Creating A People-First Lean Culture

Creating A People-First Lean Culture

by Patrick Adams | Feb 27, 2024

What You’ll Learn:

In this episode, hosts Andy Olrich and Catherine McDonald explore the slow adoption of Lean principles in small businesses, highlighting the challenges in learning Lean and coaching these principles. 

The emphasis on hands-on learning and the effectiveness of the KATA approach suggest that its practical skill set makes it stand out among various Lean methodologies, prompting a discussion on why it isn’t more widely promoted by leaders in the Lean space.

About the Guest: 

Don Watza, a highly experienced and passionate problem-solver with a BS in business operations and diverse certificates, boasts a successful career in HR, people management, process improvement, and IT. Founding two businesses and a non-profit, he collaborated with major entities like the State of Michigan, Michigan Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Comerica Bank. Specializing in healthcare and HR finance transactions, Don excels in leading complex projects and teams, praised for fostering innovation. His expertise includes identifying process and system gaps, and he’s recently embraced Lean principles, particularly tools like KATA, for continuous improvement. Don’s legacy lies in driving positive change where the work is done.


⁠⁠⁠Click Here For Catherine McDonald’s LinkedIn⁠

⁠⁠⁠Click Here For Andy Olrich’s LinkedIn⁠

⁠Click Here For Don Watza’s LinkedIn


Andy Olrich  00:00

Hello, and welcome to this episode of the lien solution podcast led by your host Catherine MacDonald and myself and Yara how’s it going, Catherine?


Catherine McDonald  00:41

Nice, Andy. Really good. How are you? Yeah, not


Andy Olrich  00:43

too bad. Thanks. Good to see you again. So super excited. Today, we’ve got our guest on what’s a witness today. And we’re going to be talking about creating a people first Lean culture. So envision a workplace where every voice matters, your ideas flourish, and collaboration thrives. People First Lean culture. Look, it’s not just a methodology. It’s a commitment to nurturing the talents and aspirations of each team member. Together, we reframe the conventional narrative placing humanity at the core of our journey towards excellence. So get ready to witness the transformative magic that unfolds when people take center stage in the pursuit of lean and sustainable success. And as I said, today, we’re joined by Dawn water. Catherine. Tell us a bit more about Don.


Catherine McDonald  01:24

Yes, I would love to you Andy. So Don is a highly experienced and passionate Problem Solver with a BS in business operations and diverse certificates. He boasts a successful career in HR, people management, process improvement and it founding to businesses and nonprofit he collaborated with major entities like the state of Michigan, Michigan, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Comerica Bank, specializing in healthcare and HR finance transactions, Don excels in lead leading complex projects and teams and is praised for fostering innovation. His expertise includes identifying process and system gaps, and his recently embraced Lean principles, particularly tools like data. And this is for continuous improvement. Dan’s legacy lies in driving positive change where the work is done. Most importantly. So welcome to the show, Dan.


Don Watza  02:18

Well, thank you, Catherine. Andy, it’s great to be here. So thanks for having me on.


Andy Olrich  02:24

Great to have you here tonight.


Catherine McDonald  02:25

Sure, no. Problem. So Dan, would you like to start by telling us a little bit about yourself? So we heard in your bio, that you have worked across large organizations across nonprofits, and you also work with some small businesses. And actually, what will be really interesting to look at, I think, is the adoption of lean in small or small to medium businesses, because this is something it’s something we’re very interested in. And we’ve spoken about before as well. But it’s not something you hear a lot about. So would you like to tell us a little bit more what you think about Lean and small businesses? And why is the adoption so slow? Sometimes in small businesses? Like



Katherine, it’s really great. My career has been really varied. And really sketchy. In the sense that, you know, I have moved from the large organizations like Michigan Blue Cross Blue Shield, in my early part of my career, and my degree was business problem solving, so to speak, operations. But it was a business degree, it was not a traditional operations management degree. Well, in big companies, there’s resources dedicated to problem solving. And we’ve many lean practitioners see that and experience it, and you have time to do a Kaizen and you have time to make big efforts to problem solve Well, in small business, which is where the two businesses that I had in the nonprofit doubt, are very small. So today, I’m in the plant of a small business that I work in, there’s three people on one hand, you might call it 15. If we include our sales extended at Salesforce, well, the resources to get things done are super small. So even though I’m here as a part time, lean practitioner and doing e commerce, and today, I’m cutting pipe and you do whatever is needed. And I think the challenge for small businesses, they don’t need it any less. The problems are just as big, the resources are not as plentiful. And balancing that time. You know, getting a Pareto in front of a business owner to say this is what is important, is really hard for them to focus on because everything to them is important. But order going out today is important. So that’s sort of a nutshell of Yes, big companies problems out there. But then now dealing small business. Unfortunate I’ve met hundreds of small business owners, and they all struggle and I wouldn’t say I have a huge track record of like crazy success. Because no three personal organization, how do you what do you claim? Exactly, right. I mean, every day you’re making improvements


