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Enterprise Excellence Episode 17: Jon Lindsay

Joining up the organisation to create alignment, flow and performance


Welcome to Episode 17 of the Enterprise Excellence Podcast. I am so pleased to have Jon Lindsay as a guest. Jon helps Business Leaders develop Flow, which he defines as, “talking about the right things at the right time with the right people taking ownership”.

Jon was one of the early adopters of the enterprise excellence model, introducing Lean to the insurance business he ran in the early 2000s. In recent times Jon has used the concept of “Joined-Up” to reflect the need to respond to all stakeholders of an organisation, based on the principles of clarity of purpose, simplicity and consistency to deliver value.


Jon Lindsay has had an expansive career covering many of our finest education systems. Jon has led one of Britain's oldest textile companies and lead one of the first continuous improvement journeys within a finance company.

One of Jon's first jobs was as an engineering apprentice for an instrument maker in Luton, UK. He sat with various departments - one of them being next to the expediting department. He would make a call for a spare part, and would be told, "I'm afraid we won't be able to supply that part until you have paid your bill". John embarrassingly would reply that he would talk to his superior.

During his engineering degree, Jon learned about the high principles and standards that were applied to engineering. He went into project management travelling across the world and quickly realised that he would have to rely on himself to make critical decisions, rather than head office. Jon created a visual management system: a massive chart on his wall, with the entire schedule of materials, allowing him to know precisely when to pull the project forward. Jon then had to think about more seriously about his career and joined the Harvard Business School. He was given many case studies and decided that leadership is about making good decisions. Organisations that survive need leadership; decisive leadership that empowers and encourages people within the organisation.

Jon next moved into industrial textiles and read the book "The Goal" by Eli Goldratt. He asked Eli to work with them applying the concept of "The Goal" to their organisation and spent a lot of time with Eli. Eli influenced Jon to look at leader at coach, root cause, cause and effect, and to stop dealing with all of the symptoms. It is the one book that Jon would recommend that everyone read to learn about optimising the whole system. Tencel, the man made fibre was developed in Jon's time. They were being squeezed on price at the bottom of a most impressive, but wasteful fashion supply chain, who all wanted to add their price to the final product. Textiles were being moved offshore, and Jon had to then move to a different industry. See this video of Jon detailing the supply chain!

Enter, the financial - credit insurance - servicers with Cardiff. Jon was employed because of his understanding of the customer and supply chain. This job allowed Jon to develop a thorough understanding of enterprise excellence. The business had a matrix structure; one part of the organisation looked after risk, and the other looked after the client. They were completely separate parts of the organisation, and the risk side of the business did not report to Jon. He was losing clients because although they were good at managing risk, did not give them the quick answers they were searching for. They hadn't seen how their clients were moving and changing in their own businesses. Jon looked to bring the client and risk teams together to talk about the voice of the customer and improve the process of delivering value to the customer. It worked beautifully. Retention rate went from 75% to 85%, a saving of $10million.

Upon further education, and reflection, Jon realised that by changing his leadership style, he could have had much more of an impact in his managerial roles. Jon has consolidated his learnings and developed the 'Joined-Up' approach to Enterprise Excellence. The system connects the three fundamental key stakeholder groups of an organisation: customers, the owner, supporter or sponsor, and employees. These groups have to be satisfied in order to create a sustainable business.

What satisfies customers? This is the output of the business. A product, and a method for delivering that product that aligns with their ideal customer values. Customers appreciate an emotional connection with your company, which is in effect the brand. Employees provide input with behaviours and action and are satisfied with job fulfillment by having an inspiring set of values and business model to follow.

Owners provide the inputs; proposition, values and a business model to sustain a competitive future business advantage. They need to engage, empower and align their people to the executive vision, objectives and goals, as well as lead and develop a culture focused on the critical behaviours for success. In return, they look for impact within their industry, and profit.

He believes fundamentally that if you make a change in one part of the business it will have a knock on effect on all other inputs and to the output to the customer.

Looking to the future, Jon is focused on working with leaders at all levels of industry and government to make better decisions. To help them define their objectives. join up their organisations and create a better future.

