Deming Seminar in Singapore: New Philosophy of Management

Posted on December 27, 2010  Comments (0)

image of the Deming medal

The W. Edwards Deming Institute is working with the NTUC LearningHub to offer management seminars in Singapore. I will be co-facilitating at several seminars in Singapore with Kelly Allan and Kevin Cahill next month.

The 2 1/2 day Seminar, Deming’s New Philosophy of Management, is open for registration to the public so if you want to join us, sign up (link removed) for the seminar which will be held January 18 to 20, 2011 in Singapore.

In the seminar you will learn the way of thinking taught by Dr. W. Edwards Deming. Those ideas have been used by leading companies around the world and the value of these management ideas is as high today as it has ever been. Applying these ideas will allow your organization to achieve higher quality, lower costs and increased productivity. As regular readers of this blog know I often write about these ideas here.

Seminar Overview
Application of Dr. Deming’s “New Philosophy of Management” gives you the insight to remove barriers to success, increase efficiencies, reduce waste, boost motivation, stimulate innovation and understand your organization and its real capabilities. Some improvements are as simple as stopping current practices and enjoying productivity increases. Others require learning and understanding the four key components of the “New Philosophy of Management:”

The seminar is conducted with facilitators. It is not lecture style and is interactive and significant time is spent in exercises or discussions and their application. The seminar is based on Dr. Deming’s two books on management – Out of the Crisis and The New Economics. It focuses on a philosophy of four components that lead to understanding of how the organization can work as a system, how an organization can learn as it develops, how to get the best out of people, and interpret data.

After the seminar you will have an understanding of the four critical elements of Deming’s “New Philosophy of Management” and how to apply it within your organization. They are:

Who Should Attend
The seminar material is applicable to senior executives and management in every size of business and service organization, education, retail, health care, government and manufacturing. It will benefit those being introduced to Deming’s thinking for the first time as well as those familiar with his philosophy.

The 3rd Annual Management Blog Review Has Begun

Posted on December 20, 2010  Comments (0)

Jamie Flinchbaugh has started off the management blog year in review with a look back at the year here: Blog Carnival Annual Roundup: 2010 – Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog.

Take a look at some of the posts he highlighted from the year and feel free to note some of your favorite posts in the comments below.

Again this year we have many management bloggers joining the annual roundup. Over the next 3 weeks posts will be seen on some great blog, including: Gemba Panta Rei, Evolving Excellence, Stats Made Easy, TimeBack Management and many more.

You can see a full list of hosts and link to their annual roundups on the Management Blog Year in Review 2010 home page. Also, see the wrap ups of2009 and 2008.

The Achilles’ Heel of Agile

Posted on December 14, 2010  Comments (3)

Guest post by Jurgen Appelo

When I wrote this, I was working in a big open office space in the Van Nelle Factory in Rotterdam (see photo). About 100 people work in an office that was the first of its kind in Europe, when it was built in 1929. And more than 80 years later, architecture lovers from all over the world still come to admire it, take pictures, and make drawings. I sometimes waved at them.

photo of open office style at Van Nelle Office
Van Nelle office, reprinted by permission of Stephan Meijer

A big open office space has advantages and disadvantages. Advantages are flexibility and easy communication. The main disadvantage is that it is a shared resource for all who work there. Climate, sound, and light are hard to manage in a space like that, and the optimal configuration for the whole is never optimal for all. But our office manager did the best she could in trying to maximize pleasant working conditions, while maintaining tight rules to keep things under control. A shared open office is not the ideal environment to give people full responsibility over their own working space.

Self-organization is usually promoted in agile software development. But when shared resources are not managed by a central authority, self-organization often results in the Tragedy of the Commons. The name refers to a situation in which multiple self-organizing systems, all acting in their own self-interest, overexploit a shared limited resource, even when they all know it is not in anyone’s interest for this to happen. The impact that humanity has on CO2 levels in the air, trees in the forests, and fish in the sea, is right now the most debated and intensively researched case of the Tragedy of the Commons. Organizations also have shared resources, like budgets, office space, and system administrators. We could see them as the business-equivalent of the air we breathe, the landscape we change, and the fish we eat.