Andy Olrich  05:00

That’s great. And I, it’s great that you’ve had those two contrasts with the larger corporations and then small business. For me, it’s, it’s really great to see how scalable lean and those methodologies are. So whether it’s the large one to the to the small one, you’ve, you’ve walked the path in both in your in your saying it works. That’s that’s great, Don, and what do you think, in when you’re trying to go into organizations and they may not be familiar with Lean? What do you think, with all the people that are around in the Lean space and as soon as smart or experts? Why do you feel that lien is easy to learn? Or do you find that it can be quite complex and potentially online? When you go through and try and learn yourself or educate others? Can you tell us a little bit about your experience in that?



Yeah, that’s a mouthful. There’s probably three or four things on cabinet on but the unclean learning, I just so my Lean journey, truth be told my Lean journey started with the senior executive for Michigan Hospital Association, here in Michigan, who sat down and wanted my math, healthcare finance background. And he started using Lean terms that I didn’t know. But I acted like I knew, Oh, current state future state. Well, looking back, I pretended to know, because how hard is that current state? Well, that’s right now, right? The truth is, he was developing entire lean processes. And here in Michigan, there’s been a huge uptick, in, you know, lean adoption around health care. And that would have been the forefront that would have been 2009 1011, something like that. And he was super great, really generous with his time, I could have spent a lot of time with him to really learn and get involved in Lean. But that didn’t happen. It wasn’t until 17 2017 that I took a Villanova Greenbelt class, and I’m not entirely certain how that happened. Honestly, I just took it. And because of my continuous improvement, and lifetime learning perspective, it just felt like natural like, Okay, I’m learning all these things about like the waist walk. I put terms and words to things that I had done, I just wish I had had them earlier. So in 17, I do that, and it’s a little scattered. And then 18, I do some more, I sign up for senior classes at a local university that has a really good Lean program. So it’s, you know, graduate level classes. And they talked a lot about, you know, change management and communication and critical thinking, and these kinds of things, which was really great. But as I worked through it, I we had the opportunity to meet with the Chief, chief scientist at GM, came and spoke to our class. And he starts using all of these terms. We could tell they were lien terms, but he didn’t he was living terms. A little older than your average students age maybe. And I ask, Why are you saying gamba? Or why are you saying whatever it is wastewater or visual mapping? Or? Oh, we don’t do that. Actually put your hair in a lien class. I mean, I guess I ask awkward questions. Because I’ve had experiences in life that say, you know, the obvious don’t have mysteries. And so he did say, Well, yeah, we’re totally lean company. That’s what we do. But you had to unmask it. And that I just remember that day as a pivotal moment in my mind thinking, why is lean so on lean? And this is a conversation I’ve had with Patrick. And locally in Michigan, I really want to push consultants in the MLC to do more to reach small business. And I think, when we make it difficult to see the value of it, because we disguise it, GM doesn’t use the word lean, but they’re lean. Well, the small business that serves, GM isn’t going to understand that lean was the reason their supplier quality audit came and needed answers, right. So I’ve done some supplier quality audits and small business wondering, well, what are they going to ask? Well, if they were lean trained, there wouldn’t be any question. It’s like, well, yeah, this is what we’re going to ask. So what we’re looking for, do you have operations to process? Are your people integrated? Do you have mission strategy do all that. But Andy, I took a very long time to answer your question. I hope that sort of antastic Lean is lean is very unclean. And I just laugh at that right. I mean,


Andy Olrich  09:45

it this coach, I had used to use the phrase lean by stealth, especially with new places. It’s actually you dropped the words on them later if you if you kind of take them there. Otherwise, it’s Yeah, make it relate to the language and they go Right. Yeah, we are. That’s what we’re really Yeah, that’s okay. Well, we do that we caught this. So it. It’s a great, great insight. Thank you.



I told me I know, I know, I’m flying against the conventional wisdom, which is Yeah, adapt what you need, I get that. But relative to people trying to understand where success can come from, why hide that? Right? Why that I get it use whatever language, but at the top, the top line bottom line somewhere, somewhere, we should be broadcasting lean as the reason for your successes, period. Right, like, just say that. But that’s just me.