Links (Company Website) (Company Website)

Phone: +61407799875 (Mobile)

Twitter: Jonroolas


05.05min I had on my wall an enormous chart, with the entire schedule of all of the materials, and plotted exactly when we needed to call it forward. And I didn't wait for head office to call it forward. I made sure that it was actually screened, and I actually had visitors who came from the UK and visited my site, and they said, "Gosh, that's impressive". And I think that's what you call visual management, isn't it?

12.49min the advice to anybody who's basically running a business is somebody has to believe in it, heart and soul. There's no half measures. You can't half run a business. You've got to be in it or not.

14:06min If you don't have leadership, then you can forget about the rest of the organisation. It's necessary but not sufficient.

19:02min we were one of pioneers in using a certification called investors in people, which became very strong in the UK, which was recognising that we actually had to empower our workforce, train them, acknowledge their skills, but make sure their skills were being used, because a lot of people throw money at training without actually making sure there were being used. Investors in people was really designed to actually accredit people who were doing that job.

26:37min there's a fashion show. It's an industrial show called "Premier Vision" in Paris where all the fabrics were shown from around the world. We suddenly realised that we were having to manage the entire supply chain, and no-one really had visibility of it. So, what I learned from that is the importance of really understanding the whole supply chain.

26:58min and the fact that we were selling a fibre for a certain price to a spinner, didn't matter, it did matter, because they were squeezing us down on price. But the end product was, firstly a fabric because it draped, and it was beautiful. And then it was made into a garment and it was a certain colour. And then it was sold in the shops. And the added value all the way through that supply chain. And by the way, that was going from us to somewhere in Asia, to somewhere in the South Pacific, for dyeing. And then it was going to a garment maker maybe in Sri Lanka. And then it was going from there to a wholesaler in New York, and then it was going to be sold on the West Coast. I mean, it was just unbelievable. And we tried to track it. And what we realized is we we could track it, but it was just such a dynamic process. You had to work on the pull through. So, we looked at things like accreditation branding, and we developed the tensor brand to actually make sure that only people who had certain attributes could actually click through, so we were trying to manage a whole supply chain.

38:11min the Continently-European parent decided that this was actually a really good place to do some cost saving, and guess what? It fell apart. Because people didn't buy into it. Because it was about cost saving rather than delivering value to the customers. And guess what? Turkeys don't vote for Christmas; people do not work on an improvement project if they are going to lose their job.

40:56min I think a lot of people do because they focus on let's do lean on a production on the site. And they don't realize that you can do it in every function. And they don't realize you can do it at the senior management level, and they don't realize that actually the visibility and the processes that you do, making decisions and making strategic decisions are a process and therefore you can apply the same principles: What's the value? How are we delivering that value? And make sure that everything else we don't we do is taken out as waste is not actually helping us go towards the goal.

51:09min and so, the more precise they can be about that (objective), the more you can say, 'Well, what do you need to get there?' If you don't have that, if you don't have that clear objective, then all roads lead to Rome.

01:07:30min It doesn't matter how much you have been successful in your leadership style in the past. There are some occasions where you just have to stop and say, 'what assumptions have changed?'

01:08:27min We all have to unlearn things.

01:08:49min It's not as if, well, you read a business book, or you see a podcast, or listen to this, or something like that, you necessarily going to get any new information. But you do get a different perspective.

01:09:21min We talked recently with a group of TEC chairs about being more curious, which is actually a value associated with the listening. But it's not the listening itself. It's actually having a mindset because you're trying to understand what's going on and why is somebody thinking that way and maybe they're thinking in a different way to you.

Key Takeaways

The key takeaways from this episode are:

1. Clearly understanding who your customers are; what they value, but also their emotional feelings and intelligence.

2. Have a clear vision for your industry, your business and plan your strategic direction with these in mind.

3. Lead culture with your employees. Engage your employees on the change journey. Help them develop their own vision and empower them to set their individual strategic direction.

This was a really neat model that helps us gain clarity on the key aspects of a business we need to join up, customers, employees and owners.

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