The inspiration to endeavour down this path came from many years of continuous improvement long before he knew about “Continuous Improvement”. Cordell started his career in US Marine Corps aviation where he learned about leadership, teamwork, motivation & discipline from some of the best. As well as these basic facets of organisational effectiveness he also learned a great deal about how to run an operation; visual management, frequent reviews of progress, solid planning with standards for everything, etc.

Cordell argues that the USMC was very much a lean organisation, doing more with less based on simple principles of documented standard processes owned by those who do them, visual management of everything and anything and an ingrained willingness to learn and identify improved ways of accomplishing any task, mission or objective as a team; problem solving at every level, in all manner of situations.

After leaving the Marines he moved back to the UK and joined Toyota, needless to say his Marine training suited the environment and culture at Toyota and he was quickly able to establish himself as a key member of the team. Generating improvements to various processes whilst learning about how Toyota operates, and why they are so successful.

It wasn’t until after he left Toyota that he saw first-hand that not all businesses are as organised and successful as Toyota. He spent several years in various manufacturing organisations introducing many aspects of the Toyota Production System but found many of the organisations unable or unwilling to take the necessary step beyond command and control into real engagement with and empowerment of the team.

Eventually a role with another world class operation became available and Cordell joined the team at PepsiCo Intl manufacturing crisps of all things. From Helicopters to crisps in a decade… The organisation didn’t use many, if any of the tools and techniques of the Toyota Production System, but the culture was engaging and people were empowered to make changes, to improve processes and to make a difference to their roles, their jobs and the business as a whole.

The aspects missing in many of the organisations Cordell had worked with, were present in PepsiCo, but not the tools. Many of the research into Toyota and their success had pointed in this direction. The pieces were starting to come together in Cordell’s mind, providing the insight into what really makes companies successful. Lean is a part of it, but only when done fully, with the engagement of all and the focus on the development of the people to enable them to drive the improvements necessary to deliver bottom line results.

Eventually Cordell decided to go into consulting, to begin sharing his knowledge and experience with other businesses. He did this for 4 years working for KCTS and then with RBS and eventually was able to establish himself as an independent when he set up this consultancy to focus on repairing the bad image that many associate with Lean and helping organisations that have tried & failed, get back on the right track and finally realise those promised benefits.

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