Curious Cat Management Improvement Carnival #202
Posted on December 1, 2013 Comments (1)
The Curious Cat management blog carnival has been published since 2006. New posts are published once or twice a month. I also publish a collection management improvement articles on the Curious Cat management improvement articles site.
- What Inexperienced Leaders Get Wrong (Hint: Management) by Rosabeth Moss Kanter – “While asking managers to become more visionary, let us also insist that leaders should be able to manage well.” (I agree – Managers Are Not Non-Leaders: Managers Need to Practice Things We Classify as Leadership Traits, John)
- Stack Ranking: Why are Amazon, Facebook and Yahoo copying Microsoft’s performance review system? by Dare Obasanjo – “Most people at companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google either just got there or left before they would have to deal with the frustration of being disappointed by the performance appraisal system over multiple cycles.” (interesting post though I disagree with the conclusion that annual performance appraisals are a huge problem but we have to do them anyway and everyone just has to suffer, see: Performance without Appraisal, Dr. Deming on Performance Appraisal, Righter Performance Appraisal – John)
- Customer Focus As Seen From a Deming Perspective by John Hunter – “The Deming management system is designed to learn all we can from every customer interaction to improve the process of delivering value to all future customers. This mindset is a fundamentally different mindset from that of most companies…”
- Why the Only Way to Think is Long-term by Jon Miller – “he payback for developing people and processes is often faster and higher than expected, but not enough leaders know how to design these profitable on-the-job learning experiences. In a Lean enterprise, leaders must evolve from being order-giving authority figures to coaches and teachers who make the training and development a talent attractor and talent-retaining system.”
Taking Risks Based on Evidence
Posted on November 14, 2013 Comments (1)
My opinion has long been that football teams are too scared to take an action that is smart but opens the coach to criticism. So instead of attempting to make it on 4th down (if you don’t understand American football, just skip this post) they punt because that is the decision that is accepted as reasonable.
So instead of doing what is wise they do what avoids criticism. Fear drives them to take the less advantageous action. Now I have never looked hard at the numbers, but my impression is that it is well worth the risk to go for it on 4th down often. In a quick search I don’t see a paper by a Harvard professor (this article refers to it also – Fourth down: To punt or to go?) on going for it on 4th down but I found on by a University of California, Berkeley economist (David Romer wrote called “Do Firms Maximize? Evidence from Professional Football.”).
My guess is that the advantages to going for it on 4th down are greater for high school than college which is greater than the advantage for the pros (but I may be wrong). My guess is this difference is greater the more yardage is needed. Basically my feeling is the variation in high school is very high in high school and decreases with greater skill, experience and preparation. Also the kicking ability (punting and field goals) impacts the choices of going for it on 4th down and that dramatically increases in college. So if I am correct, I think pro coaches should be more aggressive on 4th down, but likely less aggressive than high school coaches should be.
But in any event the data should be explored and strategies should be tested.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Posted on November 5, 2013 Comments (3)
Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a documentary on a Japanese sushi restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro, that is full of great quotes for those interested in continual improvement. Throughout the film people discuss a never ending focus on doing better and better – never becoming complacent.
Quotes from Jiro Dreams of Sushi:
Jiro: “Once you decide on your occupation you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with what you do… You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That is the secret of success and the key to being regarded honorably.”
Jiro: “There is always room for improvement.”
Jiro: “I do the same thing over and over, improving bit by bit.”
Jiro: “I feel ecstasy every day. I love making sushi.”
Fish seller: “When you think you know it all, you then realize you are just fooling yourself.”
Food critic ~ “when you work for Jiro he teaches you for free. But you have to endure years of training.
Apprentice: “But there is only so much you can learn from words. I have to keep practicing.”
Jiro: ~ (paraphrased and changed a bit) “When the fish gets to me the sushi is 95% complete. I prepare it in front of the customer so get the credit but the truth is the person doing the least work gets most of the credit”
Jiro’s eldest son, Yoshikazu: “Always strive to elevate your craft.”
The focus is on the dining experience in total. The meal is composed of elements that are designed to work together with the focus on quality of the individual dishes but also on the interaction between the individual items and the complete experience.
