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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Organizations often have lots of innertia behind outdated practices.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

The Theory of Knowledge in Deming’s Management System: How Do We Know What We Know?

I contributed an article to the Process Excellence Network’s Deming Files that was published yesterday: How Do We Know What We Know?. I took on the task of explaining the theory of knowledge, as one article in a four part series looking at the four components of Dr. Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge.

The other 3 articles are:

I hope you enjoy all 4 articles. Every two weeks a new article is published by the Deming Files exploring Dr. Deming’s ideas on management. The articles provide a nice dose of views on applying Deming’s ideas today. The network also has series on Drucker ideas and articles on many other management topics (six sigma, lean, etc.).

Related: Deming on Management2009 post: How do we Know What we KnowData Doesn’t Lie, We Can Draw Incorrect Conclusions from DataCorrelation is Not Causation

Finding Great Management Articles, Posts and Resources

Reddit is a web site that ranks web pages by user votes. The site uses an algorithm that has a very large timeliness factor. So top ranked links move down the list fairly quickly. This results in a nice site to look at to find links others have found interesting recently.

I created a management sub-reddit (a distinct topic-focused-area on the management improvement topics covered in this blog) in 2008. The sub-reddit seems to be about ready to reach a critical mass, so I am making a push to get those interested in management and specifically Deming, lean management, agile software development, six sigma and the things I normally write about on this blog to participate.

If you sign up you can not only vote on the links displayed but add new links (that then will be voted on by others). I think Reddit does a very good job of using social aspects of the internet to provide recommendations that are worthwhile (I have used the site for years).

The management subreddit depends on the community of users to voice their opinions. And I have an interest in having the community form around the management ideas I value (see my other blog posts for what that is). So I encourage you to give it a try and vote on links you enjoy and add new articles, web sites, blog posts… The benefit of this subreddit will grow as we grow the number of participants and if it develops a shared culture of value.

Related: Creating the Management Sub-Reddit (2008)John Hunter’s social site links (Reddit, Kiva, LinkedIn)Dell, Reddit and Customer FocusCurious Cat Management Improvement LibraryManagement Improvement Blog Carnival

More Reasons to Avoid Layoffs

Lay Off the Layoffs by Jeffrey Pfeffer

As its former head of human resources once told me: “If people are your most important assets, why would you get rid of them?”

In fact, there is a growing body of academic research suggesting that firms incur big costs when they cut workers. Some of these costs are obvious, such as the direct costs of severance and outplacement, and some are intuitive, such as the toll on morale and productivity as anxiety (“Will I be next?”) infects remaining workers.

research paints a fairly consistent picture: layoffs don’t work. And for good reason. In Responsible Restructuring, University of Colorado professor Wayne Cascio lists the direct and indirect costs of layoffs: severance pay; paying out accrued vacation and sick pay; outplacement costs; higher unemployment-insurance taxes; the cost of rehiring employees when business improves; low morale and risk-averse survivors; potential lawsuits, sabotage, or even workplace violence from aggrieved employees or former employees; loss of institutional memory and knowledge; diminished trust in management; and reduced productivity.

As bad as the effects of layoffs are on companies and the economy, perhaps the biggest damage is done to the people themselves. Here the consequences are, not surprisingly, devastating. Layoffs literally kill people. In the United States, when you lose your job, you lose your health insurance, unless you can afford to temporarily maintain it under the pricey COBRA provisions. Studies consistently show a connection between not having health insurance and individual mortality rates.

Related: Five Managerial Fallacies Concerning Layoffs – Honda has Never had Layoffs and has been Profitable Every YearThe Trouble with Performance Reviews by Jeffrey PfefferCutting Hours Instead of PeopleFiring Workers Isn’t Fixing Problems

The Trouble with Incentives: They Work

Gipsie B. Ranney has a great new article – The Trouble with Incentives: They Work

I have wondered whether the escalation of pay, perks and parachutes for CEOs actually tends to attract individuals who are primarily extrinsically motivated, rather than individuals who are seriously interested in creating value. Several recent examples appear to be consistent with this view.

