Continuous Improvement & Innovation Blog

This Blog is home to Continuous Improvement & Innovation tips, learnings, and ideas, as well as CTPM latest product and event announcements, and the occasional ramblings from our CI&I Specialists.


Identify the Problem – the key to Root Cause Analysis

by Ross Kennedy, 18 August 2017

Recently I ran a very successful public workshop on Frontline Problem Solving Root Cause Analysis. This approach is designed to assist all levels in a company from Manager to Shopfloor, to develop effective Root Cause Analysis skills – a critical foundation for Operational Excellence.

During the workshop we have the delegates form teams and work on a problem or incident they have brought along from their workplace.

One team’s problem was presented as a recent incident at their site involving a quality loss from filling the incorrect amount of product into the container on their high speed capsule bottling line. It was reported that some packs or bundles when checked at their weigh scales, failed indicating that some containers had less than the required 50 capsules. As they investigated the problem they found a crack in the glass of their visual sensing system on the filler. This was replaced, and the problem resolved. Hence they wanted to work on the problem of ‘Filled Bottles – incorrect bundle weights’.

As they progressed through the first four steps of the 7 Step process: Define Problem, Contain Problem, Analyse Problem and Develop Root Cause Solutions, they realised that the problem they should be working on is ‘Sensor Glass – cracked’, because in the workplace under the pressure of getting production out, they had assumed replacing the cracked glass would solve the problem. When in fact, as they started asking ‘Why’ a few times over, there were a lot of possible issues that should have been followed up on so that the glass never cracks again.

This is a great example, and not an uncommon example, we come across as we get people out of the workplace to start to appreciate what Root Cause Analysis is all about. It is not about learning how to fix a problem quicker in the workplace – they already had done that by being able to immediately stop the line, inspect the equipment, find the cracked glass and get it quickly replace. It is about how to stop the problem from happening again.

If you would like to know more about Frontline Problem Solving Root Cause Analysis, contact Ross Kennedy at CTPM Head Office on + 61 (0)2  4226  6184, via Mobile + 61 (0)418 206 108 or email

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Why is Enterprise Innovation so hard to do?

by Dr Andrew M Connery, 4 August 2017

With all the talk about how important Innovation is to industry and the Australian economy generally, it continues to amaze me that there are in fact very few standard processes or methodologies available to actually make Innovation happen at the business (enterprise) level.

After spending over six years researching the topic I certainly appreciate there are many ways that new ideas can be side-tracked and fail to reach the commercialisation phase. Of course I’m referring to Enterprise Innovation here as opposed to Start-up Innovation which is even more problematic.

Enterprise Innovation can be described as the development or introduction of new or significantly improved goods, services, processes, or methods – outside the existing boundaries of the business where as Continuous Improvement Innovation occurs within the boundaries of the business.

Following recent research, we compiled a list of 10 common ways that lead to new ideas in enterprises failing. They are:

  1. The innovation champion leaves the organisation, or moves to a different role with new priorities.
  2. Market pressures become an issue with falling profits, increased competition, or organisational cost-cutting pulling the focus to short-term profits.
  3. The Innovation team tries to do too much and doesn’t move the needle significantly on any one idea.
  4. Undermined by other business unit projects leading to the Innovation team being under-staffed, under-funded, under-marketed, or simply abandon them.
  5. Company mergers and acquisitions taking precedence, leading to internal innovation losing resources and executive attention.
  6. Organisational impatience grows as milestones or success measures are too ambitious, or too vague, so progress is not visible or concrete enough.
  7. Organisational poor staffing choices as either the innovation team is populated exclusively by internal staff that have no idea how innovation works; or entirely by innovation specialists / outsiders who have no idea how the company works.
  8. The innovation lab winds up serving as a showcase, meeting space, or visitor centre to highlight the fact that the organisation is “thinking about the future.”
  9. Executive support suddenly vanishes when it comes time to make a major investment in a project or new business.
  10. “Shiny new object” syndrome, when an innovation initiative is launched, goes through one project or cycle, and then lacks leadership with the time or incentive to keep things going.

CTPM believe all the complexities can be managed through what we call the Empowering Innovation Framework, which seamlessly embeds a formal system within the existing company structure utilising participating staff members. 

In fact we think we have come up with the ultimate solution to turning your new ideas into commercial realities and invite you to follow this link to view a recent webinar on CTPM's YouTube channel, to learn more about introducing Innovation to your business.

If you would like to know more about CTPM’s Empowering Innovation Framework, contact Dr Andrew Connery at CTPM Head Office on + 61 (0)2  4226  6184, via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email

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A tool by any other name.......

by Rebecca Kennedy, 12 July 2017

What’s in a name? or in this case a definition?

