Most Popular Management and Leadership Quotes on Our Site in 2016
Posted on January 17, 2017 Comments (0)
These were the most popular quotes on the Curious Cat Management and Leadership Quotes web site in 2016 (based on page views). Follow the link on the quote text for the source and more information on the quote.
- Having no problems is the biggest problem of all. – Taiichi Ohno
- Performance appraisal is that occasion when once a year you find out who claims sovereignty over you. – Peter Block
- Don’t look with your eyes, look with your feet. Don’t think with you head, think with your hands. – Taiichi Ohno
- The answer to the question managers so often ask of behavioral scientists “How do you motivate people?” is, “You don’t.” – Douglas McGregor
- People who can’t understand numbers are useless. The gemba where numbers are not visible is also bad. However, people who only look at the numbers are the worst of all. – Taiichi Ohno
- Real benefits come when managers begin to understand the profound difference between “cost cutting” and “eliminating the causes of costs.” – Brian Joiner
- Standards should not be forced down from above but rather set by the production workers themselves. – Taiichi Ohno
- A bad system will beat a good person every time. – W. Edwards Deming
- A leader is a coach, not a judge. – W. Edwards Deming
- Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence. – Sheryl Sandberg*
Cater to Customers Desires to Achieve Customer Delight
Posted on January 10, 2017 Comments (0)
Customer delight requires understanding your customers needs and desires. Often even your customers don’t understand these well. Businesses that have a deep appreciation for what their customers, and potential customers, desire and that create systems to deliver solutions that delight those customers benefit greatly from that effort.
To build a sustainable enterprise you must provide value customers will appreciate.
Your customers do not have one unified set of desires. Some customers may want as good an experience as is possible and if that costs substantially more they are happy to pay. Others want to pay the least possible while having an acceptable experience.
Singapore Airlines can cater to creating a great experience. And even within that system they can segment the offering a bit and create coach class, business class and first class. They seek to provide a great experience for everyone but have extra space and amenities offered for higher classes of service for those wanting that given the cost.
Southwest Airlines can cater to providing a friendly and inexpensive experience while passing on providing certain amenities. Southwest understands that they are creating a system to deliver value to customers that appreciate a no frills environment that still treats them with respect. treat customers honestly and with respect.
Aligning what is delivered with what is marketed is also important and something Southwest does well. Other airlines market as if they will provide what Singapore Airlines does and provides a miserable experience instead. I think it helps provide Southwest focus in marketing and operations seeing how badly many of their competitors frustrate customers continually in very visible ways.
To delight customers determine what they desire based on a deep understanding of them. Make sure you understand what they act on not just what they say.
Even if you determine what they want is to spend as little as possible don’t try to trick them with false claims about low prices. The most despised companies all seem to do this (cable TV companies, airlines, mobile phone plans, some contractors…). Essentially they play bait and switch except they don’t even offer the choice to decline once they provide the real price. They just slap on extra fees after they sold you with promises of the cheaper cost.
Instead cater to meet the importance of low price but still treat customers with respect. Yes, you might cut some corners a bit so customers have to wait longer for support or don’t have as much hand holding as they could get for a higher price. But there are many things that can be done with well designed systems to provide very good service while keeping costs low. In fact often better service can be provided at lower costs because systems designed well include less waste and create fewer problems. Those problems are costly to solve and damaging to customers.
Your customers will not have monolithic desires. A big factor in the success of providing solutions that delight customers. Sometimes that means creating product and services that delight people with a wide range of expectations. Other times it means delivering different solutions to delight the different audiences.
My mechanic is trustworthy and less expensive than my other options. He also lacks many of the amenities others might desire. But for me I am delighted with his service. I am happy to drive 30 minutes to get service from him, passing by many other options. I trust him to know what to do and act in my best interest while charging a fair price.
My dentist is very good and expensive. He doesn’t accept insurance (if you have insurance you can submit the bills yourself but his office doesn’t get involved). He does all the dental work himself, including cleaning (which is rare in my experience – often the simple tasks are assigned to others). Assistants deal with scheduling and billing. His market is to provide great service to those customers willing to pay. This is not a strategy that would work for most dentists I don’t think, but it works very well for him and his delighted customers (like me). The customers willing to pay for this level of service is limited but if you delight enough people who are willing to pay you create a sustainable business.
