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#45 Run the shop, advance the plan, help my people with Andy Hecke.

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

Summary Keywords

people, leaders, run, organisation, excellence, shop, goals, important, leadership, question, pillars, andy, clear, journey, create, achieve, support, pack, plan, businessIntroduction


Welcome to Episode 45 of the enterprise excellence podcast. It is such a pleasure to have Mr Andy Hecke on the show with me today. Andy has been researching and applying enterprise excellence for many years. Andy's mission is a continuous pursuit of being and achieving more each day communally. And individually, he's passionate about helping others reach their potential and create a better future for themselves, their organisation and their customers. Let's get into the episode. Andy, thank you so much for joining us today.

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


Early on

There is no real thing that led Andy into business leadership. It's almost like a series of accidents or events that sort of turn into a pathway. And when you look at it, in hindsight, you see the logic behind it. But nothing was driving him to hit this road of business. It was the journey, being exposed to things over time. As a youngster, he was a pretty scared and timid little fellow and always worried about what other people thought. He ran across a book while packing orders at a book distributorship called Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun. It was such a great little book, something easily digestible, and it resonated with him because when reading what a leader was about, he could understand what they stood for. Andy's father, his older brother, and his grandfather are leaders in their own rights. And having that around, he just set up the leadership model in his life scene. He wasn't quite sure what it would be, but it was something that resonated. That's the match that brought him to where he is today.

The book helped Andy apply techniques and has driven his passion for converting academia into using it in the day-to-day space. He thinks that we all wrestle with this application in our own ways but that it's the key - finding excellent knowledge and turning it into something productive in your own life.

Who are some people that have inspired Andy along the way and helped him develop?

Andy has had a fortunate history in that he's been exposed to many kinds of industries: sports, commercial, and defence. And through this, has seen a whole host of leaders, coaches, and officers, then colleagues and business professionals. He's had good leaders and not so good leaders, and all of them have provided some insight. He has had inspiration from coaches of fencing and football and leadership exposure with his Dad and Brother.

About 10 or 15 years ago, Andy started to get formally exposed to the enterprise excellence, continuous improvement bucket of thinking. It crystallised a lot that he was thinking and feeling but couldn't articulate.

What he was processing and trying to work out in his mind suddenly went snap, oh, that makes sense. There's a system behind that. There's a logic. There's a bullet list. Now I can digest that knowledge and use it. The enterprise excellence journey started with the Shingo model. He had the lighted match way back (the book), and Shingo was the wood on the fire. Recently, Andy has pulled all of his learning together in his three pillars of excellence.

The Three Pillars

1. Run the shop

2. Advance the plan

3. Help my people

The three pillars were born out of setting a long term goal which is very important for our resilience. But then you turn the goal into 100-meter sprints. As you go on your sprint, the world's going to shift and change. And so it's really how do you create the focus in that short term space? As a leader, you're going through a continuous cycle of updating information to understand the condition of things and where you're going. Andy applies it weekly and believes you should check off an answer to those three pillars.

Let's delve a little more into pillar 1.

Pillar 1 - Run the shop

Running the shop is the trade of the business, the day in and day out actions. The tools such as dashboards, waterboard meetings, walking through the facilities, connecting with your people are part of running the shop. A leader should look at the subsystems in the business and say, are we within spec? Or without spec? Is there anything that needs conditioning?

Because if, for example, the phones aren't running today, it doesn't matter what I'm doing on my strategic plan. My customers and my people aren't trading. Run the shop is about checking everything is in order to run the 1000 transactions a day. That's the number one priority. The tools foster connectivity with the people who are made accountable and responsible for the results. They're the ones who build the relationships and transact with the customers. They can look and see the condition of things and create unilateral action, but they can also then have the opportunity to raise the alarm and go, Hey, we've got a problem here. I can't solve it. I need to get some support from a wider community. Running the shop is essential because it creates your connectivity with your teammates.

Time management

Time management sits underneath all of this as the enabler. So we have to plan our time and stick to that time.

What if a leader is thinking, I spend all my time running the shop. The shop's got control of me. I can't get out of the shop. What what's a tip to enable them to help the shop run better? And get some time to deliver something different in a plan?

One tool that one could bring in is the time management matrix:

1. important and urgent.

2. important, not urgent.

3. urgent, but not important.

4. waste - why are we even talking about it?