Research indicates that four ingredients (called the four I’s) are needed for sustainability of shared resources [Van Vugt 2009:42]:

  • Institutions [managers] who work on building trusting relationships between competing systems [teams] in order to increase acceptance of common rules;
  • Information that increases understanding of the physical and social environment, in order to reduce uncertainty (because uncertainty results in bias towards self-interest);
  • Identity, or a need for a social “belonging” that encompasses all participants, to improve and broaden one’s sense of community and reduce competition between teams;
  • Incentives that address the need to improve oneself, while punishing overuse and rewarding responsible use.

Research shows that it is imperative that there is some form of management (or governance) to protect these shared resources by working on these four I’s. (I realize that most modern day governments are not setting a good example of how to do that.) In the case of shared resources, whether it concerns money, space, or system administrators, someone outside of the development teams must keep an eye on long-term sustainability instead of short-term gains by individual teams.

The Tragedy of the Commons is the Achilles’ heel of Agile. It takes management to protect that heel, in order to prevent teams from depleting resources, and crippling the organization.

This article is an adaptation from Management 3.0: Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders, by Jurgen Appelo. The book will be published by Addison-Wesley, in Mike Cohn’s Signature Series.

Related: Embrace Diversity, Erase Uniformitymanagement 3.0agile software development booksVW Phaeton assembly plant

Management Improvement Carnival #118

Posted on December 11, 2010  Comments (0)

Mike Wroblewski is hosting the Management Improvement Carnival #118 on the Got Boondoggle? blog, highlights include:

  • Voice of Customer (VOC): What does it mean? By Mark Wheeler – “Most companies have some type of VOC program in place. Many programs fall short of delivering measurable value. This failure often lies at the definition level of VOC. But how do you actually define it?”
  • He Should Have Seen It by Mark Rosenthal – “We talk about 5S, separating the necessary from the unnecessary, a lot, but usually apply it to things. What about information?” (Also read the link in this post!)
  • Going to Gemba with Grandma by John Wetzel- “I saw something that I would never have discovered if I hadn’t gone to the gemba.”

Related: Management Improvement Carnival #97Management Improvement Carnival #82Management and Leadership Quotes

Building Adoption of Management Improvement Ideas in Your Organization

Posted on December 8, 2010  Comments (8)

Continuation of How to Get a New Management Strategy, Tool or Concept Adopted

Target something that actually provides a good story. It often helps if there have been failures in attempts to solve a problem in the past. That makes the new success more impressive. Something that is relate-able to the audience you are trying to win over is also useful. Even if senior management cares about an issue, if the solution is so technical they are completely baffled, they will be happy with a solution but they won’t be as excited about expanding the strategy you are trying to encourage when they can understand the process that lead to a solution.

Favor efforts that will help you build organizational capacity to do more of what you want going forward (adopt lean thinking, use design of experiments…). Some of this is about building expertise in the organization. It is also about building your circle of influence. Growing your ability to influence how the organization grows will help you encourage the improvements you believe in.

It is very helpful to show connections between individual efforts. Often you build using various tools: in several instances using PDSA cycle to guide improvement, in others mistake-proofing to cement improvement, in another adopting one piece flow to make problems visible and encourage improvement, in another assuring the respect for people to build the right culture for improvement, and in another using an understanding of variation to make evidence based decision rather than jumping to faulty conclusions with limited information. These management tools, concepts, methods and ideas any many more, are used together for a reason. They support each other. So it is very helpful if you tie them together. As you start adding new tools, ideas and concepts to the management system show how they support each other. Individual tools can help. But the gains they offer are minor compared to the gains possible with a systemic change of management.

Another good strategy is picking the right people to involve in an effort. If you are trying to gain support, find those people in the organization that set the tone that others follow (which are not merely those with organizational power due to their job title). It is nice if you can find such people that have generally positive outlooks and like new challenges (this is often the case). If the culture is very toxic you may well have some who are likely to try and discourage hope in others (often because they have been disappointed so many times themselves they have finally decided not to be disappointed again). Often (though not always) you can win these people over.
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How to Get a New Management Strategy, Tool or Concept Adopted

Posted on December 6, 2010  Comments (11)

Often when learning about Deming’s ideas on management, lean manufacturing, design of experiments, PDSA… people become excited. They discover new ideas that show great promise to alleviate the troubles they have in their workplace and lead them to better results. But how to actually get their organization to adopt the ideas often confounds them. In fact, I believe most potential improvements efforts may well fail even before they start because people can’t get past this problem.