Knowing what your customers want and creating systems to deliver that to them is how to build a great business. It sounds easy but few businesses really do know what their customers want. And even fewer focus on delighting them by continually improving the value they offer.
Related: The Customer is the Purpose of Our Work (2012) –
Customer Focus with a Deming Perspective (2013) – the most important customer focus is on the end users (2012) – What Job Does Your Product Do? (2007) – What one thing could we do better? (2006)
20 Most Popular Posts on the Curious Cat Management Blog in 2016
Posted on January 3, 2017 Comments (0)
These posts were the most popular posts on the Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog in 2016 (as measured by page views, as recorded by my analytics application).
- Toyota Post Record Profit: Splits $15 million in Pay and Bonus for top 21 Executives (2014)
- Stated Versus Revealed Preference (2013)
- The Toyota Way – Two Pillars (2010)
- The Purpose of an Organization (2005)
- One factor at a time (OFAT) Versus Factorial Designs (2011)
- How to Manage What You Can’t Measure (2010)*
- Keys to the Effective Use of the PDSA Improvement Cycle (2012)
- 94% Belongs to the System (2013)
- Managers Are Not Non-Leaders: Managers Need to Practice Things We Classify as Leadership Traits (2013)*
- Increasing the Adoption of Management Improvement Ideas in Your Organization (2010)
- Why Don’t Football Players Just Thrown the Ball Out of Bounds to Stop the Clock (2010)
- Peter Scholtes (2009)
- The aim of leadership is not merely to find and record failures of men (2011)*
- How to Get a New Management Strategy, Tool or Concept Adopted (2010)
Most Popular Links on Management Sub-Reddit in 2016
Posted on December 27, 2016 Comments (0)
I created the management sub-reddit many years ago. The management sub-reddit provides links to worthwhile management improvement content and the members indicate those links they liked. Here is a list of the most popular links added in the last year.
- Unintuitive Things I’ve Learned about Management by Julie Zhuo on Medium
- Mental Models I Find Repeatedly Useful by Gabriel Weinberg on Medium
- How to Lead From Any Level In the Organization on the Aileron blog.
- Five Lean Myths and the Reality of Thinking Lean by Jeffrey Liker on the Leadership Network.
- And it’s gone —The true cost of interruptions by Gabriela Motroc on Jaxenter.
- Why ‘Modern’ Work Culture Makes People So Miserable by Jeffrey Pfeffer on his blog.
- Managers Are Not Non-Leaders: Managers Need to Practice Things We Classify as Leadership Traits by John Hunter on the Curious Cat Management Improvement blog (this blog obviously)
- A Minimum Viable Product Is Not a Product, It’s a Process By Yevgeniy (Jim) Brikman on the ycombinator blog
- For Continuous Improvement, Think Like a Child by Jon Miller on the Gemba Academy blog.
- Myth: If You Can’t Measure It, You Can’t Manage It by John Hunter on The W. Edwards Deming Institute blog.
- The Tesla Way vs. The Toyota Way by Mark Donovan and James Womack on Lean Post.
- How Personal Kanban Changed My Life by Katrina Coker on Leading Agile.
“Most popular” is not necessarily an indication of the best content; but it does seem likely the links that many people in the community liked will be of interest to many of the readers of this blog.
Unpacking the Components of Hard Work to Design Better Work Conditions
Posted on December 20, 2016 Comments (1)
Effort is grossly underrated by Jamie Flinchbaugh:
There is a common phrase of “work smarter, not harder.” I get the appeal of that. Effort without clarity, efficiency, and effectiveness, has severe limits. Working smart is essential. But does that mean working hard has no value? No, effort is grossly underrated.
I believe we should aspire to work smarter and harder. Neither is sufficient, both are required…
My father used to convince himself working smarter should be the main focus and then he would return from Japan and say yes working smarter is important but they also just work harder. Then he would revert to moving to a primary focus to working smarter, then return of Japan and repeat. It took maybe 3 trips to have it sink into his consciousness that it really was both.