An important issue with regard to incentives is possible effects on teamwork and cooperation. If the incentive system is set up as a zero-sum game, then for me to win, you have to lose. This is a very effective way to ensure that there is little or no teamwork or cooperation. Interactions between individuals and groups are likely to become negative, to the detriment of the organization as a whole. When incentives are based on narrow functional objectives, achieving those objectives may guarantee that the system as a whole will be suboptimized.

the Mayo Clinic, “which is among the highest-quality, lowest-cost healthcare systems in the country.” He reports that “decades ago Mayo recognized that the first thing it needed to do was eliminate the financial barriers. It pooled all the money the doctors and the hospital system received and began paying everyone a salary, so that the doctors’ goal in patient care couldn’t be increasing their income. Mayo promoted leaders who focused first on what was best for patients, and then on how to make this financially possible.” He goes on to say, “the core tenet of the Mayo Clinic is ‘The needs of the patient come first’ – not the convenience of the doctors, not their revenues. The doctors and nurses, and even the janitors, sat in meetings almost weekly, working on ideas to make the service and the care better, not to get more money out of patients.”

Could it be that physicians, insurers, drug companies, and patients are simply acting rational to the system? The players are incentivized to behave as they do. The system delivers what it is designed to deliver.

She sums it up very well:

There may be cases in which incentives work only as intended, but I suspect they are relatively rare. The trouble is that we are usually dealing with complex systems (people and organizations) that may behave not at all like our myths would predict. The best policy may be to avoid incentives altogether and focus instead on creating systems in which intrinsic motivation, cooperation, ethical behavior, trust, creativity, and joy in work can flourish.

Find more articles on management improvement in the Curious Cat Management Improvement Library, including: An Interim Report on Motivation in the Workplace by Gipsie Ranney, Remembering NUMMI by Gipsie Ranney and Improving Problem Solving by Ian Bradbury and Gipsie Ranney.

When you can’t prevent arbitrary targets and rewards based on meeting them the strategy I attempt to put in place is figure out how the system will be distorted in order to meet those targets and then put in measures that will discourage such distortions. It isn’t perfect but can help prevent some of the worst distortions (and degradation of system-wide performance they cause).

Related: Righter IncentivizationThe Defect Black MarketDr. Deming on the problems with managing with targets (and incentives based on them)Extrinsic Incentives Kill Creativity

Finding Savings with Six Sigma

I don’t see any evidence six sigma is making a comeback but magazines like to talk about new ideas rather than just explore what continues. They like to discuss common cause variation as though it were special cause. Six Sigma Makes a Comeback

Unlike in the 1990s, when such executives as General Electric’s Jack Welch embraced Six Sigma with missionary zeal, consultants say today’s converts generally are looking for a fast way to save money.

How sad. Six sigma has always been hampered by a lack of core values (like respect for people, constancy of purpose) and a focus on cost cutting but the direct desire to pursue a deadly disease (short term focus) is sad indication of where some have taken what can be very useful tools.

Still, Six Sigma is finding new life, especially in retail. Target (TGT) claims more than $100 million in savings over the past six years from the program. Mike Fisher, Best Buy’s (BBY) senior director of Lean Six Sigma, says projects like streamlining appliance installation have helped the company save up to $20 million in some cases. “Without a doubt, it put us in a better position to muscle through the recession by getting all of those inefficiencies out,” says Fisher.

Six sigma and quality management other efforts can be very useful. But many of the efforts (as many of any management efforts) are executed poorly and do little good and much that is rightly ridiculed.

Related: Quality and InnovationSix Sigma Much More than Common SenseProcess Improvement and Innovation

The Best Leadership Is Good Management

The Best Leadership Is Good Management by Henry Mintzberg

Let me suggest that you should, because what we’ve been calling a financial crisis is actually one of management. Corporate America has had too much of fancy leadership disconnected from plain old management.

How did this happen? It became fashionable some years ago to separate “leaders” from “managers”—you know, distinguishing those who “do the right things” from those who “do things right.” It sounds good. But think about how this separation works in practice. U.S. businesses now have too many leaders who are detached from the messy process of managing. So they don’t know what’s going on.

We’re overled and undermanaged. As someone who teaches, writes, and advises about management, I hear stories about this every day: about CEOs who don’t manage so much as deem—pronouncing performance targets, for instance, that are supposed to be met by whoever is doing the real managing.

