Yearly Archives: 2012

Curious Cat 5th Annual Management Blog Review – Part 1

This is the 5th year in which multiple management blogs have participated in reviewing the year in management blogging. Once again we have many great blogs reviewed. Each year a few blog authors stop, or nearly stop publishing, but each year more great new management blogs start.

Here are links to the reviews that have been posted so far with the number of years each author has participated in the annual review.

Years Author of blog blogs reviewed
5 Kevin Meyer, Evolving Excellence Edit Innovation and TimeBack Management
4 Dan Markovitz, TimeBack Management Evolving Excellence and Brad Power on HBR blog
3 Tanmay Vora, QAspire HR Bartender, Jamie Flinchbaugh and Seth Godin
3 Mark Hamel, Gemba Tales Old Lean Dude
2 Tim McMahon, A Lean Journey Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog, encob blog and Kaizen Notebook
2 Matt Wrye, Beyond Lean Lean Blitz and My Flexible Pencil
1 Michel Baudin Gemba Panta Rei, Lean Edge and Lean Reflections
1 Evan Durant, Kaizen Notebook Gemba Tales and Gotta Go Lean
1 Dragan Bosnjak, encob blog Gemba Coach and The Lean Edge
1 Scott Rutherford, Square Peg Musings Fridge Magnets

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Customers

Customer focus is critical to succeed with management improvement efforts. Few argue with that point, though my experience as a customer provides plenty of examples of poor systems performance on providing customer value (usability, managing the value stream well, etc.).

At times people get into discussion about what counts as a customer. Are customers only those who pay you money for a product or service? What about internal customers? What about users that don’t pay you, but use your product (bought from an intermediary)? What about users that use a service you provide for free (in order to make money in another way, perhaps advertising)? What about “internal customers” those inside your organization without any payment involved in the process?

I find it perfectly fine to think of all these as customers of slightly different flavors. What is important is providing what each needs. Calling those that actually use what you create users is fine, but I think it often just confuses people rather than adding clarity, but if it works in your organization fine.

To me the most important customer focus is on the end users: those that derive value from what your organization provides. If there is confusion between various customer groups it may be helpful to use terms like end user, but really using the term customer for a wide range or customers is fine (and modification such as internal customer to provide some clarity).

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Using Incentives to Guide Social System Improvements

When confronted with the challenge of managing a social system (or market) I like to find ways to use a few simple rules that will guide the system to find improvements. I favor allowing participants in complex social system to determine how to adapt. So I support, for example, a carbon taxes where the market can decide where it is most effective to invest to reduce carbon use (both to reduce our depletion of the resource and to reduce pollution leading to climate change).

I like to try and keep prescription rules as limited as possible and instead set simple rules that will allow people to make choices. These rules will often allow for people to judge when they need to temper the extremes (in management examples) and in economic situations they often can have costs that escalate as the system is strained (so low pricing if the road is currently not heavily used and increasing the cost to users as congestion increases). The more prescriptive the rules the less ability people have to find creative solutions.

Traffic congestion is a perennial problem with high very costs to society. I very much like congestion pricing. You set a rule that puts increasing costs on those creating an overload on the system (which has costly negative externalities). Then allow people to figure out how to adapt.

The video also provides a very good example of why leadership is important. In Stockholm people were against congestion pricing (70% to 30%). This isn’t surprising they see a new tax that only is a cost. They don’t understand that the system performance is going to improve – the cost will provide a benefit. Leadership is required to push forward when the benefits are not obvious to everyone. Once people saw that congestion was greatly decreased 70% supported congestion pricing.

Jonas Eliasson: “Don’t tell people how to adapt. Nudge them. If you do it correctly – they’ll embrace the change”

Related: The Case for Physically Separated Bike LanesUrban Planning in Northern VirginiaDisregard for People by FedEX and UPS – Systems thinking allowed the engineers to design a solution that wasn’t about enforcing the existing rules more but changing the system so that the causes of the most serious problems are eliminated. – Using Outcome Measures for Prison Management

Management Improvement Blog Carnival #183

The Curious Cat Management Carnival is published twice each month. The posts selected for the carnival focus on the areas of management improvement I have focused on in the Curious Cat Management Improvement Guide since 1996: Deming, innovation, lean manufacturing, customer focus, leadership, six sigma, respect for employees…

    Huge statue at Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

    Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by John Hunter.