I am slower than my father to accept the necessity of hard work 🙂 I still think we could reduce the hours of work if we worked smarter and the processes were improved to eliminate wasted time and we worked hard for fewer hours. To some extent some agile software development efforts have shown this by changing the system of work and including as part of that a commitment to long term sustainable pace of work (no overwork).
I think if people define work as hard as a large number of hours then that can be reduced. If they define hard as putting forth their best efforts (in a smart and effective way) continually for the hours they put in then I can’t see reducing hard work as a goal. The hard work of doing the challenging things when they are important cannot be abdicated. If anything that is one of the most important methods to reduce the hours of work needed – doing the things that often people avoid because it will be difficult, upset people, make people uncomfortable, upset the way things are done…
“Hard work” is often code for “work I despise doing.” If you create a system where people take pride and joy in their work the same time spent working is not nearly as “hard.” If they are proud of what they accomplish a difficult task is often rewarding, and not seen as working “harder.” As is so often the case “hard work” is really packing together numerous ideas in one phrase.
- long hours
- difficult tasks (physically, emotionally or intellectually)
- unrewarding work
- unpleasant tasks
- inflexible work (It is a “hard job” if it prevents you from for example, seeing your child’s basketball game. If you were able to see the game and finish up 2 hours of work after they went to bed that is less hard.)
- difficult work environment (whether that is due to the stress level, physical demands, or other things – like a boss that is difficult to work for)
I think you can reduce many of these parts of hard work by creating a better system of work in the organization. But to do so you increase the need for focused effort on what is important. The key to me is designing a management system in which the effort required by work is the effort you want to give and the amount of unproductive, unrewarding and unpleasant work is reduced. Creating such a management system is not easy; it requires hard work, and it requires working smarter.
Podcast: Building Organizational Capability
Posted on December 7, 2016 Comments (0)
The Software Process and Measurement Cast 420 features an interview with me, by Thomas Cagley, on Building Organizational Capability (download podcast).
John Hunter in the podcast:
Changing how organizations are managed makes a huge difference in people’s lives, not all the time and I understand most of the time it doesn’t. But when this is done well people can go from dreading going to work to enjoying going to work, not every single day – but most days, and it can change our lives so that most of the time we are doing things that we find valuable and we enjoy instead of just going to work to get a paycheck so we can enjoy the hours that we have away from work.
Here are some links where I go into more detail on some of the topics I discuss in the podcast:
- Strategy Based on Capability and Integrated with Execution – Building the Capability for Management Improvement in Your Organization
- Actionable Metrics – Dangers of Forgetting the Proxy Nature of Data – Understanding Data – Outcome and In-Process Measures – Fooled by Randomness (understanding variation) – Data Can’t Lie (but we can be mislead)
- Building a Great Software Development Team
- Expanding Your Circle of Influence (personal constancy of purpose, transformation) – What to Do To Create a Continual Improvement Culture
- Customer Focus with a Deming Perspective – User/Customer Gemba – Delighting Customers – The importance of customer focus – ask customers what 1 thing could we do better
- Leadership and Management – The Importance of Leadership by Those Working to Improve Management – Leadership While Viewing the Organization as a System – Executive Leadership
Thomas Cagley: If you have the power to change any 2 things that affect decision making what would they be and why?
First that results are evaluated. Make decisions then evaluate what actually happens based upon what you do. Learn from that, improve how you make future decisions and keep iterating.
That idea of evaluating what actually happens is extremely powerful and will reinforce going in the right direction because if you evaluate most decisions many organizations make nothing got any better. And after doing that many times you can learn this isn’t working, we need to do something better.
And the second would be more prioritization. Make fewer decisions but take more time to make those decisions, implement those decisions, evaluate those decisions, learn from those results and iterate again.
I hope you enjoy the podcast.
Continually Improving Using a Focus on Delighting Customers
Posted on December 1, 2016 Comments (1)
ASQ asked the ASQ influential voices to respond to this question: What is the best way to ensure quality and customer integration grow together?
When I first got involved in the quality field that name (quality) seemed to vague for me. And different people and organizations seemed to have vastly different meanings in mind for efforts they all grouped under the heading of quality. What I came up with to capture what I was interested in was customer focused continuous improvement. Continual is actually a better word than continuous for what I had in mind, I now know.