Following on from my first Blog (published 21 April 2017) where I discussed the different reactions to Lean I’ve been experiencing, I wanted to start diving into what Lean is and is not.  

My current go to reference book ‘This is Lean – Resolving the Efficiency Paradox’ by Niklas Modig & Par Ahlstrom raises a very important point:  How can we openly discuss our experiences with Lean when we are all approaching the topic from different definitions / understandings?

You may be surprised by this comment and think “surely Lean only has one definition”. Well you’re partially right, the issue actually stems from the different levels of definition.

In chapter 7 Modig and Ahlstrom endeavour to answer – What Lean is Not by looking at the different levels of abstraction / hierarchy of the Lean definitions.

Let’s use an example. There is a local business networking event, three participants start a discussion, each person has a different experience level of Lean:

  1. Joe works for a Website Design Company, when he talks about Lean his experience and understanding is that Lean is a Philosophy / Culture / Way of Thinking – High Level Definition;
  2. Sarah works for a Law Firm, when she discusses Lean she’s referring to it as a Quality / Improvement System – Medium Level Definition; and
  3. Tina works for a Bank, she believes Lean is a method / tool specifically 5s (a visual management system) – Low Level Definition.

Joe mentions that his company is running an Intro to Lean Workshop next week; he’s heard about Toyota having a Lean culture but not much else and was wondering if Sarah and Tina had any experience as he’s not sure how a Toyota Car Company culture would work in an office environment.

Sarah says “my company did a large exercise to look at where we were losing time then kicked off a number of improvement projects to address them, things seem to be happening”.

Tina jumps in and says they’ve used Lean in her office, “We’ve done that, they put shadow templates in our stationary cupboard so we knew where to get things from and put them back, like the staplers that always went walk about. It worked for a while but everyone stopped using it and the cupboards a mess again.”

Although each of them is technically correct in their experience of what Lean is, swapping between the levels of definition without context can cause great confusion. This goes on to impact people’s experience and therefore their thoughts on Lean. Ultimately not doing justice to Lean and the potential it has.

The diagram below is a new one we (CTPM) introduced this year based on the model developed by Modig and Ahlstrom in their book ‘This is Lean – Resolving the Efficiency Paradox’, to help people better understand all the levels of TPM & Lean / Continuous Improvement and how they fit together.

20170712 Figure 1 Key Components of a CI journey

VALUES are the core of an organisations culture. They define how employees should behave in all situations.

PRINCIPLES define how an organisation should think i.e. how to make decisions and what to prioritise. To realise values an organisation must be guided by their set of principles.

METHODS define how an organisation should do different tasks to actualise the principles in different situations but in the best way possible.

TOOLS are what an organisation must have to execute the methods.

ACTIVITIES & FOCUS are what needs to be done to execute & complete the methods.

As you can see above Lean is not just methods, tools and activities i.e. the low level, nor is it just principles i.e. the high level. It is all of the above areas interconnected. Therefore when we refer to Lean we are referring to it as all of the above which we call an Operations Strategy used to achieve specific goals.

To recap, if Lean is only defined at a low level i.e. tools and activities, then it can be misunderstood and people cannot see how the methods and tools can be used in their environment. Whereas the higher level of definition as an Operations Strategy means it has wider potential and ability to be tailored to suit any environment.

Next week we start exploring Lean – an Operations Strategy

If you would like to know more about Continuous Improvement in Services, contact Rebecca Kennedy at CTPM Head Office on + 61 (0)2  4226  6184, via Mobile + 61 (0)407 511 188 or email

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Innovation - making it happen

by Ross Kennedy, 30 June 2017

Do you realise that most companies incorporate Innovation into their Values, and promote the need for Innovation in their businesses, however very few, if any, have a framework and structured process in place to guide and nurture new ideas into commercial realities.

Based on our extensive experience over the past 20 years of assisting over 150 sites throughout Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Indonesia to successfully embrace Continuous Improvement using a framework and structured process, we have teamed up with Dr Andrew Connery, one of Australia’s leading exponents on the practical application of Innovation, to create an exciting Empowering Innovation Framework. The framework has been developed to assist companies strategically guide and monitor their Innovation initiatives to ensure the necessary disciplines are followed to commercialise great new ideas.

We conducted a free 30 minute webinar on this important topic on Tuesday 11 July. If you are interested in seeing the recording click on this link to view the webinar on CTPM's YouTube channel:

Innovation can take many forms, and is often confused with Continuous Improvement. The best companies know the difference and have their people investing at least 5% of their normal work time each week doing both.

