Ground-breaking Development Opportunities With the Ever-So-Lean Learning Series and Rising Stars Programs

Unlock the potential of your workforce and the young minds in your life with the Ever-So-Lean Learning Series and the exciting Ever-So-Lean Rising Stars initiative. Our comprehensive suite of e-Learning courses are designed to engage, empower and inspire to drive change, foster innovation and deliver tangible cost savings. Kickstarting your journey of continuous improvement couldn’t be easier with our ‘Continuous Improvement Foundational’ e-Learning course. This self-guided entry-level program covers all the basics in 20 interactive and engaging lessons, providing you and your team with the essential tools and knowledge to implement effective improvements. The foundational course is an ideal stepping stone, empowering participants to make a real impact within their organizations. But we don’t stop there. Soon, we will launch intermediate and advanced levels of our e-Learning series, ensuring that you can continue to grow and excel in your continuous improvement efforts. Each course builds confidence and knowledge, creating a robust learning pathway that supports ongoing development and mastery. Launching in July, our Rising Stars e-Learning program, endorsed and accredited by the illustrious British Quality Foundation, takes a unique approach to nurturing future leaders. This program is tailored to individuals aged 11 and up, focusing on leadership, problem-solving, and continuous improvement skills. It’s an excellent development opportunity for young minds, equipping them with the tools, awareness, and confidence needed to drive excellence from a young age. Book your on-site workshops now to experience the dynamic, hands-on training that sets Ever-So-Lean apart. Our expert-led sessions are designed to complement our e-Learning offerings, providing your team with practical insights and real-world applications. Ever-So-Lean Learning Series – Ever-So-Lean (eversolean.com) For workshop bookings and more information, visit www.eversolean.com To hear more of my ramblings, follow me on LinkedIn – Matt Sims, or check out my Blogs at Blog – Ever-So-Lean (eversolean.com)

Beyond Buzzwords: The Real Impact of a Growth Mindset

Professional growth and development, it’s littered with key phrases and buzzwords, but there’s one particular phrase that’s become something of a mantra: “Growth Mindsets.” It’s like the North Star guiding us through the ever-changing landscape of career progression and personal development. Imagine this: you’re scanning through your LinkedIn feed, or perhaps you’re seated at your coffee shop, sipping your espresso while skimming through the latest headlines. And there it is, nestled amongst the articles and columns – “Growth Mindsets.” It’s everywhere, impossible to ignore, and for good reason. But what lies beneath this powerful concept? Where did it first take root, and why does it resonate so deeply in the realm of leadership and personal growth? Let’s embark on a journey to uncover the true essence of growth mindsets, to decode their profound significance and explore how they shape the very fabric of our professional and personal lives. Coined by renowned psychologist Carol Dweck, the concept of growth mindsets emerged from decades of research on achievement and success. Dweck’s seminal work, articulated in her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” talks of two distinct mindsets: fixed and growth. A growth mindset, as opposed to its fixed counterpart, is characterised by the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication and effort. But how can we discern whether we possess a growth mindset? Let me share with you a personal account. As a young leader navigating the challenges of a competitive environment, I often found myself facing setbacks and uncertainties. It was during one particularly difficult interaction relating to a change project, that I realised my mindset could make all the difference. Instead of viewing the obstacles being hurled at me as roadblocks, I could embrace them as opportunities for growth, learning and further improvement. This shift in perspective empowered me to persist in the face of adversity, no longer dragged down by “negative” walls to climb, comfortable knowing that failure was not a dead-end but a detour on the path to success. This didn’t happen as quickly as this account may imply, but the seeds for this mindset change were well and truly planted during this moment. On the other hand, let me introduce you to Sarah (not her real name), a colleague who embodies the traits of a fixed mindset. Whenever faced with a challenge or critique, Sarah would become defensive and resistant to feedback. She would clearly put up a defensive barrier and would become visible disengaged. The change in demeanour was stark and couldn’t be missed. She saw setbacks as a reflection of her ability and her inherent limitations rather than opportunities for improvement. She was convinced that unless everything was smooth sailing, she was being perceived as failing. This fixed mindset hindered her professional growth and dampened team morale, as she struggled to adapt to changing circumstances and embrace new ideas. She wasn’t able to be agile, she saw a fixed path of zero deviation and was not willing to listen to anything that could change that. But that’s just one example from my experience, if you find yourself falling into the “fixed mindset” category, fear not, as a growth mindset is within reach. Engaging in deliberate practice, seeking out new experiences, and reframing setbacks as learning opportunities are pathways towards fostering a growth mindset. Surrounding ourselves with supportive communities and mentors who embody this mindset can also help with a mindset transformation. But why bother? Why does cultivating a growth mindset really matter? The statistics speak volumes. Research conducted by Stanford University revealed that students who embraced a growth mindset achieved higher grades and demonstrated greater resilience compared to their fixed mindset counterparts. In business, a study by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company found that organisations fostering a growth mindset among their employees exhibited higher levels of innovation and productivity. Further research reveals that generational disparities significantly shape workplace dynamics and organisational ethos. According to a study by the Pew Research Centre, Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) have overtaken Generation X to claim the mantle of the largest demographic in the UK labour force. This demographic shift herald’s unique attitudes and expectations that influence workplace norms. For instance, Millennials are often lauded for prioritising work-life balance and seeking fulfilling career paths. Deloitte’s research highlights that 76% of Millennials factor a company’s social and environmental commitments into their job choices. This stands in contrast to older generations, such as Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), who may place greater emphasis on job security and traditional career trajectories. Moreover, the digital revolution has profoundly impacted generational behaviours. Millennials and Generation Z (those born after 1996) are considered digital natives, having come of age during a period of rapid technological advancement. Adobe’s findings indicate that 71% of Millennials believe that technology enhances collaboration in the workplace. This reliance on technology for communication sets them apart from older colleagues who may have different preferences for interpersonal interaction. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge that generational differences are not absolute, it’s a generalisation of course, and individual nuances abound within each cohort. Nevertheless, discerning these trends can inform HR strategies, leadership development initiatives and cross-generational teamwork efforts, thereby fostering a more inclusive and productive organisational culture. Understanding generational differences and fostering a culture of inclusivity and collaboration aligns closely with the principles of a growth mindset. By embracing diversity and promoting lifelong learning, organisations can unlock the full potential of their workforce and drive sustainable growth and success. The value of growth mindsets extends far beyond specific industries or job roles. It lingers in the air like the smell of fresh washing, touching every aspect of our professional landscape, from leadership to entrepreneurship. Leaders with a growth mindset inspire and empower their teams to pursue excellence, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and innovation. Similarly, entrepreneurs who embrace a growth mindset navigate the challenges of the business world with resilience and adaptability, transforming setbacks into opportunities for growth. By embracing the principles of

