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We don't deliver training, we train to deliver business results.

Making Gingerbread Houses, “The Lean Way”

Posted on December 15, 2014 by


With it being the Festive Season, most people are busy baking, shopping and wrapping presents. This year we decided to make Gingerbread Houses for our clients.

You would think that it would be no big deal right? Watch what happens.

19 Feb 2021 European Aerospace Industry Collapse – What caused it?

Posted on December 9, 2014 by

Europe was this week devastated with the news that Airbus is to close all its European plants except its A380 superjumbo line. The economy of Hamburg will be badly affected, but less so than that of Toulouse where Airbus has been the only large employer since the late 1990’s. People are predicting a ghost-town in Toulouse, a city that already suffered from the wholesale out-sourcing of IT to India and China during the last decade. Already a spate of strikes and civil unrest has been plaguing the city. The social consequences of this latest news are frightening. But Toulouse is just one casualty of Airbus downsizing – aerospace is known for the complex network of organisations involved in the supply chain. Nearly every aerospace and defence company in Europe has been, and will continue to be badly hit by Airbus’ failures. The ramifications across Europe are enormous.

The defining event to which most industry observers point was the launch of the MRJ in 2008. This was the first aircraft for a newly formed Mitsubishi-Toyota joint venture, the organisation which subsequently became Associated Aircraft Producers (AAP), and significantly was the first commercial aircraft delivered on time in over 20 years. Not only that, but it met all its performance guarantees.

At launch the AAP20 reportedly had costs of production unmatchable by the A320 and 737 which meant that Boeing and Airbus were unable to match the price. AAP is quoted as saying that its advanced production techniques resulted in build costs of around 60% of those of its competitors.

Subsequent investigation into the decline of Boeing and Airbus reveals clues to the current situation were present more than 20 years before the MRJ and AAP came onto the scene. In the late 90’s Boeing brought in some of Toyota’s production system experts to sort out their B717 production facility in Long Beach, giving them firsthand knowledge of how to run a large commercial aircraft final assembly line. Around the same time, in the late 90’s Toyota began recruiting aeronautical engineers and in 2002 was spotted testing its TAPA, a 12-seat composite-fuselage jet over the Mojave Desert, USA. In 2005, just as Toyota was about to displace GM from its 70-year perch as the world’s number one auto-maker it reportedly had more money in the bank than all big-4 US automakers put together.

Now with the benefit of hindsight we can see the effects of the blinkered views of Boeing and Airbus executives around the turn of the century: They clearly believed they were in a two-horse race – the Airbus strategy had for some time been “Beat Boeing”, Boeing responded to the upstart Airbus by whingeing to its government about subsidies being given to Airbus, almost causing a trade-war between the USA and EU.

With Airbus attempting to develop more programmes than it could manage, Boeing was set to reap the returns from the 787. What happened next is the stuff of legend: Development and production problems beset the 787 like no programme before it. Some Airbus executives have claimed that Boeing tried to do with one giant leap what Airbus had gradually been stepping through over the previous 20 years.

By the time the first AAP20 was delivered, neither Boeing nor Airbus were in a fit state to respond, both dealing with lack-lustre sales/deliveries of their new aircraft and their cash-cow workhorse market decimated.

Leaving aside the global strategic and political issues, could Boeing and Airbus have done anything themselves to reduce the future damage? Most industry commentators suggest that they could, but it was a case of too little, too late.

This 20-year-old quote from Fujio Cho, then president of Toyota Motor Company comes to mind: “We get brilliant results from average people managing brilliant processes – while our competitors get average or worse results from brilliant people managing broken processes”

This is an extract from an article I am currently writing. Interested in your comments.

Sun Tzu, Statistics and The Art of War for Lean Six Sigma Executives

Posted on November 27, 2014 by

Warfare is one of the more common events in the history of man. Because of its importance to survival, warfare has been studied carefully. The factors that contribute to success in war are fairly well understood.

Fundamentally, success in war, as well as in business is based on leadership. Other factors such as information, preparation, organisation, communication, motivation and execution also contribute to success, but the effectiveness of these factors is entirely determined by the quality of leadership provided.

According to Sun Tzu, the Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher. To achieve success, you must manage information. Sun Tzu says that information, or the lack of it, determines the probability of success. According to him, if sufficient reliable information is available, victory is certain. Likewise, in business, you gather information to make good decisions. Information is the lifeblood of business. The best information comes from firsthand experience. Sun Tzu strongly champions the use of agents and informants (stakeholders) to gather and transmit firsthand information.

Sun Tzu warns us about relying on “folk wisdom”. Folk wisdom is the body of unproven assumptions and unwarranted speculation. Great danger lies in not challenging folk wisdom. Reliable facts always precede successful actions.