Catherine McDonald  10:38

I kind of I hear your your struggles. And I’ve worked a lot in the, let’s say, retail and service industry, as well as nonprofit. And I see the struggles with time and resources. And people see lean as something big, something extra that they do on top of their workload. And I suppose but you know, I would have always said, it’s not and there’s a way to do it, that it’s not, but they struggle even even to do the little bits of training in Lean mindset. And lean tools and techniques takes time. So it it does seem like a little bit of extra work at the start. So I’m wondering what you do done when you go into an organization like a small or small to medium organization? How do you get around that? So we know and you’ve told us about the barriers? And the language? Language is different in every industry? How do we get around that? How do we get around the the time, the resources? How do we bring lean to small businesses in light of these revelations? I guess?



Another mouthful, not a lot of question. I think the short answer for me, and then I’ll give you a little bit of detail. The short answer is you show up. This is a people business, and the businesses we serve our people. I mean, your introduction spot on, I love Patrick for that. I think he waves that banner, it’s about people. Well, you know, some of the successes I have had, have been partnering with some of the consulting firms bring me on from time to time. So I’m ubiquitous I work for anybody whenever doesn’t matter. So they bring me in, I do a project. And in the middle of the project, it’s a very technical problem solving Six Sigma, I’m really more of an add on help. So I go into this plant. And the Lean Six Sigma lead is really dove into the mechanics of the system and documenting and visualization. And it’s really fabulous a to watch because I’m reasonably new. And he’s a 40 year 30 year veteran. So it’s really fabulous. But I pick up on the people and of what’s happening. And we got there from the CEO. And at some point, I start getting kata groups together around a particular problem. And it’s not any problem I have. It’s the problem they have. And one of my favorite activities, is bringing those silos together. And that’s exactly what we did we set Yeah, we didn’t set what I was talking to the quality person. And that was the shop floor soup. And then it was, you know, another operations person. And then it was not only remember who, you know, the plant production engineer, I think they had similar issues, but related and found in from other perspectives. And I just simply got them together using a whiteboard, a small plant floor whiteboard, and laid out a kind of discussion. And if you’re familiar with it, which I think intuitively everybody’s familiar with it, right? It’s four things. What do you want to do? What do you think will happen? Go do it. Right. So when you say that to people, and that’s the first time you show up, and that’s all they know about you? And you say, what do you want to do? Well, I want to fix, fill in the blank. And then you say, Okay, what do you expect to have happen? If you don’t do that step? I think you really miss out, because that’s where the learning starts. What am I gonna do? I think this is what’s gonna happen. Okay. All right. And they’ve probably tried to solve it. 100 times, right. We’ve all been there. And then the next step is to come back, you know, in this project that I was on. I said, Okay, well, it’s a lot of o’clock in the morning. When do we want to try it again? A supervisor. So I love this. When do we want to come back? When are you going to try that? Well, can we meet again at noon? Right. And our, like, a lot of us think, and this was a small business. Quite a few employees but still small. And that’s how they roll. Right? They want something right now. So that was, effectively what I did is I just stayed tuned. Okay, what are we going to solve? You’re gonna come back at noon. Can everybody make it? Great? You have to fold it in. That’s fine. And then alright, what actually happened? What did you learn? I think that’s why I love kata so much, because it doesn’t take any effort to, you know, do the two things, solve a problem and teach a new skill that everybody can go do. It is why from a people perspective. I do love that. So it’s,


Andy Olrich  15:03

yeah, it’s so important. Any of the organizations that I’ve been involved in all we see doing well, when they deploy lean, or they bring people in and start to give them some training and things, it starts with the people. And it’s about this. This is about people, you’ve got the principles around the key one respect for people. And it’s really when you’re trying to build that awareness and desire. Yeah, hey, this is about you. This is this is really about developing and helping you be successful. And yes, it will look after our jobs and things like that. So it’s a really good insight. And as you said, you tune into, okay, there’s the technical aspect, but your your the antennas are on for the people side of things. It’s like, how can we get the people buy in? It’s such a such a powerful way to, to get the ball rolling or so I guess, just off the back of that when we’re talking about people? How, how do you navigate I guess, that balance between the people side of things, but then there’s the technical aspect? How do you sort of get your head around when you go into an organization? You’re teaching the trade of land, for example? How do we get the people still feeling connected to it when you do have to bring them into the technical? Some of the crunchy stuff?