The Pursuit of Promotion: Myths, Realities and Personal Reflections

In the employment world, the allure of climbing the ladder is undeniable. The promise of higher status, increased salary and greater recognition often drives us to relentlessly pursue promotions. Yet, amidst this pursuit, we often overlook the profound impact it can have on our well-being, our relationships and even somewhat ironically, the quality of our work. For many, the pursuit of promotion is just like chasing a mirage in the desert. We believe that achieving the next fancy title or level will bring us lasting satisfaction and fulfilment. We believe that once we have it, we will have “made it”. However, research indicates otherwise. According to a study by Gallup, only 33% of employees in the UK feel engaged at work, suggesting that the pursuit of promotions does not necessarily lead to increased happiness or fulfilment. What fuels this fixation for many of us? Is it the glamourised portrayals in movies? Perhaps the achievements we witness in friends and family? Or could it be an intrinsic trait ingrained in our species? The truth is, the obsession with chasing promotion can be influenced by all of these factors and more, including societal norms, personal experiences and innate human tendencies. Movies, television shows and other forms of media often depict success as synonymous with climbing the ladder. Characters who achieve high status and wealth through promotions are frequently portrayed as role models, reinforcing the idea that upward mobility is the ultimate measure of success. Fictional I know, but in the sitcom “The Office,” created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, characters like Tim Canterbury (played by Martin Freeman) and Gareth Keenan (portrayed by Mackenzie Crook) are in a constant competition for promotion and better positions within the fictional Wernham Hogg Paper Company. Their ambitions and interactions with each other and colleagues highlight the common theme of career advancement as a measure of success in the workplace. Even Gervais’ character, David Brent, the boss, is deeply entrenched in this obsession with stature, titles and climbing the ladder. Every action and interaction he takes, seems geared toward looking good and being the best. In his own mind, he believes he’s achieving exactly that, but to those observing from the outside, he falls well short of his own self-perception. Reflecting on this, it’s worth asking ourselves if we’ve ever exhibited “Brent-like” behaviours. Have we ever been so consumed by the pursuit of promotions and status that we lose sight of how we’re perceived by others? It’s a question that prompts introspection and reminds us of the importance of staying grounded and authentic in our professional pursuits. Cultural values and societal expectations undeniably shape our perceptions of career advancement. In cultures that prioritise individual achievement and status, pursuing promotions is often seen as crucial for personal fulfilment and social validation. Many organisations are structured to facilitate a progressive ascent into more senior positions over time. However, there are individuals who defy this conventional trajectory, they have no interest in chasing the proverbial carrot – they break the traditional mould and defy the system! So, how do we motivate these individuals who aren’t driven by the allure of promotion? For me, the answer lies in treating them with respect, making them feel valued, and encouraging their contributions wherever possible. By recognising their unique skills and strengths, and providing opportunities for growth and development that align with their interests and values, we can foster a sense of belonging and purpose within the organisation. Ultimately, by creating an inclusive and supportive environment, we can inspire all employees to excel and contribute to the collective success of the team. We naturally learn by observing the behaviour of those around us, particularly friends, family members and colleagues. If we see others being rewarded for their career advancement, we may internalise the belief that promotion is necessary for happiness and success. Additionally, witnessing the struggles and sacrifices that others make in their pursuit of promotion can create a sense of peer pressure or societal expectations to follow a similar path. From an evolutionary perspective, humans are wired to seek out opportunities for status and social dominance. In ancestral environments, individuals who held higher social status often had greater access to resources, mating opportunities and protection from threats. This drive for status and recognition may be hardwired into our brains, leading us to pursue promotions as a means of elevating our social standing and securing our place within the group. You could perhaps argue that this is still the same now, just those resources look different, but are still the same in context. Ultimately, our desire for promotion may also stem from individual aspirations and goals. For some, the pursuit of advancement may be driven by a genuine passion for their work, a desire for greater influence or impact, or a sense of personal achievement. Additionally, promotion often comes with tangible rewards such as higher salaries, better benefits and increased job security, which can provide a powerful incentive for individuals seeking to improve their financial and professional well-being. Constantly striving for promotion can take a toll on our mental and physical health too. The pressure to perform, the fear of failure, and the relentless pursuit of success can lead to stress, burnout and even serious health issues. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that individuals who prioritise promotion over other aspects of their lives experience higher levels of stress and lower job satisfaction. Initially, I found this statistic surprising, however as I digested it over (another) hot, velvety, cinnamon latte, I found myself at the other end of the spectrum, thinking that actually I am not surprised at all! I recall many times over the years feeling completely fried as a result of leading the charge for that next step. As I mentioned before, the obsession with climbing the ladder can negatively impact the quality of our work. According to a survey conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), 37% of employees reported

