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Just-In-Time Cafe Podcast, Episode 17: The Importance of Building a Lean Culture With Brett Cooper, Co-founder of Integris Performance Advisors -

We saved a seat for you to join us at the Just-In-Time Cafe this week to talk about apps, news, books and all things related to good clean problem solving.

We’ll cover an app that gives PowerPoint a face lift. On today’s Bulletin Board we’ll find out how El Paso is going to show us “The Way” and then we’ll find out why is in the news (I hope it’s not the Police Report…). For Tools of the Trade we’ll review Patrick Lencioni’s new book – He’s famous for The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team and his latest covers the Three Virtues of the best team players. Our Special Request comes from a subscriber who has uncovered a Lean “Battle of the Acronyms” and for Today’s Special, Tracy will be interviewing a Lean veteran who addresses the concept of “Intentional Culture.” We make our ice cubes out of coffee here at the cafe so we never serve anything diluted – We give it to you straight!

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Podcast Transcript

Welcome to Just-In-Time Café,’s official podcast where we help you build your problem-solving muscles. We share best practices from over 20 years of success helping organizations from the Fortune 500 to small and medium-size business to government achieve their goals using Lean Six Sigma.


Tracy O’Rourke: Hey, Elisabeth.

Elisabeth Swan: Hey, Tracy. Nice to see you.

Tracy O’Rourke: Nice to see you too. It’s really busy in here today. It’s so loud. Where are all these people come from?

Elisabeth Swan: I know. This place is getting way too popular.

Tracy O’Rourke: I know. It’s probably because they heard about our Just-In-Time Café.

Elisabeth Swan: They’re coming to hear us, right?

Tracy O’Rourke: Yeah. Let’s get some coffee and head into the private dining room.

Elisabeth Swan: I’m right behind you.

What’s on the Menu (Podcast Agenda)

Tracy O’Rourke: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Just-In-Time Café. I’m Tracy O’Rourke. And this is Elisabeth Swan. And we are your host. So Elisabeth, what is on the menu today?

Elisabeth Swan: I am so glad you want to hear the menu, Tracy. Let’s look. Today’s Appetizer, we’ve got an app that gives PowerPoint a facelift.

And then on Today’s Bulletin board, we’re going to find out how the City of El Paso is going to show us the way and we’ll find out why Go Lean Six Sigma is in the news. I hope it’s not police report.

For Tools of the Trade, we’re going to cover Patrick Lencioni’s new book. He is most famous for The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. But this new one covers the three virtues of a great team player.

For Today’s Special Request, we got a question from a subscriber that uncovers a Lean battle for the acronyms.

And then Today’s Special, Tracy, your interview with a Lean veteran to address the concept of intentional culture. I’m dying to find out about that.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. We got a good lineup today.

Elisabeth Swan: We do. Let’s get to the appetizer.

Appetizer: SlideModel

Elisabeth Swan: OK, Tracy. What is this app that gives PowerPoint a facelift?

Tracy O’Rourke: So this app is actually something that I’ve used quite a lot in the past. It’s called And if you’re running it at time to develop a slide presentation in PowerPoint but you want high quality professionally designed slides, this website is for you.

So, they have ready-made PowerPoint templates, shapes, designs, and diagrams. But they’re not just the standard kinds of PowerPoint templates that come in PowerPoint. These are super cool, way awesome types of designs. They have so many searchable categories like for business or strategy or marketing or SWOT templates. You could even search by shape or put in a type that you want like a thermometer graph as an example and it will pull up any slides that have a thermometer graph.

What’s really cool is they’ve got a lot of ready-made templates for Lean and Six Sigma and DMAIC all ready. And so, it’s important to note that these are not JPEGs. They’re not pictures of things that you insert in PowerPoint. They’re actually PowerPoint slides and you can move the shapes. You can change the colors. You can arrange or rearrange the design however you want. So there’s a lot of flexibility in using the slides as well.

So, a couple of benefits that I want to mention is that it saves hours of work because they’re downloadable and they’re ready-made slides. The designs are professional, very sharp-looking, very flexible. And again like I had said, you can adjust the colors, the sizes, the shapes, the text. You can insert your own logos, those kinds of things.