The respect for suppliers is also seen in the film. Jiro’s eldest son says (approximately) “we are experts at sushi and we know a great deal but the tuna vendor we use knows more about tuna, the shrimp vendor knows more about shrimp… we trust them.” Later Jiro says (again from my memory), “we buy our rice from our vendor because Mr. ___ (I can’t remember the name) knows more about rice than anyone else, I trust him to provide what is best for us.”
They even touch on the bigger picture. Jiro’s son: “overfishing is the problem. Finding good fish is getting harder and harder… There should be regulations enforced on only catching bigger fish. Business should balance profit with preserving natural resources.”
As with any example there are particulars that you can learn from and specifics that don’t apply well to your situation. I know next to nothing about kitchens of world class restaurants but what I do know is they seem extremely dedicated to their work (much more so than many other organizations are interested in striving for). They also seem to be more autocratic than most other modern organizations. They also seem much more focused on perfecting the process to achieve the best result even if that requires a great deal more work than some alternative that produces very good results.
Management Improvement Carnival #201
Posted on November 1, 2013 Comments (1)
The Curious Cat Management Improvement Carnival has been published since 2006. The carnival, has been published twice a month – but will now be published once or twice a month depending on how things work out. I hope you find the post included in this edition interesting and find some new blogs to add to your blog/RSS reader. Follow John Hunter online: Twitter and elsewhere.
- Where do “Value Stream Maps” come from? by Michel Baudin – “Toyota alumni confirmed that you rarely see a Materials and Information Flow diagram (VSM) within Toyota, and explained that the tool was developed at Toyota’s Operations Management Consulting Division, for selective use with suppliers”
- Management is a role. Leadership is an act. by Jamie Flinchbaugh – “The point is, stop worrying about whether you’re a ‘leader’ or a ‘manager’ and just focus on doing whatever you do better.”
- How You Measure = How You Manage by Christian Buckley – “Each method of calculation has implications and limits, as does the source of the data. To be relevant, the measures have to be understood by those using them.”
- Improvement is a Learning Process by John Hunter – Dr. Deming: “Improvement of Quality and Productivity, to be successful in any company, must be a learning process, year by year, top management leading the whole company.”
Resources for Using the PDSA Cycle to Improve Results
Posted on October 28, 2013 Comments (1)
Using the PDSA cycle (plan-do-study-act) well is critical to building a effective management system. This post provides some resources to help use the improvement cycle well.
I have several posts on this blog about using the PDSA cycle to improve results including:
- keys to the effective use of the PDSA cycle
- Richard Feynman Explains the PDSA Cycle
- Tom Nolan on the PDSA cycle
The authors and consultants with Associates for Process Improvement have the greatest collection of useful writing on the topic. They wrote two indispensable books on the process improvement through experimentation: The Improvement Guide and Quality Improvement Through Planned Experimentation. And they have written numerous excellent articles, including:
- Clearing Up Myths About the Deming Cycle by Ron Moen and Cliff Norman
- The Importance of Concepts in Creativity and Improvement by Lloyd Provost and Gerald Langley
- ASQ’s Accelerating Change Collaborative Series: A Challenge for Industry by Kevin Nolan
- Evolution of the PDSA Cycle by Ron Moen and Cliff Norman
- Understanding Variation by Thomas Nolan, Lloyd Provost
Managers Are Not Non-Leaders: Managers Need to Practice Things We Classify as Leadership Traits
Posted on October 14, 2013 Comments (2)
Saying “Managers care about efficiency and leaders care about effectiveness” is like saying “Doctors care about theory and nurses care about patients.”
Managers that don’t care about effectiveness are lousy managers.
Leaders that don’t care about the gemba are lousy leaders.
Doctors that don’t care about patients are lousy doctors.
Nurses that don’t care about theory are lousy nurses.
Your role in the organization (and for the particular situation in question) and training and the situation will impact how you contribute. But the attitude that leaders are visionaries that think big thoughts, make decisions then tell everyone what to do (act as the brain for the organization) is outdated. Every list of what traits are for leaders that then contrasts them with managers that I have seen shows leadership traits managers need.