Yeah, so I think the organizations that at least that I’ve dealt with, they have the special intelligence smarts, they need to solve the problem. So it’s not that they don’t know what they’re doing. It’s just that they haven’t come together. I particularly I mentioned this earlier. You know, Silo busting, is something that I love to do. And I’ve been doing it for a long time, because that was true. When I did EDI feeds back in the 80s. And 90s is like, how do you get this data to work? How do you get people to conform to one, field three has to be a letter A, B, or C, pick one. And they would argue for hours, right? It should be a it should be it should be SQL. I didn’t need to know which one, I just needed to know that this is the field we’re talking about. And we need to solve it. And then you fast forward to like the example where I was on the shop floor in the car example or I’m here in this shop floor. People want to they want to be heard. Right? So like I’m in a small business, it’s kind of gone a long way to answer your question, made a small business paper finisher. So that big die press that cut like a four foot by four foot wasn’t quite that dimension. And they die press cut these pieces. And I walked up his name was Matt, super great guy walk up to Matt. It was kind of loose in the building. knew the owner. They said go do something useful. Okay. So I go visit with Matt. Well, Matt, had a machine that had about two feet, maybe three feet to the side of his machine to the wall, where he had a lot of different tools that he needed to set up his machine. So every time he would do a setup, he’d have to kind of rummage. So I said, Well, what? This is a lien trick, you already know what’s going to happen. Right? Right. Katherine’s not like, yeah, so I asked him, you know, how can we help you be a little better? People just aren’t used to that. Right? They’re just I mean, that’s so simple. It’s stupid. So he, like had some idea about his board, some sort of a look like a draftsman his board. Wasn’t that some way for him to manipulate some of what he wanted. So what would what would better be, we want to do. And he said a couple things. And this was back in 2017, or 18. I’m just getting my legs underneath me. And he made a couple of suggestions. And something I’d heard from class or some lean class something was go do it. So I did, I went to the store, got what I needed. And over lunch, came back and said, Is this close? Or how can we? And he was floored? He was floored. It was probably a year or two later, or over a year or two? And he texted me, Hey, how you doing? I was like, that’s great. Sorry. It is there. It is fun stories. But I gotta say, I mean, I think in the small business world, I’m probably 5050 with success. And that’s really frustrating, you know, to go in and know that you can do these kinds of things. But there’s no as you know, there’s no narrative in the culture and the communities. What, what does that look like? You know, so, to answer your question a little bit further, Andy, how do I make that happen? One of the the favorite things I have is I have a set of rules, and a top rule is no blind. So I’m a Christian fellow Catholic fellow. And I love my faith. My faith has taught me a lot about people. Right? We’re all social creatures. And so why wouldn’t you use that? Around work? Right identify with, with people. And so if you have no blame, people will always say, like, I put that up there. Like they get to put their own rules. But I have some, I’ll put no blame. And immediately people will be like, Whoa, no. What if there’s something wrong? Joe, Bob Emery, Tim Allen, some that somebody’s bought, and especially in small business, they rotate people because somebody’s at fault. And what I do is I try to get after them and say, first of all, you don’t come in and planning to do a bad day, right? These are lean languages. This is right. And they’ll agree. I said, so. Do you want to be blamed? For something? You did your best bet? No. Okay, so what is the barrier that gets in the way of us moving forward? Because if we’re doing blame, so there’s a hobby, but I like doing. Alright, are you ready? I like doing like a waste walk on people’s thinking. So what is blame? Blame is rework. We’re going to take that issue, we’re going to, I’m going to blame Andy. And he’s going to defend, and then he’s gonna blame Katherine. And we just reworked that we never did it anything. There’s no root cause there’s no discussions. And that’s just human nature. And so I put up Look, what’s the root of blame? They ready, drumroll.



It’s tried



individual selfish pride. I don’t want to lose my job. Well, there’s a lot to that. I’m really good at what I do. I like what I do. I’ve been doing it a long time, all these things that we always hear. And so by putting blame up first, really long way of answering for Andy, you know, blame. Ride is, to me the root cause of teams not getting along. And that’s super easy to fix, super easy to fix, because people will agree they don’t want to be blamed. Like this little shop here. I’ve been here since 2018. We have a really good culture that way. We’re not making great things happen. But we underlying like the other day, we were talking about e commerce site that I runs. And we were talking about that I was the first one to say why are we not getting the level of sales we want? What is happening? And so you throw that out. And now what am I doing? I’m putting my ego, my pride. I’m the one who’s developed, pushed, created to doing it. When you do that, now you get this open, transparent, everything that we love about Lean. That’s why Simon Andy, very good question a very long way of answering it. Sorry,


Andy Olrich  23:00

Don, that’s why you’re here. Right? We want to hear from you. And yeah, the lived experience is what you do. So I roll on, roll on.