But that phrase has held up in my mind (unfortunately it is a bit long and so isn’t ideal either). Focusing on continually improving with a deep understanding of customer needs and the marketplace will do you well. Customer integration is required in the customer focused continual improvement framework I have discussed on this blog and in my book: Management Matters: Building Enterprise Capability.
Accepting that as a wise course of action leaves the question of how to continual improve with an integrated deep focus on customers. These shouldn’t be two isolated activities. And even to continually improve without worrying about customers requires viewing the organization as a system is critical in my view (which further enhances integrating the customer into the organization’s DNA). As anyone reading this blog knows my beliefs build on the work of W. Edwards Deming, so appreciating the importance of a systemic view is to be expected.
A deep appreciation for the long term needs of your customers and potential customers should guide where in the system to continually improve. And my belief on how to continual improve is to create and continually improving management system with principles of experimentation (with the necessary understanding of what conclusion can be drawn from results and what cannot), an understanding of the organization as a system and respect for people as principles to be guided by to achieve continual improvement.
Quality practices of experimentation directed at continually improving management practices and internal processes need to be completely integrated with the efforts to continual improve customer delight. Those efforts should be one process and therefore they automatically grow together.
Add Constraints to Processes Carefully
Posted on November 23, 2016 Comments (0)
Take great care in adding constraints to processes to avoid doing so needlessly.
Online you will frequently find forms that have required fields that needn’t be. Certainly if you were designing with focus on what is best for customers those requirements rarely make sense. Occasionally a required field is a sensible constraint on an online form but so often they add unnecessary constraints.
I frequently find those forms even requiring a false answer since a response is required and none of the options are true. Often this is because the organization is thinking of the boxes they expect users to fit themselves into rather than thinking how to create the best user experience.
I wrote previously about a company representative that suggested a customer change their name because the computer system didn’t accept names with 2 characters. Constraints on creating a secure password are a frequent failure of web sites for the last 10 years.
After the case was publicized and there was a great deal of negative publicity on social media the banks modified their process and approved the loan. But your organization shouldn’t have as the mistake-proofing (obviously not mistake-proofing at all) that when the process doesn’t quite work well then rely on a massive social media outcry which is a signal to us to straighten out the issue.
Frequently I see unnecessary constraints creating the edge case excuse. By burdening your process with unnecessary constraints your create edge cases that fail and then use the excuse that each of the edge cases is rare and therefore you can’t justify the expense of fixing them.
Bell Labs Designing a New Phone System Using Idealized Design
Posted on October 19, 2016 Comments (3)
If you haven’t heard this story you are in for a treat. And if you haven’t heard Russell Ackoff before you get to enjoy a great storyteller.
"Tape" of Ackoff’s Bell Lab Lecture at the US Navy.
If you would limit yourself to paying attention to 5 thinkers to advance your understanding of managing organizations Ackoff should be one of them. Of course, many managers don’t even try to learn from 5 leading management thinkers to do their jobs better over their career. So for many people just learning from Ackoff, Deming, Scholtes etc. they would be far ahead of the path they are now for their career. Of course you are not limited to learning from 5 people so you can learn from more if you want to be a better manager and leader.
I probably remember a great deal from maybe 5 talks from the more than 5 years I attended the Hunter Conference (and they were the best conferences I have attended – this might explain why the last conference I attended was maybe 7 years ago). This was one of them. And I realized that Ackoff was someone I could learn a great deal from and it caused me to learn a great deal from Russ Ackoff over the next decade.
Watch the video for much more but the basic idea of idealized design is to create a new design for a product, service or the organization based on existing feasibility but without the constraints of the existing setup. Then you can use that ideal to figure out a plan to move from the existing state to that idealized design. Russell Ackoff co-authored a good book on the topic: Idealized Design.
Related: Ackoff, Idealized Design and Bell Labs (2006) – Corporations Are Not Led By Those Seeking to Maximize Shareholder Value, Russ Ackoff – Transformation and Redesign at the White House Communications Agency – Russell L. Ackoff: 1919 -2009 – Dr. Russell Ackoff Webcast on Systems Thinking – Designing a New Organization (2005)
Burning Toast: American Health System Style
Posted on October 4, 2016 Comments (0)
Democrats and Republicans have created a health care system in the USA over the last 40 years that “burns toast” at an alarming rate. As the symptoms of their health care system are displayed they call in people to blame for burning toast.
