Delivering Programmes Successfully in a Lean Environment with Mike Cadden

Lean management is considered by many to be the standard for enhancing productivity within a team, whilst also minimising wasteful or inefficient actions.

Yet, while its basic principles might seem straightforward, many organisations continue to face barriers when it comes to successfully delivering their programmes while trying to work within a lean environment. This is particularly prevalent in organisations where delivery teams might be under-resourced or over-worked yet face increasing pressure to realise and sustain value outcomes.

To help us gain a better understanding of these barriers to success and how these organisations can overcome them, we enlisted the help of Board-level Digital Leader and Deltra Associate, Mike Cadden.

Having worked with the likes of Primark, Ralph Lauren, Monsoon Accessorize, plus many others, Mike has an impressive track record of delivering transformation in complex, international retail and FMCG environments and a wealth of knowledge into establishing lean strategies.

During this highly interactive session, Mike shared first-hand experiences from his career, while also giving practical advice for driving employee engagement and instilling the importance of workplace culture.

Keep reading to check out a summary of Mike’s crucial insights and advice from our Retail Lean Management Webinar.

Assess processes regularly

Overcomplicated processes can be the death of any business goal or mission, and lean management is no exception. Whether due to a lack of knowledge into lean practices or a lack of trust in their teams, many organisations continue to fall into this common trap of adding unnecessary or overly complex steps to their programme delivery processes.

Unfortunately, this all too often leads to factors that consume time and resources without adding value or minimising waste for the customers or consumers, such as lengthy delays, redundant approval systems or inefficiencies. Not only can this have a significant impact on customer satisfaction and loyalty but can also be detrimental to their employee engagement too.

If they are met with continuous barriers that make it difficult to achieve their goals or targets, employees will understandably begin to feel negatively towards the programme, which can make successful delivery even more challenging.

Mike explained that leadership teams should make it a priority to regularly assess the effectiveness of their processes by utilising their team’s know-how to remove any steps that could become barriers to the future success of the programme. He said:

“As a leader, you need to identify steps that don't contribute to the outcome or the value you're required to put in. Various organisations, particularly the bigger ones, love to put in checks here and checks there, like weekly, biweekly, everyday project meetings. Look at each step you're doing and ask yourself, is this actually adding value? Am I asking my team to jump through a hoop that's actually stopping them doing their work?”

It’s also your job to remove blockers and get the process flowing smoothly. My job is partly to show the direction, but mainly it’s to be in amongst the team and understanding what is preventing them moving forward at pace. It’s about listening to them and understanding where their frustrations are coming from and then doing whatever you can to remove these frustrations.”

The importance of a North Star

Aligning goals is a fundamental component of organisational success, regardless of what the project or programme might be. However, according to a recent survey by the Phoenix Business Journal, only 51% of businesses develop aligned goals, which can easily lead to confusion regarding tasks and team underperformance.

Mike shared that, in his experience, having aligned goals or a “North Star” can not only provide some much-needed direction, but can also make strategic decision making and prioritisation of tasks more effective. He said:

“A North Star is that single point that you navigate by that drives you. It's a single piece of strategic goal that you can align yourself to. Now, an organisation can have a North Star and then your various teams can have their own North Star within that, but they should always be aligned.”

However, just having aligned North Star objectives in place will not be enough to ensure successful and valued outcomes. It needs to be revisited regularly, particularly as an organisation evolves, and it should also be incorporated into all planning processes and communicated transparently to ensure crystal clear understanding. This will ensure that everyone is continuously on the same page and not working to different agendas.

Mike elaborated:

“Where I've seen programmes fail or where I've seen things collapse, as I'm sure you all have, is where, they either didn't have a North Star or everyone was working to their own set of rules or their own missions and goals. Even at project level – every single member of your team should be able to articulate what your North Star is.

Randomly ask the people in your programme what they think the North Star is using their own terminology. Can they articulate what your programme's mission is or how big it is? If they can do this in their own words, rather than just repeating, you're in a good place.”

The power of saying “No”

Another key challenge faced by organisations wanting to establish successful lean strategies is over-commitment. This is often caused by a team’s desire to drive and achieve, but can unfortunately result in poor quality outcomes, over-stretched resources, overworked employees and a misalignment in priorities and goals.

Mike believes that to achieve the elimination of wasteful actions and non-value-added activities that lean strategies require, saying no in certain proposals and initiatives has to become a natural part of the process. He said:

“Saying “no” is not a rejection, but a strategic choice that keeps the focus on delivering value. By learning to say no, we can ensure we're maximising our efforts towards projects with the greatest potential impact. But remember you have to use the power of “no” judiciously.”

For this to be achieved, organisations will need to develop a culture amongst their teams where the word “no” is assertive but doesn’t necessarily end the conversation completely. That way, alternative solutions can be made that are more in line with the lean strategy and ideas can be revisited, encouraging further teamwork and collaboration amongst teams.

Final thoughts

With an ability to improve efficiency, increase customer satisfaction and create high quality outcomes, every organisation, regardless of the industry, can benefit from the implementation of lean management and its principles.

A study by The Manufacturing Advisory Service found that, on average, organisations implementing lean principles can expect to see a 26% increase in delivery targets being met, a 33% increase in stock turnover and a 25% increase in overall employee productivity.  But that’s not all.

Recent societal and environmental crises have caused mounting public scrutiny on organisations and their impact on the planet. The introduction of lean practices can help these organisations eliminate waste and conserve resources allowing them to effectively meet new ESG regulations and cause less damage to the environment.

Lean management is being cited as a key component to helping organisations, particularly within manufacturing, reach industry 4.0 implementation faster by providing vital and structured data and standardised processes. The healthcare industry has also attributed lean principles to helping them considerably during the pandemic, by supporting them in reducing annual costs and administration tasks, as well as increasing workplace safety.

With such impressive outcomes, it’s unsurprising why organisations across a broad spectrum of industries have renewed their focus on lean management. However, to maximise the potential of lean management and its principles, it needs to be viewed as a continuous process and not one that is set in stone. Organisations need to give their lean strategies room to evolve and change as they do, whilst also having clear and aligned objectives, and a streamlined process that benefits both employees and customers alike.

If you’d be interested in attending or speaking at one of our events, head to our Networking Events page for more information.

3rd August

Events From the Experts Industry Insight