Instead of distinguishing leaders from managers, we should encourage all managers to be leaders. And we should define “leadership” as management practiced well.

Very well said. I have never been comfortable with the attempts to separate leadership from managing. Normally the tone is that leadership is what matters and managing is just then carrying out what leaders have determined and allowed.

I understand why we focus some areas of management as in the area of leadership: it is hard to understand the whole all at once. We can make sense of things more easily by breaking them down (analysis) and speaking of aspects as within the realm of leadership is part of this. We can discuss certain traits as leadership-related. And we can discuss the difference between leadership and power based on position: so leaders within an organization separate from those with authority shown on the organizational chart. But I do not see management and leadership as separate things.

Books by Henry Mintzberg: Managing (2009)Managers Not MBAsThe Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning

Related: Akio Toyoda’s Message Shows Real LeadershipSeven Leadership Leverage PointsIf Your Staff Doesn’t Bring You Problems That is a Bad SignManagement Improvement Leaders
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The Trouble with Performance Reviews by Jeffrey Pfeffer

The Trouble with Performance Reviews by Jeffrey Pfeffer

Managers don’t like giving appraisals, and employees don’t like getting them. Perhaps they’re not liked because both parties suspect what the evidence has proved for decades: Traditional performance appraisals don’t work. But as my colleague and fellow Stanford professor Bob Sutton and I pointed out in our book, Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management, belief and conventional wisdom often trump the facts. And when it comes to performance evaluations, companies ranging from HR consulting firms to providers of software that automate the process have a big stake in their continued use.

The most basic problem is that performance appraisals often don’t accurately assess performance. More than two decades ago research done by professor David Schoorman showed that whether or not the supervisor had hired or inherited her employees was a better predictor of evaluation results than actual job performance.

Possibly the biggest issue, however, is that performance appraisals focus managers’ attention on precisely the wrong thing: individual people. As W. Edwards Deming, the father of the quality movement, taught a long time ago, company performance often results more from variations in systems than from the individuals doing the work. One of the reasons Toyota Motor has been so successful for decades—even as leaders have come and gone and the automobile market has changed—is that the fundamentals of the Toyota management system, which emphasizes quality, continuous improvement, and standardized tasks, provide the advantage. By focusing on the presumed deficiencies or strengths of people, individual performance reviews divert attention from the important task of eliminating the systemic causes, such as inferior technology, behind poor performance.

Another good article pointing out the harm of annual performance reviews. As I have said many times managers need to do better. See chapter 9 of the Leader’s Handbook and previous posts: Don’t Use Performance Appraisals – – Deming and Performance AppraisalFind the Root Cause Instead of the Person to BlamePerformance Without Appraisal

Pixar Movie Management Magic

image of Walle - PixarImage of Wall-e, from the Pixar film of the same name.

Pixar’s secrets on display in ‘Up’

“I think it comes down to two basic things: one is that we’re run by artists. … John Lasseter is a film director, as opposed to being from a business school or whatever. He has that side of him as well, but he’s always approaching these things as the same way we are.

“Second, we have some pretty great people that they’ve managed to collect here. This is our 10th film, and every film has just gotten better and better, whether that be in animation or special effects or lighting. And it just all comes together to make for some really fantastic stuff.”

“One of the things that I really love about [Pixar] is that no matter what you do, if you’re a production assistant or a producer or a marketing executive or running the kitchen, everyone here thinks like filmmakers,”

Like, I didn’t work on ‘WALL-E,’ but I feel like it’s mine, you know? And I want that to look great and be great. And then I want that bar to be higher and for us to be challenged.”

Pixar has done a great job of creating the right climate for the business they are in. They make movies and have been very consistently successful. Many of those strategies are useful concepts for everyone. Create a climate that promotes pride in work. Create a climate where everyone sees how they contribute to the end product. Hire people you trust and let them do their jobs. Seek continual improvement. Respect people. Customer Focus. Innovation (for example: Pixar Is Inventing New Math).

By the way, Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder, paid $5 million for Pixar and sold his share for $3,700 million of Disney stock (he is the largest shareholder of Disney – approximately 7%). Pixar Movies include: Toy Story, Monsters Inc. and The Incredibles.