And how many designs you think they have? Well, about 12,000 designs that you could actually choose from. So, there’s a lot to see. I love going in there just seeing what they come up with. It’s like shopping for really cool-looking slides.

Elisabeth Swan: And I know you love, Tracy. So actually for me, this was a huge discovery of how you have such fun presentations. It’s like this is a great like insight into that your criteria were things that were way cool and awesome. So, thank you for turning me on to your secret weapon.

And then the other thing I just want to tell folks that want to go take a look at SlideModel, they have a lot of different subscription options. You could just do one day. You could do yearly. You could do it with a group, up to five people, being able to download. And they’ll give you so many images per month. So just based on your – what you think your user level would be. They seem pretty flexible on how you can use them. So, I think it’s a pretty cool app.

Tracy O’Rourke: Good. I’m glad you like it. And I think a lot of people, if you have to do presentations, you’re going to really like this.

Elisabeth Swan: I’m with you. Hey, up next, let’s go to the Bulletin Board.

Bulletin Board

Tracy O’Rourke: So Elisabeth, how is El Paso showing us the way?

Elisabeth Swan: I’m glad you asked. This is a double entendre I’m giving you because El Paso I figured out actually means the way or the path, which is kind of cool as the name of your city because for me, it was always a big discovery like I remember finding out that pesto which from where I am, that’s like this incredible basal peanut thing that you grow up revering that it just meant paste. Pesto just means paste. But in this case, El Paso means the way. And I thought that was really cool.

They were basically working to show us the way to keep streets safer. Have you ever felt the jolt of hitting a pothole and then wondering, “What did I just do to your car?” Then you want your town to follow their example, to follow the way.

El Paso which has about 860,000 residents, so bigger than Boston which is 650,000 or something like that, they’re using Lean Six Sigma to improve city government processes, something near and dear to both our hearts. In this case, they studied the process to fill potholes and they found that by assigning crews to a smaller geographic area, they drove down the drive time and they drove up the number of potholes they could address in a shorter time period. So they can now fill 500 holes a week versus 300 a week in 2016. And I want that in my town.

The other cool related topic is the City of Louisville, they were also using Lean Six Sigma to clean up the pothole process. And they came up with a Report a Pothole hotline and they reduced the cycle time to fill. And then they upgraded the equipment to better press asphalt into place. So they really tackled stuff like that. They have a whole dashboard called Louis Stat. It’s totally public. You can go look up how they’re doing it, responding to police calls, things like that.

So, very encouraging to see these cities grabbing process improvement to serve their populations. I love it.

Tracy O’Rourke: I love it too. And I will say that I have a whole new appreciation for potholes that do not exist because I was on a road that was in desperate need of repair and it was so bad that I had to turn around and go back because I could not handle the ride. I was not in a jeep. And so, I really appreciate that.

Elisabeth Swan: And you were not in El Paso.

Tracy O’Rourke: I was not in El Paso. I was actually on a volcano.

Elisabeth Swan: Wow! And a jeep didn’t even help you. So Tracy, tell me, how did end up in the news?

Tracy O’Rourke: Well, I am honored and proud to say that my news article for this month is on I’m so excited. We’re in the news. So we are recognized as one of Hawaii’s fastest growing small businesses in the Pacific Business News. They’re having their 23rd Annual Hawaii Fastest 50 and is on the list again this year. So, that is super exciting.

Last year, we also were on the list. And you basically go to this event and they don’t announce who the fastest growing companies are until you get there. And so, we went last year. It was a lot of fun. There was probably about 350 people there and they just go down the list, the 50th, 40th, and then they get down and it was top 10 left and we hadn’t been called yet. And so, it was really exciting. We were the 6th fastest growing company in Hawaii. So that was very exciting.

And I think more importantly why? Because, and here’s a free plug here of course, because we make things easy and accessible. People like our stuff, Yellow Belt, Green Belt, Black Belt, Lean Training, and we have so much free stuff like this podcast and webinars and blogs.

So, happy to announce that a lot of people like us and we’re growing. So that’s a little bit about us.

Elisabeth Swan: That’s a nice one. I’m glad it wasn’t a police report. But I just want to say, last year, you got to go to the ceremony. I think this year I need to go to the ceremony especially since it’s in Hawaii.