We're in the modern world, and the fast pace and the volume of great ideas are distracting. We probably need to set some things in place. Think of your morning routine. You put that in place, it achieves what you needed to do, and you let it run. You've just got to make sure that things like the toothpaste and hairbrush are there.

Take this into the workspace, and it's the same thing. What do your people need to, for example, answer the phones and process orders? And have they got all of that? Are they clear on how that works? And are they all optimised on that? Are they all sort of doing the same thing? Or does everyone have a different version of it?

Daily cadence

There's plenty of opportunities there to work with the team to set up that daily cadence. In the morning, check that all my communication channels are up and running. If you're not talking to your customers in the morning, no matter the rest of your routine, that's a problem. What is the routine? Have the frontline people help set the rhythm because they know what they need.

Dog sled analogy

Andy gives a dog sled analogy here. You've got a bunch of dogs and a sled driver. Often, leaders who are the dog sled drivers are supposed to be at the back but are trying to carry all the dogs in the sled and can't go very fast. The leader needs to harness the power of the pack. The pack have to be clear on where they are running. And if they have that clarity, the dogs will run instinctively. The driver needs to hang on and support, make sure, make adjustments based on what is happening around the pack.

If you haven't got those routines or processes and aligned goals, you're going to have a pack stumbling over each other and getting in each other's way and causing all sorts of carnage.

It needs to be the frontline people's way of life - their 65 reps. The first thing to do is start daily. Set up the war board, check the numbers, solve issues, and open communication channels up and down the organisation.

Start daily, and do that for 30 or 40 days. The more reps you do, the better you will get at it.

For the first part, focus on running the shop. Get the shop in control and get the dog sled heading in the right direction with everyone working in unison. It frees up your time to focus on Pillar 2.

Pillar 2 - Advance the Plan.

If the people know what they're doing, why they're doing it, and are empowered to do it, you let them loose. Let the pack run. You also give them the opportunity and a bit of that time to help you work on the plan. And that's what gets them to engage: not only are they keeping the shop running, but now they're contributing to that community's future. And that's where the stickiness of culture starts to emerge. Being human is a crucial part, allowing people to make mistakes. Safety is also a concern because we need to be safe in a pack and trust one another. When this is in place, we free up our mind space to focus on goals and what we can now bring into the community via engagement.

Day to day planning - short term

Run the shop is our dashboard. It will track the activities, the results we're looking for financially and operationally. So whatever the organisation's plan is for their goals, service levels, financial results, positioning, product development etc., serving the day to day activities are the things that produce those results. If the organisational plan is to achieve these things, the shop must be systemised to fulfil those objectives naturally.

Strategic planning - longer-term

Senior leadership should be spending most of their time on strategic future thinking goals. The longer-term strategic actions, e.g. increasing your market share or produce new products, or overhaul your tec, are what the team does over three or four years. So you might be doing things with people who will not pay dividends in the short term but are putting in foundations for the future. Where do we want to be in a couple of steps from now?

Do you still involve the frontline in some of those strategic projects?

Andy believes you have to because you don't know what you don't know when sitting in a meeting room.

Planning should be about what are we doing and why? Andy believes that time is a finite resource, and you want to maximise your time.

He suggests that the planning has to be, what we are doing, and why and then we consult with the frontline. And we say this is where we think we want to go. What would it mean if? What do you think this might mean? So if we threw that stone into the water, what are the ripples? Because we believe the ripples would look like this.

This kicking around and not being rushed into the how is essential and may save time and money. The front line is there is a conscience or a sense check with some of those big aspirations that come out of the big leadership meeting rooms. You don't know what you don't know if you're not walking with the front line and connecting. You're missing part of the environmental inputs. And you could miss some pretty critical things on assumptions and presumptions. So you want to sense check with the front line. Don't let your ego run away with you. Have an idea, be robust with it, check it with your people. Be detailed in the plan and be prepared to move. Talk, plan, decide and move.

Pillar 3 - Help my people

In any successful relationship, whether it's individuals within an organisation, individuals within a family or social group or the relationship with yourself, you've got to get something out. But you also got to put something in. And when those things are in balance, you get a good long-lasting environment. When they're out of balance when the company or the organisation or the family or your friends are taking, but they're not reciprocating by giving back, then you've got a problem.