Catherine McDonald  23:09

Yeah, really great approach. I mean, I love the fact that you’re all about it’s almost people, I have to be people first. Because it’s people that develop processes, and it’s people that improve the business. So it has to be people first when you think about it, and I suppose not a lot of people realize that about Lean, it’s almost famous for the tools still, after all these years. It’s the tools that people think about first, and it’s so closely linked to, to leadership and to to people development. And we really need to emphasize that, you know, anyone practicing in the area of sport really needs to emphasize that don’t say that it really is, it’s people first, it’s coaching, like you mentioned, Dawn, it’s all of those things that we have to get the system set up to make sure we can use the Lean tools and and get our processes working right and remove the waste. But if we don’t have the systems, and we don’t have the people, you know, all those other things kind of are useless. So I love the fact that you focus so much on on people development,


Andy Olrich  24:02

I think the waste walk on people’s thinking. So that’s that’s really a key takeaway for me, Don, I think so many again, in Lean and continuous improvement tools and methods can help in that space. I just, this is me on the fly now, right? Is if you’ve got people trying to work out how they could approach a problem, or they want to understand something in a little bit more detail, or they did their thinking themselves. Why aren’t I seeing myself as successful? That’s where the process is the tools of coaching and what sits behind it can really help people declutter, where do I start? Or how can I maybe present this in a way that that people will get it? Or how can I get the team to look? So again, I think there’s a lien and that the tools and methodologies do reduce a lot of wasting complexity with how a team might approach a problem seven different ways. It’s that hey, why don’t we just try this or what if something like cars or you know, let’s just simple Questions? Yeah, hang on. I’m out of the clouds. Now. What is let’s, let’s just try this. And I think that’s a fantastic terminal, I’m going to steal that done because I connected with that world. So let’s stop the talk.


Catherine McDonald  25:53

You know, you mentioned it, but just bringing that you back to the fact that you know, this, just do it attitude. And I totally agree with that. And I think it’s bringing us back to small businesses that they don’t they’re so caught up in the moment, they’re so reactive, because they’re so busy, and they don’t have resources to put loads of people in different departments and get them working on innovation, and, you know, whatever, they just don’t have that. So I do think this whole idea of just delegating authority more, which is really what you’re talking about, when you go in and you say to somebody, what do you what do you want to do here? What’s the problem? What’s What do you think that solution is? Okay, just do it. How can we get organizations to do more of that? How can we get people to understand that this is possible, it’s possible to just go in, reflect, look at what you’re doing, and do it differently. So how do we bring that teaching in more into lean as well? And in the work that we’re all doing, and even leaders in organizations are doing? How do we get that message across? You know, this works doing it this way?



Yeah, I think it’s things like this, like the podcast and lean solutions, Summit. MLC, which is the Michigan lien consortium here in Michigan. I think it’s things like that. And I think, you know, like I said at the beginning, if we can get more companies to say, we have different language, but we’re using all the lean methodology. Right. So GM, I get it, they’re not gonna go, yeah, we’re TPS shop. And probably not. Right. They’re not gonna say that. But they will say, I mean, as that GM exec did, yeah, we’re a lien shop. I think that helps, because small business, they don’t know what they don’t know. And, you know, they’re floundering? Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think there’s a lot of different ways. And I think people think, is really super important, as we’ve already talked about. And you know, we’ve had some examples. I liked the tools. And the reason I got my six sigma, wasn’t to think I was going to be the expert that was with me on the southern project, right? He blew me out of the water. But it was to have an understanding. And I think if more people had a deeper understanding of the tools, and how to use them, because I know that I do have a lot of examples. I was helping a school leadership team. Anyway, and so I use kata. And we did 15 minute meetings every day, oh, maybe four days a week. And we did these little short sessions. And then we went and met. So Catherine, a long explanation here for the same story. But you know, in small business, you have to kind of get the backstory a little bit. So we all got together, we did a we flew to a common site location, and we visited, and we visited for a weekend. And as we were approaching that sort of, and this is the Lean learning, right? We know that there’s the whole norming, storming, performing, right? Well, that’s really, really true. And it’s great language, right? So we got to the storming part, and I even told them, I knew myself. The exec sitting in the room. I don’t mean what execs in a room. So anybody listening, that’s trying to check out what should they do? If you’re an executive? And you’re looking at, oh, I want to participate? Yes, you should participate. That’s fine. I don’t have a problem with that. This exact participant, it was great. I just said up front, just lay back. Because if you say something that will be the new end result. Well, sure enough, as we got into the storming, and there was disagreement, and just all that friction around people thinking and I’ve got the right answer. And it was very exciting because I could see it coming. And then there was this pause, which is what we needed, right? The people side of things, you know, that’s gonna happen. There’s a pause. The person the leader jumped in. This is the answer. And that was the ad. And I’m like, Oh, that’s so dissatisfying because I knew, you know, what the group could do would have been better better. And they all went there to do something together. And what they got was, they didn’t need to do anything, right. Just go point. And, you know, my personal journey, I think that that’s probably the most. That’s really the most delightful part of what’s happened to me personally, in the lane journey. So, I had two businesses and a nonprofit, I was used to and grew up out of the kind of, I’ve always done things dictatorial sort of, I’m in charge top down, boo. So I started seeing some of this Lean stuff, and I have to start thinking that I’m gonna owe you classes, look, university, I’m in the graduate class. And I noticed one day, they were, like, poking at me, and not in a good way, you know? And so I asked the teacher and I said, Well, you know, we’re learning about leadership, doesn’t mean, you dictate command and control. And I had to really think about that, because around a while, and now when I see it, I see the evidence of like, yeah, that’s not so good. We should we really shouldn’t be doing that. So the message, Catherine, back to, you know, the small business owners, small business groups, definitely do it. Learn lean, learn it from somebody who’s teaching the legit language, so you don’t get lost, because that’s what happened with me as I go down a rabbit hole. And I’d be like, What are they talking about? And then two hours later, I’d be like, Oh, well, that’s this stuff. Why don’t they just say that? And so that for small business, and for owners and leaders, they they definitely wouldn’t be well served to adopt, it doesn’t completely answer your question. But we’re in the ballpark. Just