Tracy O’Rourke: This is true. I think you’re right. I would love to go as well. But I’ll let you go this time.

Elisabeth Swan: Thank you, Tracy. You’re so kind. You’re listening to the Just-In-Time Café podcast. I’m Elisabeth Swan. Next up, it is Tools of the Trade.

Tools of the Trade: The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni

Tracy O’Rourke: OK, Elisabeth, so tell us the three key virtues of a great team.

Elisabeth Swan: This was a great one, Tracy. I really appreciate this book. It is The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni. And our listeners are going to be relieved to know that the 3 key virtues are the ability to be humble, hungry, and smart. And in case you’re wondering about that last one because you, “Am I smart or not?” it’s people smart.

Most people know about Patrick Lencioni because of his 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. The book is very popular and his books are really useful for us and folks in the process improvement world because we work in teams. And even if not, we need stakeholders and leaders to be good team players too.

And he starts this book with what he calls a fable. And it reminded me of the first person to do that which is Eli Goldratt and he popularized that technique with The Goal so he had a novel upfront.

And in this case, he has got this upfront fable with real people, which works well. They’re believable characters. They’re nice, the writing style, the sense of humor. He has got a real easy way. It’s almost gentleness is what I take from this book. But the people are real. The situations are occasionally funny.

And what I like also about when it gets to the model, so the first two thirds are this fable and the last third is about his model. And he points out that humility is most key. And a lot of people would say people smarts. And I like that he went for humility. And I think you know that when you work with someone who is not humble. It’s basically the same as his approach with 5 dysfunctions like what doesn’t work. You know when you’re working with someone who is not.

The other thing I really appreciated in that last third of his book is he deals with application like how do you hire an ideal team player? How do you assess your current employees as to how ideal a team player they are? How do you develop ideal team players? And then how do you build a culture full of these people?

So, he offers again like us, it’s lots of free tools, questionnaires, models, PDFs, and interviewing techniques, assessments, really good stuff and free. So I really appreciate it. I highly recommend this to anybody, really anybody. But in particular, if you’re trying to work with teams and you want to get a better sense of what it means to be a team good player.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. I actually like this book as well. This is The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni. And I like all of his books. He has written some really good books. I like The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team as well and I like his style of writing.

One of the things I really liked about this book, I would absolutely agree with these three qualities. And I think one of my favorite parts of the book was when he goes through scenarios of a missing quality. So you could be hungry and smart but not humble. And what does that create? A skillful politician. And you know, I guess I have to say sadly, someone I know popped into my head for many of these like, “Oh yeah, I know that kind of a person.”

Another one, smart and humble but not hungry, the lovable slacker. So of course, you don’t want to use these labels with people because that’s not really a great way to build a team. But I have to be honest and tell you that I actually got a visual of someone I know that does this or that is missing this quality.

So, I thought that was interesting too to really sort of make the association of a missing quality concrete. So that was something I really liked about the book.

So, I thought that was interesting too to really sort of make the association of a missing quality concrete.

The other thing I liked is that the hungry part. So, he spends time mentioning that he’s talking about the good hunger. So he doesn’t want people to be so hungry that they don’t take care of themselves. That’s actually not healthy either.

So it’s really more of a healthy hungry that is the type of person that doesn’t have to be pushed by a manager. They work harder because they are motivated and they’re diligent. But it’s not that they’re chained to their desk and they don’t take care of themselves and take a break when they should, and those kinds of things. They still have the importance of values and family and those kinds of things in mind. So I really liked that approach as well.

Elisabeth Swan: And I think I’m going to use it. I can’t imagine hiring anybody now without really thinking through his methods of interviewing.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes, I agree. I think it’s important. Those qualities are very telling. And I also thought about people that ended up having to leave out of organizations and why didn’t it work? What were they – and sometimes it was a quality, one of these qualities that they didn’t have.

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah, good to make it obvious and put it out there and more understandable of why you might not fit in the culture. Great book. Highly recommended.

