, going into the mountains, mothers’ recipe etc. but this got me thinking. What is this guy actually doing? Is it just another sales pitch? Or is he thinking a little deeper, he was putting a lot of effort into selling this story. Clearly he was going to use this technique throughout the day on a number of different people.

So let’s look at this from the perspective of the taverna owner.

Local slow cooked Lamb is a well-known Greek dish but for him as the owner it also presents some problems to put on the menu. It is a ‘long lead-time’ item. It takes hours to prepare and cook. The raw materials are very expensive, so if he does not sell it, his scrap cost could offset any profit. His customer base is variable. What time they eat, what they eat and even where they eat is based on a whole series of external factors he can’t control.

I chatted to him about this for a while and it became clear that what he was actually doing was a scaled down version of S&OP planning. Without knowing it he was thinking lean.

He recognised that he needed to align his sales, production and material ordering to maximise his profits. He knew that if he left it until the customers were at the point of actually ordering, he had less chance of influencing the type of main course that the customer would order.

One of the other side benefits he explained to me was that because his target was primarily sell the Lamb dish that evening, orders for other menu items would be reduced. This allowed him to run with less people in the kitchen that night and give some of the staff the night off. Again he was thinking lean by using the S&OP process to plan his staffing.

Without formal training he and all of his staff were thinking Lean. The taverna owner had set very clear targets, all his staff understood the objective and the reasoning. They worked together as one unit to deliver. They were a team.

Many organisations could learn from this very simple example. S&OP planning requires top level targets to be set and all department s to align. All too often I see departments without alignment. I see different departments with completely different metrics. Metrics drive behavior. If you measure the sales department by total value of sales, this does not always align with the process capability of the manufacturing process. Both need to be working in unison, just like my Friendly Greek taverna owner.

Oh, and for the record. The Lamb was fantastic!

LMAC are internationally recognised Lean experts with consultants in Australasia, UK and China. Our strategic Lean thinking approach takes organisations beyond simple ‘Lean tools’. We have extensive experience in many sectors including FMCG, Protein Processing, Manufacturing and Service. If you would like to know more about LMAC and how we could assist your organisation’s Lean implementation Contact us