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Executing your 2018 Plan with Confidence, Consistency and Cadence

We are so close to the end of the year and many of us are already dreaming up all the ways in which we will spend our much-awaited holiday time. Whether for work or personal reasons, this is a great time to reflect on the year and look at what worked (and what did not go so well), and to use this intel to move into 2018 with fresh perspective and a full-cup of enthusiasm. Have you thought about what you will do when you get back to work in the new year, to ignite passion for the Lean journey and to find new ways of delighting your customers?

The team at the Lean Institute Africa believe we must practice what we preach. We have taken time to reflect and deliberate over our Purpose, Vision and Mission and we have a plan for 2018. We thought we would share this with you, our Lean Community:


Sustainable Development of Society


Contributing to better organisational outcomes and quality of life by advancing Lean Thinking and Practice in Sub-Saharan Africa.


We aim to achieve our vision by building the community of lean practitioners through co-learning partnerships, action research and knowledge sharing.

Those of you who attended our 2017 Lean Healthcare Summit will have heard Dr. John Toussaint’s inspiring take on Lean Leadership and what it means to become a humble CEO. Dr. Toussaint shared with us the characteristics top leaders develop to lead their organisations the Lean way. But a critical starting point of the journey is to clearly articulate the direction the organisation will take. Thought-leaders around the world encourage us to take time to develop our True North (the compass needle of your Lean Transformation and what you will strive for) and because LIA highly recommends this as a solid place to begin, we agreed we should do the same.

So armed with our Purpose and Vision we defined LIA’s True North and detailed plan to keep us focused on what truly matters:

  • our people
  • our customers and the service we deliver
  • our sustainability as a not-for-profit organisation.

But now what? We hope to deploy this plan so that what you see us doing on the ground aligns with where we say we are headed. This is what Lean people call Constancy of Purpose (keeping one’s bearing even in total chaos).

This is not an easy task by any means, because we often hear about the hardships in getting the right things done even after the plan is clear. Just last month I was chatting to a CEO about Purpose and executing the plan. He was very animated about the topic, and told me he finds it straight-forward to put a business plan together for the upcoming year, but painfully difficult to deliver on it. He says the year usually kicks-off with good intentions and clarity, but then veers off the chosen path as chaos strikes and busy-ness sets in. I told him he was in good company! This is our challenge as well. But what can we do differently to mitigate this frustrating scenario? He helped me realise this would be a good topic to write about for all of us in AFRICA heading into 2018 with good, Lean intentions.

We therefore encourage you to think back on 2017 to reflect on what you planned to achieve for the organisation, your department, or even your personal goals. Consider how you responded to the turbulence you encountered that threatened to throw you off course:

1. Did you find challenges took their toll making it difficult to stay on track? Perhaps you experienced a spiral of firefighting that gathered momentum throughout the year and sadly led to unrealised goals? Or worse still, you witnessed the plan being altered to suit every blip on the radar, playing havoc with everyone’s focus.


2. Did you manage to deal with the challenge in such a way that you were able to preserve and stay the course, keeping your True North intact, always returning to the plan once the issues stabilised?

Now let’s think about which choice brings you value-driven behavior? Someone once told me that getting the right things done is a bit like investing in the stock market. If you fret about the hourly changes in stock value, without having a long-term view, you may fall into the trap of making knee-jerk decisions that throw your investment portfolio off course. But if you select a good investment approach (coupled with sound financial advice!), and if you accept that fluctuations will occur, then you will be safe from changing course due to the expected ebbs and flows. It may appear contradictory at first that we heartily endorse the use of hourly, daily and weekly systems to help us reflect on and respond to abnormalities, but what we don’t encourage is adjusting the plan to suit the latest crisis. Instead we seek Constancy of Purpose, the steady course we set ourselves and correct to, even in times of turbulence.

If you too are in this aeroplane and about to fly into 2018 with a great plan, why not take a moment to think about what Constancy of Purpose means to you? Why does your organisation exist and what Purpose does it serve for its customers, employees and shareholders? What problem are you trying to solve that will help you deliver on this Purpose? What are the goals you aspire towards in the next few years, how is this measured and where do you stand now? What needs to be done to achieve this? Seemingly simple questions, but tough to answer. And if the answers are not well articulated, they are even tougher to share down the ranks, providing them with the much-needed direction they crave.

I’m deliberately skipping the part that explains how to develop the plan – this is a topic for a whole other article, and this one is already too long! What I do want to share is that it is this execution phase for which Constancy of Purpose becomes essential. Develop your plan, tuck it under your arm and march enthusiastically into 2018 knowing where the organisation stands and where it needs to go. Share this plan with your employees to spread a common understanding of the big picture and how everyone can contribute. Encourage your leadership team to sing the same tune, breeding consistency and direction for the team. Install ‘probes’ in critical places to tell you how your plan is fairing so that you can, with regularity reflect on this progress consciously guiding teams back on course. And most important, when those tough, turbulent times knock on the door, support your people until the situation has stabilised. These are our tips for cultivating Constancy of Purpose and turning talk into reality.

To close off, at LIA we will reflect on our progress with cadence, and hope to succeed in most of the ideals we have set for ourselves. The ultimate test will be if our Lean community notices – when YOU see that we have contributed to better organisational outcomes and quality of life in Sub-Saharan Africa. And we welcome your feedback on how we are doing with this. We encourage you to define your Purpose, find your True North, and execute the Lean Transformation with confidence, consistency and cadence so that we can chat this time next year again, and celebrate having moved forward.

Please let us know how we can assist you in this exciting journey.

Warm regards,

Rose Heathcote
CEO Designate 2018

Cadence: A steady pace, regular beat, flow or pattern.
True North: In the context of Lean Thinking, True North refers to the focus areas for transformation that guide the team’s improvement activities in alignment with strategic intents.