Tracy O’Rourke: And I loved your review as well, Elisabeth. And I would highly recommend reading Elisabeth’s review on our website. So, you were listening to the Just-In-Time Café podcast. I’m Tracy O’Rourke. In just a short while, we’ll get to hear my interview with Brett Cooper about Lean culture. But first, it’s a Special Request, the Q&A from one of our subscribers.

Special Request

Tracy O’Rourke: So Elisabeth, here’s a question for you from one of our subscribers. Why do some online resources refer to 7 wastes and use the acronym TIMWOOD?

Elisabeth Swan: This is a great question. And at the heart of the answer is basically, how did you learn it? How did you learn about the 7 wastes, the 8 wastes? And it reminds me of some of the root causes people get to with the processes they’re looking at. And when they ask why, why do you do it this way? And sometimes they get down to, “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

And when they ask why, why do you do it this way? And sometimes they get down to, “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

So this can be the way you’ve always done it. But what I love is that I learned to remember using TIMWOOD. That’s transportation, inventory, movement, waiting, over production, over processing, and defects. TIMWOOD as a way to remember the 7 wastes.

But you Tracy O’Rourke introduced me to the DOWNTIME acronym. And at first when I got a slide deck from you, I corrected you. And I send it back saying, “I don’t know where you got this DOWNTIME acronym. But the acronym is TIMWOOD, my friend. So you might want to correct this.”

So, when you talked to me about it and I finally noticed like duh, it spells DOWNTIME, which is one of the wastes of waiting. I thought, “Oh, well, this is way too succinct.” It really ties up 8 wastes by describing it a waste and it includes the incredibly important non-utilized talent.

There are some semantics. You could say over processing becomes ex for processing. People still get what those mean. And that some TIMWOOD enthusiasts added you as the TIMWOOD University. TIMWOOD U like it’s the underutilized intellectual capital is another way of saying it. Or, I’ve seen other websites that claim it’s TIMWOOD like I don’t know if it’s apostrophe like it belongs to TIMWOOD or there’s a bunch of different TIMWOOD that are wasting people’s time.

But I’d say, use whatever is comfortable. But I confess, I find DOWNTIME to be the elegant solution. Plus, poor Tim Wood, any guy that’s named Tim Wood, he is the poster child of wastes.

Tracy O’Rourke: He is the poster child of the 8 wastes or 7 wastes at least.

Elisabeth Swan: I haven’t met him yet but if he’s out there, I know this is probably bumming him out.

Tracy O’Rourke: Right. And ultimately, there’s good intent behind both acronyms, right? We’re trying to use a technique as many instructors do to try to help students remember what the 8 wastes are. And if you don’t like them, create one of your own. We’d love to hear it.

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah, share it. Or new wastes, those are always fun. So up next, Tracy’s interview with Brett Cooper, Managing Partner of Integris. Tracy, can you give us a little taste of what your upcoming interview is all about?

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. I’m meeting with Brett Cooper. And he has been with Integris for about five years but he has been in Lean and process improvement in the industry for about 15 years. And really, we’re going to be talking about everything else but the tools when it comes to Lean. So what we find often is most organizations will approach Lean or process improvement by starting with training. And this is really more about all the other things organizations should be thinking about before they embark on a Lean journey.

Elisabeth Swan: I’m looking forward to it. Great taste, Tracy.

Tracy O’Rourke: Me too.

Today’s Special: Interview with Brett Cooper, Co-founder of Integris Performance Advisors & the IMPACT! Leadership Summit

Tracy O’Rourke: Hey, Brett. How are you today?

Brett Cooper: I’m doing great, Tracy. How are you?

Tracy O’Rourke: Good. Thanks for joining me in the Just-In-Time Café for a cup of coffee.

Brett Cooper: My pleasure. Thank you for having me. Just so you know, since I am here in California, I do have my soy latte all ready to go.

Tracy O’Rourke: Nice. Of course, it has to be soy latte, a bit healthy.

Brett Cooper: Of course! Absolutely. I’m going to put some alfalfa sprouts on my burger later too.

Tracy O’Rourke: Good. Well, let’s move to a quieter room so we could talk about building a Lean culture.

Brett Cooper: Sounds good.

