Yearly Archives: 2010

A Theory of a System for Educators and Managers

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

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

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

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

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
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

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

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

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

Create a System That Lets People Take Pride in Their Work

Wanna play work - comic

I believe I learned this from Peter Scholtes, though maybe I am remembering it wrong or explaining it wrong (so give him the credit and if I mess it up it is my fault). I believe there is a problem with using the term empowered. Using the term implies that it one person empowers another person. This is not the correct view. Instead we each play a role within a system. Yes there are constraints on your actions based on the role you are playing. Does a security guard empower the CEO to enter the building?

Some systems are setup with a great deal of micro managing. Then consultants look around and say you need to empower your employees to think. Which often results in mangers saying “you all are empowered” go forth and do good work. Saying that is meaningless. What matters is changing the system. The system needs to respect people. That is not increased by people using the word empowered. In fact it is decreased, I believe, due to the implied notion that one person “empowers” the other (what can be granted can be withdrawn).

I believe organizations should be designed so that decisions are made at the appropriate level. Systems should be designed to produce good results by allowing people to contribute. People should be trusted to do their job. They should not be micro-managed.

People deserve to have a system that is managed to allow them to most effectively do their job. They should have standard work instructions. Decisions should be based on an understanding of variation. Non-value added work should be eliminated (freeing people to do valuable work). Ideas should be judged based on the merit of the idea not the position of the person expressing the idea.

When discussing empowerment this topics come up, but the wrong term reinforces the wrong view of the situation. It is similar to the problem with “motivation.” What managers need to do is eliminate de-motivation – not to motivate. Manager’s don’t need to “empower” employees they need to fix the system to treat employees with respect and allow them to do their jobs well.

You don’t need to think about empowering people if you have a system that lets people take pride in what they do. If you think you need to empower staff, instead fix the system that requires you to think they are in need of empowerment.

Comic by Joe Sayers, Wanna play work?

Related: The Joy of WorkSigns You Have a Great Job … or NotPeople: Team Members or CostsRespect for People

Six Sigma Interview with Jack Welch

The short video includes some interesting points by Jack Welch on six sigma. GE was a huge company and did plenty of things that could be criticized. But often those criticizing take it much to far and disregard the sensible things GE understood and was doing well.

Quotes by Jack Welch: “variation is evil” “Will six sigma companies get more valuation in the marketplace? Not unless they produce results. You can’t put up a slogan that says we are a six sigma company and think the pe is going to move.”

Related: 3M CEO on Six SigmaManagement Advice FailuresNew Rules for Management? No!Has Six Sigma been a failure?

Management Improvement Carnival #111

Mark Graban hosts the Management Improvement Carnival #111 on the lean blog, highlights include:

Manufacturing Jobs Increasing for First Time Since 1998 in the USA

Surprise! Blue collar jobs are coming back

Manufacturing employment began its decline long before the recession, losing jobs every year since 1998. But since the start of this year, there’s been a 1.6% gain in manufacturing jobs — about twice the pace of growth in other private sector jobs.

The unemployment rate for manufacturing workers has also shown much greater improvement than for workers overall, dropping to 9.5% in August from 13% in December. That compares to a far more modest improvement to 9.6% from 10% for the overall labor force.

Gains so far have been concentrated in four industries — automotive, fabricated metals, primary metals and machinery

This is good news for the economy. I believe it is partially due to more companies rethinking off-shoring practices which are flawed and adopting lean manufacturing ideas. As I have written for years USA manufacturing output has continued to increase and still remains by far the largest manufacturer. China is making huge gains by growing their output dramatically (not by the USA’s output decreasing). Manufacturing employment in the USA (and everywhere else – including China) has been decreasing for 20 years. The main stories are not jobs moving but jobs being eliminated by productivity improvement and China growing manufacturing output not a decline in manufacturing output in the USA.