Their participation in the “you burn, I’ll scrape” system is even worse than the normal burning then scraping process. They create a bad system over decades and ignore the burnt toast just telling people to put up with it. And when some burnt toast can’t be ignored any longer they then blame individuals for each piece of burnt toast.
They demand that those they bring before them to blame, scrape off the burnt toast. And they act shocked that the toaster burns toast. That is the same toaster they designed and maintain at the behest of those benefiting from burnt toast continues to burn toast.
We need to fix the decades old broken toaster that the Democrats and Republicans built and have maintained. Dr. Deming called excessive healthcare costs a deadly disease decades ago yet Democrats and Republicans allowed it to continue harming us year after year and decade after decade.
We don’t need distractions blaming a few individual for what the two parties have created and maintained for decades. We need leaders to address the real issues and stop the distraction that those benefiting from the current system want to continue to see from those in Washington.
You don’t fix the system if all you do is blame individuals for each piece of burnt toast. Fixing blame on each piece of burnt toast is exactly what those that have continued to make sure the system is designed to continually burn toast love to see. It is a good way to make sure the fixes needed to the design of the toaster are not addressed. Both political parties have done well by those they receive payments from to ensure that the current toaster isn’t changed.
For decades the data shows the USA health care system costs are nearly double that of other rich countries with no better results. And we are not comparing to some perfect ideal, those efforts we compare to need much improvement themselves. So how bad much the USA health care system be to cost nearly twice as much as those systems that have plenty of room for improvement themselves?
Related: EpiPen Maker Also Hiked Prices on a Slew of Other Medications – USA Health-Care System Ranks 50th out of 55 Countries – Drug Prices in the USA, a system continually burning toast (2005) – USA Heath Care System Needs Reform (2009) – 2015 Health Care Price Report – Costs in the USA and Elsewhere
Lead by Building Organizational Capability
Posted on September 13, 2016 Comments (1)
The result of a recent interview with me has been posted: How to Lead From Any Level In the Organization
Similar to helping other people grow their careers is the idea of helping other people to solve their problems. Again, this starts with a clear understanding of your sphere of influence. “It determines what strategies you can pursue, and building your sphere of influence should be part of your decision making process.”
What it comes down to is proving yourself in this way—and doing so consistently. “It isn’t some secret sauce. Prove yourself to be valuable and you will gain influence. Help people solve their problems. They will be inclined to listen to your ideas.” And helping people to solve their problems doesn’t mean you are giving them the answer. It may mean you asking empowering questions.
John says if you focus on building the capability in the organization to understand variation and to appreciate how to use data—then you are on the right path, and can increase your influence in addition.
“You need to build into the organization things like a focus on pleasing the customer instead of pleasing your boss.” When combining all of these methods, that is when your leadership is going to be most effective.
Hopefully you will find the entire post worthwhile.
More links related to interviews with me about improving management: Leadership While Viewing the Organization as a System, Business 901 Podcast Deming’s Management Ideas Today, Meet-up: Management Improvement Leader John Hunter.
Applying Toyota Kata to Agile Retrospectives
Posted on August 23, 2016 Comments (1)
Håkan Forss, King (interactive entertainment games), presentation at the GOTO Copenhagen 2015 conference.
I strongly recommend Mike Rother’s book: Toyota Kata.
Description from Workshop description “The Toyota Kata Experience”
I think the great number of worthwhile conference presentations we can all now get sitting wherever we are provides us a great opportunity (and lets us avoid missing out of good ideas because “How could they know“).
A point made in the presentation that is very simple but still constantly the source of failure is that the current system isn’t supporting improvement. Retrospectives are a good method to help improve but if there is no time to think about the issues raised and come up with experiments to improve and review of whether those experiments worked or not and why failure to improve is the expected result.