Taming the Sunday Scaries: A Personal Encounter

As the weekend winds down and the sun sets on Sunday evening, an all too familiar feeling begins to creep in – the Sunday Scaries! It’s that sinking sensation in the pit of your stomach, the dread of another work week looming ahead. But what exactly are the Sunday Scaries, and why do they haunt many of us so persistently? The term “Sunday Scaries” refers to the anxiety and unease that many people experience as the weekend draws to a close and the prospect of returning to work or school on Monday approaches. It’s a phenomenon that transcends age, occupation and social status, affecting people from all walks of life. I can vividly recall the suffocating weight of dread that settled over me every Sunday during the late 80s and throughout the 90s, casting a shadow over what should have been a carefree period of my life. I was 7 years old, a child, your biggest worry at that age should be how you’re going to beat Dr. Robotnik (later known as Dr. Eggman – I still don’t know why they changed it?!) at the end of the “Green Hill Zone.” For me, the anticipation of returning to school on Monday was like a looming spectre, haunting every moment of my Sunday. The closing theme music to Heartbeat and then London’s Burning was like the starting gun for my trepidation to go up a notch! It was as though my weekends were reduced to a single precious day – Saturday – the only respite before the storm of Sunday! The arrival of Sunday brought with it a tidal wave of anxiety, crashing against the shores of my mind, drowning out any semblance of joy or relaxation. It felt like I was trapped in a perpetual cycle of apprehension, unable to escape the relentless march of time towards Monday morning. The mere thought of school on the horizon filled me with a sense of unease so palpable, it was as if the air itself grew thick like a jungle of anticipation. It consumed me! My weekends became a battleground, a delicate balancing act between savouring the fleeting moments of freedom on Saturday and steeling myself for the inevitable return to the rigors of school. Sundays, they became a battlefield where my anxieties waged war against my sanity, leaving me drained and defeated before the week even began. It was a relentless onslaught, a never-ending cycle of dread and despair that lasted ten years. But despite the darkness that threatened to consume me, there were glimmers of hope, moments of solace and comfort amidst the chaos. Whether it was a reassuring word from a loved one, a fleeting distraction or a pending sporting match that I was competing in that I had totally forgotten about. These offered temporary relief, guiding me through the storm. And though the memory of those dreaded Sundays still lingers, it serves as a reminder of the resilience of the human spirit, the ability to endure even the darkest of days and emerge stronger on the other side. For even in the depths of despair there is always hope. Why do the Sunday Scaries happen? According to the experts, the answer lies in the complex interplay of psychological, societal and physiological factors. From a psychological standpoint, the anticipation of upcoming responsibilities and obligations can trigger feelings of stress and apprehension. Societal pressures to be productive and successful only exacerbate these feelings, creating a sense of inadequacy or failure if one doesn’t measure up to certain standards. Furthermore, our bodies have a natural stress response that kicks in when faced with perceived threats or challenges. This response, often referred to as the “fight or flight” response, can be activated by the mere thought of returning to work or school as in my case, after a relaxing weekend. As a result, cortisol levels rise, heart rates increase and feelings of anxiety intensify. It’s our inner Neanderthals coming out, a reaction critical to life when we came across a predator, but somewhat out of context when coming across Mr Stewart in PE on a cold and wet Monday morning in Surrey! Statistical data and scientific research sheds light on the prevalence and impact of the Sunday Scaries. According to a survey conducted by the Psychological Association, 52% of employed adults experience significant stress on Sunday nights, with work-related issues being a major contributing factor. Additionally, studies have shown that chronic stress, such as that experienced during the Sunday Scaries, can have detrimental effects on both physical and mental health, increasing the risk of conditions such as anxiety disorders, depression and cardiovascular disease. Not to mention the impact we have on those around us. By now you may be wondering “do I suffer with this?”. The signs and symptoms of the Sunday Scaries can vary from person to person, but common signs can include: difficulty sleeping or insomnia, feelings of irritability or restlessness, fatigue or lack of energy, racing thoughts or difficulty concentrating and muscle tension or headaches. All symptoms that could sound very familiar in yourself or that you recognise in people around you. Throughout my career, I’ve had my fair share of encounters with the Sunday Scaries, and I’ve seen first-hand how it can affect those around me too. I’ve had situations where members of my team felt comfortable enough to confide in me about their struggles with Sunday night anxiety. Recognising the importance of empathy and support, I made it a priority to create a safe and understanding environment for them to express their concerns. “Be the leader that you’ve needed in these situations” my inner voice would scream! We sat down together, in person, over a cup of coffee, in a private space free from distractions. Phones and laptops were switched off to ensure that our focus remained on active listening and genuine connection. Through open and honest conversation, we explored strategies for managing stress and overcoming the Sunday Scaries. From setting realistic goals and boundaries to