I believe the way to encourage adoption of management improvement tools, methods and ideas is to solve people’s problems (or give them new opportunities). Instead of trying to convince people by talking about why they need to adopt some new ideas, I think it is much better to show them. To encourage the adoption of whatever it is (a philosophy like Deming or a new tool) try to find projects that would be good candidates for visible success. And then build on those successes.

For adopting whole new ways of working (like lean thinking) you go through this process many times, adding more and more new ideas to the accepted way of doing things. It is a bit easier if you are the CEO, but I think the strategy is very similar whoever you are. For smaller efforts a boss can often just mandate it. But for something like a large improvement in the way work is done (adopting a lean management system, for example), the challenge is the same. You have to convince people that the new methods and ideas are valuable and that they can use the ideas to help improve results.

Start small, it is very helpful if initial efforts are fairly small and straight forward. You often will have limited resources (and limited time people are willing to invest) at first. so start by picking projects that can be accomplished easily and once people have seen success more resources (including what is normally the most important one – people’s time) should be available. Though, honestly getting people to commit will likely be a challenge for a long time.

It is a rare organization that adopts a continual improvement, long term focus, system thinking mindset initially. The tendency is often strong to focus on fire fighting, fear (am I taking a risk by doing x, if I spend time improving y – what about the monthly target my boss is measuring me on…) and maintaining the status quo. It is baffling to many hoping for improvement, when you have huge successes, and yet the old way of doing things retains a great hold. The inertia of organizations is huge.
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Don’t Treat People Like You Want to be Treated

Posted on December 2, 2010  Comments (12)

I have never understood the logic behind the idea that you should treat people like you want to be treated. I know I am different; I don’t want what lots of other people seem to want. If I treat them how I want to be treated, they are not happy.

I understand the sentiment behind the statement. I think it is much more effectively stated as: treat people how they want to be treated. An understanding of psychology will provide you with the understanding that people are different and want to be treated differently, while wanting to feel that they are valued and respected. Some people will like a boisterous extroverted environment and others will want to be able to have some time to concentrate and think by themselves. Some people will want to avoid confrontation at almost any costs others will want to deal openly and directly with issues confronting the organization. And most people will be somewhere in between the alternatives.

I don’t want to be thanked for trivial matters. But I have seen lots of people do like this. I do like to be challenged on what I claim and debate the merits of the idea (if I can learn I am wrong, it is much better to do it early and change – instead of waiting for some problem to develop). I notice a lot of others don’t like this at all. I don’t like to be interrupted when I am trying to concentrate. I know lots of others don’t understand this. And when they are treating others as they want to be treated the thought that others are trying to concentrate doesn’t cross their minds. They are not intentionally trying to be disruptive. They are trying to include others as they would like to be included. I find it annoying when we celebrate some minor success while much more serious problems are left unaddressed. I realize most others don’t have this problem.

I like to see data and evidence to back up claims and to explore what the data strongly shows and what conclusions are more tenuous. I know many just get bored by numbers and don’t want to see endless charts and figures. I like to be challenged and asked difficult questions in meetings. I know lots of people do not like this. I would like to ask other people difficult questions (but don’t – if I went with the treat people like you want to be treated idea I would ask). I like change that is part of a sensible strategy of improvement (that measures results to avoid change for that isn’t improvement, which I don’t like). However, I understand many people are uncomfortable with change. I despise sitting in meetings without agendas or a clear purpose that wander and don’t seem to accomplish anything. Others seem un-bothered by this (though I know in this feeling I am with the majority).