Tracy O’Rourke: OK. So before we launch into our conversation, let me tell our audience a little bit about our guest today, Brett Cooper. So Brett is a Managing Partner for Integris Performance Advisors for the last five years. And before that, Brett worked with Pivotal Resources for about ten years alongside the owner-author, Peter Pande who wrote the book, The Six Sigma Way and the Field Guide Handbook.

Integris is an organization that helps companies develope leaders, excellence in team performance, and build operational excellence using continuous improvement principles of Lean Six Sigma.

Integris has helped lots of different organizations build these skills including King County, LA County, Southern California Gas, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Comcast, and the great states of Washington and Arizona to name a few. That’s pretty impressive. So, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Brett for at least 15 years working side by side both at Pivotal Resources and Integris so I actually know Brett pretty well.

So, just a little bit more about Brett, he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. And when he’s not building great organizations, he’s volunteering his time as a volunteer coordinator for the East Bay Stand Down. What is that about?

Brett Cooper: The Stand Down program, I actually do two Stand Down programs up here, the East Bay Stand Down and the Stand Down on the Delta. We do them in opposite years. And essentially what these stand down programs are, is we build a complete compound where we bring about 400 homeless or near homeless veterans into this encampment. And over the course of the four days, we serve them with medical help and dental help and legal help and job search.

And more than anything, we take these folks off the street and help them get back into a community. So it’s an awesome program. I got involved with it for the first time in 2010 as a volunteer. A friend got me involved there. I feel in love with it. And now, I help coordinate the thing every year.

Tracy O’Rourke: Wow! That’s really impressive. That’s a lot of work too, isn’t it?

Brett Cooper: It is a lot of work. As a matter of fact, our next program is coming up next month. So we’re right in the throes of it.

Tracy O’Rourke: So tell me, how did Integris get started?

Brett Cooper: It’s a funny story. As you know, you and I were working together back in the early 2000s working on Lean Six Sigma programs. This is back when Jack Welch and GE were the poster child for Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma. And we had clients coming up to us all the time saying, “We want Lean thinking to be part of the DNA of our organization.” And as you know, largely the approach that we took back then was, “Great! Let’s do some training. Let’s create some Black Belts and some Green Belts and let’s do some projects.”

Well, what happened with that is we ended up doing a lot of great improvement projects but we really didn’t make much movement on the culture of the organization. So as we took a look at what those engagements were doing and what they weren’t doing, it really dawned on us that we need to have a whole lot more focus on other more holistic areas of organizational excellence if we really want to have that DNA of the organization to change.

So as we took a look at what those engagements were doing and what they weren’t doing, it really dawned on us that we need to have a whole lot more focus on other more holistic areas of organizational excellence if we really want to have that DNA of the organization to change.

And so, it was with that that we launched Integris, recognizing that we wanted to help organizations not just on what do Lean Six Sigma but really drive holistic change and do Lean transformation and build a healthy organization.

Tracy O’Rourke: Right. So not just focusing on the tools approach anymore but a transformation approach, right?

Brett Cooper: Absolutely. Yeah, that tools approach was so ingrained in us back in the old days and it was largely because you had leaders like Jack Welch who were so strong and focused that they pushed this through. But the bottom line is, most organizations didn’t have that kind of leadership.

And so, the tools-focused became “let’s create some experts over here on the corner and have them go around the organization and fix things.” And in many cases, that did exactly the opposite of creating culture. It instead created these process improvement experts or process improvement warriors throughout the organizations that are realtors looking at and saying, “No, stay out of my area, please.”

Tracy O’Rourke: Right, yes. I could see that too. And it’s nice to hear that there are organizations like Integris out there helping with the culture piece because I agree with you, I think the approach is different now. But the sad part is there are still many organizations that take a tool approach initially, right? You’ve probably talked to a lot of organizations at the start of some of their journeys and they want training. Is that right?

Brett Cooper: We hear it all the time. We hear it all the time. And it’s – a lot of people when they look – a lot of organizations, when they look at implementing Lean Six Sigma, they read all the white papers, they read all books and so much of that is about the Green Belt training and about the projects, right? It’s about the value stream mapping and using 5S and doing the process walks. Most of those books and whitepapers don’t really address the other kinds of issues around leadership and alignment and especially being focused on the customer.

