A Theory of a System for Educators and Managers

Posted on October 25, 2010  Comments (3)

Excerpts from The Deming Library Volume XXI, Dr. W. Edwards Deming, Dr. Russell Ackoff and David Langford demonstrate that educators can begin a quality transformation by developing an understanding of the properties and powers of systems-oriented thinking. You can order the entire video, as well as the rest of The Deming Library.

Great stuff! If you enjoy this blog (the Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog), you definitely should watch this webcast. This video has some great insight into education, learning and systems thinking. It also provides a good explanation of systems thinking compared to analysis. Dr. Ackoff: “You cannot explain the behavior of a system by analysis.” “The performance of the whole is never the sum of the performance of the parts taken separately: but it’s the product of their interactions. Therefore, the basic managerial idea introduced by systems thinking is that to manage a system effectively you must focus on the interactions of the parts rather than their behavior taken separately.”

Dr. Deming: “You may reduce defects to zero and go out of business.”

Dr. Ackoff: “Most discussion of education assume that the best way to learn a subject is to have it taught to you. That’s nonsense… Teaching is a wonderful way to learn. Therefore if we want people to learn we have to make them teach.” If you want more on this see David Langford’s work which provides great advice on how to improve learning and education.

Related: Dr. Deming Webcast on the 5 Deadly DiseasesAn Introduction to Deming’s Management Ideas by Peter ScholtesHow to Manage What You Can’t MeasureMarissa Mayer Webcast on Google InnovationTraffic Congestion and a Non-Solution

Why Don’t Football Players Just Thrown the Ball Out of Bounds to Stop the Clock

Posted on October 24, 2010  Comments (2)

I have never understood why players don’t lateral the ball out of bounds to stop the clock in pro or college football in the USA. If time is running out and the player is tackled in bounds the clock keeps running and time can expire. You can stop the clock by running out of bounds. Also if the ball goes out of bounds the clock is stopped. I figured maybe there was some rule against just throwing the ball out of bounds to stop the clock. I never hear announcers explain that they can’t just throw the ball out of bounds due to a rule, though.

John Clay, Wisconsin Badgers

I decided to go the the source, on page 73 of the official NCAA football rules it says the clock stops: “With fewer than two minutes remaining in a half a Team A ball carrier, fumble or backward pass is ruled out of bounds.”

However, on page 103 (of 272) it states: “A ball carrier may hand or pass the ball backward at any time, except to throw the ball intentionally out of bounds to conserve time. [The penalty for breaking the rule is] five yards from the spot of the foul; also loss of down.” The clock is started when the ball is ready for play (rule 3-4-3 says the clock restarts on the ready to play signal for “unfair clock tactics” penalties).

From the rule book appendix: “A ball carrier, late in the second period, throws a backward pass out of bounds from behind or beyond the neutral zone to conserve time. RULING: Penalty – Five yards from the spot of the foul and loss of down. The clock starts on the ready-for-play signal.” By the way an illegal forward pass has the same penalty.

Still to me this leaves a very good reason to lateral the ball out of bounds. It should certainly take less time to line up and ground the ball after the ball is marked ready for play than it would if the clock is never stopped. Often you could still have time to run a play or just ground the ball and stop the clock.

The NFL does use a 10-second runoff rule, and with the referee winding the clock on the ready for play, which would likely make an deliberate attempt a bad idea. But as far as I can tell college rules don’t have that time penalty. It seems to me, if you want to have a rule against stopping the clock that way, it probably is wise to have the 10 second penalty.

Even if for some reason taking that penalty doesn’t work if you are in the middle of the filed you could thrown it to someone near the sidelines to let them get out of bounds. Also if you at least make that attempt and then the ball goes out of bounds (based on your lateral attempt) it seems to me you at least have the hope the referees won’t call the penalty that requires your intent to thrown it out of bounds to stop the clock, in order for it to be a penalty.