Seeking to separate leadership and management is a bad idea. If you want to have a few leadership traits that you want to focus on at various points (creating engagement, communicating a vision, building consensus, setting organizational direction) that is fine. But those things are traits managers need; they are not traits reserved for some separate leadership cadre.
And disconnected leaders that don’t understand the organization, the organizations customers etc. are not going to lead well (normally the contrast lists have the managers doing all the hands on stuff, at the gemba, with customers etc.). Nurses may not have as complete an understanding of the theories behind medical treatment decisions but they need to know a great deal of theory to do their jobs well. Everyone contributes and has different roles to play but I don’t see value in the contrast of leaders and managers mentality.
From what I have seen mainly the manager v. leader comparisons seem to be about belittling managers and elevating leaders; but leaders are this vague concept that isn’t well defined. Who are these leaders? Are they only senior executives? They can’t be managers because you are contrasting them with managers – by the contrasting model used they can’t be leaders and managers.
How to Sustain Long Term Enterprise Excellence
Posted on October 3, 2013 Comments (0)
There are several keys to pulling sustained long term excellence. Unfortunately, experience shows that it is much easier to explain what is needed than to build a management system that delivers these practices over the long term. The forces pulling an organization off target often lead organization astray.
Each of these concepts have great deal more behind them than one post can explain. I provide some direct links below, and from those there are many more links to more valuable information on the topics. I also believe my book provides valuable additional material on the subject – Management Matters: Building Enterprise Capability. Sustained long term excellence is the focus of the book. A system that consistently provides excellent performance is a result of building enterprise capability over the long term.
- Viewing the organization as a system – to build long term improvement systems thinking is key. Without it divergent forces tear apart cohesive long term strategies.
- Process thinking flows from viewing the organization as a system. Only by building a network of reliable processes is sustained excellence possible. To build those processes an understanding of process thinking is required (understanding variation, monitoring using in-process measures, visual management, continual improvement etc.).
- Engaged and thinking people with the authority to act at the gemba are required for the robust, continually improving management system – which is required for sustaining excellence. Everyone must be focused on continual improvement and reacting when necessary (respect for people, visual management, standardized processes, proper training, coaching, trusting environment where fear doesn’t cripple improvement…).
- Customer focus is also tied to long term success in a way that is often overlooked. Obviously building up a dedicated customer base is extremely valuable. But true customer focus, where the organization understands what problems the organization solves for customers, results in a forward looking organization that is constantly providing more and more value to customers. And this proactive focus is needed to to sustain long term excellence. Some related concepts: value stream mapping, outcome measures, visiting the user gemba…
Related: Distorting the System, Distorting the Data or Improving the System – Sustaining and Growing the Adoption of Enterprise Excellence Ideas in Your Organization – Managing to Test Result Instead of Customer Value – Good Process Improvement Practices – Change is not Improvement – Managing Our Way to Economic Success Two Untapped Resources by William G. Hunter – Software Process and Measurement Podcast With John Hunter – Customer Focus by Everyone
Management Improvement Carnival #200
Posted on October 1, 2013 Comments (2)
The Curious Cat Management Improvement Carnival has been published since 2006 and this is the 200th edition. The posts selected for the carnival focus on the areas of management improvement I have focused on in the Curious Cat Management Improvement Guide since 1996 (17 years now, which I find pretty amazing): Deming, lean thinking, leadership, innovation, respect for people, customer focus, etc..
- Eiji Toyoda – the Master Innovator by Bill Waddell – “He was a master innovator in the days when innovation wasn’t cool, and his focus was not so much on the product as it was on the processes – on management.”
- The Man Who Saved Kaizen by Jon Miller – “Eiji Toyoda led from the front. His message to leaders within Toyota: ‘I want you to use your own heads. And I want you actively to train your people on how to think for themselves.’”
- The consumer is the most important point on the production-line by John Hunter – “The continued view of the organization as a hierarchical pyramid of authority and responsibility hides the connection of the customer/user to the processes in our organizations.”
- Lean IT at Toyota by Pierre Masai – “educate yourself on the subject, since so many stories of dramatic or step-by-step improvements do exist out there. Then, soon after, experiment yourself. This is the basis of TPS. Make sure you also get enthusiastic people on board, and take the support of experienced external coaches if you need this to get started. Create a culture within your company where the principles of lean become embedded in everything you do.”