Tracy O’Rourke: Right. Well, that’s a great segue into what I should mention is Integris, especially you, Brett, was an author of a white paper called Achieving Lean Culture. It includes an implementation roadmap using what you guys called the 4 Pillars of Operational Excellence to Build Lean Culture. So I’m really excited to make that available to our listeners.

But before we get into the 4 pillars, what do you mean by Lean culture?

Brett Cooper: Well, I think the first thing that we should talk about is what do we mean by culture in general? I mean after all, culture is really about the group norms of behavior and the underlying values that allow an organization to keep those in place. So if we are thinking about Lean culture, then we’re going to be talking about an organization culture where the values and the behaviors are aligned with the principles of Lean management.

So if we are thinking about Lean culture, then we’re going to be talking about an organization culture where the values and the behaviors are aligned with the principles of Lean management.

And if you think about Lean management then what are those principles? The entire goal around Lean transformation and Lean efforts really is around delighting customers, engaging employees, and satisfying our stakeholders.

Tracy O’Rourke: And who wouldn’t want that in their culture?

Brett Cooper: Absolutely! Everybody wants it. The problem that I’ve seen and that our team has experienced time and time again is that organizations are so siloed that you have the continuous improvement group doing the Lean efforts. Then you have the HR group doing the leadership efforts. Then you have the strategic planning group doing the cascading goals. And those silos persist throughout the organization and they end up creating silos in the organizational culture.

Tracy O’Rourke: Absolutely. And so now, it’s just checking the box for some of these action items as opposed to a transformation.

Brett Cooper: Absolutely. Absolutely. So by helping the cross-section of the organization, understand that when you’re doing the continuous work, you should also be looking and coordinating with the leadership work for example. That brings those things together, knocks down silos, and really focuses more than on creating those norms of behavior and values rather than just trying to solve problems.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes.

Brett Cooper: You know Tracy, to understand what the 4 pillars of operational excellence is all about, we really have to ask the question, why do we do Lean? And there are really 3 key reasons why we do Lean.

The first is we need to delight our customers, right? It’s all about how do we do it better, faster, cheaper? Or understanding whatever the requirements of our specific customers are all about, what are those requirements and how do we deliver against those so that they are satisfied, happy, and delighted?

The second is really around engaging employees. It’s about making it easier for employees to do their job so they can do what they are trained to do and what they love to do.

It’s about making it easier for employees to do their job so they can do what they are trained to do and what they love to do.

As a matter of fact, one of your previous Just-In-Time Café podcast was with Brian Elms from the City of Denver and he talked a lot about that. I love how he focused on that his job largely was around helping the City Police for example get their reports done quicker so they could be out helping people. That was fabulous. That’s all about engaging employees.

And then the third piece of why we do Lean is ultimately around satisfying stakeholders, right?

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes.

Brett Cooper: Because when we reduce wastes, when we make things more efficient, we improve the bottom line and whether you’re in a for-profit company with actual stockholders or you’re in a government organization with other kinds of stakeholders, if we can be more financially responsible, everybody is going to be happy.

Tracy O’Rourke: So what I’m hearing really is everybody should be doing Lean. And I’m really surprised, lots of organizations still don’t. Drives me crazy!

Brett Cooper: And I’ll tell you why. Because there are so many people that have had bad experiences with Lean because people have used it incorrectly, I can’t tell how many organizations I still run into that think Lean is an acronym, an acronym for less employees are needed. Talk about a bad way to look at this.

Tracy O’Rourke: I know! It’s painful.

Brett Cooper: It is very painful.

Tracy O’Rourke: Well, I think what’s really interesting about this white paper in particular is there really is a framework that you’ve outlined very nicely for people to get – to really apply building a Lean culture. So let’s talk a little bit about these 4 pillars of operational excellence that is mentioned.

Brett Cooper: Sounds good. And I will start by saying that the framework itself is something that we think is really, really important. Now, whether an organization uses our framework or another framework, that’s not really the most important thing. What I think is the most important is for an organization to have a stated framework, how they are going to go about evolving their organizational culture, because by having a framework, you create a common language and it allows different parts of the organization to then talk about what it is you’re trying to do.