Related: Randomization in SportsNHL Experiments with the Rules of HockeyPhysicist Swimming Revolution
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Management Improvement Carnival #113

Posted on October 20, 2010  Comments (0)

Pete Abilla hosts the Management Improvement Carnival #113, highlights include:

  • Just Open my Mouth and Go To the Gemba by Bryan Zeigler:
    I see the same thing in factories all the time. There is a problem. We sit at our computers and analyze process information, warranty data, etc when we should just go out and see the problem ourselves. I also see us use the latest greatest technology just because its the new gizmo, when there are many ‘old fashioned’ techniques that are better, faster, and cheaper.”
  • Lean Advice from Sobek and Smalley by Brian Buck: “From our experience, improvement efforts in companies become ineffective when the emphasis becomes adhering to a standard tool and enforcing a certain way of doing things.” – highly recommended book Understanding A3 Thinking page 133.”

Related: Management Improvement Carnival #21Management Improvement Carnival #79Management Improvement Carnival #45

Posts on Managing People from Around the Web

Posted on October 18, 2010  Comments (1)

My thoughts on managing people are based on Dr. Deming’s thoughts on management. The over-simplified explanation is that people want to do good work. Performance problems should be looked at first, second, third, fourth and fifth as problems with the system not the individual.

photo of yellow leaves

I believe organizations should practice continual improvement with the participation of everyone. Decisions should be based on evidence not the opinion of the highest paid person in the room (or even worse – “policy”). Coaching is good. Performance appraisals are bad.

Poor performing processes need to be improved by the people working on those processes. Those people need to be provided the tools (knowledge, time, support) to improve.

People don’t need to be motivated and empowered they need to be given the the opportunity to do what they want to do naturally: a good job. Managers need to help people by eliminating the de-motivation that so many organizations seem designed to create for people at work.

Management and human resource staff need to do a much better job of providing people opportunities to do a good job and take pride in their work. Far too many people are forced to suffer through poorly managed systems when trying to do their jobs. By improving the work environment, organizations can improve their results (customer satisfaction, profit, productivity…) and employee satisfaction.

Developing Staff, Managing People, Coaching

  • Managing The Good, The Bad and The Ugly with Your Employees by Jim Keenan – “I believe coaching people is a process. I don’t believe coaching people or managing people can be done reactively… To develop the strengths or mitigate the weaknesses of your employees, get them on the table early and keep them on the table.”
  • The Eight Steps to Driving Successful Large Scale Change by John P. Kotter – “The obstacles take many, many forms: bosses who haven’t bought in; IT systems not capable of supporting the strategies; lack of the skills needed to make the vision a reality; a lack of training to develop these missing skills. The guiding coalition finds ways to eliminate these obstacles, empowering people to do what they want and what the change effort requires.” from his new book Buy-In: Saving Your good idea from getting shot down.
  • Do more experiments faster by Tom Peters – “The best performers, I said, seesawed back and forth between ‘ideas’ and ‘actions.’ That is, they had a ‘big idea.’ (Or a small one, for that matter.) Rather than think it to death, they immediately got the hell into the field and experimented with some element of it (a prototype). They watched what happened, adjusted, and then quickly ran another experiment.” [use this idea in your coaching - (experiment and adjust) and also as a guide to those you are coaching - John Hunter. by the way I completely agree with doing more experiments faster. I completely disagree with the idea systems thinking somehow precludes that.]
  • A Secret No One Tells New Managers by Wally Bock – “Controlled confrontation is a key part of being a boss… Your objective is for your team member to leave your meeting thinking about what will change and not how you treated them.”