Related: Tilting at Ludicrous CEO Pay 2008 Better and DifferentInnovation Examples

Building a Great Workforce

How P&G Finds and Keeps a Prized Workforce by Roger O. Crockett

“We actually recruit for values,” says Chief Operating Officer Robert McDonald. “If you are not inspired to improve lives, this isn’t the company you want to work for.”

The P&G strategy starts on college campuses. The Cincinnati company dispatches line managers rather than human resource staffers to do much of its recruiting.

For the few who get hired, their work life becomes a career-long development process. At every level, P&G has a different “college” to train individuals, and every department has its own “university.” The general manager’s college, which McDonald leads, holds a week-long school term once a year when there are a handful of newly promoted managers. Further training—there are nearly 50 courses—helps managers with technical writing or financial analysis.

Career education takes place outside the classroom, too. P&G pushes every general manager to log at least one foreign assignment of three to five years. Even high-ranking employees visit the homes of consumers to watch how they cook, clean, and generally live, in a practice dubbed “live it, work it.” Managers also visit retail stores, occasionally even scanning and bagging items at checkout lanes, to learn more about customers.

Going to visit the gemba, the actual place is incredibly important, and far too often ignored by managers today.

The emphasis on life long learning (in practice, not just words) is also very wise. In my experience far to little emphasis is placed on continual improvement of what many companies will say is their most important asset: their people. If you don’t invest in education of your staff that is going to harm your long term success. The investment P&G makes shows a respect for people.

Related: Jeff Bezos Spends a Week Working in Amazon’s Kentucky Distribution CenterWorkplace Management by Taiichi OhnoRespect for People, Understanding PsychologyOhno Circle
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Another Year of CEO’s Taking Hugely Excessive Pay

I continue to do my part to publicize the abusive CEO pay packages that the current crop of unethical CEO’s, and those sitting on corporate boards have supported (Tilting at Ludicrous CEO Pay 20082007 post on CEO pay abuses). It does seem there is more anger now at the looting these corrupt CEOs have engaged in; though far too many people seem to think the corruption is some isolated few CEO’s. The widespread failure of ethical standards by an enormous number CEO’s (those taking from corporate treasuries as though it was their own personal bank account) is the problem (not a few individuals). The looters certainly have littered their “courts” with apologists for their egregious behavior. Even with the large amounts they pay such lackeys I am surprised they find such willing apologists, in such large numbers.

2007 pay
rank
Company CEO 2008 Pay 2007 Pay CEO % of 2008 Earnings total employees
1 Motorola Sanjay Jha $104,400,000 company lost $4.2 billion 64,000
2 Oracle Lawrence Ellison $84,600,000 $61,200,000 1.5% 86,600
3 Walt Disney Robert Iger $51,100,000 $27,700,000 1.2% 150,000
4 American Express Kenneth Chenault $42,800,000 $50,100,000 1.6% 66,000
5 Citigroup Vikram Pandit $38,200,000 company lost $27.7 billion 322,800
6 Hewlett-Packard Mark Hurd $34,000,000 $26,000,000 7.4% 6,200
7 Calpine Jack A. Fusco $32,700,000 327% 2,000

This executive pay data is for 2008, from the New York Times article, Pay at the Top. Earnings and employee data for 2008 from Google Finance. I would not pay any of these guys 1% of what they were paid if I owned the company, myself.

These guys and their friends have created a culture where their looting is as accepted as the clothes the emperor is not wearing. We need to wake up and stop letting these people steal the bounty created by the employees, customers, community, suppliers, investors… They want a world where they can behave like nobility – taking whatever they want from the value created by others. And lately they have succeeded in creating such a world. They leave in their wake very weakened companies and societies.
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Management Blog Posts From December 2005

chart of executive pay 1990-2005

The executive pay excesses are so great now they will force companies to choose to:

  1. take huge risks to justify such pay and then go bankrupt when such risks fail (and some will succeed making it appear that the pay was deserved rather than just the random chance of taking a large risk and getting lucky).
  2. make it impossible to compete with companies that don’t allow such excesses and slowly go out of business to those companies that don’t act so irresponsibly.
  3. hope that competitors adopt your bad practice of excessive pay (this does have potential as most people are corrupted by power, even across cultural boundaries). However, my expectation is the competitive forces of capitalism going forward are going to make such a hope unrealistic. People will see the opportunity provided by such poor management and compete with them.

