Adaptability is the new core competency

It used to be that management skills were passed along from superiors, well aware of how an organization worked based on established institutional knowledge. The formula was simple:  Take past management strategies, tweak and adjust for current realities and then manage. It’s an approach that was packaged, taught and executed with ease.

But we all know that approach just doesn’t work anymore.  The past doesn’t matter as much as it once did. And for very good reason. Traditional management strategies are based on a very different business and organizational reality.

It wasn’t that long ago that the pace of change was such that any response to shifts in the marketplace was executed with a slow, thoughtful, and considered approach. Contrast that to the sense of urgency that comes with improved data monitoring that shows customer satisfaction ebbing and flowing in real time.

Improvements in technology will only continue to accelerate. And if an organization tries to go forward by embracing the strategies of its past, then it is setting itself up for a slow decline to obscurity.

Today’s successful companies don’t view adaptability as a ‘nice to have’ business strategy. For them it is an essential element to business success and longevity.

An organization must recognize, respond and adapt to challenges on an ongoing basis, if they are to succeed and thrive.

That noted, adaptability isn’t just something that can be overlaid on an organization. The organization must learn to make adaptability its core competency, woven into the work culture in a meaningful way. It must be the instinctive first reaction when faced with external challenges.

Lloyd Parry have worked with many types of organizations on transforming their work cultures into adaptability marvels.

Please get in touch to talk about having me speak to your organization or conference about adaptability as a core competency.


How to do Shared Services the right – LEAN – way

So you’ve got duplicate internal services in your organisation. Simple enough to just share them with others in the company, right?

Great thinking! Too bad it’s not that easy to execute in the real world.

The upside is really impressive: you get to cut costs significantly while improving services. And it can be done. It just takes excellent leadership and an ability to change your organisational culture.

However, there are a number of errors and assumptions that can cause a shared services implementation to fail.

Our Sense and Respond 3.0 Adaptive-Lean Shared Services masterclass looks closely at how to use Sense and Respond – Lean and Adaptive Thinking as a framework for shared service implementations.

We draw on our recent experience implementing LEAN service transformations at Lego and SAP to help organisations get the most bang for their buck from streamlining and improving shared services.

We use the REAL challenges faced by companies as they made radical improvements to provide real-life context for attendees. The result are takeaways and implementation strategies that can save thousands or even millions in lost or wasted revenue.

Despite the currency of the cases we draw from, we continually adapting Lean service because customer and business needs change rapidly in today’s market.

Although the masterclass is designed for Senior Leaders in HR, Operations, Finance, Customer Service, IT and Senior Teams, it is invaluable for anyone interested in successful shared services transformation.

Key Learning Outcomes:

  • What exactly is LEAN  and why does it matter for people planning shared services – Lean is now a familiar concept to many business leaders, but do we all have an accurate and complete understanding?  It’s not about cutting costs, it’s about delivering value to customers
  • How to create a clear line of sight between what you and your staff do every day, and what the customer actually values
  • Measuring the right things in the right way – CORE LEAN principles – how to use the principles and tools to keep you focussed on what matters to your customer, and why this is especially vital when planning/running shared services
  • How to collect the information that you need to make good quality decisions, and how to tell the difference between quality, robust, reliable information and the rest of the stuff you’ll get
  • Managing resources during the transition to shared services – do you have enough people are they doing the right things – LEAN is likely to radically transform what people do every day, how do you manage this?
  • Measuring internal and external customer outcomes and using this information to keep evolving

Please read more about the masterclass here and then get in touch.

The wow about the WOW! Awards

Working with Lean over the years, I’ve grown to take special delight in seeing how customer engagement changes, develops and then becomes essential in the growth of an organisation.

Given that, we at Lloyd Parry are happy to have our own Rupert Coles as a judge at this year’s WOW! Awards.

WOW! Is an independent award organisation that rewards great customer service solely through customer compliments. That’s it. No supervisor input.

Whether you’re part of the Lean universe or not, the WOW! Awards are an event every business can look to for examples of how improve the customer contact experience.

