ISHARE – Lean Summit South Africa 2014
Written by Denise Bennett, Lean Programme Manager at City of Melbourne, Keynote speaker at Lean Summit Africa 2014. First published in the Lean Global Network October 2014 newsletter.
Unfortunately I missed the annual LGN meeting in Zeist, but the following week at the invitation of Norman and Anton, I was lucky enough to attend the Lean Institute Africa bi-annual Summit, themed Relentless Leadership. The Summit was held in The Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town, and despite the slightly squeezy plenary room, it was one of the best venues that I have ever attended a summit. The venue had everything a jetlagged speaker from Australia could have asked for; in fact in five days I left the hotel three times! Once for a run, once to visit the City of Cape Town offices, once on a Summit site visit. For those of you who know me well you may think that a hotel named the Vineyard Hotel might be the reason why I was so content with the venue, and although the South African wine was great, it did not compete with the wineries / wine we experienced in Beaune.
The venue really contributes to the success of a summit!
The location of the Vineyard Hotel was very special. Positioned under Cape Town’s Table Mountain, in acres of beautiful gardens, with a lovely river walk and two resident tortoises, who even ventured in to the conference centre one day for afternoon tea. We would have taken advantage of the gardens more if Anton and Norman had made better arrangements with the weather gods. Three days of rain helped the gardens look their best, however reduced the time we were able to enjoy the beautiful environment.
The standard of food at the hotel was amazing. We didn’t have to go looking for places to eat as the award winning Myoga restaurant (complete with hats or stars) was located in-house just up the hall from our rooms. Great food and wine is an enabler for forming relationships – a way to get to know others with the same passion for Lean Thinking and Practice and to learn through sharing, discussion and sometimes debate. Space for networking and catering, sponsor’s exhibits and books sales all close to the plenary room supported the flow of the event. I checked out the best sellers at the book store with Michael Ballé and Ian Glenday topping the list, closely followed by John’s timeless Managing to Learn.
For those of you who organise summits: I have a few take-aways from the event.
• Every plenary speaker was scheduled 40 minutes with 5 for questions. There was no distinction between keynote and invited speaker in terms of time allocated. I thought this worked well, keynote or not – 40 minutes is really enough. We pay a lot for our keynote’s to attend, but consider giving two shorter sessions rather than one long one. Ian Glenday broke his talk into three sessions (one plenary, two break-out) which worked well for delegates. Michael Balle delivered two plenary talks, one each morning, when delegates were fresh and tuned in.
• The chairperson used visual management. 10 minutes, 5 minutes, and 2 minutes before the end of our scheduled talk the chair held up a different coloured card indicating how long we had to go. I found this very effective as a speaker, however a clock on the lectern would have also been useful (feedback given to organisers). For someone like me who gets totally absorbed, the visual cues worked a treat and I asked for an extra card at the half way mark to check my pace.
• These little evaluation tear off pads were cool – much better than the traditional form. We definitely will steal this idea shamelessly for our next summit in Australia.
• I thought the organisers did a great job of designing the event for the estimated numbers. With approximately 200 delegates, 7 workshops / 1 site visit were held on Day 1, and most delegates attended (90%). Most workshops were half day as was the site visit.
My Program Highlights
Taking a poll on the last day, it seems there was mix of manufacturing, service and quite a large contingent of healthcare at the event, and the program catered for all groups. It was interesting for me to attend a summit without John, Jim or Dan (I think a first), however Michael more than capably filled the role of revered lean thinking thought leader challenging us to examine our own practices as lean thinking practitioners. Personally, Michael challenged much of my own thinking and practice, much of which I am still in the reflection phase. I know that I still have so much to learn, but I must continue to learn, apply, grow. As Michael put it, how do we do PDCA on our own efforts to get others to improve and solve problems? How well are we developing people, how do we know? What is working and what is not working? Just as work areas can get entrenched in their own ways and processes, so can we as improvement practitioners and leaders.
There were many inspiring case studies and the content was rich in leadership and people development stories. Two healthcare CEOs told their personal stories, one of whom, Stefan Metzker, a former clinician, is now a CEO in Switzerland. Stefan is also the founder and director of a company in SA that manufactures fabric and garments for operating suites. What a great way to learn firsthand about lean thinking and then take this application to his work in healthcare! SAB Miller, the South African beer multinational, provided two inspiring case studies, but on the other hand I was depressed to learn that they now own most Aussie great beers, one of these brewed just across the river from my current home in Melbourne (Carlton United).
The highlight of the program for me was the halfday site visit to Halfway Toyota, the dealership where Dave Brunt has been coaching for the past couple of years. The theme of this summit was ‘Relentless Leadership” and these words took on a whole new meaning at this site where two team leaders (pictured below) introduced us to their teams who in turn shared with pride, their achievements in practising Lean Thinking. They demonstrated in action through their daily huddle (sales team) and their standard work for washing and preparing a car for collection. We watched two of the team members break their record time for applying protective coating to all the car windows (to prevent smash and grab), achieved though constant PDCA cycles.
Their story is a great international case study and I note that it is on the program for the UK Lean Summit in November.
When it is all over
On my long lane flight home, I reflected a lot on how privileged I am to be part of the Lean Global Network and participate in events all over the world with others who are passionate about Lean Thinking and learning more. After several years of attending these events, I reflected, what is it that you really take away? Do we really learn anything new that affects the way we practice? What is our standard work for learning new things, trying them out and adapting our practice accordingly. Do we reflect on our notes our thoughts and share them with our teams? I know that when I get back to work there is 1-2 weeks of things waiting to be done and within a day or two those things I have learned and was keen to try start to fade as I get engulfed with the day-to-day work. But what I don’t forget is the people that I meet, our conversations, the opportunity to laugh, share struggles and experiences. Sometimes we get to reconnect with people that we meet at these events and I certainly hope that my path crosses again with people I met in Cape Town.
And for those of us that organise summits, the work after the summit is just as intense but no-where near as interesting! We are busy processing evaluations, making slides available, thanking speakers, chasing money and paying bills. What is our standard work for learning deeply from the event, from our customers (delegates, speakers, partners). What real benefit did / will the summit return to the institute? How many new contacts? How did our delegates benefit? What should we be sharing with the wider network? What are the two or three big things that we learned that may be helpful to our colleagues across the world?
Anton, Norman and Mia – congratulations on holding a great event and hosting me in your beautiful city. I hope that my small contribution will assist your work in healthcare / government in some small way.