Embracing Failure: Insights into Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement (CI) is the backbone of sustainable success. It’s what keeps us innovating, streamlining and staying ahead of the curve in our industries. But let’s be honest, the journey to excellence is more like a rollercoaster ride than a smooth sailing on calm seas! As someone who’s navigated the trenches of various organisations, I’ve experienced first-hand the exhilarating highs of progress and the gut-wrenching lows of setbacks. But it’s not about avoiding falls, it’s about learning to bounce back stronger each time, armed with valuable lessons that propel us forward like a well-executed slingshot manoeuvre around Saturn on NASA’s 1980 Voyager mission to reach Jupiter (if you know, you know). One major stumbling block we often encounter is the lack of unwavering leadership commitment. Without leaders fully invested in CI, initiatives are like ships without captains, directionless and vulnerable to storms and pirates (I made up the pirate bit). It’s not just about talking the talk, it’s about leaders rolling up their sleeves and walking the walk, embedding a culture of CI into the very fabric of the organisation. It takes time and persistence, but it is totally worth it! Then there’s the elephant in the room, resistance to change. Change can be as uncomfortable as breaking in a new pair of shoes – it’s unfamiliar, and it might pinch a little at first (just like the ones we buy just before attending a wedding. Totally overlooking the fact, we will be wearing these shoes for twelve hours!). Studies have shown that a staggering 73% of employees see resistance as the biggest obstacle to change initiatives. Fear of the unknown and a longing for the comfort of the status quo can create formidable barriers to progress. But that’s only one piece of the puzzle, clear communication and adequate resources are like oxygen for CI efforts. Without them, our initiatives are like fish out of water – gasping for air and struggling to survive. I’ve seen first-hand how ineffective communication and scarce resources can breed confusion and apathy among employees, derailing even the most well-intentioned efforts. There is no substitute for honesty, transparency and authenticity. Setting clear objectives and identifying metrics is crucial too. We need a roadmap to guide us through the twists and turns of the improvement journey. SMART objectives aren’t just a buzz words that we roll out once a year during an appraisal, they’re our North Star, keeping us on course and showing us how far we’ve come. But let’s not forget the human side of the equation. Recognising when things aren’t going as planned is can be challenging to admit, but is an important milestone in the journey. Stagnant metrics and disengaged employees are like red flags waving in the wind, they demand our attention and prompt us to take action. It’s about being proactive in assessing our CI initiatives, involving people, people that are impacted by CI at every step of the way, and being open to feedback and being agile enough for some course correction. I often joke that a CI roadmap is like a Mother’s Day card, you write it as you’re going. What I really mean by this is that we often know our starting point, and our largely our destination, but the route to it is undefined and unknown. We uncover the best route along the way, as we overcome obstacles and barriers that we come across. And finally, let’s talk about the power of a learning culture. Celebrating wins and learning from losses keeps the fire of improvement burning bright. It’s about embracing a culture where failure is seen not as a setback but as an opportunity for growth and innovation. The journey to excellence is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s about embracing the highs and lows, learning from our experiences, and always striving to be better than we were yesterday. And remember, it’s not about reaching the finish line, it’s about enjoying the journey and the growth it brings along the way. Did you find this interesting? Is there a spark of interest in exploring continuous improvement methods that will provide growth for you and your organisation? I offer a number of certificated learning opportunities, workshops, on site, virtual or self-guided e-learning though the Ever-So-Lean Learning Series. To learn more about how I can support you on this journey and more, visit www.eversolean.com or email me matt@eversolean.com. Let’s connect and explore how we can work together to create a brighter future. To hear more of my ramblings, follow me on LinkedIn – Matt Sims, or check out my Blogs at Blog – Ever-So-Lean (eversolean.com)

Root Cause Revolution: Problems Solved with the 5 Whys Method

Ever found yourself facing a persistent problem that just won’t go away? No matter how many times you try to fix it, it keeps resurfacing like a stubborn weed in a garden. You’re not alone. This frustrating cycle often occurs when we only tackle the symptoms of an issue without addressing the underlying root cause. It’s like putting a plaster over a wound – it might provide temporary relief, but it won’t heal the injury. That’s where the 5 Whys method comes into play. By systematically delving into the “why” behind each issue, the 5 Whys method offers a structured pathway to uncover and address the fundamental root causes of problems, much like getting to the source of a leaky roof rather than just patching up the ceiling. At its essence, the 5 Whys method is a simple yet powerful tool for dissecting complex problems to unearth their underlying causes. Through a repetitive process of questioning “why,” the layers of superficial symptoms are peeled away, revealing the core issue much like unravelling a mystery one clue at a time. However, a curious paradox exists within the name itself. Despite its name suggesting a fixed number of “whys”, there is no inherent limitation to the number of “whys” one can pose. In truth, we can inquire “why” as many times as necessary until we reach the true root cause of the problem. The mystery then arises, why is it named the 5 Whys method? The origin of the name is rooted in its historical development within the Toyota Production System (TPS). Taiichi Ohno, one of the key figures in TPS, often emphasised the importance of asking “why” at least five times to uncover the deeper layers of a problem. This practice was institutionalised within Toyota, and thus, the method became colloquially known as the “5 Whys.” While the name may suggest a fixed limit, the essence of the method lies in its flexibility and adaptability to the unique complexities of each problem. So, despite the numerical constraint implied by its title, the 5 Whys method remains an invaluable tool in problem-solving, allowing us to delve deeper until we reveal the elusive truth at the heart of any issue. How does it work? Consider this scenario as a working example: Problem: The coffee machine is producing weak coffee. Why is the coffee weak? Because the coffee grounds are not being brewed properly. Why aren’t the grounds brewed properly? Because the water is not reaching the optimal temperature. Why isn’t the water reaching the optimal temperature? Because the heating element is malfunctioning. Why is the heating element malfunctioning? Because it’s old and worn out. Why wasn’t it replaced? Because there is no standard maintenance schedule for the coffee machine. Why isn’t there a standard maintenance schedule? Because the company lacks proper protocols or guidelines for equipment maintenance. Why does the company lack protocols? Because there is no established culture of maintenance or accountability for equipment upkeep. Root cause: Ultimately, the root cause of the weak coffee could be traced back to the absence of standard maintenance within the company, highlighting the importance of establishing clear guidelines and accountability measures for equipment maintenance. Here, we began with a problem, diligently peeled back the layers of symptoms by asking “why” to reveal the underlying causes. However, it’s important to acknowledge that in some cases, there may be more than one root cause contributing to a problem. For instance, consider the scenario of a car engine overheating: Problem: The car engine is overheating. Why is the engine overheating? Because the coolant level is low. Why is the coolant level low? Because there’s a leak in the radiator. Why is there a leak in the radiator? Because of corrosion due to lack of coolant replacement. Why wasn’t the coolant replaced? Because there was no regular maintenance schedule. Why wasn’t there a maintenance schedule? Because of insufficient oversight and accountability. Why was there insufficient oversight? Because of organisational restructuring and changes in management. Why were there changes in management? Because of poor financial performance leading to restructuring efforts. In this example, the overheating engine can be attributed to multiple root causes, including coolant leak due to lack of replacement and organisational changes affecting maintenance oversight. This underscores the complexity of problem-solving and the importance of thorough investigation to identify all contributing factors. The 5 Whys method is best employed when faced with recurring problems or unexpected issues. For instance, if you notice water stains on your ceiling after a heavy storm, diving into the root cause with the 5 Whys can prevent future leaks and structural damage. At this point, you may be thinking “this sounds very familiar!” Well, this maybe because the iterative questioning inherent in the 5 Whys mirrors the curiosity of children. Child: “Can I have a snack?” Adult: “No.” Child: “Why can’t I?” Adult: “Because dinners nearly ready.” Child: “But why”. And so on… In a study published by the International Journal of Lean Six Sigma, researchers uncovered the profound impact of the 5 Whys method in healthcare settings. Their findings revealed a significant correlation between the implementation of the 5 Whys technique and tangible improvements in patient safety and quality of care. This study not only reaffirmed the impact of the 5 Whys in manufacturing but also highlighted its remarkable versatility in other sectors where errors can be costly. By delving deep into the root causes of medical errors and inefficiencies, healthcare practitioners were able to enact targeted interventions, ultimately enhancing patient outcomes and fostering a culture of continuous improvement within healthcare organisations. Such evidence solidifies the 5 Whys as a vital tool not only for problem-solving but also for driving meaningful change and innovation in all sectors. While the 5 Whys offer a structured approach to problem-solving, they’re not without challenges. One common pitfall is stopping too soon or failing to dig deep enough. To overcome this, we must be persistent in our questioning and avoid settling for superficial answers. It’s

