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The lean transformation journey is the road less travelled. This is partly because it is not the easiest journey to undertake, but also because so many organisations lose their way, some even at the outset of their journey. There are however some organisations that get it right. In this newsletter I would like to share with you two distinctly South African success stories and the important lesson we can learn from them.

At the beginning of September the Lean Institute Africa hosted the Lean Healthcare Summit with Dr John Toussaint, the CEO of Catalysis, as keynote speaker. While in South Africa, Dr Toussaint also visited five hospitals participating in a LIA-Catalysis collaborative experiment to offer executive coaching to hospital CEOs on lean leadership. More about that later.

Dr Toussaint’s keynote address was about a lean leader’s role in starting and sustaining the lean transformation journey of the organisation that they lead. In particular he focused on the behaviours required of such a CEO. In the Catalysis framework these are defined as five traits with accompanying behaviours:

Willingness of the leader themselves to change their behaviour to that of a lean leader by serious reflection on how their behaviour impacts on the subordinates;

Humility of the leader by acknowledging their own limits and going to the Gemba to learn first-hand, often from frontline workers, what really prevents them from doing a good day’s work;

Curiosity to really understand by asking questions and effective listening, rather than telling people what to do. Then to exhibit PDCA thinking to test the leader’s assumptions of what the root cause of problems might be;

Perseverance to lead the lean transformation journey through all the wrong turns and dead ends that will be encountered by having a buddy and a coach to help the leader keep on the right track;

Self-discipline to develop their own leader standard work to close the gap between knowing what is the right behaviour to actually doing it.

I was fortunate enough to accompany Dr Toussaint on a number of the hospital visits. What struck me was that he was practicing what he preached. At all the hospitals his purpose was to understand whether the executive coaching programme was starting to deliver the desired result of appropriate lean leadership behaviour by the CEOs and senior managers participating in the programme. He had planned specific activities (P) as part of the Gemba visits (D) to collect the information he needed to assess (C) how to improve the executive coaching programme (A). Among other things, he observed the CEOs actually interacting with their staff as they normally would as part of their leader standard work.

The good news is that in his assessment there are some hospital leaders that made a very good start. So much so that Dr Toussaint has invited them to share their experiences at the upcoming Lean Healthcare Summits in America and Europe.

Now for the other local success story: A new video of Halfway Toyota’s lean transformation journey has been made available by Planet-Lean (the online journal of the Lean Global Network). Many of you will know of Halfway Toyota, but what you may not know is that Halfway Toyota is a global example of what can be achieved by lean leaders that actually transform themselves and lead their organisations by example. Terry O’Donoghue and Dave Brunt, the coaches of the leadership at Halfway Toyota, insisted that the initiative started with the direct involvement of their leadership and in this video you will see how these leaders are transforming themselves and their organisation. We have been fortunate to take our (Cape Town) participants of the Lean Management Development Programme to view, first-hand, the continuous improvements being made at this dealership.

The reason why I refer to these kinds of lean leaders as “hard-core Toyota guys” is because they uncompromisingly follow the basic principles and practices that we originally learned from Toyota. At times it is very challenging not to succumb to the temptation to take short-cuts, only to fall prey to vicious cycles of deteriorating standard work that lead to fire-fighting. Those leaders that have the strength of mind and disciplined routines to resist these temptations are the ones who are the key success factors in the lean transformation journeys that they lead.

At our Lean Healthcare Summit 2017 we made an important announcement about LIA’s leadership, and we want to ensure we share this news with all our stakeholders. We are delighted to welcome Rose Heathcote, as LIA’s new CEO. She will commence this position from March 2018, but starts on 1 October as part of the LIA team. Lean Institute Africa has worked closely with Rose over many years and we look forward to the direction she will guide and lead LIA in over the coming years. I think she will prove herself as one of these ‘hard-core Toyota guys’ in this new role. Welcome to Rose!

Warm regards,