Creating a culture where it is expected that any improvement ideas are tested and evaluated is one of the most important changes on the path to a company that will be able to continually improve. If not, what happens is some changes are good, many are not and soon people lose faith that any effort is worth it because they see how poor the results are. By taking care to evaluate what is working and what isn’t we create a process in which we don’t allow ad hoc and unsuccessful changes to demoralize everyone.
Understanding Design of Experiments (DoE) in Protein Purification
Posted on August 4, 2016 Comments (0)
This webcast, from GE Life Sciences, seeks to provide an understanding Design of Experiments (DoE) using an example of protein purification. It begins with a good overview of the reason why multi-factorial experiments must be used while changing multiple factors at the same time in order to see interactions between factors. These interactions are completely missed by one-factor-at-a-time experiments.
While it is a good introduction it might be a bit confusing if you are not familiar with multi-factorial designed experiments. You may want to read some of the links below or take advantage of the ability to pause the video to think about what he says or to replay portions you don’t pick up immediately.
I have discussed the value of design of experiments in multiple posts on this blog in the past, including: Introductory Videos on Using Design of Experiments to Improve Results by Stu Hunter, Design of Experiments: The Process of Discovery is Iterative and Factorial Designed Experiment Aim.
He also provides a good overview of 3 basic aims of multivariate experiment (DoE):
- screening (to determine which factors have the largest impact on the results that are most important)
- optimization (optimize the results)
- robustness testing (determine if there are risks in variations to factors)
Normally an experiment will focus on one of these aims. So you don’t know the most important factors you may choose to do a screening experiment to figure out which factors you want to study in detail in an optimization experiment.
It could be an optimized set of values for factors provides very good results but is not robust. If you don’t have easy way to make sure the factors do not vary it may be worthwhile to choose another option that provides nearly as good results but is much more robust (good results even with more variation within the values of the factors).
Integrating Technical and Human Management Systems
Posted on July 6, 2016 Comments (2)
ASQ has asked the Influential Voices on quality management to look at the question of integrating technical quality and human management systems. How do different systems—technical or human—work together? How should they work together?
My view is that the management system must integrate these facets together. A common problem that companies face is that they bring in technical tools (such as control charts, PDSA improvement cycle, design of experiments, kanban, etc.) without an appreciation for the organization as a system. Part of understanding the organization as a system is understanding psychology within this context (as W. Edwards Deming discussed frequently and emphasized in his management system).
To try and implement quality tools without addressing the systemic barriers (due to the management system and specifically the human component of that system) is a path to very limited success. The failure to address how the organization’s existing management system drives behaviors that are often counter to the professed aims of the organization greatly reduces the ability to use technical tools to improve.
If the organization rewards those in one silo (say purchasing) based on savings they make in cutting the cost of supplies it will be very difficult for the organization to optimize the system as a whole. If the purchasing department gets bonuses and promotions by cutting costs that is where they will focus and the total costs to the organization are not going to be their focus. Attempts to create ever more complex extrinsic incentives to make sure the incentives don’t leave to sub-optimization are rarely effective. They can avoid the most obvious sub-optimization but rarely lead to anything close to actually optimizing the overall system.
It is critical to create an integrated system that focuses on letting people use their brains to continually improve the organization. This process doesn’t lend itself to easy recipes for success. It requires thoughtful application of good management improvement ideas based on the current capabilities of the organization and the short, medium and long term priorities the organization is willing to commit to.
There are principles that must be present:
- a commitment to treating everyone in the organization as a valuable partner
- allowing those closest to issues to figure out how to deal with them (and to provide them the tools, training and management system necessary to do so effectively) – see the last point
- a commitment to continual improvement, learning and experimentation
- providing everyone the tools (often, this means mental tools as much as physical tools or even quality tools such as a control chart). By mental tools, I mean the ability to use the quality tools and concepts. This often requires training and coaching in addition to a management system that allows it. Each of these is often a problem that is not adequately addressed in most organizations.
- an understanding of what data is and is not telling us.
An integrated management system with an appreciation for the importance of people centered management is the only way to get the true benefit of the technical tools available.
I have discussed the various offshoots of the ideas discussed here and delved into more details in many previous posts and in my book – Management Matters: Building Enterprise Capability. An article, by my father, also addresses this area very well, while explaining how to capture and improve using two resources, largely untapped in American organizations, are potential information and employee creativity. It is only by engaging the minds of everyone that the tools of “technical” quality will result in even a decent fraction of the benefit they potentially can provide if used well.