Empowerment Unleashed: Breaking Free from Micromanagement

In the field of leadership, there’s one principle that stands out as the backbone of every successful leader; respect for people. With over 25 years of experience navigating the intricacies of leadership, I’ve come to understand that empowerment is the cornerstone of effective leadership and organisational success. However, the journey to empowerment is not without its hurdles, with micromanagement serving as a formidable obstacle. Micromanagement, often regarded as the scourge of productivity and morale, casts a pervasive shadow over workplaces, leaving employees feeling stifled, demotivated and disengaged. Shockingly, a survey conducted by Gallup revealed that a staggering 79% of employees who quit their jobs cite a lack of appreciation as the primary reason for their departure. Micromanagement exacerbates this issue, creating an environment where employees feel undervalued and underutilised. Despite its detrimental effects, many individuals endure micromanagement in silence, fearing the repercussions of being labelled as difficult, obstructive or a troublemaker. In reality, peer-to-peer conversations often reveal that others share similar sentiments. However, the fear of confronting the issue with their superiors often leads employees to endure the situation silently or even resign from their positions. It’s crucial to recognise that micromanagement not only damages individual morale but also erodes trust within teams and undermines organisational effectiveness. By fostering an environment where open communication and mutual respect are encouraged, leaders can address the root causes of micromanagement and cultivate a culture of empowerment and collaboration. The detrimental effects of micromanagement extend far beyond individual dissatisfaction. Teams suffer from a significant decline in creativity, collaboration and innovation as individuals become hesitant to take risks or freely express their ideas. Personally, even when in senior roles, I’ve experienced moments in my career where my confidence was so profoundly impacted by micromanagement that I felt anxious about attending meetings where my superiors would be present. Moreover, micromanagers themselves endure burnout and frustration, overwhelmed by the relentless need to control every aspect of their team’s work. This not only impairs their own well-being but also hampers their ability to effectively lead and inspire their teams. Micromanagement doesn’t always have a clear-cut explanation, it’s a complex issue with various underlying causes. From my years of experience in leadership, I’ve observed that it often boils down to personal traits, past experiences and the culture within an organisation. Fear of failure is a common driver. I’ve seen managers who feel the weight of responsibility for every task and project, fearing that any misstep reflects poorly on them. This fear can lead them to hover over their team, scrutinising every detail and decision. Perfectionism is a trait that hits close to home for me. Over the years, I’ve found myself grappling with exceptionally high standards, often struggling to trust others to meet them. This internal drive for perfection can sometimes lead me to feel compelled to oversee every aspect of a project, ensuring it aligns perfectly with my vision. Recognising this tendency within myself has been a journey. It’s something I’ve had to work hard on to prevent inadvertently micromanaging my teams. However, this awareness has been incredibly valuable. It’s allowed me to take a step back, reassess my approach, and trust in the capabilities of my team members. By acknowledging my perfectionist tendencies and actively working to curb them, I’ve been able to foster a more collaborative and empowering environment for my teams. Rather than micromanaging every detail, I’ve learned to delegate effectively, empower my team members and focus on the bigger picture. This journey hasn’t been easy, but it’s been incredibly rewarding. Embracing imperfection as opportunities and trusting in the skills and expertise of my team has not only alleviated the burden of micromanagement but has also led to greater innovation, creativity and success within my teams. Lack of trust can also play a significant role. In my career, I’ve witnessed managers who struggle to trust their team members’ abilities or intentions. This lack of trust may stem from past negative experiences or insecurities about their own leadership capabilities. Personal insecurities can indeed fuel micromanagement tendencies, creating a toxic dynamic within a team. I’ve personally experienced this first hand, finding myself perceived as a threat by my manager rather than valued as an asset. At the time, I internalised this perception, second-guessing every decision and scrutinising every word I typed in a paper in an effort to align with my manager’s vision. In hindsight, I’ve come to realise that this dynamic was driven not by my own insecurities, but by my manager’s. Their fear of being overshadowed or outshined led them to micromanage as a way to assert control and maintain their sense of authority. It’s a realisation that didn’t come easily at the time, as I grappled with self-doubt and uncertainty about my own capabilities. Understanding this dynamic has been a transformative journey. It’s allowed me to release myself from the burden of self-blame and recognise that my performance was never the issue, it was my manager’s insecurities that drove their behaviour. Armed with this insight, I’ve been able to navigate similar situations with greater clarity and confidence, refusing to let others’ insecurities dictate my worth or potential. Lastly, organisational culture can play a significant role in perpetuating micromanagement. In environments where control and hierarchy reign supreme, and autonomy and collaboration take a back seat, managers may feel compelled to micromanage to meet expectations or adhere to established norms. This tendency is often particularly prevalent in matrix organisations or those with a long-standing history that have been slow to embrace transformation and modernisation. In such cultures, the emphasis on control can stifle innovation, creativity and individual empowerment. Managers may feel pressure to exert control over their teams’ every move, fearing the consequences of deviating from established protocols or challenging the status quo. Breaking free from this ingrained culture of micromanagement requires a concerted effort to shift organisational values and priorities. It involves fostering a culture that values autonomy, collaboration and trust, and empowers individuals at all levels to take ownership of their work and

