A Morning of Transformation: Takeaways from SECTION6’s Executive Breakfast Round Table with Jon Smart


Last week, we were honoured to host Jon Smart, award-winning author of Better Value Sooner Safer Happier and Founder of Sooner Safer Happier, for an Executive Breakfast Round Table session. This event brought together leaders from some of New Zealand’s biggest public and private sectors for a symposium of sharing and learning.


SECTION6 designs, builds, and supports mission-critical software for mission-critical applications and organisations. Our success can be attributed to several factors, one of which is our commitment to active collaboration in the sectors we operate in. We are not merely followers; we are prepared to lead the conversation. This event provided us with an opportunity to share ideas that we believe can assist leaders across all organisations in delivering software sooner, safer, and happier, while staying On Mission. Here, we would like to further contribute to that conversation by sharing four key leadership principles from Jon.


The Four Key Leadership Principles from Jon Smart


Focus on Outcomes: Better Value Sooner Safer Happier

Jon began our session by emphasising the importance of focusing on outcomes rather than outputs. In this scenario, outcomes are referred to as the overall goal or mission, while outputs are the individual results of activities (that work together to achieve the outcomes). 

Jon highlighted this in his example of an organisation deciding to build a bridge. Often, the conversation begins with “We want to build a bridge” (the output), instead of “Why we want to build a bridge” (the outcome). A renewed focus on outcomes helps leaders to understand and prioritise what will bring the most value to their staff, stakeholders and customers, and deliver “Better Value Sooner Safer Happier”. Additionally, organisations and their leaders  also need to focus on delivering what Jon refers to as ‘valuetivity’ – delivering the most value, in the shortest time, with the least effort.


Achieve big through small: Think big, start small, learn fast and apply agility to agility.

In a time where “Go big or go home” is a commonly heard adage, Jon encouraged leaders to ‘Think big, but start small and learn fast‘, and apply the ‘S’ curve adoption principle. It is essential to have a grand vision, but it’s equally critical to initiate small, manageable projects that contribute toward this ultimate goal. By starting small, teams can adopt an agile approach, learn quickly from their mistakes, and pivot when necessary. 


Leaders go first: Role-modelling desired behaviours

Effective leadership isn’t just about charting a course and expecting the team to follow. Instead, leaders must set the standard by role-modelling desired behaviours and values, demonstrating courage and vulnerability, and continually nurturing a culture that values success and learning from failure.


Foster psychological safety: Inviting participation and fostering a blame-free culture

Additionally, Jon stressed the value that psychological safety plays in an organisation. Leaders should encourage participation, listen actively, and act on feedback. However, more importantly, they should foster a culture of learning through intelligent failure. Being blame-free doesn’t mean being accountability-free; it means giving people the freedom to innovate without fearing retribution.


Acknowledging our attendees


Lastly, we’d like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all of our guests, who took the time out of their busy schedules to attend our session. Your willingness to share your experiences and insights was instrumental in making the event a resounding success. Additionally, every attendee received a copy of Jon’s highly acclaimed book Sooner Safer Happier to help take their learnings further and put them into practice. Many thanks to Jon Smart and Maria Muir from Sooner Safer Happier for helping make this possible.


Some kind words from our guests:


Even more inspiring to hear from Jon in person and discuss the challenges and opportunities of organisations in this age of digital.” –  Stephen Kurzeja, CIO at 2degrees


Great to attend this breakfast session yesterday with Jonathan Smart to learn about delivering better organisation outcomes (sooner, safer, happier). Across (sic) public sector and private sector, there are common goals to maximise positive outcomes for our customers and communities, great to hear from other organisations working to do the same.” – Craig Renshaw, Operating Model Lead at Auckland City Council.


So good to listen to Jonathan Smart and the collective experience of others in the room today. I feel inspired and in great company. Thank you to Section6 and team.” – Bela Duclos, Beca Engineering




As we reflect on this event, we can’t help but feel optimistic about the changes these insights will spark in our professional communities. It was not just a breakfast round table, but a mosaic of transformative ideas, collective wisdom, and new beginnings. And in the words of Jon Smart, it was ultimately about achieving Better Value, Sooner, Safer, Happier, and we couldn’t agree more. We look forward to welcoming you again in the future.