The awards are a celebration of the best in customer service and experience  – something that a lot of businesses have lost site of in the age of random cost-cutting and automation.

As an organisation, WOW! created a set of tools to easily facilitate the flow of information from customer to business and then to the employee responsible for the positive customer experience.

I see WOW! and similar organisations as crucial to Lean in that they provide a useful mechanism to not only smooth the feedback process but turn it into positive employee feedback and rewards.

And by championing the finalists for these awards they provide a status in great customer service delivery usually reserved for management success.

The Gala Awards will be held on November 28.

To learn more about the WOW! Organisation and Gala, please click here.

If you’re interested in learning about how LloydParry can put your company into the upper tier of customer-focussed business success, please get in touch.

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The European Lean Educator’s Conference: My Day Two Picks

I’m heading to the  European Lean Educator’s Conference (ELEC) taking place September 16 and 17 in Buckingham. On Tuesday I gave you my run down of sessions for Day 1. Today I’m going to share my Day 2 picks.

To me, conferences such as this one are important for all who attend but especially business people taking in the world of Lean with an eye to bringing it to their companies. They get to talk with fellow attendees, speakers and presenters about the current state of Lean and Agile efforts as well as further applications in the future.

I’ve come up with a list of sessions that I’m looking forward to attending on Day Two, September 14. My Day One picks were in a previous blog, which can be found here. 

Day Two

09:00 – 9:40
Mark Pyne (Ingersoll Rand, Ireland)

Pursuit of Excellence in Shared Services: A Case Study of IRI

Abstract: “Much of today’s thinking and organisational design can be attributed to the work of Frederick Taylor. His obsession for micromanagement sparked the ‘one best way’ mentality of performing work. Organisations, just like science, are now split up into many distinct disciplines. Divide and conquer is assumed to be the best approach. This ‘command and control’ methodology is often supported by automated telephone and workflow management systems.”

I am particularly interested in shared services, as I have worked in the area for some time. I am hoping for something a little more than process flow and simply removing waste.

9:40 – 10:30
Owen Berkeley-Hill (Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, India)

Getting Lean back on track

Abstract: “The nature and definition of Lean is always the subject of energetic debate at the many Lean watering holes. Sadly, there is little consensus around what that definition actually is. This presentation argues for a broader interpretation of Lean which could be the basis for a new approach to leadership development.”

Sounds like it might provoke an interesting debate on where Lean is right now and where it needs to develop.

10:50- 11:30
Ameer Robertson(New York City Hospitals, USA)

Deep Lean Learning: How the Legal Service Industry can reinvent itself for long-term sustainability

Abstract: “Through innovative service models, non-lawyers have acquired large segments of the legal service market from legal practitioners. To compete, law firms have turned to limited applications of Lean. But to sustain viability, lawyers must engage in “deeper Lean  learning,” and utilize Lean to its fullest capability. In doing so, law firms will acquire the capacity to proactively adapt to changes in the marketplace and ultimately reinvent the delivery of their services for long-term sustainability.”

Legal Services like any knowledge based work is an excellent area for Lean and Agile thinking, however it’s often made to sound and function like Lean manufacturing –  which takes Lean backwards in these types of environments. I wonder if they came across the same obstacles as I have? I wonder more how they addressed those challenges?

Dr Mads Bruun Larsen (University of Southern Denmark)

A model and method for customisation of Simulation Games

Abstract: “Most simulation games played at training sessions use general wordings and a fixed flow and operations. In some cases, this is a serious obstacle to transferring learning from the game to real life. A model and method is presented as a first step toward fast customization for each individual session.”

You can never go wrong with a simulation game in your tool chest  – keeping it on hand to modify, or developing new ones seems to be the life of the Lean Practitioner. Being able to conjure one at a moment’s notice has got me out of many tricky situations. Indeed my own Adaptability Simulation Workshop is a very popular exercise with a few of my more forward thinking clients.


So that’s the rundown on how I’ll be spending my time at the ELEC conference this year. Of course the one session I failed to mention was my own at 14.50-15.30 on Day 2, September 14.

Designing organisations that work for Lean and Agile thinking people will demonstrate the importance of organisational design and route-map sequencing to create conducive work-climates for Lean and Agile thinkers.