Jeff Bezos: Innovation, Experiments and Long Term Thinking
Posted on September 4, 2013 Comments (2)
Jeff Bezos, bought the Washington Post. He has long showed a willingness to take a long term view at Amazon. He is taking that same thinking to the Washington Post:
The newspaper business is certainly a tough one today – one that doesn’t seem to have a business model that is working well (for large, national papers). I figured the answer might be that a few (of the caliber of Washington Post, New York Times…) would be owed by foundations and supported largely by a few wealthy people that believed in the value of a strong free press and journalism. Maybe Bezos will find a business model that works. Or maybe he will just run it essentially as a foundation without needing a market return on his investment.
The Guardian (where the article with the quote was published) is an example of good journalism by a foundation. ProPublica is another (though I guess it is really a non-profit but most of the funding seems to be via foundations).
Management Improvement Carnival #199
Posted on September 1, 2013 Comments (1)
The Curious Cat management blog carnival has been published since 2006. New posts are published once or twice a month. I also publish a collection management improvement articles on the Curious Cat management improvement articles site.
- Disentangling Standardization, Harmonization and Improvement by Rob van Stekelenborg – “To be able to actually improve you first need to have a standard and a standardized (and therefore stabilized) process. Only then you have a basis to improve upon.”
- Outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer’s beloved employee-ranking system made me secretive, cynical, and paranoid. by David Auerbach – “The stack rank was harmful. It served as an incentive not to join high-quality groups, because you’d be that much more likely to fall low in the stack rank… it just encouraged people to backstab their co-workers, since their loss entailed your profit.
- Engagement Leads to Results by Bill Waddell – “companies with high levels of worker engagement get better results – profitability, defect rates, growth, productivity…”
- Flying Delta; Lessons in Unreliability by Sodzi-Tettey, Sodzi – “It also means designing procedures and building capabilities for fixing failures when they are identified or stopping the harm caused by failures when they are not detected and intercepted. In the experience of clients, the two organizations displayed very little of these; not predictive, not proactive and hardly anticipatory of client needs, but rather touting 50 dollar vouchers as if they would make all the difference!”
Stu Hunter Discussing Bill Hunter, Statistics for Experimenters and EVOP
Posted on August 27, 2013 Comments (1)
Stu mentions Bill Hunter’s work with the City of Madison, which started with the First Street Garage (Out of the Crisis included a short write up on this effort by Dad, which, I believe, was the first application of Deming’s ideas in the public sector).
There was also a great deal of work done with the Police department, as the police chief, David Couper, saw great value in Deming’s ideas. The Police department did some great work and David’s blog shares wonderful ideas on improving policing. I don’t think Dad was that directly involved in what happened there, but it is one of the nice benefits of seeding new ideas: as they take root and grow wonderful things happen without any effort on your part.
As to why Dad got involved with the city, he returned from a summer teaching design of experiments and quality improvement methods in China (this is just before China was really open, a few outsiders were let in to teach). We had also lived overseas several other times, always returning to Madison. He decided he wanted to contribute to the city he loved, Madison, and so he talked to the Mayor about helping improve performance of the city.
The mayor listened and they started with a pilot project which Dad work on with Peter Scholtes. Dad talked to Peter, who he had know for years, and who worked for the city, before talking to the mayor. Read more about the efforts in Madison via the links at the end of this post.
You are a Fool if You Do What I Say
Posted on August 21, 2013 Comments (3)
There’s an interesting quote from Taiichi Ohno in “Taiichi Ohno’s Workplace Management,” which I was re-reading today…
“You are a fool if you do what I say. You are a greater fool if you don’t do as I say. You should think for yourself and come up with better ideas than mine.”
The best examples of Lean in healthcare are examples where leaders and organizations learned, but did not blindly copy. Sami Bahri DDS (the “lean dentist”) read Deming, Shingo, Ohno, etc. and had to figure this out himself, rather than copying some other dentist.
ThedaCare is the first to say “don’t directly copy what we do.”