As long as the pay packages were merely large, and didn’t effect the ability of a company to prosper, that could continue (slicing up the benefits between the stakeholders is not an exact science). The excesses recently have become so obscene as to become unsustainable.

  • Innovate or Avoid Risk – “There are many reasons why avoiding risks is smart and should be encouraged. But when avoiding risks stifles innovation the risks to the organization are huge.”
  • Quality, SPC and Your Career – “I believe far too often we look for the newest ideas and miss all the great ideas that have been known for decades but are not practiced widely. The key to success is applying good ideas well – not just applying new ideas.”
  • America’s Manufacturing Future – “The best hope, as I see it, for retaining manufacturing leadership in the USA is through increasing the adoption of management improvement methods including lean manufacturing.”
  • Ford’s Wrong Turn – “The biggest change needed is an improvement in management. Other things would also help greatly, such as improving the health care system.”

NUMMI, and GM’s Failure to Manage Effectively

Gipsie Ranney recently sent me an article on her thoughts on NUMMI and the current problems with the Big Three car makers to post to the Curious Cat Management Improvement Library. NUMMI is the plant that Toyota and General Motors run together as a joint venture. The article is excellent.

The answer to a question asked by someone else on the tour was stunning to me. The person asked what kind of computerized inventory system they had at NUMMI. The leader of the tour at the time – a materials management person – responded, “we don’t have one; the Japanese say that computerized inventory systems lie.”

The most remarkable insight I gained at NUMMI came as an answer to a question from a member of the touring group. The person asked what had been learned about the reasons that management/labor conflict had been reduced so much. The tour guide answered, “The answer we get from members of the labor force is that the Japanese do what they say they will do.” This was the same labor force that had held the record for most grievances filed per year in an assembly plant in the U.S.

The Big Three are responsible for managing their organizations wisely. I think that will take more than money. It will take a different culture and a different mind.

I agree. The problem is that management fails to manage well and has been failing to do so for decades. They have improved over the last few decades but not nearly fast or consistently enough. Gipsie worked closely with Dr. Deming and serves on the W. Edwards Deming Institute Board of Trustees.

Related: Could Toyota Fix GM (2005)At Ford, Quality Was Our Motto in the 1980sBig Failed Three, Meet the Successful EightWhy Fix the Escalator?Invest in New Management Methods Not a Failing Company (AMC) by William Hunter, 1986 – Ford and Managing the Supplier RelationshipNo Excessive Senior Executive Pay at Toyota

Applying Disruptive Thinking to the Healthcare Crisis

Update: Sadly MIT delete the video. It is a shame educational institutions lose interest in knowledge just a couple years later. Thankfully we didn’t have to rely on the people deleting web content at universities to keep all the historical content we have in books from hundreds of years ago. I think it is a huge lose to what the mission of these schools should be but that attitude doesn’t seem to be shared by the schools.

The Innovator’s Prescription: A Disruptive Solution to the Healthcare Crisis:

Christensen spies symptoms of such disruptions bubbling up in the healthcare industry, such as molecular diagnostics, imaging technologies and high bandwidth telecom, and business model innovations. Integrated health systems like Kaiser Permanente have a leg up in deploying and optimizing these disruptive technologies.

The push for widespread healthcare reform must come from employers, who in spite of their declared intent to cut healthcare costs also know “they profit when their employees are healthy and productive.” Affordable healthcare, he concludes, “doesn’t come by expecting high end, expensive institutions or expensive caregivers to become cheap, but by bringing technology to lower cost providers and venues of care, so they can become more capable.”

Clayton Christensen is the rare management thinker that I feel real provides profound insights into thinking about management. There are many other good management thinkers that offer valuable idea, just most of them (in my opinion) really are presenting material in ways that offer managers a good way to take action on all the long known good management ideas that we fail to adopt successful for decades.
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Helping Employees Improve

One aspect of managing people is to provide positive feedback and show appreciation. Doing so is important. People benefit from encouragement and reinforcement. In addition to just telling them, take action to show your appreciation.