So when we created the 4 pillars of operational excellence, that’s exactly what we had in mind. So we have some organizations that we work with that use the 4 pillars exactly as it is and others who take it and adapt it and kind of tweak it in their own way.

Tracy O’Rourke: So tell us a little bit about this framework. What are the 4 pillars?

Brett Cooper: Yes. So the 4 pillars, of course, continuous improvement is one of those pillars. Like I said, before we started Integris, that’s the pillar that we entirely focused on. The continuous improvement pillar is where you work on your continuous improvement infrastructure. You put together your budget portfolio and you do all of your skills training, your project approach, things like that.

But as we’ve been talking about that in and of itself doesn’t get to the culture. So the other three are really important. The first thing that we look at is creating a common language around leadership and team interaction. We call that pillar the intentional culture pillar. It’s again, about stating how is it that we want leaders and team members to behave as they work together.

Next pillar is really about getting clear all the way around the organization around things like mission, vision, values, top priorities. A lot of organizations will create those mission, vision, values, top priorities in the back room, put them on their website. But when you ask people in the organization, “Hey, what are our mission, vision, and values?” Most people don’t have any idea.

But when you ask people in the organization, “Hey, what are our mission, vision, and values?” Most people don’t have any idea.

So the next pillar, we call it enterprise alignment. And that’s really where we focus on those top priorities and make sure that all of those goals are cascading down into the organization. And then the fourth and final and certainly not least is all around customer focus. And that’s where we help organizations in where the customer-focused pillar is where everyone throughout the organization really understands that they’re there to serve the customer. So it’s about understanding who is the customer and what do they require?

Our advice and my guidance to any organization will be to take a look at this framework and understand where are you today and start from there. With those 4 pillars being intentional culture, enterprise alignment, continuous improvement, and customer focus.

But there are a lot of organizations who have done a really great job on enterprise alignment for example. They’ve done a great job of cascading goals and they have their metric systems in place, and if that’s the case, then you should be going right into making sure that you’re quarterly business reviews are keeping track of what those metrics are telling you. But if those metrics don’t exist for example, then you really ought to think about putting a metric system in place so you can measure how performance is going.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. Well, we talked about building a Lean culture, and I think the framework can be really helpful for organizations. But I’m sure a lot of our listeners have an interest in knowing specifically what are some of the things that you see happening under the intentional culture pillar, which I really like the name of that, intentional culture as just opposed to see what happens culture.

Brett Cooper: Right.

Tracy O’Rourke: I mean that is really purposeful. Purposeful culture is really important. And sometimes if we don’t pay attention to the culture and what we really want out culture to be, it’s just becomes whatever people make it, right?

Brett Cooper: Exactly. The truth is that each of us are individuals and we come from our own towns, our own parents, we’re taught different things, we’re taught how to behave. And when you get a group of people in an organization together, if you leave it to every individual to say, “This is how I think I should act as a leader and this is how I should act as a team member,” then everybody is going to have their own definition of that.

And what we find is that most people have some good ideas to bring to the table around those kinds of concepts. But you need some kind of a framework, some kind of a model to align people around, OK, this is what it means to be a leader in this organization or this is how we’re going to work together as a team.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes, that is really important. And then you can actually defend that, right?

Brett Cooper: Exactly.

Tracy O’Rourke: So sometimes people don’t defend what they say, “We’re going to commit to this,” and then when they see people not necessarily behaving that way, they don’t correct it or they don’t defend those things. So I think that’s really interesting to say it’s intentional, it’s purposeful, and that means that we have to defend it.

Brett Cooper: Yeah. I’ll give you an example of how this works. We had a client. As you know, Tracy, we have a client up in King County, Washington who had been working on their Lean efforts and had been trying to improve their team dynamics just by trying to work better together. And their employee engagement survey back in 2015 showed that their employee engagement levels were very low and they weren’t very happy about that fact.

And so, when they reached out to us, they set the goal with us that said, “We really want to address this employee engagement issue.” So we worked with them using a framework that we call the 5 Behaviors of a Cohesive Team, which is based on Patrick Lencioni’s book, The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, which essentially helps the team work through these 5 behaviors of working together which is around building trust, enabling healthy conflict, committing to decisions, holding each other accountable, and focusing on shared results.

