Our annual KZN Lean Conference took place in Hilton from 18-20 September. Weeks of planning and collaboration with Melanie Veness and her team at the Pietermaritzburg and Midlands Chamber of Business (PMCB) enabled a conference that inspired business leaders with engaging and interactive presentations. The programme, as always, offered a line-up of excellent speakers, and we were privileged to have international speaker Brant Cooper as our keynote.

The conference opened with Political analyst, Moeletsi Mbeki, who shared his views on the current political landscape in South Africa. This served as a reminder that no one in business can be complacent, and the challenges we face with uncertainty require us to be constantly learning and creating new capabilities within our business and teams. This set the scene for a number of presentations on the increasing importance of technology in supporting businesses in the era of the 4th Industrial Revolution, led by the Vodacom team who also introduced entrepreneurs of specific technology opportunities in fields such as the Internet of Things (IOT) and remote workforce management.

Next on the programme was our keynote Brant Cooper, CEO of the organisation ‘Moves the Needle’. Brant’s engaging and practical sessions equipped delegates with insights on using techniques from Lean Start-up, Design Thinking and Agile to bring a Lean Innovation mindset to solving a range of business problems, whether they relate to designing a ground-breaking new software product or solving classic problems between functions like Marketing and Production. Brant also shared highlights from his TED talk, the ‘Myth of the Visionary’, which I can highly recommend.

Top local experts shared tools, methodologies and insights – we heard from TLC’s own expert Master Black Belt Maurice Kuhn, as well as case studies from the dynamic Cynthia Moraka of ABInBev and the pragmatic Seni Masango of Engen. The Mahle Behr team of Naresh Maharaj and Tammy Ramsaran reminded us that some of the greatest opportunities in Lean reside in the traditional ‘back office’ functions, and Michelle Witherspoon of Delight Consulting used wonderful examples of how companies can transform the way they expect customers to do business with them. The relevance of Diversity and Inclusion in a world of B-BBEE legislation was thoughtfully debated with a panel that included expert Dr Preeya Daya and Moeletsi Mbeki. We were also inspired by the very personal story of Mthetheleli Ngxeke and how Lean literally helped him turn his life around, as well as thought-provoking views on the importance of Trust in business from the inimitable Dr Mark Manley. Grant Davis engaged us in a practical way how to apply Improvement Kata – who doesn’t like building puzzles? – and we enjoyed a high-speed glimpse into the world that awaits us with Pieter Geldenhuys who acted as our ‘tour guide to the future’.

The two days of presentations were then followed by a change of scenery for the Day 3 workshop, where we were kindly hosted by Ivo Buratovich and the Product Development team at top dairy business, Fairfield Dairy. In Fairfield’s modern training centre, delegates gained real hands-on experience engaging in actual business challenges and applying the Lean Innovation methodologies to rapidly develop and prioritise solutions.

As I reflect on yet another successful conference, I am hugely grateful to all those who make it possible – Melanie and her incredible team at PMCB, my amazing team at TLC led by the creative efforts of Roxy Ellis, and all the speakers who contributed their time and knowledge so willingly. I’m equally thankful for our fellow sponsors and all other supporters of the Conference – it’s an amazing partnership, and we’re so proud to be a part of it.

Tanya is TLC’s Managing Director and has a strong track record spanning Brewing, Engineering, Capital Projects, Process Development and Innovation, Process Optimisation, Technical People Development, and in managing functional and technical line teams to deliver business results. Tanya brings a depth of knowledge and experience to the team and in supporting our clients to deliver sustainable results. 

Email: tanya.hulse@tlcglobal.org