top of page

#26 Tailoring your change journey approach with a fun approach with Kostas Kefalakis.


Welcome to episode 26 of the Enterprise Excellence Podcast. It is such a pleasure to have Mr Kosta Kefalakis on the show with us. Kostas has lead excellence journeys in Shingo prize winning organisations. He is passionate about upskilling and helping others grow to create a better future for themselves and others. He shares his personal journey and knowledge with us today on driving sustainable change within organisations with positivity.



Kostas is Greek but has lived most of his life outside of Greece. His passion for excellence began early in life, due to his father's line of work with Procter & Gamble & TQM (Total Quality Management) from the 1980s.

Kostas is well travelled; having been born in Greece, and then living in Egypt, Switzerland, Greece, UK, Belgium, Greece, Switzerland, and currently living in Liechtenstein, working for Hilti. This globe-trotting upbringing has given Kostas an incredible understanding of different cultures and their people and a curiosity in ongoing life learning.

Questions fuel his thirst for ongoing learning. Questions such as, what new topics have developed recently that are worth exploring? What technological changes could help me further? What are the leading changes in education and learning? How do we drive happiness and fulfillment for others? How is the nature of work, for example, organisational structure shifting? How can front line team members be given autonomy? And the big one, how can we embrace new knowledge?

Kostas wrestled during his early years. He believes that wrestling taught him to get the basics right with dedicated practice. He had to fail many, many times in order to start winning. When you put more time into studying and practicing, actions can become more automatic in nature, and can move to the back of your mind. It becomes a more of a natural reaction that you do not have to think about. When this level of dedication becomes automatic, your brain frees up space to reveal new insights into that process. Learning and upskilling begins again.

In university Kostas began in finance but had an affinity towards operations and excellence and it was his first touch point with the Toyota Product System (TPS). He had a great opportunity as a graduate to begin his career with Toyota. He mastered the TPS thanks to Gemba coaching by Japanese mentors. The nature of working with Toyota was that all employees would know the basic business of producing cars. Kostas worked on the shop floor of the welding division for two months working day and night shifts in Toyota Manufacturing, United Kingdom.

He studied Lean diligently, and got the basics right, and quickly rose the Lean managerial ladder. Kostas naturally applied his love of learning with others, upskilling people to a way of excellence. He developed his training philosphy as a presidential guard, settting up the Lean academy in Vistaprint and is now taking Lean in Hilti enterprise wide.

Kostas has developed four key elements of training others to achieve positive and sustainable change.

1. Understand the organisation and teams first

2. Tailor the journey to their language and culture

3. Make it fun and enjoyable

4. Focus on key behaviours

1. Understand the organisation and teams first

Ask yourself 'How do I make this process work for my client?' No matter what you have done in the past, you want to learn how to make this process work for your client.

It is important to understand the organisation and team first, before trying to implement any action. What are the fundamental structures? Begin with the needs of the customers, and work backwards. Assess the culture of the company, their background, direction/goals and challenges.

Humility is generally appreciated. For example, go the Gemba and produce items with the shop floor employees. Take field trips with your salespeople and understand their process, and the voice of the customer. Then begin to connect the dots at the higher level before suggesting any improvement actions.

Find the natural improvement leaders of the company. Focus your finite energy on those who are willing to change. People want to be heard. Then go for leadership buy-in using co-creation. Leaders see themselves in the end result, and will defend the strategy with you, and will go the extra mile. Focus on becomming a facilitator who can bring out everyone's superpower as opposed to being the expert.

2. Tailor the journey to their language and culture

Tailor your language to the existing language and culture of the organisation. People generally do not like jargon and buzz words that have been used at other companies or by authors they don’t even know. People can be alienated with a different language. By using their own language and tailoring everything to their culture you are helping your client feel comfortable and included in the process.

3. Make it fun and enjoyable

Kostas believes in taking a Lean journey to a client in a fun and exciting way. Encourage learning for others without them even realise that they are learning. When you lessen the level of resistance, the chance of success in upskilling others rises.

His team at Vistaprint wanted to create an exciting storyline. With advice from their communications department, their strategy became centralised on a Lego character and training with tennis balls! This was especially successful for the front line team members. Mangers and executive would appreciate a different style, so it is important to tailor the approach to the team.

Interestingly, Kostas believes that the focus on driving change relies more upon this fun and enjoyable approach, as compared to being academically correct. Make the journey fun with interactive games and stories.