  • How would you explain what Lean is to a 7-year-old? by Ron Pereira – “Daddy tries to teach people how to work faster and make less mistakes. And, most importantly, we also try to teach people to be nice and respect each other… that way everyone can do their very best.”
  • We must think of the whole enterprise as a continually evolving system by Jeff Liker – “Customer care call center–This is housed in the same building as Toyota Motor Sales in Torrance California and the call centers function like the work groups in Toyota plants to the extend of even holding weekly quality circle meetings and having a team leader and group leader structure as well as visual metrics with targets for improvement.”
  • The maker/manager transition phase – “One of the hardest things as a developer transitioning into a manager role has been to get a feeling of progress without writing code. Progress is usually clear with code, and harder with manager activities… As a founder you’re in the best position to guide people and help them be super productive. That becomes your role.”
  • How do mid-level managers convince the CEO that adopting lean practices is worthwhile? by Michael Ballé – “You can’t convince your boss to do lean, but you can become more convincing yourself by doing lean rather than talking about it. Few consultants ever get lean because they’re always thinking about getting others to apply it, but not them. As a result, their own learning curve stagnates. Don’t fall into that trap. Lean yourself before you try to lean others.”
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How to Accelerate Quality Management Practices

For world quality month, Paul Borawski selected the topic of accelerating quality for discussion by ASQ’s Influential Voices. He specifically asks: what can we do to accelerate the rate of adoption of quality?

As far as what ASQ can do I have the same thought I have had for 10 years. ASQ can make the articles and reports that members contributed available openly over the internet. ASQ currently greatly restricts the sharing and adoption of quality ideas by placing that content behind paywalls.

I do not support restricting access to material on how to spread the adoption of quality. That is a mistake. It has been a mistake for over a decade and should have been changed long ago. Positive action should be taken to demonstrate the words about promoting the adoption of quality methods are more than just empty words. I have discussed my thoughts on associations and journals failing to adapt to the internet occasionally: ASQ has a long way to go in promoting quality, Science Journal Publishers Stay Stupid, Science Commons: Making Scientific Research Re-useful.

What can quality management professionals do?

I certainly do not believe people should be publishing good quality management content to publishers who hide the content behind paywalls. I would encourage those publishing quality management content to do it in an open manner and not using publications that are closed (paywall, registration wall or any form of a wall restriction the sharing of ideas). Tell the closed publishers you will publish with them once they demonstrate their commitment to open access.

Also continuing to learn and apply the best management ideas are the keys for making a difference. People like Dr. Deming and Dr. Ackoff continued to learn well into their 80s. Their thirst for knowledge and ways to improve drove continually improvement. Following this example will be a great step. And at the same time continue to apply these ideas. There are often lots of challenges to actually getting our organizations to improve. What is needed is more leaders to push for continual improvement.

Organizations often have lots of innertia behind outdated practices. Encouraging the adoption of quality management practices often requires a great deal of effort to get the defenders of the status quo to allow improvement to take place. It takes a great deal of perseverance. The biggest barrier to improvement is innertia.

Related: Increase Your Circle of InfluenceLearn Lean by Doing LeanGrowing the Adoption of Management Improvement Ideas in Your Organization

Management Improvement Blog Carnival #182

The Curious Cat Management Blog Carnival has been published since 2006. The carnival, published twice a month, links to great, recent, management blog posts. I hope you find these post interesting and find some new blogs to start reading. Follow me online: Google+, Twitter and elsewhere.