I think a key to managing people is to take time to think about the individuals involved, what your intention is, and then to act in a way that is tailored to how that person wants to be treated. Some people will want to be recognized publicly. Some people may want to discuss in private how they could do even better. Some people may like to be given the opportunity to lead a meeting. Others would rather be given the opportunity to create a new design for the intranet. Others may like the opportunity to train new staff on some aspect of their job. Some people may want opportunities to move up the corporate ladder. Others would rather have some time off to pursue other interests.

You should treat people how they want to be treated, not how you want to be treated.
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Management Improvement Carnival #117

Posted on December 1, 2010  Comments (0)

Bryan Lund is hosting the Management Improvement Carnival #117 on the Training Within Industry blog, highlights include:

  • Mark Hamel at Gembatales warns us against the danger of serving two masters…I love the caricatures that he develops for the reader – spot on!
  • A great take on muda, muri and mura by David Kasprzak at My Flexible Pencil. The way David applies the 3Ms to cultural behaviors is clever and thought provoking. Although seemingly “intangible” at first, the cultural wastes that David describes here soon emerge as the first logical target for attack, thereby allowing individuals in the organization to focus on building the ideal relationships so desperately needed to perform at the highest potential.
  • Kevin makes the case for single piece shopping at Evolving Excellence, but not everyone is biting in the comments section…me, I’m on the fence on this. JIT for purchasing makes sense for many, many things but probably shouldn’t be applied blindly to all purchases…

Related: Management Improvement Carnival #952010 Management Review Carnival

Jason Fried: Why work doesn’t happen at work

Posted on November 26, 2010  Comments (3)

In this TED talk, Jason Fried, founder of 37 signals, discusses how people get work done. When asked where do you go when you really need to get something done, almost no-one says: the office (unless it is early in the morning or late at night)? This is especially for creative people and knowledge workers. They need long stretches of uninterrupted time to concentrate. “The real problems in the office are the managers and the meetings.”

The main theme is that interruptions can severely damage performance, especially for what Peter Drucker called knowledge workers.

He offers 3 suggestions to make the office a place people can get work done. No talk Thursdays. And if that is too much how starting with 1/2 a day Thursday once a month. Second, replace active distraction (meeting, going and talking to a person) with passive distraction (email and IM) that a person can turn off when they need to focus. I have found this very useful myself. And third, cancel meetings. He closes with: I hope I have given managers reasons “to think about about laying off a little bit and giving people some time to get work done.”

Related: Understanding How to Manage GeeksBetter MeetingsWorkers Allowed Recreational Use of the Internet are More ProductiveManagement By IT Crowd Bosses

No True Lean Thinking or Agile Software Development

Posted on November 22, 2010  Comments (0)

“There is no true value of any characteristic, state, or condition that is defined in terms of measurement or observation.” – Dr. W. Edwards Deming.

The value depends on your operational definition.

Once you operationalize management ideas in a real organization it necessarily should have differences from how it is operationalized elsewhere. As Deming said there are no effective simple recipes for management. It is one of the frustrations people have with Dr. Deming: that there is no cookbook telling you what you should go do as a manager. You need to understand things like: interactions, variation, psychology, systems thinking, how we know what we know (and what we “know” that isn’t so). And then you need to make decisions about how to apply these concepts in your organization.

There is value in being able to think and discuss ideas in a broader context than your organization. You lose a great deal of learning opportunities if you can’t. And having common idea about what common principles a lean thinking organization or agile software organization should have is helpful I believe. That is aided by abstract ideals of these management practices.

Dilbert comic on the futility of process and arbitrary deadlines

One of agile’s guiding principles is individuals and interactions over processes and tools. I am a Deming follower and that emphasizes the importance of process and system. The words in agile are anti-process. But in my experience it is really a specific type of process – and that is basically idiotic adherence to process that the software developers are sick of. This attitude is best summed up in Dilbert. There are plenty of what I would call process in the practice of agile – sprints, kanban, work in process limits, define what done means, using user stories, retrospectives, build in quality… Basically I think it is important to understand what the principles mean, but don’t get locked into dogmatic ideas.

There are principles that seem to me necessary to, for example, consider an effort as lean management. There must be respect for people in lean management. If it isn’t there, then I don’t think it is lean. It might be management using some ideas and tools from lean, but it isn’t lean management. Exactly how respect for people is manifest is up to the organization. The same thing holds for other principles.