And over the course of a year, we worked with the team using that framework to get ideas, get issues, get topics out on the table that they never talked about before. And when they took their employee engagement survey in 2016, they were blown away at the results. They had increases of 30, 33, up to 35% increases in their questions related to employee engagement and team spirit.

And when they took their employee engagement survey in 2016, they were blown away at the results. They had increases of 30, 33, up to 35% increases in their questions related to employee engagement and team spirit.

Tracy O’Rourke: Wow! That’s impressive.

Brett Cooper: Yeah.

Tracy O’Rourke: And what I really think is impressive is you have found a way. Integris has found a way to measure success. So, culture has a tendency to be something squishy that we can’t measure. But it sounds to me like you guys have identified that employee engagement is a sign of a healthy culture and often healthy cultures are Lean cultures. And it sounds to me like some of your clients are having increases in employee engagement and therefore the culture piece is working.

Brett Cooper: That’s exactly right. We really see employee engagement as a key metric of cultural evolution success. If you look at all the researches that’s out there, if you look at experts like Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, the authors of The Leadership Challenge, you look at The Gallup Poll, Towers Perrin, all of these organizations have done research on the impact of employee engagement. And the fact is that employee engagement leads to better customer service, lower turnover, better results, better process improvement, all of those things are impacted when employees are engaged at work.

When we talk about engagement, we’re talking about employees essentially being willing to offer their discretionary effort for the good of the organization. So any organization that wants to improve culture and make it a more healthy environment, if you measure that employee engagement and see how connected to the organization people are, I think you’re going to be pleased if you can make movement on those numbers.

Tracy O’Rourke: Definitely. And I can’t believe we’re out of time already. I could talk to you for hours, Brett. So, is there anything else that you want listeners to know about Integris or about building a Lean culture?

Brett Cooper: What I would say is that a great place to start is on that intentional culture. Start defining what leadership and team dynamics really is all about in your organization because when you get people talking about those kinds of things, which really importantly, are not things that we normally talk about.

Start defining what leadership and team dynamics really is all about in your organization because when you get people talking about those kinds of things, which really importantly, are not things that we normally talk about.

When we do this kind of work, we talk about personal value. We talk about personal histories. And we talk about personality styles. These aren’t things that people will normally talk about. I’ve never come into the office in the past and said, “Hey. So Tracy, tell me about your personal values today.” It’s just not things that people naturally talk about unless you have a little bit of a, I’ll call it a contrived way to start talking about these things.

So my recommendation to an organization that is trying to evolve culture and trying to make Lean thinking really stick, start talking about leadership, team dynamics, personal values, those kinds of issues, and I think you’re going to have a lot of power to your Lean efforts.

Tracy O’Rourke: OK. That’s awesome. Thank you for that. And one last question, how would listeners get a hold of you? Are you on LinkedIn, Brett?

Brett Cooper: I am on LinkedIn and I love it when people connect with me. My LinkedIn name is Brett M. Cooper. I do have an M for Matthew in there. I’m also on Twitter. My Twitter handle is @Brett_Integris. And a real easy way to find out more about us as an organization, and specifically what we’re focusing on now in this leadership and team development space is take a look at our flagship URL, which is

Tracy O’Rourke: Well, thank you so much, Brett, for joining me today at the Café. And I also want to thank our listeners for joining us on the Just-In-Time Café. I don’t know. I don’t think I need any more coffee today because I’m so excited about culture. How about you, Brett?

Brett Cooper: I am thrilled about it, Tracy. Thank you so much for having me today. This was a whole lot of fun.

Tracy O’Rourke: OK. Bye for now, everyone.

Thanks for Listening!

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Tracy O'Rourke

Tracy is a Managing Partner at, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. She is also a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Instructor at UC San Diego and teaches in San Diego State University’s Lean Enterprise Program. For almost 20 years, she has helped leading organizations like Washington State, Charles Schwab and GE build problem-solving muscles.

Elisabeth Swan

Elisabeth is a Managing Partner at, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. For over 25 years, she's helped leading organizations like Amazon, Charles Schwab and Starwood Hotels & Resorts build problem-solving muscles with Lean Six Sigma to achieve their goals.