We can learn from others, run our own experiments to see what works, and keep improving to make it better than even Ohno or Shingo would have imagined.
Management Improvement Carnival #198
Posted on August 2, 2013 Comments (1)
The Curious Cat Management Improvement Carnival has been published since 2006. The carnival, has been published twice a month – but will now be published once or twice a month depending on how things work out. I hope you find the post included in this edition interesting and find some new blogs to add to your blog/RSS reader. Follow John Hunter online: Google+, Twitter and elsewhere.
- Observations From A Tipless Restaurant by Jay Porter – “Our ability to make sure team members in all parts of the house were taken care of, and to remove tip-related squabbling from our business, gave us a huge competitive advantage in the marketplace; this in turn allowed us to serve a much higher quality of food and take lower margins on it.”
- An open letter to Jeff Bezos: A contract worker’s take on Amazon.com by Steve Barker – “As experienced temps left and new ones rolled in, the breakdown began. Temps who had not paid attention in training were now training new temps. Different temps were teaching different techniques and it wasn’t long before the quality of work suffered. As witness to the poor quality, I made a few attempts to express my concerns, but none of my suggestions were implemented. When one of the higher-ups checked our work and realized that mistakes were being overlooked, performance scorecards were implemented.”
- Change has to Start from the Top – webcast, included here, with David Langford: “You are the top of your system. Change your thinking, change your process – you change your system. As soon as you start to modify your system you are going to have an effect on the larger system: the way you organize, the way you manage what you do everyday, how you process the work that you are doing [will impact the larger system].”
- No filter: the meanest thing Paul Graham said to a startup – “the vast majority of teams have the opposite problem: people filter their thoughts too much. The psychological and social incentives to do so are quite strong: we don’t want to go against the team, or we’re worried about giving offense, or we don’t want to be ‘the bad guy’… And that has a corrosive effect on culture.” [I agree - "I wish more people objected to bad ideas instead of just letting them go because they were afraid of being seen as negative." - John]
Design of Experiments: The Process of Discovery is Iterative
Posted on July 30, 2013 Comments (1)
This video is another excerpt on the design of experiments videos by George Box, see previous posts: Introduction to Fractional Factorial Designed Experiments and The Art of Discovery. This video looks at learning about experimental design using paper helicopters (the paper linked there may be of interest to you also).
In this example a screening experiment was done first to find those factors that have the largest impact on results. Once the most important factors are determined more care can be put into studying those factors in greater detail.
The video was posted by Wiley (with the permission of George’s family), Wiley is the publisher of George’s recent autobiography, An Accidental Statistician, and many of his other books.
The importance of keeping the scope (in dollars and time) of initial experiments down was emphasized in the video.
George Box: “Always remember the process of discovery is iterative. The results of each stage of investigation generating new questions to answered during the next.”
Soren Bisgaard and Conrad Fung also appear in this except of the video.
Related: Introductory Videos on Using Design of Experiments to Improve Results (with Stu Hunter) – Why Use Designed Factorial Experiments? – brainstorming – What Can You Find Out From 8 and 16 Experimental Runs?
Your Online Presence and Social Networks for Managers
Posted on July 17, 2013 Comments (1)
TL;DR My bottom line suggestion is to first start with blogs (get a feed reader and subscribe, read and comment on blogs). Next join Reddit and subscribe to the sub-reddits you are interested in, and participate. Next start your own blog. Then join Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+. Put your learning first; other measures are largely “fools gold” (such as number of followers).
Blogs are the best way to use the internet to learn, network, share and grow. That includes reading blogs, commenting on blogs and writing your own blog. Thankfully there are tons of great management improvement blogs (especially on lean thinking) for managers to learn from. There is a great opportunity for six sigma blogs as the field is not crowded with high value blogs on that topic.
Writing your own blog is the very best online way to create a brand for yourself (and to learn and grow). Given the workplace today, and how the future seems likely to unfold, building your own brand is a valuable career tool. Writing your own blog also builds your understanding of the topic. As you put your thoughts into words you have to examine them and often build a more complete understanding yourself before you can write about it.