Andy Olrich  31:45

one thing I’ll pick up in there. Another great real life example on is around when you the importance of the coaching for the leadership as well, the places come in, so I want you to deploy lean with my teams, or get them up to speed and that when you get into that moment, where you are really using that people centered approach and the tools are tz, they’re actually confident in speaking up and sharing their insights and of what they think. And then a leader jumps in and goes, well, actually, that’s, you can tell it’s kind of makes them a bit nervous. And then they’ll jump in and make the captain’s call and go, I know. Well, that’s thanks for that, everybody. But we’re going over here at the end of all of that. So again, people first remember why we’re here. And you need to leave your your badge at the door, your rank at the door in a lot of these sessions. Because the if you give them a voice, that people aren’t maybe going to bring some scary things to the surface. And you have to don’t stop there. Let them continue to go through and get over that tipping point to let them try a few things to demonstrate that. Oh, yeah, maybe they do know what they’re talking about. And I’m the one that that had the blinkers on because this is my small business. And my father’s before me and my father before me that and that’s it, it’s that they can struggle to let go. And that’s where I find in some of the interactions I have in the past is get them to that point where we finally got them on board. We’ve got all these silos broken and people are talking. And then you get a debrief or an exec comes in or an owner comes in, and then they go, no, no, I don’t agree with that. Thanks, anyway. And it’s like, okay, well, my work here is done. I can’t, they’re gonna draw this out. So I think, and people listening to this podcast, I’m sure they, if they’re the sitting in that position of finally speaking up and being shut down, or, yeah, I believe that and no, I won’t do that again. Because now I truly connect with what lane is all about. It’s about people. And, and if we’re getting away from that, there’s trouble. So fantastic. Fantastic. Thank you, Don.



Yeah, getting people to use it ourselves. You know, for me to get past my own personal struggle was to listen. And really listen. Keep your mouth shut, and listen. So it’s kind of a weird thing to be on a podcast and be a guest.