  • How to Build it: Lean Prototyping Techniques for Hardware – “Good user feedback is essential, and this feedback should guide making the next round of prototypes. It is an iterative cycle. The key to making good products is making mistakes early and learning from them. This is best done through prototyping and getting user feedback.”
  • 3 Reasons Why Layoffs Don’t Benefit Hospitals in the Long Run by Bob Herman – “Dr. Gruner says ThedaCare has had a “no layoff” philosophy and commitment to Lean techniques, similar to Scripps, since 2003. He agrees with Mr. Van Gorder, saying layoffs are only a patchwork strategy with immediate financial gains and long-term financial and cultural losses. However, focusing on the retention of employees without layoffs is actually the simpler strategy — it just requires an undying commitment and focus.”
  • The Greatest Waste by John Hunter – “The sentiment of failing to use the ability of people is not that uncommon. But putting the thought and effort behind changing that failure is. Dr. Deming consistently re-inforced the creation of a management system that sought to take advantage of the ability of people.”
  • Coach Says: What Do You Think? by John Shook – “Your challenge will be to find a way to reconcile the apparent contradiction. You need to reconcile them not to satisfy the sensei (absolutely not for that reason) but to deepen your own learning. Presume that there is some truth in what both sensei are telling you. You need to determine just what that truth is and how you can make sense of it in this specific situation.”
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Business 901 Podcast with Me: Deming’s Management Ideas Today

I recently was interviewed for a podcast by Joe Dager, at Business 901: Dr. Deming on Lean in 2012. I hope you enjoy the podcast.

Listen to this podcast.

Here are some links related to items I mention in the podcast:

Some blog posts that expand on some points I made in the podcast:

Transcript of the interview.

Respect for Everyone

TL;DR – The two pillars of the Toyota Way are: respect for people and continuous improvement.

One of the big reasons my career followed the path it did (into management improvement) was due to the impact of respect for people. My father was a professor (in statistics, engineering and business) and consulted with organizations to help them achieve better results. To achieve results he took advantage of the gains possible when using statistical tools to manage with respect for people.

Managing Our Way to Economic Success: Two Untapped Resources, 1986: “American organizations could compete much better at home and abroad if they would learn to tap the potential information inherent in all processes and the creativity inherent in all employees.”

After he died, for years, people would talk to me about the difference he made in their lives (at conferences mainly). Other than those with PhD’s in statistics (of which there were many, but a very small number compared to all the others) the thing that made a difference was respect for people. Those who chose to talk to me are obviously a self selected group. But of those, the people that made the largest impact on me basically said he talked to me as though everything I said mattered. He didn’t talk down to me. He helped me see how I could help improve: the organization and my own skills and abilities.

This didn’t happen 5 times or 10 times of 20 times, it happened many more times than that. Year after year of this helped push me to stick with management improvement. These served as a great incentive to perserve as I ran into the typical difficulties actually improving management systems.

The senior executives he talked to were not very impressed that he spoke to them with respect. So none mentioned that with awe, but a few did notice that he was able to connect with everyone – the senior executives, nurses, people on the factory floor, secretaries, salespeople, front line staff, engineers, janitors, middle managers, doctors, union leaders. The senior executives were more likely to be impressed by the success and his technical ability and knowledge as well as communication skill. Doctors, statisticians and engineers were more impressed with knowledge, technical skill, skill as a teacher and advice.

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Management Improvement Blog Carnival #181

The Curious Cat management blog carnival is published twice a month: with hand picked recent management blog posts. I also publish a collection management improvement articles on the Curious Cat Management Articles site.

Going Beyond Quality Makes No Sense – There is No Border to Move Beyond

This month, Paul Borawski selected the topic of going beyond the traditional quality function for discussion by ASQ’s Influential Voices.

I don’t pay much attention to the tradition role for quality. Dr. Deming’s ideas, for well over half a century, have emphasized the importance of improving the entire management system and the entire enterprise. That systems view is the way I think and act.

When a quality office exists that office has a role to play within the system. So, the quality department might be responsible for things like helping keeping track of internal process measures (control charts etc.), responding to whatever some executive decides to focus on (they don’t like the rate of warranty expenses, or bugs in the software, or something), etc.

I have no problem with a quality department providing expertise on process management, helping people use quality tools, providing guidance on modern management methods etc. But limiting a quality department to whatever is considered traditional quality (maybe reducing defects, quality assurance, and the like) is an idea that is over half a century out of date, in my opinion. I was part of a quality office at the Office of Secretary of Defense Quality Management Office. The role of such offices is to support and increase the speed of adoption of better management practices to improve results.

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