Most decisions made have an element of uncertainty. We simply cannot know everything. Even so, decisions must be made. Sun Tzu tells us to consider everything and make our decisions by weighing the potential for success. That is, Sun Tzu is telling us to assess the probability of success before acting. Modern managers have access to a number of simple, but powerful statistical techniques to assist them in quantifying uncertainty related to information. Lean Six Sigma is one such approach that can improve the quality of decisions.

Success on the information battlefield depends on knowing how to use statistics to make the right decisions.

Lean Six Sigma Training and National stereotypes, an interesting observation

Posted on November 22, 2014 by

From what we learn during Lean Six Sigma Green or Black Belt Training, there’s no Effect if there’s no Cause and it’s the same as saying, ‘There’s no smoke without a fire!’. It simply means nothing happens without a reason.

Lean Six Sigma Training national stereotypesStereotypes had to come from somewhere,  otherwise,  why do we have them? We tend to avoid discussing stereotypes. It’s not politically correct and we like to think we don’t adhere to them,  but if we’re honest, much of the time we do.

Stereotypes are dangerous.  They indicate fixed positions and they don’t allow room for Lean and Six Sigma thinking.

I recently delivered several 4 week Lean Six Sigma Black Belt courses with project work, for a multinational in the shipping industry. The location was 2 weeks in Copenhagen, 1 week in Rotterdam and the last week was in France.  The attendees were British, German, Scandinavian and French. Teams were a mixture of all nationalities.

As the training and team projects progressed, national traits became apparent. The Brits were weaker at data analysis, but great at brainstorming and just wanted to get on and try solutions.

The Germans and Scandinavians were very thorough with data analysis and following the steps, however could not easily adjust their solution as more facts became known later during solution mode which contradicted earlier assumptions and data. The Scandinavians took longer convincing but very dedicated once engaged. The Norwegians found the concept of “Efficiency”, difficult to grasp as there isn’t such a term in the Norwegian language.

The French were great at documenting the process at the end to ensure good follow through when handing over to the process stakeholders. Also the French site insisted all course attendees stop every day for one hour for a multi-course lunch with wine. The previous trainer was American and apparently couldn’t get used to accommodating the cultural differences, and had no patience for the French lunch breaks.

The team that had the best result was the one where they recognized the strengths of the different team members and had them lead at different stages of the project. Some teams, however, got stuck at data analysis stage and couldn’t move on to take action, or took too long to make a decision. Then other teams rushed the data analysis and didn’t necessarily get a good solution in place, or the handover was sloppy to the key stakeholders in the organisation.

Very interesting experience.

National traits and characteristics do exist. And we all display them at times. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t individuals, or that we don’t have choices about how we behave.  Making a generalisation about a cultural trait allows you to say it exists but not everyone displays it.

Establishing that it does exist simply helps explain certain cultural behaviours. One feature of cross cultural training is identifying where these stereotypes and generalisations are and aren’t helpful in a learning environment.

Stereotypes aren’t always bad!

Which stereotypes – negative and positive – are true or less true of your own country?

Lean Six Sigma Training, Top 10 Criticisms

Posted on November 20, 2014 by

Lean Six Sigma Green and Black Belt Training is often criticized. Good management is about making choices, so a decision not to do something should be analysed as closely as a decision to do something. When considering the decision to invest in Lean Six Sigma training, a sponsoring organization needs to overcome the following;

Top 10 Criticisms

1) We don’t manufacture anything!

2) Isn’t this another “flavor of the month” business initiative?

3) We’ve already done this!

4) We’re different!

5) We’re too busy!

6) We don’t have the money!!!!!

7) We don’t have processes!

8) It’ll never work here, these terms Green Belt and Yellow Belt.

9) Our processes only happen “on demand”

10) We’re not broke; we don’t need fixing!!!!

Lean Six Sigma is NOT…

Another management program …… It is about learning and implementing the methodology and skills to address and correct problems.

A justification for buying new equipment, spending more money, or hiring/firing people ……. It does require supervisors, managers and leaders to make good decisions.

A substitute for good leadership ……. It is a low-cost approach to identify and implement appropriate changes to meet specific goals.

A one size fits all solution ……… It is a scalable colloborative process to capture, prioritize and address all concerns of customers, suppliers and stakeholders.

To conclude, Lean Six Sigma is not just a set of tools and techniques, more than anything it’s a mindset and an attitude which requires top down leadership and visible support as a matter of course. Until this critical success factor is realized most efforts will be limited to ad-hoc improvements  and fail to realize the benefits initially envisaged.

The following quote captures this point succinctly.

“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof”.

~John Kenneth Galbraith