Please add it to your schedules. I hope to have a good crowd.

If you think I missed an important session, please add it to the comments.

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The European Lean Educator’s Conference: My Day One Picks

When talking to companies about Lean and Agile, I often wish I had a way to have them take a deep dive into the broad universe of thought and opinion on this dynamic way of thinking.

That said, I looked at the schedule for the upcoming European Lean Educator’s Conference (ELEC) taking place September 16 and 17 in Buckingham, UK with an eye to what the business community and my customers can learn from it. 


I’ve come up with a list of sessions that I’m looking forward to attending. What follows are my Day One picks. Day Two will follow in the next blog post on Thursday.

Day One

Prof. Darrell Mann (Systematic Innovations Ltd)

Counter-Intuitives: Lean, Innovation & Complex Adaptive Systems
Abtract: “Lean for Leaders When we cross the threshold between systems that are complicated and those that are mathematically complex, or when we cross the threshold between the world of Operational Excellence and the world of step-change innovation, many of the Lean truisms turn out to no longer be true.

This presentation will examine some of the counter-intuitive shifts in thinking necessary in order for organisations to successfully survive in a post-’continuous improvement’, innovate-or-die world.

The paper is borne of a seventeen year, 5.5 million case study analysis of what does and does notwork in complex environments, and will explore why there is no such thing as a ‘root cause’, why ‘ready, fire, aim’ is the more appropriate change strategy, how the propensity of butterfly wing flaps to cause distant tornadoes makes the Pareto Principle dangerous, and why some degree of ‘waste’ is critical when our world flips into the mode of a complex adaptive system.

I am particularly interested in organisational adaptability, as I have been involved in this particular field for a number of years. This session’s theme is important not only for practitioners and (increasingly so) chief executives but also start-ups.”

Prof. Dr. Christoph Roser (Karlsruhe University of Applied Science, Germany)

The Origins of Lean & Lessons for Today

Abstract: “Lean manufacturing is arguably the best approach to faster, better, and cheaper manufacturing. We all know that Lean originated at Toyota in Japan, from where it spread throughout the world. But Toyota did not imagine their Toyota production system out of thin air. They took many good ideas from others. The Toyota production system, and hence Lean, is based on inspiration from the United States, Britain, Germany, Japan, and others.

The achievement of Toyota is to merge these ideas in a new and unique approach to manufacturing that the world has never seen before. Let’s have a look at some of the many origins of Lean production. But remember, the giants of Lean stood themselves on the shoulders of Giants…”

Much of LLoyd Parry’s work has been with a number of companies in Germany – where there seems to be a much more open attitude to accepting and experimenting with new ideas. Lean and Agile is no exception. The ‘engineering – logic’ aspect of Lean and Agile seems to resonate with German management practices. I really interested to see how they managed with the soft side of Lean and Agile with regards to changing behaviours and cultures.

Belinda Waldock (Being Agile)

Agile for Lean People

Belinda helps teams and businesses find and hone their agility to support growth and improvement. She is author of Being Agile in Business, an introduction to agile working for the whole business, a professionally qualified ILM Coach and Mentor in business, and a Computer Science graduate. Working with a diverse array of businesses she supports the development of growth strategies through technology, teams and leadership using agile methods and practices.

There are still serious misconceptions  and misunderstandings within the Lean and Agile Communities, leading to futile discussions about Lean trying to become Agile on the shop floor and Agile trying to scale up using Lean. I have written on this issue in the past and I am sure it’s a subject I’ll return to it again after the conference and inspired by this session.

Sir Anthony Seldon (University of Buckingham)

Innovation in Education

Abstract: “Education is just about to enter its fourth revolution in 10,000 years. Delegates must puzzle out what the first three were before hearing about the fourth!”

I’ve often wondered why it has taken so long for academia to make the connection between education and Lean – which is the best known business learning system available to managers today. It will be interesting to see how they apply Lean – to create better, more effective, learning experiences for students that teach them the principles of continuous learning. More importantly I’m also looking forward to how they use Lean to ‘Lean our administration processes’.

