Common Cause Variation
Posted on November 30, 2006 Comments (2)
Every system has variation. Common cause variation is the variation due to the current system. Dr. Deming increased his estimate of variation due to the system (common cause variation) to 97% (earlier in his life he cited figures around 80%). Special cause variation is that due to some special (not part of the system) cause.
The control chart (in addition to other things) helps managers to avoid tampering (taking action on common cause variation as though it were a special cause). In order to take action against the results of common cause variation the performance of the system the system itself must be changed. A systemic improvement approach is needed.
To take action against a special cause, that isolated special cause can be examined. Unfortunately that approach (the one we tend to use almost all the time) is the wrong approach for systemic problems (which Deming estimated at 97% of the problems).
That doesn’t mean it is not possible to improve results by treating all problems as some special event. Examining each failure in isolation is just is not as effective. Instead examine the system that produced those results is the best method. The control chart provides a measurement of the system. The chart will show what the process is capable of producing and how much variation is in the system now.
If you would like to reduce the variation picking the highest data values (within the control limits) and trying to study them to figure out why they are so high is not effective. Instead you should study the whole system and figure out what systemic changes to make. One method to encourage this type of thinking is asking why 5 times. It seeks to find the systemic reasons for individual results.
What Could we do Better?
Posted on November 29, 2006 Comments (7)
At the Hunter Conference, years ago, a speaker (I forget who) talked about how to get useful feedback. He discussed how asking “how is everything” normally will get the response: “fine” (which is often that is exactly what the staff wants so they can move on without wasting any time). However, if you really want to improve that doesn’t help.
He explained how he worked with Disney to improve their restaurants. Using the “how is everything” question had not alerted the restaurant to any issues. So he visited the tables with the manager and asked – “What one thing could we do to improve?” Over 50% of the people said the rolls were stale: clear information that is actionable. And in fact they were able to adjust the system to remove that problem. A small thing, in this case, but a clear example of a good method to help target improvement.
To encourage useful feedback, specifically give the customer permission to mention something that could be improved. What one thing could we do better?
This post was sparked by Seth’s post: This must be hard. I think he was on the right track, but I think the results could be even better using a question like: what one thing could we do better?
Why Use Designed Factorial Experiments?
Posted on November 28, 2006 Comments (1)
One-Factor-at-a-Time Versus Designed Experiments (site broke link so I removed it -when will people learn how to manage web content?) by Veronica Czitrom:
I still remember, as a child, asking what my father was going to be teaching the company he was going to consult with for a few days. He said he was going to teach them about using designed factorial experiments. I said, but you explained that to me and I am just a kid, how can you be teaching adults that? Didn’t they learn it in school? The article is a good introduction to the idea of why one factor at a time experiments are an ineffective way to learn.
The Illusion of Understanding
Posted on November 25, 2006 Comments (5)
The “Illusion of Explanatory Depth”: How Much Do We Know About What We Know? is an interesting post that touches on psychology and theory of knowledge.
I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if it turns out that the illusion of explanatory depth leads many researchers down the wrong path, because they think they understand something that lies outside of their expertise when they don’t.
I really like the title – it is more vivid than theory of knowledge. It is important to understand the systemic weaknesses in how we think in order to improve our thought process. We must question (more often than we believe we need to) especially when looking to improve on how things are done. Many things that we believe we have good reasons for, we will find we don’t if we question those beliefs.
Applying Lean Tools to University Courses
Posted on November 25, 2006 Comments (3)
Take a look at an interesting series of posts on Applying Lean Tools to University Courses by Luke Van Dongen:
Good stuff. There should be much more simulation in education in my opinion. It is effective, and as mentioned, can be used to tie concepts back to a shared experience. Some worthwhile articles on quality improvement in education: Using Systems Thinking To Improve Education by Maury Cotter, The Trouble With “Back-to-Basics” and “Tougher Standards” by Alfie Kohn, Teaching Quality Improvement by Quality Improvement in Teaching by Ian Hau, Applying Total Quality Management Principles To Secondary Education by Kathleen Cotton, Using QFD to Design a TQM Course by Glenn Mazur.
From Lean Tools to Lean Management
Posted on November 22, 2006 Comments (0)
Please understand: Lean tools are great. We all need to master and deploy them, and our efforts of the last 15 years to do so are not wasted. But just as a carpenter needs a vision of what to build in order to get the full benefit of a hammer, we need a clear vision of our organizational objectives and better management methods before we pick up our lean tools.
Exactly right, as usual.
More Lean Podcasts
Posted on November 22, 2006 Comments (0)
New from the Lean Blog: Jamie Flinchbaugh on Educating Leadership
Previously: Jim Huntzinger on Lean Accounting, Norman Bodek on Toyota’s recent quality issues and lean leadership and Jamie Flinchbaugh on Lean Leadership. As expected these are well worth listening to.
