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Enterprise Excellence Episode 7: Bob Hafey


Welcome to Episode 7 of the Enterprise Excellence Podcast. My guest Robert Hafey is one of the most genuine, purposeful people I have ever met. His area of expertise is transforming safety culture and improving the whole organisation simultaneously. Bob is the author of the award-winning books Lean Safety and Lean Safety Gemba. He has dedicated his career to sharing knowledge and helping others to create a better future.

Summary Keywords

people, lean, safety, leaders, engage, bob, business, safer, vaccine, improvement, focus, amazing, journey, called, kaizen, conference, worn, work, years, virtual

Summary- People are so important, no matter who they are.

The passion that Bob exudes for improving the lives of others shines through in this interview. He gained much of his experience and knowledge through working with Flexco when they started their continuous improvement journey. The main effort initially was to develop high-performance work teams because the leaders of the business understood that they had to empower and engage their employees if they were going to change their business.

One of the aspects of doing that was getting their employees to own safety. It became their safety program, and not management's safety program. Flexco then took about 7 or 8 years to develop high-performance work teams. They set up work cells and staffed it with those high-performance work teams. They had their metrics and measured themselves. They reported out to Bob rather than management telling them how they did. In one of those work cells, they had some ergonomic issues because of repetitive tasks. And so even though they had already set it up into U shaped sections, and had the product flowing, they decided to build a Kaizen team and go back in there and look at everything all over again. Their goal was to reduce the risk of soft tissue injuries.

Particularly memorable is his tale of the COO Jerry Paulsen who completely changed the way that Flexco operated. His focus on high-performance work teams saw him move from his corporate suite with wall panelling and leather furniture to the shipping department floor. He found an old grey metal desk and put it in the middle of the shipping department and had maintenance drill holes in the concrete. They built a fence around his desk made out a pipe and painted it yellow so that the forklift won't run him over. He lived there for the next six, eight years until he became CEO. He lived leadership. He made it very clear that Flexco was going to change to high-performance work teams. He coached the shipping team, which was the first team. Then he moved his desk to a different location on the shop floor and proceeded to transform them in a genuinely humble and respectful way.

Bob believes that safety culture is all about building trust. That safety and culture are inextricably linked, and can not be pulled apart.

Bob's motto is LPFE - Living Painkiller Free Everyday. He is worried about people getting worn out because they work for many years and when they retire, they're all hunched over, and can't play with their grandkids, and can't hear anymore because they worked in a noisy environment. He does not believe that employees should have to take 2 Advil or drink alcohol to numb their pain. Bob believes that leaders need to care for their employees and make their jobs safer and easier. People are so important, no matter who they are.


Robert Hafey can be contacted via these forums:




· (Personal Website)


· 630-881-9301 (Mobile)




01:49 min So, one of the aspects of doing that, was getting our employees to own safety, so it became their safety program, and not management's safety program.

02.26 min You cannot become lean unless your people feel they're part of it, and they're engaged in it.

03:53 min Engaging people and building trust is the only way to get Lean, and there's no easier way, no easier entry point than safety to begin a dialogue about continuous improvement.

04:25 min That's the point of lean safety; it's about making work safer and easier, and as soon as you do that it takes cycle time out of the work processes you are focussing on, so therefore you get the benefits to Lean, but also the engagement, because the focus is on safety, making work safer and easier.

07:03 min Lean safety is not compliance safety. Lean safety is not behaviour base safety. You're not trying to change people's behaviours. What we're trying to do is go out and engage them in continuous improvement dialogue about making the work safer and easier. And if leaders do that, the trust-o-meter automatically goes up.

07:31 min Leaders, when they start the lean journey have to find ways to earn trust. Because it isn't given. You know, you have to earn it. And everything management does either builds trust up, tears trust down; there's no neutral. And so, they have to really think about what they're going to do before they start Lean. Don’t just rush in with the tools.

08:59 min The focus of lean is reducing cycle time to the customer. It's all about the customer. It's a customer focused program.

10:58 min Today leaders have to be coachers. They need a coaching style of management to be successful. Because telling doesn’t work anymore right?

13:55 min Mine is LPFE - Living Painkiller Free Everyday.

19:10 min Do it with them, not to them, which means, you know, go out and engage the people who do the work. You don't have to have the ideas. You have to have the skillset to get others to give their ideas and then help them implement them. So, it's really about using everybody's brain in your business and engaging them all and making them feel good about themselves. Your reward for that is watching them grow. That's really the reward for our lean leaders is watching people grow.

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