Thomas Edison, the famous US inventor and innovator, didn’t achieve his Light Bulb without a very structured and disciplined approach. Without a structured and disciplined Innovation Framework your company could miss out on a lot of ‘Light Bulbs’ and be at risk of losing market share from a competitor who has developed the Innovation discipline to be successful – like how Toyota and their approach to Continuous Improvement negatively impacted General Motors and Ford, or how Amazon with their approach to Innovation will challenge many traditional retailers in the not so distant future.

If you would like to learn more about CTPM’s Empowering Innovation Framework which embeds a structured system into organisations to turn new ideas into commercial realities, contact Dr Andrew Connery at CTPM Head Office on + 61 (0)2  4226  6184, via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email

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The Impact of Company Culture on Innovation

by Dr Andrew M Connery, 9 June 2017

Peter Drucker, the much respected management consultant, educator, and author, often argued that a companies’ culture would trump any attempt to create a strategy that was incompatible with its culture.

Drucker also maintained company cultures are like country cultures: “Never try to change one. Try, instead, to work with what you've got.”

CTPM have always embraced this pragmatic approach and since 1996 have overtly incorporated proven culture change processes into all our Continuous Improvement activities and usually describe the methodology adopted as encouraging each person to take  the ‘Hero’s Journey’.

With our latest Innovation methodology (introducing the Empowering Innovation Framework) we are addressing this issue from a completely different and more overt angle.

There are three major differences:

  1. The use of Creative Pairs (comprising a Creator and a Communicator) to drive the Evaluation stage of the innovation process.
  2. The use of teams of cross-silo Collaborators who are co-opted by the Creative Pair and answer directly to them, to provide any extra horsepower necessary to run experiments etc.
  3. The use of Senior Management Team members as the Innovation Mentors, to guide the Creative Pairs and ensure they get all the resources and support they require throughout their innovation journey.

These three key differences firstly acknowledge that the most creative and successful ventures in business (and the arts) nearly always spring from ‘dynamic duos’ albeit that the ‘partner’ behind the well known genius is often hidden (or not usually visible). For a great read on this topic check out thought leader and author Joshua Wolf Shenk and his latest book:  Powers of Two: Creative Pairs Finding the Essence of Innovation.

Secondly they recognise the increasing popularity in corporate management circles to press the concept of Mentorship (both internally and externally) upon their promising up and coming middle managers.

As a bonus, by linking mentorship with innovation, organisations can not only assist their ‘rising star’ employees gain attention and much needed skills  but also deliver some tangible results through the adoption of innovative concepts that historically were ignored or simply fell into the ‘too hard’ basket of day-to-day operations.

If you would like to know more about CTPM’s Empowering Innovation Framework which embeds a structured system into organisations to turn new ideas into commercial realities, contact Dr Andrew Connery at CTPM Head Office on + 61 (0)2  4226  6184, via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email

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Is Innovation a realistic goal for Australian manufacturers?

by Dr Andrew M Connery, 2 June 2017

In a perfect world all businesses would be innovative.

All companies would produce fabulous products that are not only fun to use and great to look at, but there would be no wastage, all inputs would be natural and sourced locally, and energy would be non-fossil-based.   

I could go on, but I think you can see where I’m going with this. The reality is that all companies can’t be mini-Apples, and there just aren’t enough Steve Jobs clones to go around.

So what is a realistic goal?

In the Continuous Improvement field the Toyota Production System (TPS) is always regarded as the gold standard and since joining CTPM, I have had the opportunity to read a lot (I mean a lot) of material on what makes Toyota so good, and there really is a lot that can be learned from the world-famous Japanese car-maker.

Interestingly Toyota itself sometimes claims to be innovative when it is probably not. By that I mean their success is by definition nearly always (some notable exceptions) incremental. That is lots of small improvements which cumulatively add up to producing a far superior product.

Innovation, as it is commonly understood, involves big leaps forward, often breaking existing rules and sometimes disrupting established processes and business models. And innovation in large companies always requires inspirational leadership from management totally committed to long term goals.

It is accepted wisdom that ‘in excess of 95% of all innovative projects do not even recover their costs’, so it would seem to any reasonable person that the whole idea is fraught with risks, and to be frank, not usually worth the trouble.

And like a lot of issues in our increasingly complex world, there is no silver bullet or binary solution.

However, what does seem realistic is a hybrid (thanks Toyota) approach.

That is combining Continuous Improvement with Innovation, that way most results will at least be implementable and often produce fast returns and improved ROI. 

You might even be lucky and come up with a real innovation in the process!