You also build a network as you read and comment on other’s blogs and as others read and comment on your blog. YouTube can be used in a similar way (though I would use a blog to add text to the webcast and encourage comments on the blog rather than YouTube). Using an RSS blog feed reader is the first social network tool you should use (way before you sign up for Twitter or Facebook or anything). Podcasts can also. I have done a few podcast, most discussing the ideas in my management book. Videos and audio connect more deeply to people so they are wonderful methods to reach people. I should get some webcast up on YouTube; it is one of my plans that I haven’t gotten to you yet.
Management Improvement Carnival #197
Posted on July 15, 2013 Comments (0)
Mark Graban is hosting the 197th edition of the Management Improvement Carnival on his Lean Blog, highlights include:
- Michel Baudin’s Blog – “The Toyota Way 2001: the Necronomicon of Lean“: Michel wrote a great post about reflections on the internal “Toyota Way” document that was created in 2001. He says, “A document of this type about the way a company does business gives employees a framework to understand management decisions and business processes. The challenge in publishing it — even if only for employees — is to actually say something without binding management to courses of action that may become inadequate as business conditions evolve.”
- ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value (Helen Zak) – “America’s Most Dangerous Industry“: The Center’s COO asks, “Did you know healthcare is one of the most dangerous industries in the United States?” She continues with some data and more excellent questions: ”Is worker safety the problem or is it a symptom? While all organizations say, “people are our greatest asset, ” few really have a culture that demonstrates that. How can you tell? One way to tell is the worker injury rate.”
- Lifehacker – “Turn a Shampoo Bottle into an Over-the-Sink Sponge Holder“: A fun example of a small “hack” to make something better in your home. It reminds me of Kaizen, using creativity over capital. I like little things like this. In the post comments, a reader suggests punching holes in the holder to avoid a stinky sponge or mold. In Kaizen, it’s great to build upon and continue improving the improvement ideas of others.
Vist the Lean blog to see the rest of the great management blog posts shared in this edition of the management blog carnival.
Stated Versus Revealed Preference
Posted on July 9, 2013 Comments (3)
My father provided me a good example of the flawed thinking of relying on stated preference when I was growing up. Stated preference is, as you might deduce, the preferences voiced by customers when you ask. This is certainly useful but people’s stated preference often do not match there actions. And for a business, actions that lead to customers are more important than claims potential customers make about what will make them customers.
His example was that if you ask people if clean bathrooms in a restroom is required for a restaurant they will say yes. Potential customers will say this is non-negotiable, it is required. But if you eat at many “ethnic restaurants,” as we always did growing up, you would see many popular restaurants did not have clean restrooms. If the food at atmosphere was good enough clean restrooms were negotiable, even if customers stated they were not.
Now I think clean restrooms is a wise move for restaurants to make; it matters to people. Instead of creating a barrier to repeat customers that has to be overcome with much better food and atmosphere it is wiser to give yourself every advantage by giving the customers what they want. But I think the example is a simple example of stated versus revealed preferences.
McDonald’s gets a great deal of success by doing certain things well, including clean bathrooms, even if they miss on things some people think are important for a restaurant. McDonald’s really gets a fair amount of business for people driving a long distance that really want a clean bathroom and a quick stretch of their legs and quick food. This is a small percentage of McDonald’s customer visits but still a very large number of visits each day I am sure. Understanding, and catering to, the problem your customers are trying to solve is important.
The point to remember is what your potential customers say they will do is different than what they do. It is sensible to listen to stated preferences of customers just understand them for what they are.
We need to pay more attention to revealed preferences. Doing so can require putting in a bit more thinking than just asking customers to fill out a questionnaire. But it is worth the effort. A simple restaurant based example would be to have wait staff pay attention to what people leave on their plate. If you notice certain side dishes are not eaten more often, look into that and see what can be done (improving how it is prepared, substituting something else…).
Curious Cat Management Improvement Carnival #196
Posted on July 1, 2013 Comments (0)
The Curious Cat Management Improvement Carnival is published twice each month. The posts selected for the carnival focus on the areas of management improvement I have focused on in the Curious Cat Management Improvement Guide since 1996: Deming, lean thinking, leadership, innovation, respect for people, customer focus, etc..