Posted on June 29, 2016 Comments (1)
Using data to understand your processes and improve them is very useful.
But using data often results in unintended consequences. If you don’t have a good understanding on the pressures collecting data will bring to bear on the system you can create pressure for results that damage the delivery of value to customers.
In this example there are requirements to take action if certain conditions are present. In this case, if the airplane is pushed back from the gate for more than 3 hours without taking off passengers must be given the opportunity to get off.
It doesn’t seem the conditions imposed are unreasonable to me. But the expectation was for airlines to make sensible adjustments and not force customers to wait so long in the airplane sitting on the ground. The system could be improved by having more gates in operation, not pushing loading planes if you knew plane wasn’t going to leave for more than 30 minutes, etc.. But when customer value is taken very lightly (as USA airlines do) it isn’t surprising the USA airlines would take a very customer unfriendly method to avoid the issue that was the source of the new rules.
Distorting the system or distorting the data are often the result, instead of the process improvement that is desired and expected.
Related: Bad Weather is Part of the Transportation System – Poor Customer Service at USA Airlines – Data is Important and You Must Confirm What the Data Actually Says – United Breaks Guitars – Respect for Employees at Southwest Airlines
Posted on June 21, 2016 Comments (2)
Support theatre provides the appearance of supporting customers when in fact it is just treating customers poorly based on a management system that disrespects customers. It is a similar idea to security theatre that has become so popular for government in the USA for the last 10 years.
Dilbert does a good job of illustrating “support theatre” in this webcast:
I have had the exact experience Dilbert does of tech support refusing to think about the actual symptoms of the problem and insisting on following some script and wasting my time – repeatedly. This is not some accident. Management has designed systems with the attitude that customer’s time doesn’t matter.
Companies that practices support theatre are usually very focused on cutting the company’s cost and not “wasting” the companies time fixing the problems they create for customers or even helping customers put on “band-aids” to cope with the injuries the company has inflicted on the customer. Those companies also don’t learn from their failures to improve and stop future customers from suffering the consequences of their poor processes.
It is painful to interact with such companies. I find that most large companies I am forced to interact with are deeply into support theatre and only very superficially concerned with customers. It is a shame that the type of customer focus that those interested in management improvement have been advocating for decades is ignored by so many companies today.
If you care about your customers and want to build an organization that prospers by delighting customers go to the customer (user) gemba. Focus on how to improve the customer experience. You likely will have many easy opportunities to improve how things operate since the experience for customers today is often so bad.
Related: Making Life Difficult for Customers – Practicing Mistake-Promoting Instead of Mistake-Proofing at Apple – Customer Service is Important (2006) – Simple Customer Care Strategy: Communicate – Use Urls, Don’t Use Click x, Then Click y, Then Click z Instructions – How to protect yourself from your credit card company – Verizon Provides Lousy Service = Dog Bites Man (2008) – Is Poor Service the Industry Standard? (2006) – Incredibly Bad Customer Service from Discover Card
Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog Ranking
Posted on June 1, 2016 Comments (1)
I created a ranking of top management improvement blogs for fun. There is no way to objectively rate blogs by how worthy or valuable they are. I just wanted to create a listing that ranked blogs I thought were worth reading using a collection of metrics that I think have some merit (even if that merit is fairly limited).
Here are the top 10 as of now (it will change over time):
The most important factor is my selection of what blogs to include in the first place. Then I rank them using several other factors: link popularity (how many links to the sites, with more authoritative links carrying more weight), a subjective ranking by me, traffic (using an admittedly pretty flawed measure of traffic – but again this is just for fun so…), Twitter authority of the author, domain authority (based on links, not just to the blog, but the web site overall).
I hope you enjoy the ranking and really hope you find a few new blogs you benefit from reading. There are quite a few interesting management improvement blogs, though honestly there are many fewer good posts than there were 5 years ago. Most of the best active blogs from 6 or 7 years ago are either much much less active today or are gone altogether. But even so there are still quite a few valuable blogs for managers to read.
