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Lean Engage

People – Process – Performance

Whilst consultants can demonstrate their “can-do” experience in business improvement, the critical outcome with Lean thinking is to establish the understanding and capability in your organisation. Your capability to lead staff who become able to collaborate, to adapt to change, to achieve new goals, and delight customers.

Lean Engage was formed by Darren McDonald in 2010. Darren strives to help leaders link strategy to the day to day māhi of customer facing staff. His role is to support clients through the learning process. He describes Lean leadership as “not complicated, it’s just hard to commit to the learning”. As well as consulting, he coaches, teaches and presents on contemporary Lean leadership.

I’m Darren McDonald of Lean Engage, I consult and teach Lean practices in a number of settings. This Lean programme offered with the support of Callaghan Innovation is a unique opportunity for SMEs to implement a contemporary pathway for high performance and a growth mindset.

15 years ago I went back to University. I’d arrived back in NZ having spent time with SMEs, time with international corporations and experienced the advantages and challenges of both. I wanted to learn about international best practices and how I could apply these to business in New Zealand. 

In 2010 I set up Lean Engage, an independent consultancy with the tag line

“Engaging People in Processes of Improvement and learning that realise new Business Performance”

At a 2014 course in Melbourne, John Shook, a legendary lean practitioner made a bold statement; “Learning lean thinking is simple, it only requires three things.

  1. A free will decision, commitment to learn and practice
  2. Commit to a way of learning
  3. Deliberate Practice with a Coach.

Shook’s wisdom continues to guide my practice and how I work to support my clients. I recognise it's often a leap of faith for leaders to explore a new way of working. 

The programme starts with an initial assessment and work plan required by the Callaghan programme. No organisation or group of people is the same. I work with you to develop a programme to reflect your situation and your goals. The first piece of actual māhi is likely to be a three to four month small demonstration project. This project has a number of goals.

  1. To build trust - this is a programme that ensures staff experience the value for them. Staff generally love Lean, it’s values based, it makes their work easier and provides a stimulating environment in which to learn, improve and adapt.
  2. To demonstrate for leaders that Lean thinking is a pathway out of those long unproductive work hours. A way of working that has crushed NZ leaders into constant firefighting which strangles business performance. 
  3. To provide a personal “ah-ha” on what Lean thinking can be. To provide the leaders with an informed opportunity to assess what to expect from a lean leadership programme.

Over the following 9-12 months you can expect a programme based on “learn by doing”. The majority of time focused on leaders and staff improving one of their own business processes; and minimal PowerPoint or classroom sessions. I have taught this in almost every area of business including shop floor assembly, service centres, sales, finance month ends, training and development and more. The essential thing is that every part of the business experiences the benefits of using Lean thinking.

Leaders and staff are taught relevant skills and resources to draw upon and continuously improve their daily work. Lean doesn’t so much teach you what to think, but “how” to think. Your staff will have the confidence to say “I don’t know the answer to this but I have a way of pursuing it!”

Over a period of time your organisation builds up the skills and “muscle memory" that Lean is their preferred way of working.

Contacts Areas of experience
  • Business planning and operational performance management
  • Business design and reorganisations
  • Maintenance management 
  • Health and safety 
  • ERP system sales and implementation
  • Systems thinking and the learning organisation
  • Pathways to a growth mindset 
  • Adult learning and development - Post Graduate Diploma
  • Training within industry - Accredited Instructor, Job Instruction (JI)
  • Chartered accountant NZ
Sector expertise
  • Commercial joinery and manufactured timber 
  • Oil and gas, utilities engineering and maintenance delivery
  • Food production, processing and export (Pakihi Maōri) 
  • Manufacturing 
  • Not-for-profit skills development training
  • Professional services 


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Rates are $1,760 per day and $220 per hour (online training and remote support).

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