Value Stream Map: Does Your Business Have One?

In the pursuit of operational excellence, there exists a beacon of guidance that transcends industry boundaries, the Value Stream Map (VSM). This indispensable tool, born from the forge of Lean methodology, has proven its mettle in illuminating pathways to efficiency, waste reduction and continuous improvement across a multitude of sectors. Join me in this blog as we take a shallow dive in the warm, tropical waters of continuous improvement, and look at the profound significance of Value Stream Mapping and why it is an essential asset for every business. At its core, a Value Stream Map (VSM) is not simply a diagram, it is similar to a detailed architectural blueprint, meticulously tracing the intricate journey of value creation from the initial spark of customer demand to the ultimate fulfilment of their needs. Imagine it as a magnifying glass, zooming in on each step of a process with precision and clarity. Every stage, from the moment a customer places an order to the final delivery, undergoes thorough scrutiny. It’s like peeling back the layers of an onion, revealing hidden inefficiencies and wasteful practices that lurk beneath the surface. One of my favourite VSM’s that I was involved in was in a parcel processing plant in the UK. Picture a conveyor belt moving parcels from one part of the building to another, each parcel passing through many checkpoints, undergoing various handling and processing steps before reaching its destination. Now, imagine dissecting this process into its constituent parts, examining each task, movement, decision point and cycle times (complete duration it takes for a single parcel to progress through a specific process or operation). This is precisely what a VSM accomplishes. It dissects the entire value stream, laying bare every aspect of the process to scrutiny. It’s an incredibly powerful visual exercise to understand exactly what happens in a workplace. As we delve into the depths of the value stream, we uncover inefficiencies that may have gone unnoticed, like a detective unravelling clues in a complex case. We identify redundant steps, unnecessary delays and areas where resources are squandered. It’s like shining an imaginary bright light into the darkest corners of the operation, illuminating opportunities for improvement and paving the way for transformative change. In essence, a VSM serves as a diagnostic tool, a powerful instrument that enables organisations to diagnose the health of their processes with precision and clarity. By revealing inefficiencies and waste, it empowers businesses to make informed decisions, streamline operations and deliver greater value to their customers. But why should every business embrace Value Stream Mapping? The answer lies in its capacity to drive operational excellence and a competitive advantage. By providing a holistic view of business processes (as they really are over what you think they are), VSM empowers organisations to: Identify and Eliminate Waste: By shining a spotlight on non-value adding activities, VSM enables businesses to streamline processes, reduce cycle times and enhance efficiency. Enhance Customer Satisfaction: Through faster order fulfilment, improved quality and enhanced responsiveness, businesses can elevate customer satisfaction and loyalty. Drive Continuous Improvement: With VSM serving as a compass, organisations can embark on a journey of relentless improvement, iteratively refining processes and optimising performance. This is low-cost stuff too, I’m talking about small incremental changes that have significant impacts on process performance. Returning to my experience at the parcel processing plant, the bustling facility sprang into action with the arrival of each pallet of parcels, setting off a chain reaction of intricate tasks, from sorting and routing to dispatch. Implementing Value Stream Mapping proved transformative. We pinpointed bottlenecks, streamlined workflows and notably, increased the number of routes dispatched per hour. The outcome? Swift processing, lowered costs and customers thrilled to receive their parcels earlier in the day. The crux of our success? The VSM wasn’t crafted by me or a distant manager in an office. It was the collaborative effort of a diverse team. Frontline operators, supervisors, delivery drivers and work area managers came together. Rather than dictating solutions, my role was to ignite critical thinking through probing questions and provide the necessary tools and support for the team’s journey. What set this exercise apart was its tactile nature. Over three days, we eschewed laptops and screens in favour of a tangible approach, adorning a large wall with post-it notes. The visual spectacle not only captivated but was comprehensible to all involved. On the third day, the team proudly presented their work to senior leaders and stakeholders, a testament to their ownership and commitment. This approach exemplifies the essence of continuous improvement. Empowering teams to take ownership, collaborate, innovate and drive meaningful change. It’s not just about optimising processes, it’s about fostering a culture of ownership, innovation and excellence. However, the journey towards success with Value Stream Mapping is not without its hurdles. Common pitfalls, such as failing to address root causes or lacking stakeholder buy-in, can impede progress and diminish the effectiveness of VSM initiatives. Research by McKinsey & Company in 2019 indicates that only 26% of transformation initiatives succeed in achieving their desired outcomes because of these pitfalls. To navigate these challenges effectively, organisations must cultivate a culture of collaboration, data-driven decision-making and an unwavering commitment to continuous improvement. Central to overcoming these obstacles is the involvement of those closest to the work, the frontline operators, supervisors and managers who possess invaluable insights into the intricacies of the process. Research conducted by the Harvard Business Review in 2020 found that organisations that actively involve frontline employees in improvement initiatives are 4.6 times more likely to report successful outcomes compared to those that do not. This statistic underscores the critical importance of engaging frontline staff in the improvement process, highlighting their invaluable contributions to achieving tangible results. Conversely, initiatives undertaken without their involvement are at a significantly higher risk of falling short of their objectives and failing to deliver the desired impact. Moreover, a data-driven approach is essential for identifying root causes and making informed decisions. According to a survey by PwC in