Thoughts on No True Agile, No True Lean, No True Latte

Related: Dr. Deming: There is No True ValueHow to Manage What You Can’t MeasureInvolve IT Staff in Business Process ImprovementThe Illusion of Knowledge

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Management Improvement Carnival #116

Posted on November 20, 2010  Comments (0)

The management blog carnival is published 3 times a month with select recent management blog posts. Also try Curious Cat Management Articles for online management improvement articles: you can subscribe to an RSS feed for management articles now.

  • Why Google can’t build Instagram – ” 4. Google forces its developers to use its infrastructure, which wasn’t developed for small social projects. At Google you can’t use MySQL and Ruby on Rails. You’ve gotta build everything to deploy on its internal database “Big Table,” they call it. That wasn’t designed for small little dinky social projects. Engineers tell me it’s hard to develop for and not as productive as other tools that external developers get to use.”
  • Don’t Let Benchmarking Replace Your Own Process Engineering by Mark Graban – “One thing I’ve seen in hospitals is that there’s a general lack of Industrial Engineering (aka Management Engineering, in healthcare) basics that would allow a department or manager to determine the right staffing levels based on inputs including patient demand, quality and safety requirements, and that hospital’s processes.”
  • Putting Performance Reviews On Probation – Samuel Culbert, author of Get Rid Of The Performance Review!, couldn’t agree more. “It’s the most ridiculous practice in the world,” he tells NPR’s Neal Conan. “It’s bogus, fraudulent, dishonest at its core, and reflects stupid, bad, cowardly management.”
  • How many different types of A3′s are there? by Tracey Richardson – “I will briefly describe the 4 different types of A3′s and when to use them based on my experience: Problem Solving A3, Proposal A3, Status Report A3, Strategic Planning A3″
  • Should story points be assigned to a bug fixing story by Mike Cohn – “My usual recommendation is to assign points to the bug fixing. This really achieves the best of both worlds. We are able to see how much work the team is really able to accomplish but also able to look at the historical data and see how much went into the bug-fixing story each sprint. Knowing this can be helpful to a team and its product owner”
  • Read more

Airport Security with Lean Management Principles

Posted on November 16, 2010  Comments (1)

The ‘Israelification’ of airports: High security, little bother

We [Israel] said, ‘We’re not going to do this. You’re going to find a way that will take care of security without touching the efficiency of the airport.”

“The whole time, they are looking into your eyes — which is very embarrassing. But this is one of the ways they figure out if you are suspicious or not. It takes 20, 25 seconds,” said Sela. Lines are staggered. People are not allowed to bunch up into inviting targets for a bomber who has gotten this far.

Lean thinking: customer focus, value stream (don’t take actions that destroy the value stream to supposedly meet some other goal), respect for people [this is a much deeper concept than treat employees with respect], evidence based decision making (do what works – “look into your eyes”), invest in your people (Israel’s solution requires people that are good at their job and committed to doing a good job – frankly it requires engaged managers which is another thing missing from our system).

The USA solution if something suspicious is found in bag screening? Evacuate the entire airport terminal. Very poor design (it is hard to over-emphasis how poor this is). It will take time to design fixes into physical space, as it always does in lean thinking. It has been nearly 10 years. Where is the progress?

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Tip/Wag – TSA, Bert & Dogs<a>
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election March to Keep Fear Alive
A screener at Ben-Gurion has a pair of better options. First, the screening area is surrounded by contoured, blast-proof glass that can contain the detonation of up to 100 kilos of plastic explosive. Only the few dozen people within the screening area need be removed, and only to a point a few metres away.

Second, all the screening areas contain ‘bomb boxes’. If a screener spots a suspect bag, he/she is trained to pick it up and place it in the box, which is blast proof. A bomb squad arrives shortly and wheels the box away for further investigation.

This is a very small simple example of how we can simply stop a problem that would cripple one of your airports,” Sela said.

