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#33 People, process and performance from Shingo prize winner Gareth Brown.

Proudly brought to you in association with S A Partners, a world-leading business transformation consultancy.


Welcome to episode 33 of the Enterprise Excellence Podcast. I am so pleased to have Mr Gareth Brown with me here today. Gareth has a wide history in Enterprise Excellence, working for and leading organisation transformation journeys to award-winning results. Gareth is passionate about helping organisations establish continuous improvement and development in leadership, process and results. Let's get into the episode.


Gareth's journey into Enterprise Excellence began in the RAAF in an Air Worthiness and Engineering role. His purpose was to keep aircraft, particularly aging aircraft, up in the air. Understanding complex moving pieces and systems were part of the job. He appreciated working with disciplined people, rigorous processes and sound data, information and decision making.

When Gareth left the air force, he joined Autoliv and underwent a massive cultural shift. He is unsure of whether he has made the considerable adaptation to this day! In the airforce, Gareth experienced a directive style of leadership, working with highly disciplined people. In Autoliv, a Swedish-based company, the culture was more egalitarian, focusing on continuous improvement and a flat organisational structure. Autoliv had mature TPS/Lean systems in place, and Gareth transformed his theoretical knowledge from the airforce into his first transformational role.

While it is true that good processes can drive results, Gareth believes that without an engaged workforce, processes will fail. People in an organisation need to be onboard, culturally, for any long-term, sustainable improvement system.

Gareth won a Shingo prize at VistaPrint for this approach. It was a greenfield opportunity, as the factory was being built from the ground up. Gareth asked the staff, during construction, about how they wanted to work in this new facility. He used a future-state visualisation exercise. Imagine you are at a BBQ in two years, and you're telling your friends and family, "I work for (insert). It's incredible, it's achieving so much, and I love working there."

Gareth then asked the team for their top five reasons for being able to state this. These set of values or behaviours were grouped and became the cultural framework for the team. When tricky conversations about the culture arose in the following six months, which they did, consulting the list of behaviours was often enough to diffuse any problems. The initial group of 30 staff was being scaled to 100 people. The expectation was that the new people would assimilate to the way things were being done (excellently!) from the start. Onboarding new staff in the right way, focussing on excellent culture and behaviours is an ideal situation.

Gareth appreciated that this greenfield venture was a gift and was relatively easy to set up with operational excellence compared to the long change journey with manufacturing at Autoliv. Their change journey took two to three years of demanding and quite stressful work before being fully integrated.

What advice would Gareth give a newcomer to Change Management? Seek a senior leader who will sponsor the journey, who has a vision for the future and who will support you. You will likely not have authority in your excellence role and will spend your time working in areas that your leader values, which may not be enterprise excellence. In this field, Gareth believes you need to be an influencer to gain traction and create a vision that lights up their (senior leaders) eyes.

Other organisations in a similar industry already on the journey may be of help. You may be able to create that aha moment for senior leaders, visiting such a company, with first and second-line leaders enthused and speaking about their change results.

Gareth is currently working with a sizeable agricultural organisation, Graincorp, in Eastern Australia. As an industry, they are relatively unfamiliar with the culture of enterprise excellence. He has senior sponsorship and is part of a small team, working with a very practical workforce who want to understand, "What's in it for me?": the immediate benefit to ideas presented.

Gareth uses value stream mapping to help the team feel comfortable with the change journey. He is surprised that the usual tactile mapping method, using post-it notes, can be hard to understand, particularly by young people who prefer a digital interface. However, a bonus is that the digital interface can work well with isolation brought on by Covid and the country's sheer size.

It would be great to chat with you again, Gareth on the strategies you have put in place regarding the virtual world and how you are deploying strategy and culture in a virtual space.

Thanks for your time and knowledge, Gareth, and for everything you are doing with GrainCorp to help them and for helping us to create a better future.


4.18min if you don't know how you're actually performing, then it's very, very difficult to engage in the problem. Right? So you need to be able to put the problem or the opportunity up in lights. So that's the first thing.

7:00min and even before we turned the first machine on at VistaPrint, we had discussions with the team about, "What does good look like? What kind of organisation do we want?"

11:05min but it was certainly helpful to be able to visualise that long term equation and use that as a basis of, "Why are we doing these things?"

13:20min every hour that we spent on building these foundations right at the start would save us nine or ten hours of grief later on.

14:42min I think we underestimate the importance of really investing in that person as a leader at the start to make sure that they're part of the team and they understand where you want them to think differently as well as where you'd like them to subscribe to the existing paradigms.

Key Takeaway

The key takeaway from this episode was Gareth's focus on people, process, and performance. Gareth outlined the importance of getting people on the journey and culturally engaged first. Without motivation to change and adopt new things, there is very little chance of team members engaging and supporting the journey. Emotion, either positive or negative, helps people embrace and lock away new learning and form new habits. When new people join a new organisation, they naturally have a high level of emotion and desire to fit in. This is a prime time to achieve cultural and systemic alignment with people.

If you have a greenfield site opportunity, plan upfront and focus on the most important things, as Gareth and his team did. If you don't have that opportunity, review your new team member onboarding process. How can you improve this system to engage new employees early? Align them to the culture and system improvement approach you are looking to in the future?


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