I created a ranking of top management improvement blogs for fun. There is no way to objectively rate blogs by how worthy or valuable they are. I just wanted to create a listing that ranked blogs I thought were worth reading using a collection of metrics that I think have some merit (even if that merit is fairly limited).
Here are the top 10 as of now (it will change over time):
The most important factor is my selection of what blogs to include in the first place. Then I rank them using several other factors: link popularity (how many links to the sites, with more authoritative links carrying more weight), a subjective ranking by me, traffic (using an admittedly pretty flawed measure of traffic – but again this is just for fun so…), Twitter authority of the author, domain authority (based on links, not just to the blog, but the web site overall).
I hope you enjoy the ranking and really hope you find a few new blogs you benefit from reading. There are quite a few interesting management improvement blogs, though honestly there are many fewer good posts than there were 5 years ago. Most of the best active blogs from 6 or 7 years ago are either much much less active today or are gone altogether. But even so there are still quite a few valuable blogs for managers to read.
I created the management sub-reddit many years ago. The management sub-reddit provides links to worthwhile management content and the members indicate those links they liked. Here is a list of the most popular links added in the last year.
Here is a list of the 10 most popular posts on this blog last year (as measured by views counted by my analytics applications). The posts were published in 2010 (4 posts), 2013 (2), 2014 (2), 2005 (1) and 2012 (1).
One of the things this illustrates is why it is so important to have urls (web addresses) live forever. The idea that ancient (in web thinking) content doesn’t matter is not accurate. My site is a tiny population and shouldn’t be used to make a judgement but from what I have read is this is very common for sites with high quality content. If the content is good, the shelf live usually isn’t just 1 week (or even 1 decade).
Looking at the top 10 posts by year, gives a view of the data that shows 2010 seems to be special. But I think it is just random variation at play. Or maybe 2010 me deserved a big bonus for such great writing?
Posts in early 2014 have an advantage in making the list. There is a big spike in views in the first couple weeks. So if the post gets to count those and has a long time in 2014 it is more likely to make the top 10 (if it is later in the year though the advantage of the spike is offset by only having a portion of the year to gain views). Both 2014 posts in the top 10 were from March. In the next 10 most popular posts 5 were from 2014 (2010 had 2 and 2008, 2009 and 2011 had 1 each).
I have been blogging for 10 years, which is more than enough time to convince me it is right for me. Blogging fits my personality—I like short delivery cycles. I don’t like the idea of working on a project that takes a year to reach the audience or customers. With blogging, I can have an idea, and in an hour I can share that with people across the globe. Blogging is similar to agile software development in this way: minimize work-in-progress and deliver working software—or in blogging, text—to users as quickly as possible. Then iterate and extend.
One of the benefits I didn’t appreciate before I started was how blogging helps build your knowledge and understanding—in the same way teaching helps you learn the topic you are discussing in a deeper way.
I find myself more thoughtful and engaged with ideas because I think about how I can build on those ideas in a blog post. When I start writing, I sometimes realize I don’t actually understand the idea or topic as well as it seemed I did. So I must think about it more to be able to understand it well enough to write about it.
See the whole article to see the rest of my responses and thoughts from Mark Graban, Jennifer Stepniowski, Jimena Calfa and Daniel Zrymiak. The article is available for free, though you do have to register to view that article (registering will also let you view the other articles ASQ has made available to non-members).
Eiji Toyoda – the Master Innovator by Bill Waddell – “He was a master innovator in the days when innovation wasn’t cool, and his focus was not so much on the product as it was on the processes – on management.”
The Man Who Saved Kaizen by Jon Miller – “Eiji Toyoda led from the front. His message to leaders within Toyota: ‘I want you to use your own heads. And I want you actively to train your people on how to think for themselves.'”
Lean IT at Toyota by Pierre Masai – “educate yourself on the subject, since so many stories of dramatic or step-by-step improvements do exist out there. Then, soon after, experiment yourself. This is the basis of TPS. Make sure you also get enthusiastic people on board, and take the support of experienced external coaches if you need this to get started. Create a culture within your company where the principles of lean become embedded in everything you do.”
TL;DR My bottom line suggestion is to first start with blogs (get a feed reader and subscribe, read and comment on blogs). Next join Reddit and subscribe to the sub-reddits you are interested in, and participate. Next start your own blog. Then join Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+. Put your learning first; other measures are largely “fools gold” (such as number of followers).
Blogs are the best way to use the internet to learn, network, share and grow. That includes reading blogs, commenting on blogs and writing your own blog. Thankfully there are tons of great management improvement blogs (especially on lean thinking) for managers to learn from. There is a great opportunity for six sigma blogs as the field is not crowded with high value blogs on that topic.
Writing your own blog is the very best online way to create a brand for yourself (and to learn and grow). Given the workplace today, and how the future seems likely to unfold, building your own brand is a valuable career tool. Writing your own blog also builds your understanding of the topic. As you put your thoughts into words you have to examine them and often build a more complete understanding yourself before you can write about it.