Lean thinking: design the workspace to the task at hand. Obviously done in one place and not the other. Also it shows the thought behind designing solutions that do not destroy the value stream unlike the approach taken in the USA. And the better solution puts a design in place that gives primacy to safety: the supposed reason for all the effort.
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Annual Performance Reviews Are Obsolete

Posted on November 15, 2010  Comments (0)

Sam Goodner, the CEO of Catapult Systems, wrote about his decision to eliminate the annual performance appraisal.

the most critical flaw of our old process was that the feedback itself was too infrequent and too far removed from the actual behavior to have any measurable impact on employee performance.

I decided to completely eliminate of our annual performance review process and replace it with a real-time performance feedback dashboard.”

I think this is a good move in the right direction. I personally think it is a mistake to make the measures focused on the person. There should be performance dashboards (with in-process and outcome measures) that provide insight into the state of the processes in the company. Let those working in those processes see, in real time, the situation, weaknesses, strengths… and take action as appropriate (short term quick fixes, longer term focus on areas for significant improvement…). It could be the company is doing this, the quick blog post is hardly a comprehensive look at their strategies. It does provide some interesting ideas.

I also worry about making too much of the feedback without an understanding of variation (and the “performance” results attributed to people due merely to variation) and systems thinking. I applaud the leadership to make a change and the creative attempt, I just also worry a bit about how this would work in many organizations. But that is not really what matters. What matters is how it works for their organization, and I certainly believe this could work well in the right organization.

Related: Righter Performance AppraisalWhen Performance-related Pay BackfiresThe Defect Black Marketarticles, books, posts on performance appraisal

Worth Does Not Equal Wealth

Posted on November 11, 2010  Comments (0)

Warren Buffet often says he happens to be very good at something that is very financially rewarding – effectively allocating capital. He says this while making the point that plenty of other people are exceptionally gifted in ways that are not as financially rewarding (teachers, grandparents, nurses, Peace Corps assignment…) but are important to society. He understands that his worth as a person is not tied to this bank account. It might be one reason he and Bill Gates have so generously used their wealth to help others. They understand those actions are related to the their worth.

People should not tie their feeling of their own worth to their income. We don’t talk about it much directly but I see it far too often in the way we discuss things. Most people agree we shouldn’t judge people by their bank account or their earning power but we still do it. Hey we have flaws. We also judge people based on how attractive they are and how tall they are and other far from sensible things. Study after study shows we do this even if we want to pretend we don’t.

At least in the USA far too often people mistake financial success for worthiness. Financial success is great (I am not one of those that sees wealth as a bad thing – even if the correlation to bad behavior can seem high, at times). Even in companies this is often done where those with higher salaries are seen as more worthy – not everywhere, not all the time, but still more than we should. And when the economy is bad more and more people face not only financial struggles but the added pressure of feeling less worthy as they struggle financially.

I think it is good that we feel a desire to contribute and play our part in making our communities successful. But we shouldn’t be overly critical when we are making real efforts to contribute but for example, the job market is very bad and we can’t be as financially successful as we were before. Or feel we have to judge our success versus our siblings, friends, childhood friends, co-workers, children… based on our material wealth.

Related: Narcissistic Cadre of Senior ExecutivesMillennium Development GoalsYou Can Help Reduce Extreme PovertyHigh School Inventor Teams @ MIT

Warren Buffett quotes:

“I happen to have a talent for allocating capital. But my ability to use that talent is completely dependent on the society I was born into. If I’d been born into a tribe of hunters, this talent of mine would be pretty worthless. I can’t run very fast. I’m not particularly strong. I’d probably end up as some wild animal’s dinner.” – quoted in The Audacity of Hope, page 191.

Management Improvement Carnival #115

Posted on November 10, 2010  Comments (0)

Glyn Lumley is hosting the Management Improvement Carnival #115, adding some new blogs that haven’t been seen on the carnival before, which is always good. Highlights include:

  • Tales of redemption through improvement at work – Roger White concludes a series of posts about what other people have taught him regarding improvement at work. In this conclusion, he summarises the key learning points.
  • Connecting is not enough – Many of us like to think we’re effective networkers. Here, Andy Lopata looks at ten of the most commonly held beliefs about networking, and why he believes they are wrong.
  • How could we mistake-proof our thinking? by Benjamin Mitchell – “There are many sources of evidence that we experience ‘cognitive illusions’, such as the work of Behavioural Economist Dan Ariely.” [I agree - John, The Illusion of Knowledge]
  • The North Wind and the Sun by Jamie Flinchbaugh – “Too often, change agents focus on simple merit: my ideas are good, and you should engage. There are a lot of good things an organization can do. The problem is we have limited resources. You’ll have to create a reason more compelling than that.”