Related: Worldwide Manufacturing Employment Data – 1979 to 2007Manufacturing in the USA, and Why Organizations Often Don’tTop Manufacturing Countries in 2005

Management Improvement Carnival #110

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.

  • Visual Management for having a baby by Xavier Quesada Allue – “The team members (us, the parents) were not working full time on the project. This means that at certain moments, if necessary, we could scale up our efforts on this project to the detriment of other parallel projects we were doing”
  • “Systems Thinking” and Me: Never the Twain Shall Meet by Tom Peters – “The best performers seesawed back and forth between ‘ideas’ and ‘actions.’ … Newtonian ‘scientific method,’ wholly dependent on ideas shaped and reshaped by actions—my studies of Nobel laureates in the sciences, for example, suggests (and not oversimplifying by much) that the winners ‘do more experiments faster.'”
  • How To Go From Idea To Launching With Paying Customers In 8 Steps by Jasonl Baptiste – “Start killing off things you don’t need right away and leave them to Version 1.1,etc., but also make sure the really important ones have a very high priority… This will make it easier to get the product in the hands of your customers AND it will also make you laser focused on the things that truly matter to your customers.”
  • If The Student Hasn’t Learned… by Mark Rosenthal – “Instead of looking for cultural reasons why ‘this won’t work here” we kept faith that, if the initial response was silence and non-participation, there was something that we needed to address in the way we taught, and in the environment we were creating.”
  • First Steps – Improving Your Meetings by Jamie Flinchbaugh – “But even for a meeting, this can lead to significant time and action items. If you want to keep it simple and manageable, end your meetings with these 3 questions: 1. What’s 1 thing that we did well? 2. What’s 1 thing that we can improve? 3. What’s 1 thing that we will do differently?
  • Go That Way, Really Fast by Jeff Atwood – “Google went from nothing, no web browser at all, to best-of-breed in under two years. Meanwhile, Internet Explorer took longer than the entire development period of Chrome to go from version 7 to version 8.”
  • Delegate, don’t dump by Wally Bock – “Part of your job is to help your team members develop. That will only happen if you give them as much control over their work life as you can, based on their ability to do the job and their willingness to tackle it on their own. “
  • Bridging the Knowing-Doing Gap by Jon Miller – Mr. Ohno did not tolerate the knowing-doing gap in his presence. One was scolded for claiming to understand something without first putting it into action. Stories like this are the source of the Taiichi Ohno-ism ‘Understanding means doing’.”
  • Toyota Texas Tour – Concepts From the Visitor Center by Mark Graban – “I was surprised to see how much of the focus was on TPS. You’d think the general public just wants to know how cars are built (and the visitor center does explain stamping, paint, etc.). But it’s apparently Toyota is proud of TPS as a core of who they are.”

Related: Curious Cat Management Booksmanagement quotesmanagement glossary

Change How Your Business Changes

[They seem to have broken the webcast so I have delete it. How sad it is how poor a job well financed organizations to at maintaining what they put online.]

John Kotter believes technology and globalization are requiring us to change more rapidly. “It is very difficult to innovate without requiring people to do something different.” If an organization culture is mainly avoiding making anyone uncomfortable, innovation and improvement are quite difficult.

Improvement is required to stay in business today. The key to good management systems is how rapidly improvement is achieved, not that improvement is being made.

Related: Communicating ChangeProcess Improvement and InnovationBuilding on Successful ImprovementHow to Improve

Management Improvement Carnival #109

The management blog carnival is published 3 times a month with select recent management blog posts. Also try our collected management articles and blogs posts at: Curious Cat Management articles.