Creating a Winning Culture: Where Do We Start?

In the dynamic business landscape, where challenges can be frequent and success is hard-won, we can seek inspiration from some famous examples. Join me on an enlightening journey as we uncover the secrets to crafting a winning culture that fosters excellence, resilience and innovation in our own professional environments. But it’s not just about tangible victories. A winning culture goes beyond the scoreboard or metrics dashboard, driving employee engagement, productivity and profitability. As leaders, it’s imperative to bridge the gap between words and actions, embodying authenticity and integrity in every decision. Drawing from the timeless wisdom of leaders like Nelson Mandela, Eleanor Roosevelt and Sir Richard Branson, we’ll explore the transformative power of authentic leadership in shaping organisational culture. From setting clear values to empowering people and fostering collaboration, we’ll discover actionable strategies for cultivating a culture of success. Imagine the camaraderie pulsating through the veins of the famous “Class of ’92” at Manchester United football club, each player a thread in the tapestry of greatness. From Beckham’s pinpoint crosses, the tireless work rate of Scholes in midfield, to Giggs’ electrifying runs, their triumphs weren’t merely victories on the pitch but manifestations of a shared ethos, a commitment to excellence, teamwork and unyielding determination. Led by a leader in Sir Alex Ferguson who set clear standards, upheld them, protected his team and coached them with their best interest at the core of his leadership. In the realm of business, emulating such a culture means fostering a sense of purpose, collaboration and a relentless pursuit of excellence. The saga of the New Zealand All Blacks resonates as a testament to the enduring power of a winning culture. With their haka echoing across stadiums and their legacy etched in the annals of history, the All Blacks epitomise resilience and innovation. By embracing change, nurturing talent and constantly pushing the boundaries of possibility, they remain at the vanguard of their sport. Similarly, in the business arena, sustaining success demands adaptability, a thirst for innovation and an unwavering commitment to growth. The dividends of a winning culture extend far beyond the scoreboard. Businesses with a robust culture outpace their rivals, attract top talent and foster a climate ripe for innovation. According to a study conducted by the Great Place to Work Institute in 2020, organisations with a positive culture experience higher levels of employee engagement, productivity and profitability. In essence, a winning culture isn’t just a competitive advantage, it’s the cornerstone of enduring success. In the pursuit of greatness, there are lurking pitfalls that can derail even the most promising vision of a winning culture. A single misstep, and everything we’ve built can come crashing down. We must remain vigilant against the temptation of quick wins that sacrifice long-term sustainability. But perhaps the most crucial action is bridging the gap between our words and our actions. This is where the true essence of our culture lies. I’ve witnessed first-hand the disparity between what leaders say and what they do in organisations. They may speak the right words, like “we’re committed to continuous improvement,” only to backtrack when faced with immediate challenges, saying, “let’s put continuous improvement on hold until next week due to time constraints.” It’s moments like these that shake the foundation of trust and authenticity within an organisation. We must strive for alignment between our words and actions, making our commitment to continuous improvement tangible and unwavering. Only then can we cultivate a culture that is genuine, resilient and truly transformative. For me, above all else it’s about authentic leadership, a beacon that lights the way forward in our modern north star. Authenticity isn’t just a buzzword, it’s the cornerstone of genuine connection and sustained success. It’s about leading with integrity, transparency and empathy, even when the path ahead seems uncertain. As stewards of an organisation’s culture, leaders wield unparalleled influence, shaping destinies and inspiring greatness in those they lead. Consider the legendary Nelson Mandela, whose compassionate leadership united a divided nation and steered South Africa towards reconciliation after years of segregation. Mandela’s gentle yet resolute approach empowered and inspired individuals to rise above their differences and work towards a common goal of unity and equality. Similarly, Eleanor Roosevelt, as the First Lady of the United States, championed human rights and social justice, leaving an indelible mark on history. Her tireless advocacy for marginalised communities empowered countless individuals to speak up and fight for their rights, reshaping the course of American society. Closer to home, let’s reflect on the remarkable achievements of Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group. With his bold and innovative leadership style, Branson transformed Virgin from a small record store into a global conglomerate spanning multiple industries, including music, airlines, telecommunications and space travel. Through his visionary approach, Branson prioritised employee empowerment, customer satisfaction and social responsibility, setting new standards for business success. Branson’s commitment to shaking up traditional industries with disruptive ideas and his unwavering focus on delivering value to customers have inspired a new generation of entrepreneurs worldwide. His adventurous spirit, coupled with a genuine concern for environmental sustainability and social impact, has earned him widespread admiration and respect. Like Mandela and Roosevelt, Branson didn’t simply lead from the top, he led by example, he talks the talk and walks the walk, fostering a culture of innovation, creativity and inclusivity within his organisation. His willingness to take risks, embrace failure as a learning opportunity, and challenge the status quo exemplifies the essence of authentic leadership. As we navigate the complexities of modern leadership, let’s draw inspiration from the pioneering spirit of Sir Richard Branson and other iconic figures. Recognising that true greatness is achieved through bold vision, compassionate leadership, and a steadfast commitment to making a positive difference in the world, we can harness these principles to drive transformation and foster winning cultures within our own organisations. Here’s my top 3 tips for developing a winning culture: Define Values: Establish core values that guide our actions and decisions. Lead Authentically: Lead by example with