Related: Deming on ManagementCurious Cat management articlesReddit Management, find resources fellow users liked

Good Process Improvement Practices

Posted on November 8, 2010  Comments (6)

Good process improvement practices include:

  • standardized improvement process (pdsa, or whatever)
  • Going to the gemba – improvement is done where the work is done. You must go to the where the action is. Sitting in meeting rooms, or offices, reading reports and making decisions is not the way to improve effectively.
  • evidence based decision making, data guides decision making rather than HiPPO
  • broad participation (those working on the process should be the ones working on improving it and everyone in the organization should be improving their processes)
  • measurable results that are used to measure effectiveness
  • pilot improvement on a small scale, after results are shown to be improvements deploy standardized solutions more broadly
  • visual management
  • Standardized work instructions are used for processes
  • one of the aims of the improvement process should be improving peoples ability to improve over the long term (one outcome of the process should be a better process another should be that people learned and can apply what they learned in future improvements)
  • quality tools should be used, people should be trained on such tools. The tools are essentially standardized methods that have been shown to be effective. And most organization just ignore them and struggle to reinvent methods to achieve results instead of just applying methods already shown to be very effective.
  • the improvements are sustained. Changes are made to the system and they are adopted: this seems obvious but far too often process improvements are really just band-aids that fall off a few weeks later and nothing is done to sustain it.
  • goals, bonuses and extrinsic motivation are not part of the process
  • The improvement process itself should be continually improved

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Work and Life

Posted on November 4, 2010  Comments (2)

I believe in efficiency a great deal (it is a big part of the reason I took to Deming and lean manufacturing – I find waste annoying). Vacation sure can seem inefficient. All these people that could be working, not working. But people are not the same as machines. Time away from work can reinvigorate people. Time away from the day to day work can lead to better performance when people are actually at work. Time to enjoy life is valuable in itself.

The USA has enormous financial wealth. But vacation time in the USA is much less than most other rich countries. I think, by and large, this is a mistake in the USA. It is true part of the reason for the financial wealth in the USA is we chose to work longer hours so we can purchase more material goods. And as a principle I believe in limiting constraints on the market – so that the market can find solutions that people chose.

There are some difficulties with a free market approach to leave. First, in truth there is not much of a free market. Granted the government isn’t saying you have to offer only 2 or 3 or 4 weeks or leave. But try to negotiate with most employers in the USA for additional leave. You will find many have policies that they say won’t let them negotiate. So employees often have little choice about the amount of leave they can take with a job (even if they are willing to trade off salary).

There are several reasons for the lack of vacation time in the USA. One of the big reasons is the broken health care system. Health care costs are so huge, that the per hour costs of health care are very high. Companies don’t want fewer productive hours when the high health care costs are going to be the same for the year no matter if the work year is 1,600; 2,000; or 2,200 hours. Having 15% fewer employees for the same number of work hours that is a huge savings so companies have a big incentive to make hours worked per employee as high as possible.

Related: Vacation: Systems ThinkingMedieval Peasants had More Vacation TimeDream More, Work LessToo much stuffphotos from some of my time off
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Management Improvement Internal Experts

Posted on November 3, 2010  Comments (0)

Having a group of internal experts in Deming, lean thinking, six sigma, etc. can be an good way to help the organization transform but they must 1) practice respect for people and 2) focus on building organizational capacity. Having, for example a few experts that are very focused on lean thinking and can be tapped by others in the organization I think can be very useful.

That group might well also serve as “change agents” which can make some people get mad at them. They can help push the organization to change. While it might be nice to think you can just show the wonderfulness that is lean thinking and everyone will immediately drop all their old habits and embrace lean thinking that often doesn’t happen. You might well have to push middle mangers (and others) outside their comfort zone. And you might well have to push people to really try this stuff and they have become so disheartened over the years by promises of new, better, ways to work. They just see this as one more lame pointy haired boss attempt and they may well not want to play.

