We are Being Ruined by the Best Efforts of People Who are Doing the Wrong Thing

Posted on January 30, 2012  Comments (6)

Deming’s Second Theorem: “We are being ruined by best efforts.”

What did Dr. Deming mean by this?

Another quote by Dr. Deming might give you a clue? “Best efforts will not substitute for knowledge.”

Irwin, the porcupine at the Animal Rescue League Wildlife Center has to work a little harder for his breakfast in this clip. The wildlife center likes to provide animals in captivity puzzles and challenges to keep them interested in their environment so they stuck his breakfast to the bottom of the mug.

Thankfully the baby porcupine in the video doesn’t ruin anything and instead just gives us an enjoyable video. He does spends a great deal of energy putting forth his best efforts, but without a theory :-) Best efforts can often cause damage to the organization when people give their best efforts but are not guided by knowledge of what is useful and what is harmful.

Another Deming Quote: “We are being ruined by the best efforts of people who are doing the wrong thing.” Please share your comments on how organizations are ruined by best efforts.

And I will wrap up the post with another quote from Dr. Deming: “We want best efforts guided by theory.”

Related: quotes by W. Edwards DemingDeming on being Destroyed by Best EffortsRighter Incentivization

ASQ Influential Voices

Posted on January 26, 2012  Comments (2)

I am joining the ASQ Influential Voices project for 2012. The effort started last year when ASQ chose a few people to participate in a group effort to share their thoughts on various topics in quality improvement. I have been asked to join for 2012, along with a couple lean bloggers (Mark Graban and Tim McMahon) and others. Each month the ASQ executive director will post on a topic and I, and the other influential voices participants, will share out thoughts on that topic.

My history with ASQ extends back into my childhood. My father, William Hunter, was the founding chair of the ASQ Statistics division. They now administer the Hunter Award, which recognizes substantial contributions to statistical consulting, education for practitioners, and integration of statistics with other disciplines as well as demonstrated excellence in communication and implementing innovative applied statistical methods.

I joined with a group of people to lead the Public Sector Quality Improvement Network shortly after it was formed. The network aimed to help those in the public sector use quality management principles to improve performance. That group of people was one of the most impressive I have worked with; including Tom Mosgaller, Michael Williamson, Barry Crook, Nathan Strong and others. We decided to join with ASQ: that effort has become the ASQ Government Division. Another outgrowth of those efforts was my Public Sector Continuous Improvement Site, which I continue to run.

The Public Sector Network also connects back to my father; Tom Mosgaller and Michael Williamson worked on the quality efforts in the Madison, Wisconsin (at the City of Madison and the University of Wisconsin – Madison). Michael worked in for Joe Sensenbrenner, and then brought the new management ideas to his roles with university. My father approached the mayor, Joe Sensenbrenner, about applying management improvement ideas at the city. The mayor agreed and my father documented that effort in Dr. Deming’s classic, Out of the Crisis as the first government application of Deming’s management principles. See pages 245-247 of Out of the Crisis and also Joe Sensenbrenner’s classic article in the Harvard Business Review: Quality Comes to City Hall. Peter Scholtes was also part of that initial project at the First Street Garage in Madison, Wisconsin.

photo of Terry Holmes, Joe Turner and Bill Hunter

Terry Holmes (president of the local labor union), Joe Turner (division foreman) and Bill Hunter (consultant), working on the First Street Garage project. They went and presented to executives at Ford (where Dr. Deming was working) on the cooperation between union and management in the City of Madison project.

You can read a bit more about the work in Madison in George Box’s (an ASQ fellow) article – William Hunter: An Innovator and Catalyst for Quality Improvement. And also in: Doing More With Less in the Public Sector: A Progress Report from Madison, Wisconsin by William G. Hunter, Jan O’Neill, and Carol Wallen and Quality in the Community: One City’s Experience by George Box, Laurel Joiner, Sue Rohan and Joseph Sensenbrenner (1989). These documents are all made available by the Center for Quality and Productivity Improvement at the University of Wisconsin – Madison that was founded by George Box and my father.

