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November 25th, 2016

High Performance and Reliability in Organisations. Can a Lean culture become as embedded as safety? 

161104-bg-portraits-12-10-edit-sKen Powell, Partner

Having been asked to present a short workshop session at this year’s LCI-UK Summit in Birmingham, I chose to challenge the audience on how we may be able to draw parallels with safety when trying to engage people in Lean transformation.

British industry has seen considerable reductions in work-related injury over the past four decades and we have seen a huge improvement in safety within the construction industry and with it, a change in ‘culture’. This has become embedded through a change in values, beliefs and behaviours right across the spectrum of personnel involved.  From those deciding commercial arrangements for contracts to the operative of a machine on site, all are aware of the importance of staying safe.

So, how do we get people engaged in driving a Lean culture?

Well, as with safety, it relies on those individuals involved to make decisions.  This fits for both a safety culture and a Lean culture where we must have standard procedures for activities but not see them as barriers to improvement.  The next stage should be a move to becoming a High Reliability Organisation.  Typically these organisations recognise, adapt to and absorb variations, changes, disturbances, disruptions, and surprises.  Employees become mindful of potential hazards and weak processes, and work to eliminate both waste and hazards.

We must also look at how leaders shape culture within organisations including how you behave.  “Values and beliefs about hazards (safety culture) will emerge/evolve from persistent application of principles via the socialisation process (relationships)” (Schein, Organisational Culture and Leadership) in other words, people’s actions change culture not formal statements or organisational policies.

The key Leader behaviours that people pay attention to are:

  • Facilitate open communication
  • Promote teamwork
  • Eliminate hidden organisational weaknesses
  • Reinforce preferred preventive behaviours
  • Value error prevention

In addition to these ideas, I would challenge you to think about what has worked in your organisation to help drive a safety culture and see how this can be used to engage people in Lean and move to become a High Reliability Organisation.


  • What should our journey to ‘Zero Waste’ look like?
  • What’s next for Lean – factory thinking?
  • How can we use the tools from the safety arena?
  • How do we focus on Human Performance? – ‘the sharp end’ – engagement of those carrying out the work.


Bourton Group has supported some of the most well known organisations in all sections of the energy sector covering Nuclear, Transmission and Distribution, Power Generation and Capital equipment, upstream and downstream operations in Oil and Gas. We have worked across all parts of the value chain where operational excellence is a critical success factor. We do this alongside streamlining processes, eliminating waste and reducing cost to ensure the organisations resource are focused on what really matters to its customers and key stakeholders.

Whether you work in power stations, oil and gas operations, power lines or reading meters, we have the expertise to improve your efficiency.

Ken is an experienced Senior Consultant with a successful background in operational improvement and change management and is a Certified Lean Practitioner and Six Sigma Black Belt.  He has over 15 years’ experience of applying Lean and Six Sigma tools successfully within operational improvement and change management roles within Construction and Infrastructure, Rail and Manufacturing organisations.

If you’d like to learn more from Ken about Lean Engagement or High Performance and Reliability in organisations call 01926 633333 or alternatively email us at


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