Andy Olrich  34:10

Who was supposed to listen,



I got this. But you know, I mean, I think really, from the perspective of, you know, I think if we looked around us, culturally, at least in the US, we have so many fires burning between people. There’s so unnecessary, right? I mean, one of the reasons I put up some rules is one of the rules is you know, we’re going to have no mysteries. AKA, we’re going to find the truth. Now an operator knows the truth. You know, the bandsaw I was just using a little bit ago. It was acting up and I got me okay, we What are you gonna lie about that you’re going to? You can’t there is no mystery that machine for whatever reason, was acting up me it what I was doing, trying what it was doing it doesn’t matter. And I think we delude ourselves. And so the challenge for a small business is get like you study and get the feedback from the people, and then trust that they’re not lying to you. And cheating. Yeah. Or they’re trying to fibia. I mean, that does happen. And you’ve got to root that out. But that’s different. That’s a whole different workplace short story that’s educational, I think, is I have a partner at another consulting firm, who has a PhD in brain science, where he labels himself. So we went in and did a two week are you ready? Culture change. In two weeks, we both laughed. Like, really, we’re gonna do a culture change in two weeks, right. And so our companies spend years don’t get anywhere. So what we did is he met with the C suite, as did I, but he led the C suite. And then I was shot floor with kata, what we did is we used kata in the C suite with them, to show them how it worked, and to see them struggle with practicing it, which I don’t know if you’ve ever used it. It is a struggle to practice because you’re kind of holding a few things in mind. And you’re going this way, and they’re going that way. And you’re trying to go ahead. And I mean, for anybody who’s facilitated, it’s not uncommon, but for a leader who maybe is that old curmudgeon like I was, you know, it’s time to let that go. Caught up in the boardroom, works really well. We just rotated every time we met, which was a couple of times a day, we rotated who was in charge of the board. And you can see the look on their face. Now what do I say? And I was just, you’re gonna say this, I’m going to read you this, you’re gonna say that. And it’s really once they do it three times, four times. So at the end of the two weeks, it was really spectacular. At one point, I was leading a warehouse problem. And I didn’t meet with executives, I only met with the warehouse people. And we’ve formed a plan. And then I went announced this is what we wanted to do was show how kata works. So the C suite people came down it was it’s actually a plant of a big company. 200 people, maybe 150. Anyway, so here we are doing a kind of problem solving. on the shop floor, in the warehouse. They had 800, pamphlets all mixed up on a place not organized. Well, I didn’t study it in an afternoon, because they knew I relied on them to know the answers. And it was it was a result I didn’t expect. We met I think it was three times maybe four might have been five, but I don’t think so we were only there two weeks. So it was very fast. And there was the C suite standard, their supervisors standing there. There were other shop people, there were their own team. Who else us very intimidating. Could have been right. And I just said, Okay, we’re gonna just follow our rules, we I said, Do talk up because it’s crowded. And they made a little plan. And everybody was like, that’s it. I mean, we did it. We do these in 10 or 12 minutes. Very quick. Very quick. So we met. And then the next time we met a little bit of progress, and a little bit of progress. And then there was even an after just a few meetings, there was a bit of an Aha. And some of the management was like when we talked about that. I was like, Oh, stop talking. You know what I mean? Stop talking, just go over there. And my compadre was there kind of shuffling them to the side, like new school over there. And it was really great, because then I don’t remember what the total volume was. But this was a, an inventory warehouse reselling. So inventory stuck at the warehouse, and that it couldn’t get it on the system to sell the big deal. And I don’t remember the number was six figures of some sort. And we were that we, they cleared it in three or four days. Everybody was shocked. How did you do that? Well, you saw it. They did it. Alright, didn’t do anything.


Catherine McDonald  39:24

So the power of just stopping pausing, looking, listening. Yeah, if you make it sound so simple, but for a lot of organizations, that is a culture change to do that, because they just don’t do it. But you do make it sound so simple. Jeez, yeah, that’s fantastic. Great stories.



Yeah, just get the kind of practice guide. I mean, that’s the thing for me for Yeah. If that’s all I did, for the next 20 years, I’d be happy. Yeah.


Catherine McDonald  39:57

Yeah, I mean, you did say that’s one of them. as applicable, I suppose tools of Lean that organization, any organization can use, really. But suppose they’re just not doing it. But it is simple enough to take and to practice, isn’t it? Yeah.



Yeah, I think and, again, I mentioned I was a faith guy. You know, there’s a Catholic word called subsidiarity. And its lean go to where the work is identical. That’s the same thing. No, listen to people.


Andy Olrich  40:28

On here, let’s do a bit of roleplay here. Okay. Say again. I am a leader in a small business, large business, whatever. And I know I’ve got it, we’re going okay, we’re not well, world’s best, but I’m pretty happy with where things are. But there’s a couple of strange things happening out there people leaving. We might not, you know, there’s a bit of murmurs from the the other leadership that something’s not going right. You walk in and you say, Hi, I’m Dawn. AMD, I’m done and unique car, and I say to you, what is it? You’ve got 20 seconds to tell me what Carter is.



I would just say AMD, what kept you up last night? So go ahead. Catherine and her shop cut me off.


Andy Olrich  41:19

Everything is just I think I’m think there’s something coming and you know, the people aren’t happy. But hey, I’ll just I just need to get out just trying to work out how I’m gonna go down there and, and tell them how to do that. To do it. Get back on track.


Don Watza  41:31

So when’s the last time you walked on the shop floor?


Andy Olrich  41:34

I haven’t got time for that.



So how many of your people that you have on the shop floor? Do you know by first name?


Andy Olrich  41:44

Most of them, the ones who’ve been here a while we’ve got some people that come and go but yeah. Anyway, don’t what is what are you getting to? Right? What is this kinda helped me.



So we’re gonna walk out on the floor. And we’re gonna go find where your shipping production process problem is that you want to talk about, and then we’re gonna just roll a board up in front of a small team that you think could solve a problem today. You pick, make it a hard one or an easy one. I don’t care.