A big focus should be on making improvement in the performance of the organization, obviously, but also on making it clear that this new way of doing things is helpful and will make it a better place to work. The role of internal management improvements efforts is to build the capacity of the rest of the organization to improve. Six sigma efforts often instead put the emphasis on six sigma experts doing the improvement instead of coaching and providing assistance to those who best know the processes to improve, which I see as a mistake.

Response to The “Lean Group” Syndrome
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Management Improvement Carnival #114

Posted on November 1, 2010  Comments (0)

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, October 30th 2010, Washington DC. Photo by John Hunter.

The Curious Cat management blog carnival selects recent management blog posts 3 times each month. Since 2006 the carnival has focused on finding posts to help managers innovate and improve (Deming, lean manufacturing, agile software development, data based decision making, systems thinking…).

  • If Jon Stewart can do it, so can you by Dan Markovitz – “Get it? It’s a process. Even for something as creative as writing jokes, there’s a structure to follow. And by establishing that structure, they can unleash their comedy.” [Process Improvement and Innovation - John Hunter]
  • How I (try to) add value as an investor by Gabriel Weinberg – “I’ve been doing this startup stuff for a while now, pretty much all by myself or with one other person. So I’ve done most startup things, i.e. from incorporation papers all the way to an exit and everything in between. Moreover, I want to be closely involved. For most of the companies I’m involved with, we try to have frequent Skype chats (weekly to every few weeks) to discuss whatever is in front of them.”
  • Inspired by Shingo Again by Mike Wroblewski – “Mr Shingo suggested that every management person should go to gemba at least once everyday, and stay in one spot for at least 30 minutes to observe. This is every person in management, not just the plant production leaders.”
  • 5 Ways to Influence a Culture of Engagement by Trish McFarlane – “2. Provide challenging work assignments… 4. Connect employees to the organization’s mission 5. Be intentional, honest, and interact with integrity”
  • You might think with all the good books and blogs on management, pretty soon there really isn’t anything more managers need to help them. But what organizations keep doing, provides evidence there is going to be work to do for a long time. Beyond Crazy by James Kwak – “The ‘star’ example is Texas A&M, which created a report showing a profit-and-loss summary for each professor or lecturer, where revenues are defined as external grants plus a share of tuition professor P&L.” Taiichi Ohno knew about the failures of cost accounting.
  • Back to Basics with Kanban – “This list of 5 core practices used in organizations with successful Kanban implementations gives us a definition for how to implement the Kanban Method. These practices represent the seed conditions in any organization that may enable a successful Kanban-based change initiative.”
  • Failure to Plan is a Plan for Failure by Orrin Woodward – “Let’s go through each step of the PDCA process starting with the Plan step. What is the Plan and how do I use it to improve? The Plan is a way to test ones hypothesis or models of life.”
  • Deming’s long forgotten chain reaction by Gede Manggala – “Too much focus on cost saving will alienate your customers and make your employees unmotivated. This is why, companies which too much rely on cost saving will fall into the ‘doom loop’”
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Respect People: Trust Them to Use good Judgment

Posted on October 28, 2010  Comments (2)

Nordstrom’s employee handbook used to be presented on a single 5 x 8 card:

Welcome to Nordstrom
We’re glad to have you with our Company. Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional goals high. We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them. So our employee handbook is very simple.

We have only one rule: Use good judgment in all situations.

Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager, or division general manager any question at any time.

That is no longer the case, however, as they have become more like everyone else. Simple ideas like this only work within the right context. Taking such ideas and applying them to an organization that isn’t ready will backfire. But if you build a culture where trust, respect, customer service and responsibility are encouraged lots of rules just get in the way of people doing their best. If you can’t trust employees to do their jobs, the problem is with the system you have that results in that, not the people you can’t trust.

Related: Trust Employees to Do What is RightHire People You Can Trust to Do Their JobWe are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemenFlaws in Understanding Psychology Lead to Flawed ManagementBuild an Environment Where Intrinsic Motivation Flourishes

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