As a leader, I'm not trying to save people. I can't. I'm here to create an environment where people can choose to be the most that they can be. It's about creating a community with a certain mindset and a driven culture and has a particular urgency to it. And for that to work, the individuals' goals also have to be so satisfied. So, a leader would know what their people are trying to get out of their lives. And then figure out how to fit some of that into the business. When you've got alignment of goals, you've got fantastic teamwork. Andy has been in teams where he has not fit in, and the best thing he recommends is to acknowledge that and then get the heck out of it. Then find a community that suits you.

Surround yourself with people on the same mission

The number one thing about helping your people is to surround yourself with people on the same mission. That takes care of a whole host of things; the leader doesn't have to try and change their teams' minds and convince them that "My way is the right way" because you have a common understanding. So my job as a leader is to encourage and make them the best leaders they can be. I can only ever be 100%, and they can only ever be 100%. But if I can make six or seven people 10% better, we've already gained 70%. And if they can make six or seven people better, well, this is where the multiplication factor of empowerment starts to work. The other part is we're looking for genuine people within that space. So again, coming back to what are they getting out of being here? Why are they sweating and bleeding together side by side? What are they getting out of it? And why are they going to keep doing this day in and day out? That's the fundamental question that Andy is always asking. Are these people the right fit, and why are they in the game?

Why am I doing this to myself?

Another question that Andy asks when he's under stress is, why the heck am I doing this to myself? Why would it be so easy just to pack up and bugger off? So this is vital information to understand your team members. You can't have this close relationship with everyone in the company, so the middle leaders are essential. They need to be having the same conversations to understand why their team members are in the game. Suppose someone's got a growth agenda, a learning agenda. How can we, as the leader, foster that into the working environment? Because that could bring more years of resilience out of that person because they value what's happening.

Take formality out of it

And take some of the formality out of it, too. Realise that we're just a bunch of people working together and have some fun with each other. Andy has nicknames for most of his close workers. The formality is stripped back, which creates a real sense of camaraderie and safety. And what people take away is the journey. It's not the destination; it's the journey.

Andy works in Melbourne, Australia. The Australian culture is very egalitarian, on an equal level. So understanding the people's goals and aligning this to the organisation's goals and vision can help motivate people and build that resilience. If you're a leader of leaders, it's developing that understanding with the leaders below you, but then being able to help them find that understanding with the people below them. You're setting them to be better leaders, and that then cascades down to the next level of leaders or down to the frontline team.

Time management

If you've got an organisation and the CEO is driving the truck all the time, you've got a costly truck driver. And more importantly, who's leading the ship? Who's taking us on our journey? It's about striking a balance on where we designate that time. We need to be very diligent about allocating time. There's always more to do than we can get done in a period. If you organise yourself, organise your time management, it's incredible. This cadence frees up our minds to think and act and identify what's important and what's not important.

Maximise the pack

Maximise the pack in terms of empowerment, engagement, and setting up that rhythm and routine and easy communication, dashboards, huddles, scrums, or whatever tool kit you want to use. The tools are all good in their own rights.

Enable the people

But the people are the enablers. Andy chats about a hamburger chain that has the most diligent and standard tools and systems. But why is it that I can go into one of their venues and have that great experience? And then I can go to a different venue but with the same layouts and focus and have a bad experience. The only variable there is the people. Leadership and the alignment and engagement of the people are so vitally important because the tools and systems make good people unbeatable. But tools and systems with so so people are still so so people. People are the enabler of all of the other things around enterprise excellence.

What do you believe stops organisations from putting effort into these three pillars?

Andy believes that time management is critical. He always breaks things into hours and days. He reminds himself (on the bad days) that we've got about 31,000 days in an 85-year lifespan. And so you know, not years, but days, and if we're not using those days effectively, well, it's one less day.

And human resources is expensive; it's one of the top two or three costs in many organisations, but it's an investment. And how are we ensuring that we're creating an environment where that investment focuses on the right things with minimum support and supervision? How do we create an environment where that time is almost self-sustaining? Most senior people should focus on their leadership development because you're investing all this money in buying people's time to get them to contribute to this community mission. Leadership, which is some of the most expensive time, is the key to maximising the time and the commitment from the front line. Time management and leadership development are the core things that Andy would suggest for organisations to look at.

If we're not developing ourselves as leaders and becoming better and better, we will not be running an effective shop. Leadership could become a roadblock because they are responsible for the team of employees. If they are not understanding and helping their people, they are not tapping into the massive pool of resources and talent in their organisation.