4. Focus on key behaviours

Ten years ago, Kostas contacted the Shingo institute to help him understand how to bring the Shingo ideals to the American company he was working for. The Shingo institute believe in not only methods and tools, but ideal behaviours. In Kostas' language, the methods and tools became the street signs, road rules, quality of roads and procedures for getting your driver’s licence. But if you have a behaviour that is not ideal (i.e., Kostas, who is a crazy Greek who ignores the rules), you will not create improvement.

Ever since this realisation, Kostas has focussed on the systems and the behaviours that they drive. What are the KPI's (key performance indicators), but also now, what are the KBI's (key behavioural indicators)? Take the principles and make them simple to understand. What principles align, engage and improve the organisation? What behaviours do we want to live as a team? The team defines two behaviours for each principle, and reviews these regularly. As behaviours are up and running, change them!

Change and improvement ultimately requires humans to change and improve their behaviour. Behaviour change takes diligence, effort and practice, before a new habit is formed. If a team can identify the few key behaviours to improve, measures and track these as KBI’s (Key Behavioural Indicators) and gain coaching and support from their leader, they are in a strong position to achieve change and improvement.


Kostas’ LinkedIn Profile:

Phone: 0041788809012 (Mobile)


03:23min It didn’t' matter whether you worked in let’s say production or development or whether you worked in HR or finance, we produce cars, and you will go an understand what it means to produce cars.

04:05min and somebody just said OK, can you make a report in A3? and I said Ok. So, it was literally all text. It was nothing else but text. And I was like OK. My Japanese mentor at the time said 'hmmm, make it more visual' and I was like, 'OK, then no words, just pictures?'. He looks at me and says, 'combined'. That was literally my first experience of an A3.


09:03min but in order to get, consistent I would say, excellence in your enterprise, you need to make it work for you. In other words, make it work with the language and honestly speaking, excite people. You need to make it fun, and exciting and engaging and the least resistance that you're causing, and the more excitement and the more benefits, the more you'll have chances of success.

23:06min and then, if they're not driving the right behaviours, start doing like a basic problem solving analysis to say, 'why aren't we driving these behaviours?' Is it because of our KPI systems, or our meeting structures, or is it because we are firefighting all of the time or our problem solving isn't strong enough?

32.07min How do we unleash people's superpower? Right? That's the idea. How do we get people to get engaged? How do we create fun? And maybe you walk into a culture that's already fun.

36:42min Getting leadership buy-in I would say would be one of the highest priorities also. Because we know that a lot of people want the change but tend to not want to change with you as leaders. We have this saying um... we say that people who want to take a shower but don't want to get wet.

38:32min Exactly the same thing happens with leaders. They want to be heard. They want to have a say. They want to co-create. They don't want to be told in many cases, strong opinionated leaders. But if you co-create with them, it's fantastic - the results. They will defend it with you. They will go the extra mile with you. And then if you have the leadership support, you know, then it's much, much easier whereas if you don't have it, you know?

Key takeaways

1. Take time to truly understand an organisation and its people. Tailor your language and improvement efforts to this understanding.

I have a big background in Sales Excellence. The foundation of achieving excellence in sales relates back to Stephen Coveys famous saying seek first to understand before you seek to be understood. Trust is so important to achieving success with any change. Trust comes when people feel that you are taking the time to understand them, and your motivations are for their benefit not you own. Trust comes when people are able to relate to someone, relate to a change. By taking the time to understand an organisation and its people first you are showing empathy to them, demonstrating you are focused on helping them and not yourself. You are also gaining the knowledge that will help you develop relatedness for them through a tailored approach and language. This will help build trust and trust is a major catalyst in achieving any form of change.

2. Make change fun and motivating

I myself have overlooked making change fun and engaging in the past. I am a systematic person; I have focused on progressing through the steps rather than enjoying the steps and celebrating success. I found to achieve improvement in this area I had to focus on improving two of my habitual behaviours. The first being to plan events and engagements with the attendee’s experience in mind. The second is to take the time to celebrate or simply recognise achievement when it is identified.

We have all been involved in projects and work efforts where the going is tough. We achieve a great outcome and then move straight away onto something else. We have all experienced projects and efforts where we have worked hard, recognised progress along the way, celebrated success and then moved onto the next action. Sometimes it is our lack of making progress transparent and visual that stops us from recognising it. In other cases, we don’t have an inspection approach to stop, look at the progress and allow us to celebrate. As humans we are more likely to move towards experiences that we find fun and exciting, rather than things we find laborious and boring.

This was a great episode with Kostas Kefalakis, providing insightful practical knowledge from a person who has been through this journey with organisations many times over. Thanks for an uplifting conversation Kostas.

64 views0 comments


bottom of page