The Lean MBA
Posted on November 20, 2006 Comments (1)
In the Curious Cat Science and Engineering blog, The Future is Engineering points to 2 great essays on the secret of Silicon Valley. Guy Kawasaki puts it well, though in my opinion far to kind to our current MBA system (the inordinate focus on accounting does actual harm above and beyond the harm of ignoring what managers should learn):
Some previous posts here that talk about similar ideas: The Purpose of Organizations – Management Training Program – Performance Appraisal Problems – Find the Root Cause Instead of the Person to Blame – Respect for People – Management Advice Failures – What is Wrong with MBA’s – Common Data Analysis Problem – Manage what you can’t measure
European Blackout: Human Error-Not
Posted on November 18, 2006 Comments (2)
The Duesseldorf-based company said the power outage, which led to blackouts in parts of Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Spain on Nov. 4, was not caused by a lack of proper maintenance or enough investment in transmission grids and facilities.
The blackout was caused after a high-voltage transmission line over a German river was turned off in an aborted attempt to allow a newly built Norwegian cruise ship to pass safely under it.
That triggered a blackout that briefly left 10 million people without power, stopping trains in their tracks and trapping people in elevators.
Ok, the focus seems to be that we didn’t do anything wrong, just some “human” made an error, which seems to be implied is out of their control. Why would the organization not be responsible for the people and the system working together? Management needs to create systems that works. That system includes people and equipment and process management and suppliers…
Fast Company: What drives Toyota?
Posted on November 16, 2006 Comments (1)
Very good article – What drives Toyota? by Charles Fishman:
Posted on November 15, 2006 Comments (1)
From the “you call this agile?” department by Joel Spolsky:
This is a simple article about basically choosing to sub optimize a part to optimize the whole. One of management’s roles is to determine when to trade a loss to one part of the system for the sake of the overall system. One of the big losses for software development is interruptions which distract developers.
The general consensus is that the loss from interrupting developers is much greater than for interrupting most other forms of work and therefor a great deal of effort is placed on improving the system to allow developers to focus. However, that should not prevent decisions that factor in that loss and conclude that taking that loss is worth the gain (to the rest of the system).
TPS and Jidoka
Posted on November 15, 2006 Comments (0)
TPS & Jidoka, interview of Tomo “Tom” Harada by Art Smalley:
So when Mr. Ohno came to the automotive company after WWII and saw one man operating one machine tool he thought that it was strange and inefficient. He embarked upon a path of breaking down the notion of one man one machine in the engine shops. Instead of “monitoring” machines the operator was to walk between two machine tools and keep them both up and running. Then three machines and four machines and so on.
Ackoff’s F-laws: Common Sins of Management
Posted on November 11, 2006 Comments (0)
Russ Ackoff once again does a great job of providing insight into management. I highly recommend A Little Book of f-Laws where Ackoff, with Herbert Addison and Sally Bibb, present 13 common sins of management, such as:
See: Deming’s thoughts on unknown and unknowable figures. A book with over 80 management flaws (er I mean f-Laws) will be published in January – you can even submit your own.
Information Quality In Health Care
Posted on November 11, 2006 Comments (0)
The Life and Death Results of Information Quality by Doug Johnson:
Lean Education Meeting Slides
Posted on November 10, 2006 Comments (0)
Lean = Purpose + Process + People
Purpose = solving customer problem while provider prospers.
Process = 3 primary value streams and many support processes, some involving customers.
People = engaging everyone touching every value stream to operate and improve it steadily (kaizen)
and dramatically (kaikaku)
Posted on November 9, 2006 Comments (10)
In my view Amazon is doing some very interesting innovation. As with most true innovation it is not easy to understand if it will succeed or not. I believe Amazon uses technology very well. They have done many innovative things. They have been less successful at turning their technology into big profits. But I continue to believe they have a good shot at doing so going forward (and their core business is doing very well I think). Innovation often involves taking risks. Bezos is willing to do so and willing to pursue his beliefs even if many question those beliefs. That means he has the potential to truly innovate, and also means he has to potential to fail dramatically.
Five Pragmatic Practices
Posted on November 8, 2006 Comments (2)
Becoming a Great Manager: Five Pragmatic Practices by Esther Derby 1) Decide What To Do and What Not To Do
2) Limit Multitasking
3) Keep People Informed
4) Provide Feedback
5) Develop People
I don’t see these as new ideas that have not been discussed before. But this article does a nice job of covering some good ideas. Taking the time to read this article can help remind you of some good practices you may neglect.
Investing in Six Sigma
Posted on November 5, 2006 Comments (0)
Bank of America: Investing in Six Sigma by Thomas Hoffman:
I think in reality there are several things needed at the starting block but voice of the customer is one, and one that is given too little attention far to often.
China’s Lean Journey
Posted on November 5, 2006 Comments (1)
China’s Lean Journey by Dennis J. Stamm:
Respect for Workers
Posted on November 4, 2006 Comments (1)
But the thing that really jumped out at me was a brief exchange with a college-age worker who left a job with a law firm to work at In-N-Out. Not only was the pay better, but they treat him with RESPECT at In-N-Out.
NPR podcast: Pay Helps Keep Workers at Western Burger Chain. I discussed a related matter in Hiring the Right Workers, by paying more the overall system of hiring and managing people may well be optimized.