So you want to be a manager. Why? It sucks. It's a lot of hard work. There are many sacrifices if you're leading genuinely. Are you just doing it for your ego and the nostalgia, for the parking space and the corner office? So what's your motive for being a leader? There's a responsibility that comes with that. What are your reasons? Unfortunately, humankind is not all positive, genuine goodness. A lot of leadership positions probably shouldn't endure. Leadership is a talent, a skill set that can be learned and practised. You always have to be humble about it; you have to look into the mirror and ask if you're good enough yet. If you answer yes, you should probably get out of the game.

Two Minute Tip

The two minute tip for Andy is time management and understanding what are you doing and why. And are you doing something that drives that? You need to do an honest audit with yourself; you need to be brutal because you can give yourself many excuses. You have to connect with your purpose to justifying your suffering because there are bad days out there. How do you use time? Try different things. A morning or weekly routine. Regular meetings. Become the artisan crafting your time. You use time or lose it.

How often do I reflect on my time?

And where I'm putting my time?

How often do I take a look at my purpose?

Or have I even got my purpose defined?

And what goal am I chasing longer term?

We can make a lot of useless stuff efficient.

So again, what are we doing? And why are we doing it and having everybody clear on that? That's, that's key to unleashing the power of the pack.

What have you learned recently, Andy, that you didn't know before?

Those common core elements apply to individuals, our social communities, our clubs, our families, and our friendship groups. And they apply to organisations, and sports, public service, and commercial ventures. Understand the purpose and being clear on that, but knowing it is a journey. You you achieve a goal, and we're always happy when we achieve a goal, we love getting there. But immediately, we're on to the next thing. I've got to have this, and I'm going to do that, and you get caught up in the Hollywood lights. But actually, when you achieve it, you go, that's good. Those moments where Andy struggled with a group of comrades and colleagues to achieve that goal creates the fondest memories. Those reflections of a challenging journey with a group of people suffering together bring the outcome. It's a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling for Andy.

Key Takeaways

Through these two pillars of Andy’s model he has destilled what I believe are the foundational elements of any excellence journey.

1. Run the shop

Firstly a quality running shop or day to day business. If an organisation has a shop floor or processes that are out of control with quality and safety impacts it will be hard for anyone to put time into delivering a plan.

2. Support your people

Likewise with my second takeaway if the people of the organisation are not supported, engaged and aligned to the culture and journey the oganisation is on, achieving any plan and related goals is not going to be easy. Andy provided the great analogy of a dog sled pack, in this scenario you will have the leader trying to carry all the dogs or giving up. The key for leaders facing either of these problems is to start there improvement efforts on running the shop and supporting their people. Take control in these two areas to achieve stability and the motivation in people to move forward.

Having a meaningful challenging goal with a purpose that people will rally behind can help with this. Just be clear with everyone that the first step is to improve our culture and achieve stability in our operation before we start to take on additional elements of the plan.


04:06min And you know, I've had good leaders, and I've had not so good leaders, and all of them have provided some sort of insight. You know, I'm always interested in taking some sort of nugget from everything and putting it in my toolbox I guess you could call it.

09:56min there's no point, what you're doing for five years if what you need to do today isn't working. You know, it's almost kind of like Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Right? If you don't have the foundation, right, there's no point or attention that can be given to the top end of the pyramid.

13:41min I think a lot of time leaders who are the dog sled driver, which is supposed to be at the back, are trying to carry all the dogs in the sled, and you can't go very fast in that thing. The whole part is to harness the power of the pack. And you know, they've got to be clear on where they need to go and that's the number one enabler is that clarity. Are we all clear where we have to go?

22:31 Planning, you know, you have what are we doing and why? What I find is interesting, um, a lot of people want to get into the how. You know, I'm a bit of a lazy bugger, so I don't even want to be talking about how. I want to be clear on what we are doing and why are we doing it at all?



Brad is proud to support many Australian businesses. You can find him on LinkedIn here. If you’d like to speak to him about how he can help your business, call him on 0402 448 445, or email Our website is

Andreas Hecke:

Andreas Hecke: LinkedIn

It's been entertaining and enjoyable, Andy. The three pillar model came through beautifully. Thanks so much for a great conversation.

Written by Emily Jeavons

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