In closing day one looks like a cracker. The content across all the sessions looks great and if you can’t find something in the list you like, then by all means go through the agenda and make your own. And if you want to add a few more with your reasons for choosing them, go ahead and add them in the comments below.

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Spotlight on the European Lean Educator Conference 2016

Anyone immersed in Lean culture will be heading to Buckingham in the UK for the third edition of the European Lean Educator’s Conference (ELEC) and for good reason.

Although this is only the third ELEC conference, its updates on teaching, supporting and applying Lean, make it an engaging deep dive into all things Lean in 2016. It’s also a superb opportunity to engage with others in the lean community.

The conference theme is Lean Education Outside of Manufacturing which will range from topics such as lean product design, product innovation and lean in the office to applications from fields such as healthcare and lean in education.

More specifically, the presentations include Innovation in Education, Systems Thinking and Re-thinking Lean, Counter-Intuitives: Lean, Innovation & Complex Adaptive Systems and Agile for Lean People. That noted, there are many others that also intrigue which goes to what a fascinating conference this is going to be.

Lean is currently making forays into many fields and getting a current survey of its penetration in European cultures, business and otherwise, is extremely valuable.

I will be speaking at the conference on Designing Organisations That Work for Lean and Agile Thinking People. The presentation will demonstrate the importance of organisational design and route-map sequencing to create conducive work-climates for Lean and Agile thinkers.

I’m particularly interested in speaking with leaders to find out how they are using the principles of lean to create adaptable organisations.

If you’re planning to attend and would like to connect simply send me a note and we’ll make it happen.

Next week I’ll have my picks for what sessions I think will be of most value. So stay tuned!

To read more about the ELEC conference, please click here. Keep in mind that registration is open until September 5. 


A3 thinking: not a process

When discussing A3, I often find myself having to clarify that it’s not simply a process you can implement. It’s a mindset that influences everything within an organization.  It’s a crucial distinction.

A3 thinking is entirely about developing intelligence, not processes, methods or even solving problems.

It’s about the individual responses to a challenge and not the challenge itself.  An A3 thinker develops a mindset, a way of looking how problems should be tackled, and what issues need to be considered.

Sometimes the solutions are unknowable. But discovering that is in itself invaluable.

The quest becomes the development of thinking to gain better insight into reality, transforming the learning process into a de facto training experience.

An A3 review is a transformative experience for the user. If they’ve had biases and fears about a subject they’re working with, A3 thinking strips that away.

So if you come across references to an A3 ‘process’, raise an eyebrow. There is no A3 process only an individual’s approach that is invariably more honest, focussed and incisive.

To learn more about how A3 thinking can transform your organization, please click here to review our two-day A3 Tutorial Session.


An Adaptable organisation: sensing deeper and responding sooner

Although I often talk of how adaptability and creating and fostering an agile environment help organisations keep up with external change pressure. But I’ve also seen these same approaches used very effectively in managing a company’s internal affairs.

Consider the issue of staff recruitment and retention.

I recall a time, some years back, when Blackberry security software was the gold standard for business clients. The emergence of the iPod and its appeal to youth created a conundrum for companies seeking to lure the best and brightest to their fold. Young recruits wanted to have their shiny new Apple toys with them in workplace and many balked at the notion of having a Blackberry ‘for business’.

A friend of mine, who was an IT manager for a security company at the time, lived through this clashing of tech cultures. To reduce the ‘two phones’ grumbling among increasingly frustrated employees, they bought a company that specialized in email security and developed an inhouse solution that allowed staff to use their iPhone for work AND personal use.

Did they do it as part of a public corporate strategy? No, they did it to make themselves more attractive to potential employees and encourage retention among current staff members.

Were they able to do it easily without reinventing their entire IT department? Very easily.

Could they have done it easily without having an adaptable environment in place? No.

Ironically, a lack of adaptability in Blackberry itself, was partially responsible for their decline over the following years. Further, an inability to properly assess the threat of the iPhone to their business model, left them floundering.

If using adaptability and agile to resolve a seemingly minor internal issue seems less than an ideal use, you’d be mistaken.