Learning by Doing: Bridging the Gap Between Theory and Practice

In the often-daunting world of education and personal development, there exists a transformative approach to learning that transcends traditional methods: “Learning by Doing (LBD)”. This dynamic method emphasises hands-on experiences and active engagement, fostering deeper understanding, enhanced retention and profound inspiration. I first encountered the LBD approach in the early 2000s while studying World Class Manufacturing. It fell under the aptly named “People Development Pillar” and proved to be a truly dynamic approach that empowers employees to continually learn, adapt and innovate in response to evolving challenges and opportunities. It embodies the principle that practical experience and application are essential drivers of success and excellence in operations. Let’s delve into why this approach yields such positive benefits and explore its impact on learning styles, engagement and inspiration. One of the key strengths of LBD is its ability to accommodate diverse learning styles. From visual and auditory learners to kinaesthetic and tactile learners, this method provides a multi-sensory experience that caters to various preferences. Unlike passive learning approaches, such as lectures or readings, active learning encourages participants to immerse themselves in practical tasks, enabling them to grasp concepts more effectively. Age and experience agnostic, active learning ignites a spark of curiosity and passion within learners, driving them to explore, experiment and discover. By actively participating in tasks, individuals feel a sense of ownership over their learning journey, leading to increased motivation and engagement. Whether it’s through simulations, group projects, or hands-on activities, learners are actively involved in the process, making learning more enjoyable and meaningful. One of the greatest strengths of LBD is its ability to bridge the gap between theory and practice. By applying theoretical concepts in real-world scenarios, learners gain a deeper understanding of how ideas manifest in practical settings. This experiential learning approach not only enhances comprehension but also inspires creativity and innovation. Real-life examples and case studies serve as catalysts for inspiration, demonstrating the tangible impact of knowledge in action. I’ll get to some of these in a bit. While LBD offers many benefits, it’s essential to acknowledge potential challenges. One common concern is the time and resources required to implement hands-on activities effectively. Additionally, some learners may initially feel uncomfortable stepping out of their comfort zones or fear making mistakes or embarrassing themselves. These are real concerns, often routed in how we feel others perceive us. Despite these perceptions are often inaccurate, as a leader, it’s important to emphasise right at the start of any LBD experience, that this is a safe space, no judgement and no wrong answer. Set the scene correctly, and these challenges are often outweighed by the invaluable insights, skills and confidence gained through active learning experiences. A quick Google search and you’ll soon find numerous studies that support the effectiveness of LBD. According to a report by the National Training Laboratories, individuals retain 75% of information learned through hands-on activities compared to only 5% through lecture-style learning. That’s an incredible statistic, but not surprising. Just the word ‘lecture’ switches me off! It creates visions of being ‘spoken at’ and for want of a better word, ‘lectured’! Nope, not for me thanks! So, I promised some examples of LBD. My son loves coding, it unleashes his innovative mind to create some wonderful, yet complex in my mind, digital masterpieces. To learn this skill, he’s attended coding bootcamp. These are excellent as they offer hands-on programs that immerse learners in coding and software development. Rather than traditional classroom lectures, these bootcamps focus on practical coding exercises, projects and real-world challenges. He’s been learning by actively writing code, debugging errors and building applications, gaining practical skills that are directly applicable to the future career aspirations he has in technology. Medical schools and healthcare institutions utilise simulated training environments to provide hands-on experience to learners. Simulation labs offer realistic scenarios where learners can practice medical procedures, surgical techniques and patient care in a safe and controlled setting. This enables learners to enhance their clinical skills, decision-making abilities and confidence in handling real-life emergencies. To a lesser extent the LBD method is applied an all first aid courses I have attended over the years. We’ll all no doubt, recognise the torso dummy that comes out for some CPR. The most common example of an LBD approach comes in modern apprenticeship programs. These provide individuals with hands-on training and mentorship in various skilled trades and industries. Apprentices work alongside experienced professionals to gain practical experience, technical skills and industry-specific knowledge. These programs typically combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction, allowing apprentices to learn by actively performing tasks and receiving real-time feedback from mentors. What better way to learn! LBD is not a modern approach either, historic examples, such as the apprenticeship model in medieval Europe or the Montessori method developed by Maria Montessori, highlight the enduring success of active learning approaches throughout history. These examples illustrate how LBD is all around us, providing practical, experiential learning opportunities that empower learners to acquire new skills, deepen their understanding and prepare for success in their chosen fields. My conclusion, LBD transcends traditional education paradigms, offering a transformative approach that engages, inspires and empowers learners. By embracing diverse learning styles, igniting passion and curiosity and bridging theory with practice, this method fosters deeper understanding and long-lasting skills. Fancy a taste of LBD? Get ready because I’ve got some exciting news! I’m absolutely buzzing to announce the “Ever-So-Lean, Lean Thinking 5S Workshop” happening on March 19th, 2024, at the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce HQ in Ashford, Kent. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill workshop; it’s a hands-on, interactive journey into the world of Continuous Improvement. We’re talking about rolling up your sleeves, getting stuck in and experiencing first-hand what it means to apply 5S. At this workshop, you’ll have the chance to dive into Lean Thinking through interactive sessions, practical exercises and plenty of networking opportunities. It’s not just about learning; it’s about doing. So, whether you’re a seasoned pro or just dipping your toes into the world of Continuous Improvement,