- The Management Work Ethic by Bill Waddell – “How on earth the folks in charge can trash the lives of 2,000 employees and their families in order to beat an earnings estimate, and keep a straight face while publishing a mission statement pledging to enable employees to ‘share in the company’s success’ is beyond me. Of course, the reason for such blatant hypocrisy is pure selfishness.”
- Buying the new MacBook Air – “Most salespeople would have sold the more expensive computer, but this guy took the time to explain why I didn’t really need it, and convinced me to spend much less. Apple recognizes what few other retailers do: customer satisfaction starts even before a product is purchased, and it is customer satisfaction that makes companies great.”
- “Customer-In” Design – Best Achieved by Front-line Workers by Tripp Babbitt – “Front-line workers can offer any service organization insight into what is wrong with their design of service in real-time.”
- Growing Deadwood in the Organization by Gregg Stocker – “I have found that, in many organizations, the responsibility to coach and develop talent is much lower on the list of priorities than documenting and replacing the poor performers. This is surprising when one considers what it costs the organization to hire, train, and fire employees. In my experience, this type of situation generally results from a lack of knowledge of how to develop people and/or impatience (or short-term thinking).”
What is the Explanation Going to be if This Attempt Fails?
Posted on June 25, 2013 Comments (0)
Occasionally during my career I have been surprised by new insights. One of the things I found remarkable was how quickly I thought up a new explanation for what could have caused a problem when the previously expressed explanation was proven wrong. After awhile I stopped finding it remarkable and found it remarkable how long it took me to figure out that this happened.
I discovered this as I programmed software applications. You constantly have code fail to run as you expect and so get plenty of instances to learn the behavior I described above. While I probably added to my opportunities to learn by being a less than stellar coder I also learned that even stellar coders constantly have to iterate through the process of creating code and seeing if it works, figuring out why it didn’t and trying again.
The remarkable thing is how easily I could come up with an new explanation. Often nearly immediately upon what I expected to work failing to do so. And one of the wonderful things about software code is often you can then make the change in 10 minutes and a few minutes later see if it worked (I am guessing my brain kept puzzling over the ideas involved and was ready with a new idea when I was surprised by failure).
When I struggled a bit to find an initial explanation I found myself thinking, “this has to be it” often because of two self reinforcing factors.
First, I couldn’t think of anything else that would explain it. Sometimes you will think right away of 4 possible issues that could cause this problem. But, when I struggled to find any and then finally came up with an idea it feels like if there was another possibility I should have thought of it while struggling to figure out what I finally settled on.
Second, the idea often seems to explain exactly what happened, and it often feels like “of course it didn’t work, what was I thinking I need to do x.” This often turns out to be true, doing x solves the problem and you move on. But a remarkable percentage of the time, say even just 10%, it doesn’t. And then I would find myself almost immediately thinking, of course I need to do y. Even when 10 seconds ago I was convinced there was no other possibility.
Getting Known Good Ideas Adopted
Posted on June 19, 2013 Comments (2)
This month Paul Borawski asked ASQ’s Influential Voices to explore two questions; first, what is the most important challenge the quality community faces in ensuring that the value of quality is fully realized for the benefit of society?
I really think it is just getting the good ideas to improve management, that have been around for decades, adopted. This might not seem that important. But I hear almost no talk about this and tons of talk about all sorts of “new ideas” for management.
The “new ideas” that I look into don’t seem like very new ideas to me. The best of these ideas are usually well thought out tweaks and enhancements (along with a potentially better presentation of the core ideas) that are useful. But they are really just about getting old ideas adopted, it seems to me. Still this is good and useful work.
Unfortunately the vast majority seems to me to be overly simplistic ideas that involved more thought in creating something to market than in creating something to improve the practice of management.
We seem to spend all sorts of time and energy focused on new branding for management ideas when we would be better off focusing on how to get organizations to adopt good practices. I think the distraction with finding new ways of clothing the same old ideas is a distraction that prevents focus where it would be more worthwhile. This is especially true because those rebranding old ideas often don’t understand the old idea. They seem to see it would easier to sell if it were simplified so they do that and rebrand it but they don’t understand that they left of critical components and it won’t work – even if it is easier to sell.