Andy Olrich  42:19

All right. So that, thank you, because that’s really what you’ve just done there for me is, I’ll show you know, we could we could stand here and talk about it. We’re gonna go and do and that that’s it’s a real Learn by Doing piece for everybody, isn’t it? Carter, if they’re not familiar with it, it’s, I could try and explain this to you and talk about tools and things. But at the end of the day, let’s just go and let’s go and see. So I think thank you for that. That was a bit off the cuff there. But I was really, for those out there who may not be familiar with Carter or, or understand how you could just just get started. So fantastic. Thanks, Dan. We’ll just jump in.


Catherine McDonald  42:57

Dan, did you want to say something about I think you’ve a summit coming up that you were going to tell us a little bit about I think it’s you were talking about trying to create a lean standard? Am I right? Or is there something to that effect that you were working on in the background? So



Patrick, and I and a few of the other consultants in the Lean community in Michigan have talked and in order to reach more people, more small business, we need more people, more resources, more consultants available to go to work. So there’s to marry that there has to be an expectation of what are they going to deliver? And that was on Patrick and I’s mind. In fact, Andy, I think that came up in the mastermind group, as well. And I think I think that’s a really important direction. I know Shingo, you know, has a lot of standards. Ame has a lot of standards. I don’t know what your countries might be doing differently. But I think developing standards, or practice, to be able to say to an owner, here’s what you can expect, we’re going to come in and solve the problem, whatever those problems are, and then put them into buckets. And then who is good at those buckets. And so, Michigan lien in March is having in to speak kind of a political hero. He’s running a organization called Small Business Association of Michigan, and they have hundreds of small business. And he’s coming to speak in March, with the intention, you know, to try to build a relationship so that he can say to his members, the LLC has people available to help you solve your problems. And we’ve had people on the board in or around the MLC that have said, well, I’m working full time, but I’d helped. So isn’t that great? I mean, that’s been my experience, the the Lean community, my experience of the lean community is there people invested Personally and professionally, to help people. I mean, what motivates me is, I know I can change the life at work for people. Why would I not do that? Right? And the bottom line for a small business might be more profit. Why would I not do what?


Catherine McDonald  45:17

Yeah, taking people’s stress away making life easier? Not just work easier? Yeah, there’s so much of that thing. But that sounds amazing. And good luck with that. I hope you get some results out of that. Yeah, let us know how it goes.



Down, I’m sure we’ll we’ll all be following Patrick, because he’s, he’s a industry leader, which is really


Andy Olrich  45:36

great. It’s so great to be part of that community that you talk about. I’m down here in Australia, but I’m connected to what what you’re talking about. And it’s just fantastic to see. And it’s an example for other regions to follow is that when we talk about standards in laying there is a lot of non standardized ways of how people do it. So I think that’s some good value in that and really looking forward to and good on you, John, for being a part of that.



So this, so that really, that really just started from saying things like, lean on lean. Right? If we, if we all start using the same language? You know, I was, I came out of the HR business, very technical, right? super technical. Everybody likes their paycheck, right? So mistakes are really not good. Well, because of that, standards in Lean would go a long way towards making things better, you know, Henry Ford did it. Or Yoda did it. Great organizations have done one or standards.


Andy Olrich  46:41

And the state is having standard say, but they’re still able to be, I guess shaped for the type of business you’re in as well. So there’s that there is that the central core of it, but there is some flexibility there to to apply. And, again, any industry or process that you have, whether it be on the shop floor, or we’re in the HR space, or finance. So Don, it’s been fantastic to talk to you, mate. And Catherine, I really appreciate you coming on. And we certainly want to follow your journey from here on and, and for people listening, if you want to connect with Don learn more about Don, there’ll be some links to his LinkedIn and I name and things in the in the buyer. Catherine, have you got any thing you’d like to say at the end of this?


Catherine McDonald  47:33

No, just thanks a million. It was really interesting to hear your story and really appreciate you coming on the show. Thanks, Dan. And stay in touch. Yes,



really, indeed. It was a pleasure and pass my regards along to Patrick and the whole team. So


Andy Olrich  47:45

fantastic. Thanks. Thanks. All right.

Meet Patrick

Patrick is an internationally recognized leadership coach, consultant, and professional speaker, best known for his unique human approach to sound team-building practices; creating consensus and enabling empowerment. He founded his consulting practice in 2018 to work with leaders at all levels and organizations of all sizes to achieve higher levels of performance. He motivates, inspires, and drives the right results at all points in business processes.

Patrick has been delivering bottom-line results through specialized process improvement solutions for over 20 years. He’s worked with all types of businesses from private, non-profit, government, and manufacturing ranging from small business to billion-dollar corporations.