Jim Gavin Enthrals Audience with Insightful Comparisons between Leadership in Business and Contact Sport

Better known for his success with the Dublin senior football team, Jim Gavin showed a completely different side to his wide-ranging abilities yesterday (Wednesday, 8 November 2017) when he stood before an audience of over 200 senior executives at a Lean Conference in Limerick and shared some very insightful views on culture as an intrinsic driver of success in business and sport.


Gavin was the keynote speaker at the inaugural Mid-West Lean Conference, organised by Shannon Chamber and supported by Three Ireland. The conference, which was held in the Analog Devices Building in the University of Limerick, was a sell-out, with lean enthusiasts travelling from all over Ireland to listen to a high-calibre panel of speakers, representing leading multinational companies and small and medium-sized companies (SMEs), extolling the virtues of lean in leveraging efficiencies within organisations.


Whilst not sharing his inner secrets to success on the football field, Gavin did outline how he is inspired in his managerial work – in both the Irish Aviation Authority, where he is assistant director of the safety regulation division, and with Dublin GAA – by three motivational models used in business: Mc Gregor’s ‘Human Side of Enterprise’; Hertzberg’s ‘One More Time – How Do You Motivate Employees’ and, Maslow’s ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’.


“In managing a team, you need to know whose hands you need to hold and those to whom you just give simple instructions or commander’s intent and let them go do it. All you need to know is how to get people to do their best and be all they can. If they are not doing their best, the manager is accountable,” he said.


Complimenting the Mid-West Lean Network, a network of over 70 companies, and growing, from the Shannon region, on looking to the future , he referred to a famous poem ‘An Rod so Romham’, which has guided him throughout his career, adding: “In sport, each success is in the past so you always have to be looking towards your next game and that’s exactly what the lean network is doing: positioning businesses for their next win through continuous improvement and enabling employees to be part of this process; creating a culture that nurtures lean; enabling self-actualisation and; fostering an ‘esprit de corps’.”


This sentiment was shared by the thirteen additional speakers who took to the podium throughout the day, each inspirational in their respective areas of expertise; each outlining how, through continuous improvement and an inclusive culture, they have empowered employees at all levels to take on new challenges.


As Colm Sheils from Boston Scientific, Galway said; “Lean centres on people engagement; getting them emotionally connected and involved in the decisions they are involved with.”


Dr Anca Minescu from the University of Limerick, a specialist in intergroup relations, encouraging attendees to embrace change said: “Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous in the end.”


Takumi Precision’s managing director, Gerry Reynolds has lived the experience of growing a start-up to a successful SMEs, encouraging attendees to continually position their businesses for the future added: “If you don’t plan as you grow, you’re breeding insanity.”


Commenting on the event, Shannon Chamber’s chief executive Helen Downes said “Never did we envisage, when we held our first lean workshop in Zimmer Biomet back in 2010, that seven years later, we would have set up a lean network in the Mid-West with over 70 member companies to now hosting our first Lean-focused conference in the University of Limerick. Our only disappointment is that it was a sell-out and we had to turn people away.


“As Jim Gavin said, that event was an outstanding success, but it’s over, so we are already in planning mode for a bigger and different Lean Conference in 2018.”


Presenters at the inaugural Mid-West Lean Conference, held in the Analog Devices Building at the University of Limerick (UL), sponsored by Three Ireland, supported by Molex, Shannon Group, LEO Clare and Limerick, LBS Partners and Shannon Chamber Skillnet, and moderated by Claude Costelloe, operations manager, Zimmer Biomet, included:


  • Noel Hennessey, director, Practical Lean Solutions
  • Dave Keane, operations manager, Zimmer Biomet, Galway
  • Dr Anca Minescu, lecturer in psychology, UL
  • Gerry Reynolds, managing director, Takumi Precision Engineering
  • Pat Burke, director of operations, Cook Medical
  • Shane O’Neill. CEO and Kieran Noonan, COO and director of business excellence, Atlantic Aviation Group
  • Sandra McDonnell, operational excellence program manager, AbbVie Ireland
  • Michael Guinee, chairman, CEO and founder, Ei Electronics
  • David Hanly, general manager, IEPRO, Element Six Group
  • Nicola Mortimer, head of business product, marketing and operations, Three
  • Jony Kelly, OPEX manager/Shingo site co-ordinator, Analog Devices
  • Michael Hennessy, Education Programmes Manager, University of Limerick



Photo caption

Jim Gavin, assistant director, Irish Aviation Authority Safety Regulation Division, and Dublin senior football team manager, keynote speaker at the Mid-West Lean Network Conference 2017 is pictured with (from left front): Nicola Mortimer, head of business product, marketing and operations, Three and Helen Downes, CEO, Shannon Chamber. (Back l-r): Neil Enright, Molex and Mid-West Lean Network Chair and Claude Costelloe, operations manager, Zimmer Biomet, conference moderator. Photograph by Eamon Ward