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Web Seminar with Gerald Suarez: Better Thinking About Leadership

Posted on January 23, 2012  Comments (1)

In2In offers some great opportunities for those interested in management improvement. Their conference is excellent. They also offer various conference calls with speakers knowledgeable about Deming and Ackoff’s ideas. These normally take the form of conference call presentations (similar to a podcast) followed by some question and answers. The consistently get remarkable people like, Gerald Suarez, and earlier: Peter Scholtes and Brian Joiner.

Gerald Suarez is kicking off the new InThinking Network monthly webinar series. I worked for Gerald at the White House Military Office. He is one of the best presenters and most knowledgeable experts on Deming and Ackoff’s ideas working today.

Gerald Suarez will present on February 9th on the topic of “Better Thinking About Leadership.” This is a great opportunity and there is no cost to participate. If you participate from outside the USA you can connect via Skype (from the USA you will be given a toll-free number to connect with – or Skpye, if you wish). If you can’t join the call, audio downloads will be available at some later date. Register here. If you can’t make the live event, I strongly recommend listening to the audio download once it is made available.

The format of these sessions is a 90-minute session, each month – from February through November. They are held the second Thursday of the month, from 11:30 AM to 1 PM Pacific Time.

Future sessions that we have to look forward to include:

  • Paul Hollingworth will present in March: An Introduction to Systems Thinking
  • Graham Rawlinson, in May to explore “Thinking About Thinking”
  • Gipsie Ranney, in September: “Cause(s) of Concern,” a session designed to present and advance the understanding of common causes and special causes of variation.

Gerald is currently a professor on the faculty of the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith business school and works as a consultant and keynote speaker. Look for him to share his expertise in leadership, which includes 8 years of service in the White House under Presidents Clinton and Bush, as the Director of Presidential Quality — the first such post in the institution’s history.

Related: Transformation and Redesign at the White House Communications AgencyManaging FearThe aim of leadership is not merely to find and record failures of men

Management Improvement Blog Carnival #155

Posted on January 22, 2012  Comments (1)

The Curious Cat management blog carnival is published 3 times a month with hand picked recent management blog posts. I also collect select management improvement articles and blog posts in the Curious Cat management article library. The annual management blog roundup event covered #151 – #154, so this is #155.

  • We Don’t Know quote by David York, via Mike Wroblewski-
    We don’t know what the problems are…..that’s why we make them visible.
    We don’t know what the root causes of the problems are….that’s why we ask 5 Whys?
    We don’t know what the evidence is….that’s why we collect data.
    We don’t know what is actually happening….that’s why we observe.
    We don’t know what solutions will succeed….that’s why we experiment.
  • Why do we pay sales commissions? by Dan Ostlund, Fog Creek Software – “For us, it’s been a great success, and at least from that perspective it might be time we punch the Theory X, commissions-based sales culture right in the nose. Real redemption might lie in removing the source of the derangement and treating sales people like we treat programmers and other workers that we implicitly trust.”
  • photo of axes with rough wooden handles

    Axes in Nigeria by William Hunter

  • The C-Suite Double Standard by Dan Markovitz – “I started noticing what I call the C-suite double standard: leaders and executives who are ferocious about improving manufacturing processes and eliminating waste, but who passively accept waste in their office operations and individual work.”
  • Standard Work Is Like Food – Taste before Seasoning by Mark Hamel – “No doubt, we have heard the Taichii Ohno quote, “Where there is no standard, there can be no kaizen.” Standard work implies that there must be adherence. Without it, it’s more like a standard wish…as fickle as the wind. We can’t sustain improvements and we have little foundation for the next.”
  • How to trick yourself into thinking you’re doing lean (and trick others at the same time) by Jamie Flinchbaugh – “Don’t believe you are doing lean just because you’re filling out a template or following an agenda. It’s the thinking that counts.”
  • Defying Time: Dr. W. Edwards Deming by John Persico – “the more difficult part of our consulting at PMI was not in teaching statistics or process analysis but in helping to change management attitudes from the old thinking of meeting goals and quotas to the new thinking that went beyond goals and quotas to never ending improvement and innovation.”
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USA Spent $2.6 Trillion, $8,402 per person,17.9% of GDP on Medical Expenses in 2010

Posted on January 19, 2012  Comments (2)

Total health expenditures in the USA in 2010 reached $2.6 trillion, $8,402 per person or 17.9% percent of GDP. All these are all time highs. Every year, for decades, health care costs have taken a larger and larger portion of the economic value created in the USA.

