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Enterprise Excellence Episode 8: Chris Butterworth


Welcome to episode 8 of the Enteprise Excellence Podcast. I am so pleased to have Mr Chris Butterworth with me today. Chris is a leading researcher, author and consultant in the field of Enterprise Excellence. Chris has dedicated his career to undersanding how to engage, develop and sustain a culture of continuous improvement witin organisations. Chris has won the Shingo publication award twice and is recognized as a leading speaker in the field of leadership and organisational change.


It was so good to be able to connect with a leader in the field of Enterprise Excellence like Chris Butterworth and gain his knowledge and insights. 

During this episode Chris discussed his early career, how he was fortunate to work in several companies that had an established culture of continuous improvement. This helped Chris early on understand what good looks like. 

This early experiance triggered Chris's interest in the fields of leadership, culture and continuous improvement. Chris has become a leading author, speaker and consultant in Enterprise Excellence. He is a Shingo examiner and has assessed organisations all over the world for the Shingo Institute. 

Chris believes that the secret of excellence is leaders empowering and getting their people to think rather than being the expert (Which leaders often are) and telling people the answer or what to do. Chris mentioned that the expert approach to leadership stops people thinking and makes them dependant on you as the leader. This over time overburdens a leader and causes more fire fighting, rushed and erratic behaviour from the leader due to the pressure they are under. 

Chris stated that the job of a leader is to make their people look good not themselves. It is to help their people grow and develop, build skills and capabilities. This creates an organisation of people who are thinking, learning and growing. 

Chris mentioned the importance also of leading culture through behaviour. Chris discussed the fact that many leaders are chasing a result, an outcome that has either been placed on them or they have been involved in setting. Chris mentioned that it is the leading behaviours of people that will actually determine if the result is achieved or not. Chris discussed the importance of defining leading behaviours and KBI's, making these visual and improving them as a team towards achieving results. 

Chris discussed the power of visual data and team huddles in creating a space for team members to initial form their challenging goals, define leading behaviours and raise improvement ideas and track them through PDCA towards achieving the gains. 

This was a high practical episode. Listeners will be able to learn from this episode and consider ways to improve themselves.


Chris’ Profile


·  (Personal Website)


· 07968837635 (Work)



05:37 What I've come to realise is key is that actually everyone has a valuable contribution to make. What makes the better businesses is where people go out of the way to help people to realise their value and to tap into that potenetial that everybody has.

06:53 Our role as leaders in any organisation is to make sure our people have systems that are easy to follow. That they have the training that they need, that they have the tools that they need. That could be computer tools or physical tools to do the job that we've asked them to do. And tap into their ideas on how to make those things even better, because actually they know what's not working.

07:21 Many managers assume that because they have the title under them, they have to have the answer to everything, and tell people what to do. Actually, the skill is to listen to what people are telling us, and let them make the improvements that they know they can do.

08:22 Far better in any conversation is to ask lots and lots of questions, not interrogate people but ask them how have they arrived at that answer? What structure have they used to solve that problem? and be more interested in the way they've arrived at the solution than the solution itself.

10:10 So if I ask them questions around customers or goals, in such a way that I'm testing them. Do you know the answer to this? Do you know...That's completly the wrong approach, and completely the wrong mindset. What instead I should be doing is asking them those questions to find out if the way I have communicated it is working. If the system that as leaders we have set up to deploy the goals is effective. That's what I'm testing.

15:36 I had a great question from someone last year who said,"Do you think we need to continuously improve the way that we do continuous improvment?" "Absolutely. You can't stop improving and learning all the time".

33:12 So what makes a difference is a lack of arrogance. So where arrogance rules at any level, you get disengaged people.

33:45 Humility, in terms of recognising that creating an envionrment where people feel valued and feel that they are making a difference, and they can contribute makes a great business.

37:23 Start with asking yourself, what would make it a great place to work for you? How would you like it to feel every time you come into work? And then what's the culture you would like? What's the behaviours you'd like to see? Start behaving the way you think will create the right culture.

2 Key Takeaways

1. Avoid being an expert leader unless someone requires training

2. The power of defining challenging goals and then the key behaviours and KBIs to track improvement.

To shift from an expert leader to more of a humble inquisitive leader seems simple. It requires simply asking more open probe questions to get people to think for themselves. The difficulty is the habit change in the leader that is required. To help with this I would establish a system to check progress and make adjusments as a leader if you truly want to change. Consider finding a mentor of coach to help you with this reflective and improvement approach language.

When defining goals and then relevant behaviours and KBIs it is important that these are linked to top line strategy as Chris mentioned. Work with your team to define their challenging goal for the strategic period and then a shorter term target they want to reach ie after a week, month or quarter. Then ask yourself what are the key behaviours we need to improve or do differently to achieve this. Cause tree mapping can help with this as you may define three behaviours initially. You will probably find their a more leading behaviours before those if you ask yourself what behaviours do we need to do and improve prior to the initial behaviours defined. You can keep going with this process and then pick a few to focus on improving, the ones you predict will deliver the greatest gains culturally and performance wise to ultimately help in achieving your goals and living your purpose.

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