Good Policies for Managing People

  • Start at the Wall by Paul Hebert – “How many of the processes actually decrease effectiveness and are really barriers enacted years ago for issues that no longer are issues? What ‘behavioral’ issues could be solved by changing the environment the person is in?”
  • Standardization the prerequisite for any meaningful improvement by Steven Spear – “Without defining what you expect to do and what you expect to happen, you cannot meaningfully determine if what is happening is a bona fide problem or merely the result of work done out of control.”
  • Social Learning = Organically Sloppy. How business really gets done by Kevin Grossman – “Social learning welcomes impromptu scenario-based training and development opportunities. Organically sloppy, the way we really learn to transform ourselves and the business.”
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2010 Deming Prize

Posted on October 15, 2010  Comments (1)

image of the Deming Prize medal

The Union Japanese Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) has awarded the Deming Prize to 4 companies in 2010: Corona Corporation (Japan), Meidoh (Japan), GC Dental (China) and National Engineering Industries Limited (India).

Organizations receiving the Deming Prize since 2000 by country (prior to that almost all winners were from Japan):

Country Prizes
India 16
Thailand 9
Japan 7
USA 1
Singapore 1
China 1

This is the first time a Chinese company has won a Deming Prize. The parent company, GC Dental (Japan), was awarded the Deming Prize in 2000 and the Japan Quality Medal in 2004.

The 2010 Deming Prize for Individuals went to Dr. Takao Enkawa, Professor, Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, Tokyo Institute of Technology. Previous recipients include: Kaoru Ishikawa, Genichi Taguchi, Shoichiro Toyoda, Hitoshi Kume and Noriaki Kano.

Related: 2009 Deming Prize2008 Deming Prize: Tata SteelDeming Prize 20072006 Deming Prize
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Positivity and Joy in Work

Posted on October 14, 2010  Comments (5)

John and Bill Hunter

After my father died, for years (at least 10), people I never had met before would emotionally share what a positive influence he had on their lives. He did great stuff helping organizations improve. But the majority of people were not telling me how much he helped the organization improve [there were also a bunch of engineers and statisticians :-) that were more impressed with his insights and expertise]. But most people talked about was how much happier they were because of the changes he helped them see they could make in their lives.

He helped them expect to take joy from work and so they did (and a big part in taking joy in work for most is helping others take joy in work – you don’t find many workplaces with 15 miserable people and one joyful person). Many had to leave their current organizations that were too broken for them to fix. But after they saw what they should expect they couldn’t just keep passing time without joy in work.

Now I am sure their were hundreds of people that never talked to me that never made any such change. But the number of people that did took what was a decent chance that I would continue working with the management ideas I absorbed from him (data based decision making, Deming, joy in work, respect for people…) and made it a very great one. Unfortunately I am nowhere near as affective as he was.

Creating organization that show respect for people in the workplace and give them tools to improve is far more powerful than most people understand. Most people get scared about “soft” “mushy” sounding ideas like “joy in work.” I have to say I sympathize with those people. But it is true.

To get “joy in work” it isn’t about eliminating annoyances. Fundamentally it is about taking pride in what you do and eliminating the practices in so many organizations that dehumanize people. And to create a system where the vast majority of people can have joy in work most of the time requires a deep understanding and application of modern management improvement practices (Deming, lean thinking, etc.).

The photo shows Dad, William Hunter, and me on the beach.

In response to A Breath of Lean Positivity – Paul Akers

Related: William G. Hunter AwardPeter ScholtesJoy in Work, Software Development

Carnival of Human Resources

Posted on October 13, 2010  Comments (1)

As I have discussed in this blog I believe the ideas Douglas Mcgregor’s laid out in The Human Side Of Enterprise 50 years ago. People want to do a good job. Managers don’t need to use carrots and sticks to get employees to perform. They need to remove the de-motivators that organizations so often put in the way of workers. Here are some recent blog posts from around the web on how we can improve the management of people in our organizations and other posts related to HR in the latest Carnival of HR.

Management Improvement Carnival #112

Posted on October 11, 2010  Comments (0)

Tim McMahon hosts the Management Improvement Carnival #112 on the A Lean Journey blog. Highlights include:

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