Plug here. CTPM have developed what we call the Empowering Innovation Framework which embeds a structured system into organisations to evaluate new ideas, and where feasible turn new ideas into commercial realities.

If you would like to know more about the Empowering Innovation Framework, contact Dr Andrew Connery at CTPM Head Office on + 61 (0)2  4226  6184, via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email

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Innovators as Problem Solvers...

by Dr Andrew M Connery, 19 May 2017

Of course there are some people who would argue: “innovators create problems” but I recently came across an article online which said exactly the opposite.

And although I have never personally looked at innovation that way myself before, it certainly grabbed my attention and I will repeat the main ideas here.

The writer (Larry Myler, Forbes 13 June 2014) maintains there are in fact four types or levels of Innovators:

  • Level 1 Innovator is a traditional Problem Solver i.e. someone who fixes problems as they occur (reactive);
  • Level 2 Innovator is a Problem Preventer i.e. someone who plans for problems before they occur (pro-active);
  • Level 3 Innovator is a Continuous Improver i.e. by making numerous incremental changes many problems are simply avoided; and
  • Level 4 Innovator Creates a New Future by designing breakthrough products, strategies and business models.

It’s an interesting approach and in fact aligns with much of my current research which is looking at the similarities between Innovation and Continuous Improvement – our major focus here at CTPM Australasia since our inception in 1996.

From a CI perspective:

  • Level 1 is Reactive Improvement;
  • Level 2 is Prevention at Source Pro-active Improvement where you focus on the tail end of the Pareto Chart;
  • Level 3 is typical Pro-active Improvement where you focus on the biggest issues in the Pareto Chart; and
  • Level 4 is Innovation where the focus should be to look outside current boundaries.

Of course Continuous Improvement is very much a structured problem solving framework usually involving concepts such as Root Cause Analysis and using an iterative approach via Deming’s PDCA cycle.

As CTPM’s new Director of Innovation I have been developing what we consider a unique Empowering Innovation Framework based on my doctoral research on Innovation and 30 years industry experience.

It’s a seven step development program delivered over a 12 week period incorporating three half-day workshops supported by weekly meetings and it uniquely utilises three core principles:

  1. Senior Management guided;
  2. Creator & Communicator lead; and
  3. Fast Experiments.

When the program is completed, organisations will have in place a framework to capitalise on all the good ideas that staff, suppliers and employees accumulate over the years… but never had a vehicle to see through to implementation.

What’s more the new Empowering Innovation Framework fits seamlessly within your existing enterprise structure i.e. it does not interfere with underlying core functions - and there may be funding available to support the development program.

If you would like to know more about the Empowering Innovation Framework, contact Dr Andrew Connery at CTPM Head Office on + 61 (0)2  4226  6184, via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email

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Chasing Production Records isn’t very Smart

by Ross Kennedy, 5 May 2017

Too often we find sites obsessed with trying to achieve new production records in an attempt to increase their overall output. The sad reality is that trying to achieve new production records rather than focusing on why the average or target performance was not achieved will nearly always lead to less total output over the longer term.

Of course chasing new production records may sound very heroic and may create great motivation within the workforce, especially if linked to attractive rewards or bonuses. However when compared to the long term average performance that can be achieved through Reactive Improvement, the shortfall can be quite significant.

Chasing production records will often widen the distribution curve (click this link for visual), as there is often very poor performance after a record has been achieved because the plant has been pushed too hard resulting in unforeseen failures or disruptions.

By reviewing performance daily through rapidly identifying and addressing the root causes, and putting the effort into why the desired (average or target) performance was not achieved, you will progressively reduce the variation and increase the average in performance. Therefore resulting in a greater output over the long term.

Reactive Improvement is about developing an effective Daily Management Process covering all levels, so that you have the ability to rapidly recover from an event or incident that stops you from achieving your budgeted or expected performance, and most importantly initiating corrective actions at the earliest possible time so that the event or incident will not re-occur anywhere across the organisation.

Most organisations have Daily Review Meetings as part of their Daily Management Process however far too often they are not effective. They often start late or drag on for too long, they accept poor performance standards, they skip over below target performance by accepting ‘work-a-round’ corrective actions, and the list goes on. How do your Daily Review Meetings compare?

On 18th May I will be presenting a 1-day interactive workshop in Sydney on Developing an Effective Daily Review Process. This might just be the kick-start you’re looking for, so come along and learn how to transform your Daily Management practices. Read more or register here.

If you would like to know more about CTPM’s approach to Reactive Improvement, Daily Review Meetings or Frontline Problem Solving, contact Ross Kennedy at CTPM Head Office on +61 4226 6184, via mobile + 61 (0)418 206 108  or email:

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Do you have an effective Innovation Framework?

by Dr Andrew M Connery, 28 April 2017

It seems Innovation is the mother of motherhood issues these days. It generally has become universally accepted within higher education circles and business, that innovation is an essential part of any organisation seriously interested in achieving long-term sustainability.

