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How the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service's new Business Improvement Academy can help deliver continuous improvement to make your company more competitive.

SMAS business improvement academy

The Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service (SMAS) has launched a Business Improvement Academy to help companies embed a culture of continuous improvement, boost productivity and become more competitive.

SMAS completed its first Business Improvement Academy pilots in Ayrshire and Shetland in 2015.

The pilots have helped shape the Academy, with SMAS developing a new approach to help companies really engage their people to make change sustainable by combining new tools and techniques with cultural and behavioural change.

The Academy delivers an intensive 11 day programme that mixes workshop learning with on-site project support over a number of months.

But how did this approach to continuous improvement come about?

Becoming cultural enablers

Participants of the Academy have now become cultural enablers for their business, capable of delivering sustainable improvement through developing employee engagement and embedding supporting behaviours.

Allan McLaughlan, SMAS

Allan McLaughlan, a practitioner with the SMAS West team, explains:

"I was fortunate to attend BAE Systems Lean Learning Academy a couple of years ago. It was led by Gavin Whyte who teaches – I would go as far as saying evangelises – the principle of combining business improvement with cultural change.

"The basic premise is that a business won’t be able to embed and sustain progressive improvements unless it changes its culture from the bottom up. Gavin calls it 'inverting the triangle.'

"It was an inspiring two weeks for me, and spawned the idea of developing our own SMAS Academy."

Creating a Business Improvement Academy

Allan explains that SMAS had already been focusing on cultural change, moving away from purely tactical improvement projects:

"All SMAS practitioners are qualified business coaches and a key part of our support involves coaching and developing people to drive, own and embed sustainable change.

"But we saw the creation of a formal, structured academy as an important evolution of our offering to give companies the tools to deliver and embed significant continuous improvements in a structured learning environment.

Allan helped deliver the first pilot Academy in the spring of 2015:

"We developed an extremely topical and business relevant syllabus with an emphasis on leadership and business excellence and my colleague Jonathan Matthews and I delivered the first pilot in spring this year.

"We ran it in collaboration with the Ayrshire Engineering Alliance - a major economic development initiative aimed at making Ayrshire a better place to do business - and it drew cross sectoral representations from a number of well known Ayrshire businesses.

"Its delivery involved a series of powerful, practical simulations complementing the tutorial learnings, with a focus on active learning techniques to help delegates understand key principles and concepts.

"The pace of delivery at one day per week minimised the impact on participating businesses and the use of off-site venues really helped the delegates concentrate on the learning opportunity. The delegates valued the networking and having two people from each company helped share the learning."

Take a closer look at our Business Improvement Academy

A successful approach to continuous improvement

Allan explains that pilot immediately delivered benefits for participating companies:

Allan McLauglan SMAS
Allan McLaughlan, SMAS

"The pilot was highly successful, with fantastic participation and involvement from the delegates. The tutorial element of the Academy culminated in a site visit to GSK in Irvine, where they witnessed first hand the benefits of effective deployment of the leadership styles and leadership behaviour covered during the Academy.

"Participants have now become cultural enablers for their business, capable of delivering sustainable improvement through developing employee engagement and embedding supporting behaviours.

"From my own perspective, I found it highly rewarding from a delivery point of view as delegates embraced the learning and began deploying it back in the workplace."

Allan's colleague, Jonathan Matthews, helped deliver the pilot Academy. 

Jonathan says:

"Helping deliver the first Academy was like a breath of fresh air. Being able to demonstrate the benefit of some very powerful techniques to change behaviour and leadership, twinned with the typical lean manufacturing tools was personally rewarding.

"I wish I’d known about these tools when I was in industry – it would’ve meant fewer u-turns and false starts and achieved results much sooner."

What academy participants say

The Business Improvement Academy's pilot projects attracted participants from a range of sectors and they found the support offered helped transform attitudes in their companies.

Jim English of Hyspec Engineering said:

"Our mission is to grow the business through organic emotional intellect. That destiny lies within the ability of all our employees. Through our participation in the Academy, our employees at every level have returned to work with a different mind-set.

"The tools, techniques and methods learned over the period have stimulated a different approach. Waste at every level has been the main topic of discussion and the behaviours required to drive a collective new standard.

"It would be in any business’s interest to get their key assets to participate. The way SMAS delivered the programme was first-class. Even the most challenged cynics in the company enjoyed their experience."

A great concept

The Academy is a great concept for any company trying to improve their business. How to engage people through the use of lean tools is the most difficult part of changing your business but this training academy has great ideas on how to achieve this. If you want to improve your business then using this Academy would be a big step in the right direction.

Eddie Lennox, Amer Sports

And Derek Johnstone of Wallace McDowall agreed:

"I found the course enlightening, thought provoking, challenging and also fun – a balance that can be hard to achieve.

"It helped provide an insight in the issues we face as a company and that these issues aren’t peculiar to our sector. Through sharing experiences and knowledge with the other delegates and the academy leaders I will be able to deal with the challenges ahead with renewed vigour.

"I also found that I gained an appreciation of the 'shadow' I cast as a leader and have started to implement the personal changes I need to make to prepare the path I must lead the company on when following the 'lean' vision."

Get involved with the new approach

The new approach that Allan and Jonathan delivered in their pilot project has now been adopted by SMAS and launched as the Business Improvement Academy.

The academy will be delivered across Scotland, with people, culture and continuous improvement at its heart.

The Business Improvement Academy has been designed to benefit both manufacturing and non-manufacturing businesses.

Get in touch with our team today to explore how your company could benefit from the Business Improvement Academy:

Contact our team