Acting Without Theory Often Results in Wasted Effort
Posted on May 25, 2016 Comments (1)
When you act without theory you can find yourself beating your head against the wall, in ways similar to this woodpecker bangs its head against this sign.
This bird may have copied the pecking behavior without understanding the theory. Pecking steel won’t lead to it uncovering insects to eat. Alternatively, it may be pecking to make noise and attract a mate or tell other woodpeckers this territory is claimed. If mates and others acknowledge the metal pecking noises then the behavior may be rewarded (the noise is louder than pecking wood so it may even be an innovation with improved results), if not, the beating its bill against the sign is wasted effort.
If you don’t understand why you take action you will find yourself wasting effort. You must have a theory that you can test in order to test what is working, what changes actually lead to improvement and to learn. If this bird wants to find food it will discover this method isn’t effective.
I wrote about a similar example before: Experience Teaches Nothing Without Theory.
Software Testing and the Impact on Quality
Posted on May 9, 2016 Comments (1)
My response to a question on Reddit.
Does anybody have any thoughts on the validity of the above statement?
That statement is similar to the idea you can’t inspect in quality. Basically “Inspection is too late. The quality, good or bad, is already in the product.” W. Edwards Deming
I agree with those ideas. Software testing is a bit different (at least some of it is) from the inspection mentioned above. You are testing while the product is being developed and adjustments are being made before the product is released to customers. Also with internet based software you have the ability to update the software and now all users have that update. Where for physical devices they already have the product and the only option is a recall which is very expensive and often ignored.
Software testing however should pay attention to those points in the 2 links above (defects should be understood as evidence of a process that needs to be improved so defects are not built in the first place). What you want is not just to fix the bugs software testers catch but figure out the reasons those bugs were created and improve you process so you create fewer bugs in the future.
No matter what the software quality is based on the code that is written. At the best software testing can tell people about the bugs but unless the code is fixed the software quality didn’t change. But to say that software testing doesn’t have a big influence of software quality when testing is well done and the software development process is good (listens to feedback and improves) is not very accurate.
Related: Improving Software Development with Automated Tests – Combinatorial Testing for Software – Building a Great Software Development Team – Deming and Software Development – The Defect Black Market
Functional Websites are Normally Far Superior to Apps
Posted on April 23, 2016 Comments (0)
An email to I just sent to Uber
I understand the regular Uber app not having a functional website.
Uber Eats not having a functional website is super lame. It strikes me similar to Walmart 15 years ago telling people “we only have stores go to them, we just use the internet for advertising our stores.” Today for Uber: we only have apps, “we only use the web for advertising our apps.” Both you and Walmart want to use a limited function service that you both are comfortable with and want users to just put up with annoyance because neither of you want users using the connivence of the web.
When you bother to create a functional website maybe I’ll use it (I use several food delivery services now).
Using limited apps is rarely wise (unless you are crippled by the lack of a real computer and are stuck having to use just an app). Uber cars is a rare exception where the needs are so simple a limited app is ok. Picking restaurants and food on a tiny screen with a crippled app is just a lousy experience for anyone that uses real websites. The Ux for the app is horrible.
Just like old school businesses were only comfortable with their old business models and didn’t create functional websites (instead using the web just to advertise that you should go to their store, or giving you forms to complete and fax back to them…) new businesses are often stuck on only using apps even though they often provide a lousy user experience compared to a functional website.
There are some apps that are very useful and not having a functional web app can make sense, but it is fairly limited. Getting a ride apps I can see as only apps. Driving instructions and live maps using GPS to locate you is another great app use. Boarding passes can make sense (though I do question some of that whole process conceptually this could be a good example of a app with no functional website).
But most cases not having a functional website is just lousy Ux.
Now there are some times when using technology to provide good service just isn’t worth the effort. Often though businesses just are stuck in their fax-thinking or physical-store-thinking or app-thinking and fail to use a technology that would provide great benefit to their users. I find it odd how often app vendors seem stuck in their app mindset. It wasn’t so surprising old businesses that were not based on technology didn’t take advantage of the incredible opportunities provided by the internet and the web. But it is less understandable when companies that are thought of as technology savvy are as blinded by their history (can’t see out of the app-mindset).