At the same time senior management usually understands this ‘strategic’ decision inevitably involves some type of trade-off of short term goals for longer term aims – certainly in terms of ROI dilution or profits.

We have found that without an effective Innovation Framework, often the innovative ideas generated through planned initiatives get bogged down in the countless departmental silos of the organisation.

The major challenge for all types of organisations (including Not For Profits) is to devise a framework that will enable much-needed new ideas to flourish ‘bottom up’, but will not interfere (in any significant way) with the efficient day-to-day running of their organisation.

Any approach adopted must be able to hurdle the traditional silo management structures, but at the same time enable collaboration with all the necessary stakeholders (within the various silos). 

This particular challenge has led to the development, in association with CTPM, of a unique Empowering Innovation Framework. It’s a seven 7 Step development program incorporating three half-day workshops supported by a series of 1-2 hour weekly meetings linked with on-going experiments. What’s more the new framework fits seamlessly within your existing company structure and there may be funding available to support the program.

If you would like to know more about the Empowering Innovation Framework, contact Dr Andrew Connery at CTPM Head Office on + 61 (0)2  4226  6184, via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email

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Defining Lean for Services...

by Rebecca Kennedy, 21 April 2017

Since launching the new Continuous Improvement in Services arm of CTPM, I’m often asked what is Lean? Particularly as it’s a relatively new term in the Services Industry.

When I was first introduced to the formalised concept of Continuous Improvement many moons ago, I would often phrase the same question to those I came across, as a way to learn more. Regardless of industry or how far along the Continuous Improvement journey they were I would receive a wide range of responses from, ‘it’s a way of working’, ‘an approach’, ‘a system’, or ‘a toolbox’, too ‘it’s a method’, ‘a strategy’, or ‘a set of values’.

In addition to their definition I would also receive a very clear Love or Hate vote followed by a story of their experience.

It amazed me that the single word “Lean” could result in such varied responses and opinions. How could this one term have so much buzz in the Continuous Improvement space yet not have a clearly defined definition. That being the case, how can anyone discuss or learn from each other’s Lean experiences if they are coming from different definitions and understandings. Taking that one step further how can anyone know if they are doing Lean correctly or are successful at it?

At the time, I knew I needed to learn more about this term and find out what it really means and my research led me to the book: “This is Lean – Resolving the Efficiency Paradox” by Niklas Modig & Par Ahlstrom, which does a great job at looking into this conundrum.

Over the next few weeks I will share my key learning’s from this book via this blog to build a comprehensive introduction to Lean. Together we will demystify the term Lean and find out exactly how my new Continuous Improvement in Services area can help you. 

If you would like to know more about Continuous Improvement in Services, contact Rebecca Kennedy at CTPM Head Office on + 61 (0)2  4226  6184, via Mobile + 61 (0)407 511 188 or email

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Experimenting with Innovation...

by Dr Andrew M Connery, 7 April 2017

According to academic Michael Schrage, in his book The Innovator’s Hypothesis, cheap experiments are worth more than good ideas … and I would have to agree wholeheartedly with the MIT Research Fellow.

However the consultant / author / blogger also raised a few eyebrows elsewhere when he went on to discount the value of great ideas altogether.

To my mind this is a roundabout way of saying that there are a lot of inventors out there (throughout the world) … but not a lot of innovators. And it tacitly recognises that the ability to turn great ideas into great products or services is in rare supply.

One has to hope that the emergence of innovation eco-systems and accelerators (usually associated with universities) will change this situation over time. 

Unfortunately business schools and universities (including those in the US) to date have a woeful history when it comes to graduating successful entrepreneurs i.e. teaching students the necessary skills to not only identify great inventions or ideas in the first place but also the ability to commercialise them … with limited risk capital.

I add the caveat (with limited risk capital) to address the complete lack of early stage finance available to would be innovators in this country.

This brutal fact of business life here in Australia has led myself to develop, in association with CTPM, a unique Empowering Innovation Framework that is specifically targeted at SMEs i.e. the businesses who do have the necessary access to much needed resources, networks and capital to foster real innovation.

The Empowering Innovation Framework is a 7 Step training program delivered over a 12 week period incorporating three half-day workshops supported by nine 2 hour weekly meetings linked with on-going experiments. What’s more the new framework fits seamlessly within your existing company structure – and there may be funding available to support the program.