The Dilbert workplace is alive and well. And even in above average management systems there is plenty of resistance faced by those looking to improve systems. For those employees that are making the attempt to improve the organization go beyond saying thanks: actually demonstrate your appreciation. Do what you can to help them achieve.

A manager should be enabling their employees to perform. That means taking positive steps that help them perform. This is even more appreciated than saying thanks. And has the added benefit of helping the organization by helping along their good idea. It is win, win, win. They win, you win and the organization wins.

Thoughts on: Rewards and Recognition

Related: Keeping Good EmployeesRespect for People Requires Understanding Psychology- People are Our Most Important AssetMotivationIncentive Programs are Ineffective

Hire People You Can Trust to Do Their Job

How great companies turn crisis into opportunity

The right people don’t need to be managed. The moment you feel the need to tightly manage someone, you’ve made a hiring mistake.

The right people don’t think they have a job: They have responsibilities. If I’m a climber, my job is not [just] to belay. My responsibility is that if we get in trouble, I don’t let my partner down.

The right people do what they say they will do, which means being really careful about what they say they will do. It’s key in difficult times. In difficult environments our results are our responsibility. People who take credit in good times and blame external forces in bad times do not deserve to lead. End of story.

I think he makes a very good point, but may overstate it just a bit. The right people do need management to do their job: to provide guidance, to work on improving the organizational system, to coach employees when needed, to plan for the future, to determine where to focus the organizations resources… But they don’t need to be micro-managed. They can be expected to do what is needed when the proper conditions are set, including a clear understanding of what is needed, communication of current conditions and changing needs, a shared understanding of roles (for people and organizations)…

Also, just to be clear, it can be the right thing to closely manage someone as they are learning. This is true when a new employee starts with the company. And also when they take on new responsibilities. I would have no problem with a company tightly managing a new supervisor. In my experience the exact opposite problem is much more common, moving people into supervisory roles with little support, to sink or swim on their own (well perhaps sinking those around them too). At both times they should get the support they need and the freedom they need to work effectively.

Related: Keeping Good EmployeesFlaws in Understanding Psychology Lead to Flawed ManagementPeople are Our Most Important Assetposts on managing peopleThe Joy of Work

Creating Customers For Life

How These Businesses Made Me A Customer For Life

So I walked out of Ray’s that day with a great deal and everything that I needed to get started. Since then, I have made every single sewing related purchase possible from their store. In some cases, I have gone way out of my way to drive there (it takes 20 minutes) just to pick up some spools of thread. I have also referred them to all of my friends. As far as I’m concerned, there are no other sewing dealers that I’m willing to deal with other than Ray’s.

I can speak so highly about these businesses because I’m extremely passionate about what they have to offer. Can you extract this kind of loyalty with your small business? You bet you can. Just think about the places and businesses that you are loyal to and replicate what they do. What sets your business apart from the competition? What can you do to provide lasting value? Keep a tally of these attributes, focus on the long run and you’ll be on the right path.

I love how easy it is to deal with Amazon. I’ll use them unless they don’t have an item. Shopping at Trader Joe’s is odd. The workers actually seem like they like that they have customers. And seem as though they want to do what they can to please customers. You wouldn’t think this would be an odd trait if you read about management in a book and never actually went to stores. But I find almost few retail employees see happy provide customer service.

Related: Ritz Carlton and Home Depot contrast in customer serviceGood Customer Service ExampleSeven Steps to Remarkable Customer ServicePaying New Employees to QuitCustomer Service is Important

Lean and Kanban for Software Developers

Lean and Kanban for Software Developers by Clinton Keith

Time-boxing allows us to employ a very powerful aspect of Kanban. The cards in each column represent capacity for each stage of the value stream. As we see above, each stage can only handle one zone at a time. That is the capacity of each stage, if we have one person working at each stage.

Time-boxing is the first step in beginning to find a balanced flow for our value stream as visualized on our Heijunka board. However, one problem exists. Each stage of effort in the stream will require a different length time-box. This can cause gaps and pileups.