In 2009 the USA Spent Record $2.5 Trillion, $8,086 per person 17.6% of GDP on Medical Care.

USA health care spending grew 3.9% in 2010 following an increase of 3.8% in 2009. While those are the two slowest rates of growth in the 51 year history of the National Health Expenditure Accounts, they still outpaced both inflation and GDP growth. So yet again the health system expenses are taking a bigger portion of overall spending. This has been going on so long that the USA spends double what many other rich countries do on healthcare with no better results.

As a result of failing to address this issue for decades the problem is huge and will likely take decades to bring back just to a level where the burden on those in the USA, due to their broken health care system, is equal to the burden of other rich countries. Over 2 decades ago the failure in the health care system reached epidemic proportions but little has been done to deal with the systemic failures. Dr. Deming pointed to excessive health care cost, back then, as one of 7 deadly diseases facing American business. The fact that every year costs have increased more than GDP growth and outcome measures are no better than other rich countries shows the performance has been very poor. The disease is doing even more harm today.

Some good things have been done over the years, most notably by Don Berwick while at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. He was effectively thrown out of office by the politicians recently. The same politicians that have through decades of such foolish acts contributed more than any other group to the broken health care system that burdens the USA today. In the last 10 years a significant amount of good work has also been done in “lean healthcare”: applying lean thinking to healthcare. But it is similar to the quote that a “bad system will beat a good person.” With all the bad systemic issues the efforts, good as they are, in lean healthcare are mainly improving around the edges. Of course, “around the edges” of a $2.6 Trillion dollar system can still be extremely valuable and important.

Related: USA Heath Care System Needs ReformUSA Spends Record $2.3 trillion ($7,681 Per Person) on Health Care in 2008Systemic Health Care Failure: Small Business CoverageMeasuring the Health of NationsHow to improve the health care system performanceManagement Improvement in HealthcareUSA Spent $2.2 Trillion, 16.2% of GDP, on Health Care in 2007

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Trust But Verify

Posted on January 16, 2012  Comments (2)

The following are my comments, which were sparked by question “Trust, but verify. Is this a good example of Profound Knowledge in action?” on the Linked In Deming Institute group.

Trust but verify makes sense to me. I think of verify as process measures to verify the process is producing as it should. By verifying you know when the process is failing and when to look for special causes (when using control chart thinking with an understanding of variation). There are many ways to verify that would be bad. But the idea of trust (respect for people) is not just a feel-good, “be nice to everyone and good things happen”, in Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge.

I see the PDSA improvement cycle as another example of a trust-but-verify idea. You trust the people at the gemba to do the improvement. They predict what will happen. But they verify what does actually happen before they run off standardizing and implementing. I think many of us have seen what happens when the idea of letting those who do the work, improve the process, is adopted without a sensible support system (PDSA, training, systems thinking…). It may actually be better than what was in place, but it isn’t consistent with Deming’s management system to just trust the people without providing methods to improve (and education to help people be most effective). Systems must be in place to provide the best opportunity to succeed. Trusting the people that do the work, is part of it.

I understand there are ways to verify that would be destructive. But I do believe you need process measures to verify systems are working. Just trusting people to do the right thing isn’t wise.

A checklist is another way of “not-trusting.” I think checklists are great. It isn’t that I don’t trust people to try and do the right thing. I just don’t trust people alone, when systems can be designed with verification that improves performance. I hear people complaign that checklists “don’t respect my expertise” or have the attitude that they are “insulting to me as a professional” – you should just trust me.