If you would like to know more about the Empowering Innovation Framework, contact Dr Andrew Connery at CTPM Head Office on + 61 (0)2  4226  6184, via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email

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Talking about Innovation...

by Dr Andrew M Connery, 31 March 2017

"Most organisations in this country pay lip service to the notion of Innovation”. Fact or Fiction? Is Innovation the mother of motherhood issues in Australian business circles?

With some notable few exceptions, I find nearly all SMEs have absolutely no formal means of facilitating ‘bottom up’ new innovative ideas into their daily operations.

It must be conceded that Senior Management are usually much more comfortable discussing what we at CTPM call ‘candles’ (i.e. creating the better candle) rather than ‘light bulbs’ (creating a new illumination process).

So how does a Senior Manager embed an ‘Innovation Management System’ into their business?

Here at CTPM we recognise that organisations wishing to build sustainable long-term businesses in an increasing complex and dynamic environment must not only continuously improve their existing products, services and processes but also identify and embrace any opportunities to introduce innovative ones.

We also know, after providing training and consulting services to industry for over 20 years, the major challenge for any organisations of any scale wishing to introduce a culture of Innovation is how to embed an effective Innovation Management System that recognises the need of not disrupting the efficient running of the traditional business.

Here at CTPM we have come up with a ‘great solution’ to this ‘great problem’ (see Michael Schrage’s The Innovator’s Hypothesis).

Led by myself as CTPM’s new Director of Innovation, we have developed what we consider a unique Empowering Innovation Framework based on our extensive industry experience and my recently completed doctoral research on Innovation.

The framework is a 7 Step development program, delivered typically over a 12 week period incorporating three half-day workshops to establish a number of small Innovation Teams, supported by nine 2hr weekly meetings for each Innovation Team.

When completed, your organisation will have in place a formal system to harness all the good ideas that your staff, suppliers and employees have accumulated over the years but never been able to implement.

What’s more, the new framework fits seamlessly within your existing structure and funding may be available to support the development program.

If you would like to know more about the Empowering Innovation Framework, contact Dr Andrew Connery at CTPM Head Office on + 61 (0)2  4226  6184, via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email

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What is really Innovative?

by Dr Andrew M Connery, 24 March 2017

If we accept innovation is the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay then it begs the question:

Is a small idea that makes a lot of money more innovative than a great idea that makes a lot less?

The short answer must be a resounding … Yes.

I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but it addresses the fundamental difference between invention and innovation.  Inventions are novel or unique ideas or concepts but they usually do not include the means of commercialising the idea (I would say the really hard bit).

The fact of life is there are hundreds, if not thousands, of inventions being developed at any one time … and nearly always by people that do not have the capital or resources to bring their ideas to market.

The great challenge (particularly in Australia) is how to develop fledgling inventions within existing SMEs i.e. leverage the existing support systems.

Historically our country has been very poor at this activity.  Whether it is cultural, distance from markets, lack of capital or eco-system it is hard to tell … but the record certainly shows that despite all the native inventiveness, Australia has only built one truly great global company in over 100 years … BHP Billiton take a bow!

At CTPM we have spent the last two months putting together a framework that can be embedded within a SME that provides a conduit to enable smart new inventions to be evaluated appropriately (and cheaply) then fast tracked for commercialisation with Senior Management support.

We call the framework the Empowering Innovation Framework and with our first workshop in Sydney just this week, we will continue to refine and develop the framework based on the new findings captured along the way.

If you would like to know more about the Empowering Innovation Framework, contact Dr Andrew Connery at CTPM Head Office on + 61 (0)2  4226  6184, via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email

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Light Bulbs Vs Candles

by Dr Andrew M Connery, 10 March 2017

At the risk of sounding too academic I think it is always helpful to have definitions when trying to differentiate between ideas such as Innovation and Continuous Improvement.

So here goes:

Innovation: The process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay.

Continuous Improvement: A methodology based on achieving Operational Excellence by focusing on engaging and developing the skills of the frontline personnel.

The obvious difference (based purely on these definitions) is that Innovation relates to commercialising brand new ideas whereas Continuous Improvement focuses on achieving the best possible outcome utilising existing equipment and processes.

One of the best analogies I’ve heard to demonstrate this is:

A candle-making manufacturer could have improved its processes as much as they liked … but it would never have lead them to producing a light bulb!

For mature businesses this is a real dilemma (see Clayton Christensen) insofar that the existing revenue creating business must sustain the upfront costs of pursuing innovation … which at times does not deliver the desired results.

I often have to argue this point with senior managers particularly when they are very profitable producing the ‘same old same old’ products.

I usually ask them to reframe the issue … along the lines of:

Me: Do you insure all your operations?