The IT company in question knew very well that in a competitive marketplace, the acquisition of good talent is crucial. As such, they were able to respond to employee demands and adapt their processes to make everyone happy.

To learn more about creating an agile and adaptable workplace, please get in touch with us at Lloyd Parry International.


Building trust essential to building Lean and Agile organisations


You get the behaviour you design for. That’s a truism I encounter fairly regularly when working with organisations looking to become Lean and Agile. These organisations are typically looking to develop working climates that encourage creativity and participation.

And they’re speaking with us in the first place because they need to respond to the challenges of a fast-changing business environment.

And as we begin the process, and I review the current behaviours within an organisation, it can be a very awkward experience for both management and staff.

A key part of work culture development centres around trust.

When I go into an organization, the first question I ask is ‘are you trustworthy?’.

Trust is an inside job

Digging a bit, I usually hear about seemingly arbitrary layoffs and a lack of respectful communication between management and staff.

The transformation of an organisation to a high level of trust is directly affected by the behaviour that brought it to the current state.

If there is a high degree of suspicion between management and staff, that’s going to take some hard work to fix. Reviewing past history and finding out how trust was lost involves difficult conversations that are extremely valuable in getting to the root of the problems.

In essence these conversations become the de facto building blocks for the new work culture.

To that end, I usually set out a timetable for developing a ‘Trust Strategy’ :establishing a new starting point to move on from after we clean up the way we look at the past.

In Lean and Agile, the’ taboo’ transformation not spoken about, but nonetheless essential, is the transformation of the relationships between employees and customers and employee and managers. Designing for the willing contribution of staff to engage with customers and managers is just the start of the trust strategy.

Post transformation, those still struggling to adapt will learn fairly quickly from their peers.  Lean and Agile empowers staff to address behaviour that does not contribute to the well being and creativity of the organization.

If it’s been a rough past, it’s going to be an equally tough challenge to go Lean and Agile. It’s difficult. But then again, nothing worth doing is ever easy.

The payoff is considerable. Management gets a staff both creative and engaged in the work of the company. And, crucially, they become a company able to prosper in the new economy.

If you see your organisation in this post and would like to talk more about creating a culture for Lean and Agile thinking people, then please be in touch.


Championing failures the best way to succeed

Someone told me recently about Pixar Studios cofounder Ed Catmull and how he said that you had to embrace failure to succeed. I hadn’t heard that particular story but I smiled in recognition. It’s no wonder that PIxar as a studio produces so many hit movies and collects numerous Oscar trophies.

Environments like those found at Pixar are very much like Lean / Agile workplaces. It’s a much more entrepreneurial model, filled with experimentation, lots of failure and rare successes. By my estimates a good ratio is about one in 20. But the results of the successes are  so beneficial they quickly make all the failures vanish down the “memory hole.”

Traditional organizations don’t tolerate failures and go to great lengths to lock everything down. The cruel irony is that for all their anti-failure measures, they’re not very successful.

It’s not just the work culture at fault. It’s also the the methods, the engagement, the collaboration and all those human attributes that typically enable people to work together effectively. The challenge is that traditional ways of designing, building and operating organizations come from an industrial model that doesn’t really work for people.

The great thing about failure is that sharing it with helps others avoid making the same mistakes. Someone once said that every time a bridge falls down anywhere in the world, it makes it better for every other bridge.

We learn from a failure, update the specs and then make certain we don’t make that same mistake.

But people don’t usually want to talk about their mistakes. And that’s a huge mistake.

I have a saying which says whatever hurts me makes my colleague stronger. I’m currently using Lean / Agile methods when working with companies to get their staff to talk about errors and mistakes. But I find myself pushing hard against the shame culture surrounding mistakes that is pervasive in most organisations.  It takes courage, and a collaborative and blame-free environment.

Collaboration isn’t about egocentric people looking better in front of their colleagues, it’s about helping each other when things go wrong.

It’s a brave thing to do and I wish there were awards for brave failures. Because like Pixar, the company that turns brave failures into huge successes, it’s the only way to forward.