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November 15th, 2016

How to successfully engage people in a Lean environment, while considering the future challenges to the industry. Arran McDonald (Senior Consultant at Bourton Group LLP) – November 2016.

161104-bg-portraits-10-04-edit-sFor the 4th year running Bourton Group supported the LCI-UK Summit 2016. I was invited to deliver one of the small group sessions on the subject of ‘How to successfully engage people in a Lean environment, while considering the future challenges to the industry’.

The subject obviously struck a chord with summit attendees, reaching full capacity attendance by a cross section of leaders from the construction industry.

Although the predicted growth of the construction industry is extremely encouraging; 70% growth by 2025 (globally), I wanted to hear what the audience viewed as the key challenges faced by the industry today and the immediate future.

A number of issues and uncertainties that currently influence the UK market were raised, such as:

  • Capability and capacity shortfall, including access to EU workforce and the effects Brexit
  • Lack of strategic planning, management and utilisation of big data and BIM
  • Technical skills demand – base skills disappearing
  • How to embrace technology advancement (business systems and barrios to capitalise)
  • Sustainable agenda – new technologies
  • Industry image
  • Offsite manufacture/productionisation and the resultant logistics challenges
  • Market forces effect on salaries and the potential requirements for new business operational structures

While the group were concerned about the above challenges, it was however, widely accepted that as an industry it would adapt and soldier on. Refreshingly though, it was also agreed by the group that the use of Lean and Business Improvement Techniques are key to making companies more resilient to the above challenges.

We talked about a wide range of effective support tools such as policy deployment, change management, value management, voice of the customer, make it ugly, applying a bias for action, standard work and visual controls. But it was when we started to look at how to engage people in a Lean environment that the room really came to life. Participants felt that this is the area that requires the most support, and the area where businesses could achieve real significant, measurable benefits by ensuring that their teams are best equipped to face the coming challenges.

To this end we started by looking at the seven requirements for engaging people as described by Kevin Eikenberry in his book ‘Leadership and Learning’ and then went on to look at what this meant in practical terms looking at how to support businesses to introduce Lean practices and their ongoing use in order to foster a culture of continuous improvement.

Some of the key requirements identified were:

  • Senior leadership Buy-in and support. What does support look like? The requirement for and understanding of Lean at this level.
  • Vision of the Future, shared common vision, outcome lead, disseminated using the principals of policy deployment.
  • Empowerment with training and a support structure
  • Nurturing new Ideas, utilising the entire value stream
  • Positive reinforcement of quick wins through clear measures of success and the celebration of success achieved
  • Bias for action /enablement
  • Focus on controls and transfer to prevent regression and erosion of benefits attained
  • Make it business as usual

I’ve already received some great feedback from attendees who have commented that they enjoyed the workshop interaction and found the presentation very informative on how to engage the right people within their organisation.

Bourton Group has supported many businesses from a wide range of industries to implement Lean improvement techniques via tailored engagement programs.

Our clients describe what we do as “Helping to fix businesses and equipping teams to keep them fixed.”

Our work in the Construction Sector over the past 10 years has included supporting Highways England, where we have worked collaboratively with them to deliver on their efficiency objectives and targets. They have reported a return on their investment of at least 20:1, along with wider benefits of reducing waste, decreasing time to complete activities and improvements to quality all which they directly attribute to Lean.

Arran is currently Project Lead supporting Highways England to develop and implement their Supply Chain Strategy. If you’d like to hear more about the subject covered in this article, or how we can support you call 01926 633333 or alternatively email us at

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