Manager: Of course!

Me: Have you ever made a claim?

Manager:  No or hardly ever … (obviously some exceptions).

Me: Have you ever thought of dropping your insurance?

Manager: Never.

Me: What you’re telling me is that you are putting aside funds year after year to meet unpredictable negative outcomes.

Manager: I suppose so.

Me: It would also seem logical to expend at least the same amount on unpredictable positive outcomes.

I.E. treat expenditure on innovation the same as insurance premiums.

For any psychologists out there this argument addresses the bias all humans have to avoiding negative outcomes at all costs – probably a very sensible instinct in less complex times.

If you would like to know how CTPM can help your company strive for a Light Bulb, contact Dr Andrew Connery at CTPM Head Office on + 61 (0)2  4226  6184, via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email

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Misconceptions about Innovation

by Dr Andrew M Connery, 3 March 2017

For a subject that gets regularly touted about by Prime Ministers and other important people it seems there is a lot of misunderstanding about the concept of innovation.

When recently putting together the content for an upcoming EXPLORE INNOVATION workshop on how to lead and manage innovation in a workplace as part of my role as Director of Innovation at CTPM, I quickly came up with 10 misconceptions.

My colleagues on the ‘reviewing’ panel (bless them) assured me 3 would be quite sufficient, so here they are in no particular order: 

  1. Innovation is often associated with a single high profile person, such as Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Reality: Innovation is nearly always a team effort and on-going extensive collaboration is usually essential.
  2. In mature organisations large cross-functional teams are best. Reality: Teams of two or three are optimal in nearly all circumstances.
  3. Innovation is usually associated with a single eureka moment and quickly delivers unimaginable riches to the fortunate inventor involved. Reality: The No.1 quality required in all innovator’s would be perseverance. Most successful innovations take over 10 years to finally deliver on their potential. The UK engineering genius (now Sir) James Dyson famously made 5,127 prototypes before finally perfecting his first cyclonic separator vacuum cleaner.

If you would like to know the other 7 misconceptions, contact Dr Andrew Connery at CTPM Head Office on + 61 (0)2  4226  6184, via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email

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Leaning towards Innovation

by Dr Andrew M Connery, 24 February 2017

When I first started with CTPM as their Director of Innovation at the beginning of the year one of my first jobs was to decide how the new practice would fit with the company’s existing business of providing Continuous Improvement workshops and training.

This lead to the obvious question: What’s the difference between Continuous Improvement and Innovation?

Of course many organisations who are seriously committed to Lean or 6 Sigma methodologies already consider themselves as being innovative.

According to Google (so it must be right) Lean is a systematic method for the elimination of waste within a manufacturing system. Lean also takes into account waste created through overburden and waste created through unevenness in work loads.

According to Google Six Sigma is a disciplined, data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating quality defects (driving toward six standard deviations between the mean and the nearest specification limit) in any process – from manufacturing to transactional and from product to service.

On the other hand (according to Google again) Innovation is the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value for which customers will pay.

Personally I think the real difference is that with Continuous Improvement everyone is concerned at either improving quality, increasing production and/or eliminating waste within the existing boundaries or mission statement of the business.

And on the other hand Innovation is not constrained by the status quo or existing boundaries or mission statement of the business. For example at CTPM our mission statement for the past 20 years, was to assist manufacturing, mining and process industries to envisage and achieve operational excellence through our Australasian TPM & Lean / CI methodology. This year we are taking the innovative approach of expanding this to include Lean for Service Industries supported with the appointment of Rebecca Kennedy, and offer the new Empowering Innovation Framework to assist any organisation to look outside their existing boundaries for growth and improved profitability supported with the appointment of myself, Dr Andrew Connery who after more than 40 years industry experience in industrial marketing completed my PhD in Innovation and is now recognised as one of Australia’s the leading practitioners of practical and results driven Innovation.

We are in a world of rapid changes, as such, we believe all organisations should embrace both Continuous Improvement and Innovation at the same time.

At CTPM we believe CI&I is the future.

If you want to learn how your organisation could look at implementing CI&I contact Dr Andrew M Connery at CTPM Head Office on + 61 (0)2  4226  6184, via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email

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Daily Management 101…

by Ross Kennedy, 17 February 2017

It might sound overly simple, but are your daily review meetings simply about complying with company policy?

Or are they really focused on safely achieving your production plan at the required standards?

If you cannot answer this basic question positively, chances are you have not developed effective Daily Management practices and Frontline Problem Solving skills of your workforce and if an incident does arise they will probably work around it rather than stopping it ever happening again.