  • When to coach the process, and when to coach the solution by Jamie Flinchbaugh – “Your focus is not on the solution or the problem itself, but on the process that either created or missed the problem that would end up enabling future problems. Obviously you might end up doing both, but that is a larger investment of your time.”
  • Hitting a WIP Limit by “Such a simple thing, but now instead of increasing the number of spinning plates, we’re putting energy into moving the current work faster, which I suspect is going to be more satisfying for developers too.” by Andrew Walker
  • The Importance of the Daily Meeting by Kevin Meyer – “Traditional organizations wait a week or two between staff meetings to discuss issues, and by the time the meeting rolls around many subtle issues have been forgotten.”
  • Does the “Deming Connection” have a down side? – “Most companies pour money into sales and marketing to lure new customers while giving their existing ones short shrift, in an effort to minimize costs and maximize revenue.”
  • We’ve got leaders. What we need is leadership by Wally Bock – “Your challenge is to accomplish the mission and care for your people. That will only happen if you do leadership work, management work, and supervision work.”
  • Evidence-Based Study Tips: Nine Ways To Help You Learn by Bob Sutton – “Adopt a growth mindset: This might be the most important of all; as Carol Dweck’s wonderful research shows, when people believe that their intelligence and abilities are malleable rather than fixed, they try harder of learn more”
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Management Improvement Carnival #108

Kevin Meyer hosts the Management Improvement Carnival #108 on his blog, highlights include:

Related: Lean DailyManagement Improvement Carnival #93Management Improvement Carnival #44

The role of leadership in software development

The webcast of Mary Poppendieck’s talk, The role of leadership in software development, at Google. As usual Mary does a very nice job of providing some good historical background while exploring wise management practices (tied to software development but plenty useful for any manager).

via: Sheep of a different fold

Related: Lean, Toyota and Deming for Software DevelopmentWebcast on the Toyota Development ProcessDon’t Use Performance AppraisalsLean Software DevelopmentThe Leader’s Handbook

Management Blog Posts from July 2006

photo of Shaker Bedroom by John Hunter

Lean Daily

Lean Daily iPhone app

Lean Daily consolidates the latest posts from seven excellent lean blogs in one convenient, free, iPhone app. Learn more about it, see a simulator demo, and download it directly from iTunes.

Mark Graban, Lean Blog, took the lead and a number of us combined efforts to provide this as a free service to our loyal readers:

This iPhone app allows you to read these lean blogs while on the go. You can also listen to and view some multimedia lean content, such as the Lean Blog Podcasts and Video Podcasts and the Gemba Academy sample videos in the app as well. You can also find lean news and some other feeds.

Related: Curious Cat management blog directoryInteresting management content (Reddit)search for management content online

Managing Our Way to Economic Success

From Managing Our Way to Economic Success, Two Untapped Resources by William G. Hunter, my father. Written in 1986, but still plenty relevant. We have made some good progress, but there is much more to do: we have barely started adopting these ideas systemically.

there are two enormously valuable untapped resources in many companies: potential information and employee creativity. The two are connected. One of the best ways to generate potential information to turn it into kinetic information that can produce tangible results is to train all employees in some of the simple, effective ways to do this. Rely on their desire to do a good job, to contribute, to be recognized, to be a real part of the organization. They want to be treated like responsible human beings, not like unthinking automatons.

W. Edwards Deming has illustrated one of the troubles with U.S. industry in terms of making toast. He says, “Let’s play American industry. I’ll burn. You scrape.” Use of statistical tools, however, allows you to reduce waste, scrap, rework, and machine downtime. It costs just as much to make defective products as it does to make good products. Eliminate defects and other things that cause inefficiencies, and you reduce costs, increase quality, and raise productivity. Note that quality and productivity are not trade-offs. They increase together.

Potential information surrounds all industrial processes. Statistical techniques, many of which are simple yet powerful, are tools that employees can use to tap and exploit this potential information so that increasingly higher levels of productivity, quality, and innovation can be attained. Engaging the brains as well as the brawn of employees in this way improves morale and participation…and profits.

What is called for is constant, never-ending improvement of all processes in the organization. What management needs, too, is constant, never-ending improvement of ideas.

Related: William Hunter, articles and booksInvest in New Management Methods Not a Failing CompanyThe Importance of Management ImprovementStatistics for Experimenters