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Get to know our Consultants – Geerten Lengkeek

A man in safety gear holding a piece of fertilizer in a factory

When enterprises improve productivity, they are more competitive and can become leaders in their industry. Geerten Lengkeek, our Managing Director, says that data released by the recently disestablished Productivity Commission shows that New Zealand companies are not competitive internationally 

New Zealanders should take this topic seriously because it affects our ability to create national wealth and invest in things we care about, such as healthcare, infrastructure, and conservation. As a nation, we should aspire to leave a legacy for our children and the future generations of our country that is better than our current circumstances. 

 

Good to Great 

Geerten’s career started at Abbott Laboratories 30 years ago. Abbott Labs is a US-based healthcare company and was one of the enterprises featured in Jim Collins’s book ‘Good to Great‘ — a book that looks at how enterprises build long-term performance and success.  However, because his career began working for an already established and efficient company, he thought ‘That’s just how things were done’. That was until he was sent to New Zealand in the early 90s to work in the dairy industry.  

 Arriving in New Zealand with his European education, US healthcare experience, and structured working approach; he was surprised to find the performance and efficiency were not of the same standard. So, when he went on to join Fonterra 10 years later, he was excited to be part of the group that formed the Operational Excellence Programme rolled out across New Zealand, and then went on to implement the same programme in Melbourne. For Geerten, improving processes and performance using a structured method is second nature.  

Geerten has held various roles as an employed internal change agent in healthcare, manufacturing, and dairy. However, the transition into consulting was a logical evolution, as he recognised he could contribute greater value to more organisations as an external change agent. 

He sees it as his responsibility to challenge people and build deep relationships with his clients, the CEO, and the senior leadership teams. It is a benefit of being Dutch that he will “give it to you straight,” and challenges people to move out of their comfort zone.   

 

The Productivity People’s point of difference 

The Productivity People point of difference is that we will work with you and your team, and coach and support you until you can take ownership of the method yourself. We are the only New Zealand company with a recorded practice method, which allows our clients to visually see their progress and the work that’s been done. Our process demonstrates a clear link between performance and result and reveals a correlation between causality, practice, and performance. It often starts with identifying a problem, and once we understand that we can provide the correct tools to make the improvements. 

Moreover, our method is customisable to each individual client. This includes the language used to communicate with clients. For example, Geerten wouldn’t use language like ‘data-driven decision-making’ and ‘internal investment’ when talking to a welder. However, he would talk to him about being frustrated with his daily activities, quality issues, and his tools. He says he’s not afraid to use ‘shop floor’ language because that way people know, “This guy understands me.” 

At a basic level, Geerten says it’s really foundational stuff. “When people know what their job is, know what they need to do, have a plan, a way to measure the success and achievement and have a forum to discuss any issues with a team leader, then we’ve established strategies for continuous improvement.” He notes it begins when you “start doing the smart stuff,” like getting the departments to talk to each other, planning, and not passing mistakes onto others: basically, identifying areas of waste and inefficiency. 

The sustainability of the process comes back to the Productivity Wheel and the model. It helps create ownership for people in the organisation, and if you can get key leaders aligned and create an established process where people say: “If you take this process away from me, I can’t do my job”, then you’ve created sustainability.