There are three key parts to any Continuous Improvement Strategy:

  1. Reactive Improvement to ensure effective Daily Management
  2. Stable Production Plan to stop Fire-Fighting
  3. Pro-active Improvement to take you to your Improvement Vision

Many organisations tend to focus on Pro-active Improvement (3) with Lean, Six Sigma or TPM initiatives and lose sight of the importance of the foundations of Reactive Improvement (1) and a Stable Production Plan (2).

It should be noted a  Pro-active Improvement journey can take many years to achieve Operational Excellence which means there is a strong argument for getting effective Daily Management and Frontline Problem Solving through Reactive Improvement in place sooner rather than later, to free up everyone’s time for Pro-active Improvement.

In fact Reactive Improvement and having a Stable Production Plan are critical foundations to free up everyone’s time so they can work towards achieving Operational Excellence and Perfect Equipment Performance.

To find out more about getting your Daily Management and Frontline Problem Solving efforts up to speed and whether  government funding is available call Ross Kennedy on +61 (0)418 206 108 or email

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Innovative… to be or not to be…

by Dr Andrew M Connery, 10 February 2017

Ross Kennedy allocated me a seemingly simple task on my first day on the job as Director of Innovation at CTPM: Explain exactly how and why a company should become innovative?

I must say with over 20 years experience in the Continuous Learning space and being a recognised guru himself Ross needed some convincing.

But even so having spent six years researching this topic to gain my PhD you would have thought coming up with a decent response was something well within my grasp.

However it’s not that simple.

For starters most new companies and start-ups are already innovative in the sense that they are usually prepared to take on anything to get a head when they are establishing themselves i.e. they are open to new ideas and happy to write off any failures if and when they occur – basically the old tried and true ‘trial and error’ method of learning through experience.

Trouble is that once these fledgling entities establish themselves, and take on more staff, they tend to increasingly become more risk averse and try and stick to products and services that have proven themselves.

Of course in larger SMEs and corporations the ‘keep it simple stupid’ (KISS Principle) is well and truly entrenched and new ideas are actively discouraged. And as far as failing on a new project … it is the ultimate ‘career limiting’ move any ambitious manager could contemplate.

So why embrace innovation at all?

This is the only simple bit.  Companies like economies need innovation to survive long term, it’s the premise our whole capitalist system works on.

The minute organisations try and insulate themselves from the wider economy is the time they start to become vulnerable to external uncontrolled influences.  It may take years but recent history in particular shows that innovation is the only real driver for long term sustainability.

As you can see the challenge boils down to : How can we EXPLORE new ideas  but at the same time EXPLOIT our current profitable products and services (refer Clayton Christiansen). And not wreck the structure we currently have in place.

Of course that’s the hard bit.

Oh and by the way … surprise, surprise:  I have in fact developed an Empowering Innovation Framework to assist organisations to manage the transition which CTPM is rolling out in 2017.

Some US practitioners call this latest approach ‘guided’ or ‘controlled’ innovation but I have added some extra features that I picked up since working with start-ups here in Australia since 2001.

To find out more about the Empowering Innovation framework or how your company could be one of the first to participate in the rollout contact Dr Andrew M Connery at CTPM Head Office on + 61 (0)2  4226  6184, via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email

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Think people before tools…

by Dr Andrew M Connery, 2 February 2017

A well meaning colleague recently emailed me a link to a small video on a major overseas software developer’s website introducing a tool to manage the whole innovation process – they probably thought that with my new position as Director of Innovation at CTPM Australasia I could do with the help.

Anyway, intrigued by the slick presentation I decided to delve deeper and eventually found a much larger clip on YouTube which endeavored to explain in far greater detail how the brand new ‘solution’ actually functioned. 

It was over 22min in length and had received less than 3,000 views since uploading in November 2014 but perhaps more significantly it had only garnered 7 ‘thumbs up’ and a single ‘thumbs down’. 

I’m thinking most viewers simply didn’t finish the clip or couldn’t be bothered. In either case it confirmed my own judgment that most people realise innovation is a ‘creative process’ and is simply too complex and abstract to be placed in multiple tick boxes.

CTPM Australasia have for many years used the mantra: ‘Think people before tools’ - which their presenters reinforce when delivering their popular Continuous Improvement workshops throughout the country.

I’m thinking this philosophy also applies for innovation and it will certainly become part of the documentation currently being prepared supporting my new Empowering Innovation Framework.

To find out more about the Empowering Innovation Framework or how your company could be one of the first to participate in the roll-out contact Dr Andrew M Connery at CTPM Head Office on + 61 (0)2  4226  6184, via Mobile + 61 (0)408 193 831 or email

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