Sorry, driving out fear (and building trust – one of Deming’s 14 points) is not about catering to every person’s desire. For Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge: respect for people is part of a system that requires understand variation and systems thinking and an understanding of psychology and theory of knowledge. Checklists (and other forms of verification) are not an indication of a lack of trust. They are a a form of process measure (in a way) that has been proven to improve results.

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2011 Management Blog Roundup Completed

Posted on January 11, 2012  Comments (0)

The 2011 Management Blog Roundup has been completed. I hope you enjoyed it and learned from the great posts highlighted by all the participants in this effort. The final group of posts to be added are:

I offer my thanks to all the bloggers who took the time to participate.

I hope you found many concepts and ideas to adopt at your organization in 2012. And lets hope that those companies we have to deal with in 2012 are adopting these ideas so we can have much more rewarding and enjoyable experiences as customers.

Related: More 2011 Management Blog Roundup Posts AddedNewly Added 2011 Management Blog Roundup Posts2010 Annual Management Blog Review

2011 Management Blog Roundup: Stats Made Easy

Posted on January 8, 2012  Comments (0)

The 4th Annual Management blog roundup is coming to a close soon. This is my 3rd and final review post looking back at 2001, the previous two posts looked at: Gemba Panta Rei and the Lean Six Sigma Blog.

I have special affinity for the use of statistics to understand and improve. I imaging it is both genetic and psychological. My father was a statistician and I have found memories of applying statistical thinking to understand a result or system. I also am comfortable with numbers, and like most people enjoy working with things I have an affinity for.

photo of Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson’s Stats Made Easy blog brings statistical thinking to managers. And this is not an easy thing to do, as one of his posts shows, we have an ability to ignore data we don’t want to know. Wrong more often than right but never in doubt: “Kahneman examined the illusion of skill in a group of investment advisors who competed for annual performance bonuses. He found zero correlation on year-to-year rankings, thus the firm was simply rewarding luck. What I find most interesting is his observation that even when confronted with irrefutable evidence of misplaced confidence in one’s own ability to prognosticate, most people just carry on with the same level of self-assurance.”

That actually practice of experimentation (PDSA…) needs improvement. Too often the iteration component is entirely missing (only one experiment is done). That is likely partially a result another big problem: the experiments are not nearly short enough. Mark offered very wise advice on the Strategy of experimentation: Break it into a series of smaller stages. “The rule-of-thumb I worked from as a process development engineer is not to put more than 25% of your budget into the first experiment, thus allowing the chance to adapt as you work through the project (or abandon it altogether).” And note that, abandon it altogether option. Don’t just proceed with a plan if what you learn makes that option unwise: too often we act based on expectations rather than evidence.

In Why coaches regress to be mean, Mark explained the problem with reacting to common cause variation and “learning” that it helped to do so. “A case in point is the flight instructor who lavishes praise on a training-pilot who makes a lucky landing. Naturally the next result is not so good. Later the pilot bounces in very badly — again purely by chance (a gust of wind). The instructor roars disapproval. That seems to do the trick — the next landing is much smoother.” When you ascribe special causation to common cause variation you often confirm your own biases.

Mark’s blog doesn’t mention six sigma by name in his 2011 posts but the statistical thinking expressed throughout the year make this a must for those working in six sigma programs.

Related: 2009 Curious Cat Management Blog Carnival2010 Management Blog Review: Software, Manufacturing and Leadership

More 2011 Management Blog Roundup Posts Added

Posted on January 3, 2012  Comments (2)

As we start 2012, the 4th Annual Management Blog Roundup continues. Once again some of the most popular management bloggers are taking a look back at the last year in the management blogging world. The following reviews have been added since my last update:

These posts provide many great ideas for you to apply in the new year. The 2011 management blog roundup has more great posts coming up in the next week. The home page for this collaborative effort of many management bloggers provides links to all the posts in the 2011 Management Blog Roundup.

Related: 2010 Management Blog Roundup2011 Management Blog Roundup BeginsCurious Cat Management Blog Directory

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