For example, if our level designer can lay out a level in a week, but the high res artist requires two weeks, then a lot of work can pileup for the high res artist. Conversely, if the concept artist requires two weeks to complete the concept art for each zone, the level designer might be waiting for work with nothing to do. We have to find ways to balance this workflow smoothly so that everyone has work to do every day. One way of doing this is to balance the effort on each stage to achieve the same flow through the system.

Related: Lean, Toyota and Deming for Software DevelopmentKanban In Software EngineeringA Programmers Take on Agile Software DevelopmentAgile Software DevelopmentSix Sigma in Software DevelopmentCurious Cat Management Improvement library

Idle Workers Busy at Toyota

Idle Workers Busy at Toyota

Instead of sending the workers home, as the Detroit makers often do, Toyota is keeping them at the plants, though. The employees spend their days in training sessions designed to sharpen their job skills and find better ways to assemble vehicles.

At its Princeton plant, by contrast, Toyota is using the down time to hone its workers’ quality-control and productivity skills. The company has pledged never to lay off any of its full-time employees, who are nonunion.

Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales, the company’s U.S. sales unit, said the company believes keeping employees on the payroll and using the time to improve their capabilities is the best move in the long run. “It would have been crazy for us to lose people for 90 days and [then] to rehire and retrain people and hope that we have a smooth ramp-up coming back in,” Mr. Lentz said.

In Princeton, senior plant manager Norm Bafunno said he can already see the benefits of the training. Mr. Bafunno cites a Teflon ring designed by an assembly worker during the down time that helps prevent paint damage when employees install an electrical switch on the edge of a vehicle’s door.

Mr. Mason, a 40-year-old former firefighter, added: “One of the major things that everyone is grateful for is that they thought enough of us to keep us here.”

Toyota continues to show intelligence, long term thinking, respect for people… in their management decisions. I worry they may capitulate and make explanations about how the economy forced them to abandon their principles. I hope they prove that cynical fear in me to be wrong, in their case.

Related: Bad Management Results in LayoffsToyota Management Not Close to Being DuplicatedToyota’s Commitment to CustomersPeople are Our Most Important AssetJim Press, Toyota N. American President, Moves to Chrysler

New Management Truths Sometimes Started as Heresies

‘New’ management truths sometimes started as heresies by Cecil Johnson

“The most effective management ideas follow a life cycle — from heresy to outlier (championed by a small group of people) to ingrained practice to conventional wisdom,” Kleiner writes. “In the process, if they are genuinely powerful management ideas, they distinguish the organizations that adopt them.”

One of the management heresies focused upon by Kleiner that has morphed into accepted management wisdom of the highest order is the Toyota Production System, which embraces much of the thinking of heretical quality advocate W. Edwards Deming. That system, Kleiner reminds the reader, entrusts teams at each station in the assembly process to control their local operations. Performance is not evaluated on a predetermined numeral basis.

I agree with this idea except the implication that these ideas are accepted now. To the extent they are excepted it is only a surface understanding of a couple of tools and concepts. The true power of the new ideas are still adopted in a very small number of organizations. Thankfully small initial steps are being made but there is much more to be done, before we can think of these ideas as accepted.

Which of Dr. Deming’s seven deadly diseases of western management have been effectively addressed in several decades? My opinion? Zero. Granted 2 are probably closer to economic failures (political issues that management could have spent time trying to fix but not really in the control of a single company): excessive medical costs and excessive legal damage awards.

Excessive legal damage awards was the one disease most business school graduates would have agreed was a disease decades ago, and they still do. They have spent a great deal of effort to reform the legal system, but have not been effective. Many now agree the health care system is broken. But I would say less than 50% understand this, even decades later, even after the situation has deteriorated much further. And certainly little effective effort at improving the health care system has been made. At least in the last 5 years some real efforts are being made by senior executives as some companies.

And I strongly believe Dr. Deming would see the current unjustified taking of companies resources by CEOs for their own use, in ludicrous pay packages, as a new disease. If these “new” (the system of management ideas are at least 30 years old, as a system, and it has been 60 years since Dr. Deming present them in Japan after World War II) management ideas were common, such horrible behavior as we continue to see would not be tolerated.

Related: Deming CompaniesToyota Execution Not Close to Being CopiedManagement Advice FailuresPurpose of an OrganizationNew Rules for Management? No!

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