How to build empowered teams in a structured approach


Let’s continue on our three-step journey listening to the conversation between Paul Hayes, Head of Supply Chain at Siam City Cement Public Company Limited Thailand (SCCC) and Ramesh Raju, Managing Partner, Kaizen Institute Thailand. We already learned in the first article of this series that KAIZEN™ is about improving people’s awareness of productivity in a positive and constructive way. In the following part of the conversation we focus on the concrete actions that SCCC took to evaluate if KAIZEN™ was the future for their organization. Read more about how they managed to create full transparency every step of the journey.

Siam City Cement Public Company Limited (SCCC): Strategy

Currently, the Company has determined to grow the business portfolio and to expand its revenue base, and thus has expanded its businesses and established local and foreign subsidiary and joint venture companies in Southeast Asia and South Asia. As the Company has been producing and marketing high-quality and innovative cement products domestically and in Asia, the subsidiary and associated companies were also hard at work to develop products and services related to the Company’s core business encompassing operations involving many types of construction products and fiber-cement decorative materials for architectural works both domestically and abroad. Also, well advanced were peripheral businesses such as waste management, industrial cleaning services and international seaborne trade.

Source: SCCC Annual Report 2020

Ramesh Raju: How did you introduce KAIZEN™ and Lean thinking into the organization?

Paul Hayes:

When we started implementing KAIZEN™, there was some confusion and distrust, because it was not clear which tools to use and where to focus our limited resources. Following the advice of Kaizen Institute, we consistently emphasized that change is about people and transparency, especially when it comes to cross-functional processes across every activity. Data and visualizations are enablers for transparency, but the focus is on going to the gemba: ‘Go See’ where the value is added, ‘learning to see’ where muda (waste) is in the process.

When people in the organization started to see the big picture, it became quite invigorating. We made a switch from trying to squeeze more efficiency out of our existing procedures and practices, to finding a much better way of achieving more, by looking more deeply into the processes we actually have.

What have you achieved in this project already?

In 2019 we kicked-off the transformation with a large pilot project which is a huge expense in our industry. It was a cross-functional project which brought together finance, planning and procurement and involved a lot of additional people ‘on the ground’. The intention was to eliminate silo-type thinking and to demonstrate full transparency every step of the way, evaluating if a KAIZEN™ approach was the future for SCCC. It opened the eyes of senior management and had a major impact on how they work together as a team, on a day-by-day basis. We had a great start, and this motivated us to do even greater things.

We then decided to implement KAIZEN™ across all functions of Supply Chain, from incoming raw materials, through packaging materials production, packing and dispatch, to outbound distribution. Within 12 months, we made very good progress in pushing ahead with our improvements. Once both managers and workers started to see the benefits of the KAIZEN™ approach, both their enthusiasm and efficiency became features of their daily performance.

Overall, our teams are now more energetic and enthusiastic than ever before. There is a real sense of achievement in our teams. The efficient flow of information and the transparency in decision making is now there for all to witness. Therefore, communications across all departments and between managers and workers has never been better.

“Overall, our teams are now more energetic and enthusiastic than ever before. There is a real sense of achievement in our teams.”

What benefits have you gained from this KAIZEN™ journey?

The first and most fundamental thing we learned from working with Kaizen Institute was that management needs to be at the workplace (gemba) as often as they can – definitely much more often than before. It is important that the managers and people at the gemba can see that senior management is taking a very serious interest in what they are doing. Our KAIZEN™ journey was one in which all of us would learn to work more closely together, thereby making us more efficient and empowering every single team.

It has to be stressed that management involvement is not about doing anyone else’s job. In contrast, everyone needs to figure out for themselves, by making their own mistakes and then applying their new knowledge to those practices in which they are involved. This is not something you can delegate.

“One very important job of senior management is to visit the workplace (gemba) regularly and to get actively involved in improvements.”

Can you elaborate a bit on the term ‘making mistakes’? What exactly do you mean by that?

It takes time to build up trust. People need to see that it is okay to mention that they do not understand what is going on, or that we do not have a solution to a particular problem, or even to raise their hands to point out a problem they have. When everyone experiences such a practice, not once but a number of times, they realize that the reactions from managers are inherently positive. This is the strength. That is a sign that their responsibility is accepted. It is a sign of the behaviour we are looking for from one and all.

People now acknowledge that sharing problems in their area is what we are looking for – instead of treating it as a sign of weakness. By accepting that they have a problem we now regard as a sign of strength, requiring all of us to work together to solve it.

Leader practice at SCCC’s Supply Chain gemba
SCCC Leadership practice at gemba

Working together more closely – how is this reflected in your meeting culture?

The majority of our traditional meetings have been replaced by KAIZEN™ style meetings that include daily stand-ups at workplace team boards, especially between the shifts, as well as our daily department stand-ups and weekly Mission Control meetings at each office and plant location.

How do you see your stretch goals for 2021 and beyond?

The team feels a lot more in control of their situation, which is great. Applying KAIZEN™ to SCCC has shown us how a well-structured approach to maintaining and improving quality and process efficiency can help production and office personnel achieve significant benefits.

I am very convinced of the value of this approach as a sustainable initiative, getting everyone on the same page, making it a very collaborative, positive and invigorating way of working.

“Going to gemba and ‘learning to see’ the actual process itself, seeing the big picture- this is quite invigorating.”

Interested in reading where SCCC stands today in their implementation? Watch out for the next blog post!

Click here to read the first part of this trilogy.

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