With Creativity to Service Excellence

With Creativity to Service Excellence

About this interview Series

This is an Interview series on Lean Transformation & Lean Culture, created by Noventa Consulting.

In lean transformations, the soft-factors, such as culture and leadership are often underestimated. Lean is philosophy, and therefore much more than a toolbox. The purpose of this interview series is to start a discussion about lean culture with lean leaders and lean experts across the planet.


Karyn Ross is a practicing artist from Toronto, and coauthor of the Shingo Award-winning «The Toyota Way to Service Excellence: Lean Transformation in Service Organizations» Her mission is to help her clients to find their purpose. She uses creativity in combination with the Toyota Way principles, practices and tools, to strive towards Service Excellence. Her unique approach enables organizations to build more purposeful ways of working. Her clients are large and small companies, that span across a wide range of industries; Insurance, HR, transportation, and retail.

„Problems cannot be solved with the same mindset that created them.“ – Albert Einstein

How did you start your Lean Journey?

I was a full-time mom with two kids without a working permit in the United States. When I started working, I was a customer service representative in an organization that was managing payroll for their clients. You can imagine that we didn’t always get 100% of the payroll right. I understood the purpose of my role was to make sure that my customers were satisfied. I believe that people are not numbers. I realized that behind the payroll were real people who wanted to fulfill their purpose. The first time I heard about Lean was in 2010. I stumbled across a book on Kaizen. I immediately felt that the Kazen principles helped me to improve customer service in my organization. I later read the book «The Toyota Way to Continuous Improvement: Linking Strategy and Operational Excellence to Achieve Superior Performance» by Jeff Liker. When I went through the first few chapters, I had many questions and comments. Since my husband is University professor like Jeff Liker, I decided to send an e-mail to Jeff with my comments. I thought that the worst thing that could happen is not getting any reply, so I pushed the send button. A short while later I received his response. Seven years later we coauthored a book that was awarded the Shingo Prize.

What is your mighty vision?

My vision is helping people to improve the world, one individual at a time; We focus on helping our clients to find their true reason for being.

Karyn Ross Permaculture Vision Board

This board is my KRC Permaculture.

First, I will prepare the soil for their learning

Then, I will plant the seed of purpose!

Next, I’ll help them develop strong roots ability and understanding (challenge people to learn by doing outside their comfort zone)

I’ll nurture the new shoots as they gain strength (nurture and care for them with quality and quantity of contact)

Finally, they will flourish, thrive and grow forever!

My company values are in the leaves: Growth, Creativity, Learning, Diversity, Value to customers, Humanity, Cooperating, Community, Respect, Care, Joy.

How do you describe purpose driven consulting?

Purpose-driven consulting is to help our clients to understand the reason for being, through coaching, consulting and workshop facilitation. I see my customers as valuable human beings and my goal is to help them become capable, confident and independent practitioners. We use the learning-by-doing approach to teach people how to create better ways for working, that satisfy their specific customers and help them fulfill their specific purpose. I believe that how we get there is as important as where we are going.

Of course, results are important, but how we achieve them is just as important. Humans are longing for belonging and want to work for a larger purpose. Through purpose-driven consulting, we create engaging, real, personal, human relationships.

How do you use creativity combined with the Toyota Way principles to strive towards service excellence?

I understand Lean as a living system. We are all real human beings and not numbers or machines, even though in business we often describe companies as well-oiled machines. I help my clients to reconnect with their inner-creativity. I believe that we are all born as creative beings.

I create habits of creativity within an organization. We usually start by defining or clarifying the purpose of the organization. I help the leaders or leadership team to bring their vision to paper as a drawing. Because a picture says more than a thousand words. The people then explain how they understand the vision. This is a powerful way to engage everyone throughout the organization.

We have two kinds of client organizations. One; companies who are structured and rigid and who lack in creativity and innovation. I help them to get more creative and innovative. Two; companies who are strong at innovating and ideation, but who are weak in execution and processes. I help them to improve their structures and processes. It is important to balance creativity and structure.

At Karyn Ross Consulting we don’t do extensive theoretical lean training, instead, we focus on defining the purpose and applying the PDCA-cycle to create service excellence. I want to help my clients to move from I CAN’t to I CAN. I consider long training as batch and therefore Muda. Often, people don’t find theory engaging and fun. When my clients say that they don’t understand a problem, I ask them «What do you think we should do?»

People don’t find it engaging copying practices and tools of Toyota. These tools help Toyota fulfill their customer needs. Every organization must create their solutions based on the fundamental principles of lean like flow.


Karyn Ross www.karynrossconsulting.com

Jeff Liker www.liker.engin.umich.edu/

Shingo Prize: www.shingoprize.org/