#26 Tailoring your change journey approach with a fun approach with Kostas Kefalakis.


Welcome to episode 26 of the Enterprise Excellence Podcast. It is such a pleasure to have Mr Kosta Kefalakis on the show with us. Kostas has lead excellence journeys in Shingo prize winning organisations. He is passionate about upskilling and helping others grow to create a better future for themselves and others. He shares his personal journey and knowledge with us today on driving sustainable change within organisations with positivity.



Kostas is Greek but has lived most of his life outside of Greece. His passion for excellence began early in life, due to his father's line of work with Procter & Gamble & TQM (Total Quality Management) from the 1980s.

Kostas is well travelled; having been born in Greece, and then living in Egypt, Switzerland, Greece, UK, Belgium, Greece, Switzerland, and currently living in Liechtenstein, working for Hilti. This globe-trotting upbringing has given Kostas an incredible understanding of different cultures and their people and a curiosity in ongoing life learning.

Questions fuel his thirst for ongoing learning. Questions such as, what new topics have developed recently that are worth exploring? What technological changes could help me further? What are the leading changes in education and learning? How do we drive happiness and fulfillment for others? How is the nature of work, for example, organisational structure shifting? How can front line team members be given autonomy? And the big one, how can we embrace new knowledge?

Kostas wrestled during his early years. He believes that wrestling taught him to get the basics right with dedicated practice. He had to fail many, many times in order to start winning. When you put more time into studying and practicing, actions can become more automatic in nature, and can move to the back of your mind. It becomes a more of a natural reaction that you do not have to think about. When this level of dedication becomes automatic, your brain frees up space to reveal new insights into that process. Learning and upskilling begins again.

In university Kostas began in finance but had an affinity towards operations and excellence and it was his first touch point with the Toyota Product System (TPS). He had a great opportunity as a graduate to begin his career with Toyota. He mastered the TPS thanks to Gemba coaching by Japanese mentors. The nature of working with Toyota was that all employees would know the basic business of producing cars. Kostas worked on the shop floor of the welding division for two months working day and night shifts in Toyota Manufacturing, United Kingdom.

He studied Lean diligently, and got the basics right, and quickly rose the Lean managerial ladder. Kostas naturally applied his love of learning with others, upskilling people to a way of excellence. He developed his training philosphy as a presidential guard, settting up the Lean academy in Vistaprint and is now taking Lean in Hilti enterprise wide.

Kostas has developed four key elements of training others to achieve positive and sustainable change.

1. Understand the organisation and teams first

2. Tailor the journey to their language and culture

3. Make it fun and enjoyable

4. Focus on key behaviours

1. Understand the organisation and teams first

Ask yourself 'How do I make this process work for my client?' No matter what you have done in the past, you want to learn how to make this process work for your client.

It is important to understand the organisation and team first, before trying to implement any action. What are the fundamental structures? Begin with the needs of the customers, and work backwards. Assess the culture of the company, their background, direction/goals and challenges.

Humility is generally appreciated. For example, go the Gemba and produce items with the shop floor employees. Take field trips with your salespeople and understand their process, and the voice of the customer. Then begin to connect the dots at the higher level before suggesting any improvement actions.

Find the natural improvement leaders of the company. Focus your finite energy on those who are willing to change. People want to be heard. Then go for leadership buy-in using co-creation. Leaders see themselves in the end result, and will defend the strategy with you, and will go the extra mile. Focus on becomming a facilitator who can bring out everyone's superpower as opposed to being the expert.

2. Tailor the journey to their language and culture

Tailor your language to the existing language and culture of the organisation. People generally do not like jargon and buzz words that have been used at other companies or by authors they don’t even know. People can be alienated with a different language. By using their own language and tailoring everything to their culture you are helping your client feel comfortable and included in the process.

3. Make it fun and enjoyable

Kostas believes in taking a Lean journey to a client in a fun and exciting way. Encourage learning for others without them even realise that they are learning. When you lessen the level of resistance, the chance of success in upskilling others rises.

His team at Vistaprint wanted to create an exciting storyline. With advice from their communications department, their strategy became centralised on a Lego character and training with tennis balls! This was especially successful for the front line team members. Mangers and executive would appreciate a different style, so it is important to tailor the approach to the team.

Interestingly, Kostas believes that the focus on driving change relies more upon this fun and enjoyable approach, as compared to being academically correct. Make the journey fun with interactive games and stories.

4. Focus on key behaviours

Ten years ago, Kostas contacted the Shingo institute to help him understand how to bring the Shingo ideals to the American company he was working for. The Shingo institute believe in not only methods and tools, but ideal behaviours. In Kostas' language, the methods and tools became the street signs, road rules, quality of roads and procedures for getting your driver’s licence. But if you have a behaviour that is not ideal (i.e., Kostas, who is a crazy Greek who ignores the rules), you will not create improvement.