You also build a network as you read and comment on other’s blogs and as others read and comment on your blog. YouTube can be used in a similar way (though I would use a blog to add text to the webcast and encourage comments on the blog rather than YouTube). Using an RSS blog feed reader is the first social network tool you should use (way before you sign up for Twitter or Facebook or anything). Podcasts can also. I have done a few podcast, most discussing the ideas in my management book. Videos and audio connect more deeply to people so they are wonderful methods to reach people. I should get some webcast up on YouTube; it is one of my plans that I haven’t gotten to you yet.
What Could we do Better? – There are many important ideas to improve management. This is one of the most important tips to aid improvement that I know of: it is easy to do, brings huge benefits and most organizations fail to do it. Ask your customers: “What one thing could we do to improve?”
Common Cause Variation – “Every system has variation. Common cause variation is the variation due to the current system. Dr. Deming increased his estimate of variation due to the system (common cause variation) to 97% (earlier in his life he cited figures as low as 80%). Special cause variation is that due to some special (not part of the system) cause.”
Sub-Optimize by Interrupting Knowledge Workers – “The general consensus is that the loss from interrupting [software] developers is much greater than for interrupting most other forms of work and therefor a great deal of effort is placed on improving the system to allow developers to focus.”
Amazon Innovation – “I believe Amazon uses technology very well. They have done many innovative things. They have been less successful at turning their technology into big profits. But I continue to believe they have a good shot at doing so going forward (and their core business is doing very well I think).” [Amazon announced great sales numbers today, continuing their long term tread. They are also continuing to be very slow to grow profits (CEO, Jeff Bezos remains willing to challenge common practices – such as his willingness to build business and sacrifice current profits)].
Evidence Soup by Tracy Allison Altman. This is a blog about assessing evidence. If statistics are not your thing, you’ll pick up some tips and tricks that will help you analyze evidence to guide your decision making. If you’re a statistical whiz, you’ll find a lot here that’s just fun.
Representative Recent Post: Big Ideas may not have supporting evidence, but they sell books by the boatload.
“Haven’t we had enough of authors pitching an oversimplified analysis of something important? It’s great to boil things down into plain language, but when an entire book is based on A Big Idea, complicated things are glossed over, evidence is cherry-picked, we get bamboozled. (And books are sold. Maybe I’m just jealous.)”
Life in Perpetual Beta by Harold Jarche. Harold Jarche’s blog is the point in my universe where a host of sources on personal knowledge management and the changing workplace come together. In addition to his own lucid analysis, Harold supplies pointers to many great sources that are new to me. As a bonus, this blog could serve as a primer on using illustrations to explain concepts. The representative post describes Harold’s view of what the blog is about.
Representative Recent Post: Adapting to Life in Perpetual Beta “On my consulting page, I have summarized my perspectives on 21st century work. It’s called: Adapting to Life in Perpetual Beta.
There is no such thing as a social media strategy.
There are only business strategies that understand networks.
I hope you enjoy Wally’s carnival post and find some new ideas worth pursuing. I have added a couple more blogs to me RSS feed reader. The management improvement carnival is posted 3 times a month spotlighting great posts related to management.
Resist your machine thinking! by Jeff Liker – “To maintain consistent output, one must continually adjust the system to changing environmental conditions. This is called dynamic homeostasis in systems thinking, or running to stay in place. … Maintenance comes from having clearly defined standards, observing carefully for deviations from those standards, and then developing and implementing countermeasures to eliminate the deviations.”
5 lessons from an Information Architecture career by Martin Belam – “Over the years I’ve learned that pragmatic UX that gets software shipped is more valuable than perfecting your pre-build documentation.
This lesson is very much tied up with the ideas of progressive iterations, and improving things from the base of a ‘minimum viable product’… There is nothing less compelling than shipping nothing at all.”
Pop quiz: Lean-ify this iPad case by Kathleen Fasanella – “Here is a summary of the specific items you mentioned: Having the work piece, waste can, tools and equipment arranged optimally. Component placement was (mostly) eyeballed, several suggested jigs or templates for layout. David suggested notching for more efficient placement. The fabric covers should have been cut with rounded covers to eliminate the messy and wasteful step of hand trimming.”
Demystifying the Product Owner by – the product owner leads product discovery: “to help identify and describe requirements, and to ensure that the product backlog is ready for the next sprint planning meeting. It also means that the product owner has to engage in product planning, visioning and product road mapping…”
Working in the cracks in the system by Wally Bock – “Use the situation as an opportunity for conversation. Talk to John in private. Tell him you’ve noticed that he’s been coming in late and tell him why that matters to you and to the team. After you say that, wait for John to speak next.”
Once again I think the review provided a reminder many excellent posts from the last year and showed us some posts we missed. In addition, hopefully you found new blogs to add to the RSS feeds you subscribe to. With the enormous number of excellent management blogs, it makes me wonder why we still see so many management miscues.
Dennis Stevens writes a blog of the same name focused on agile software development principles with a strong focus on Dr. Deming’s ideas and lean thinking.
What’s Deming got to do with Agile – “Deming is not about manufacturing. He is about showing management how to create an environment for success. Deming is about culture – and his System of Profound Knowledge creates an environment that is especially effective for knowledge work… In knowledge work, where products are invisible, impact can be difficult to demonstrate. Kanban clearly shows progress and demonstrates the contribution of each person to the delivery of value. Additionally, PDSA provides opportunities for everyone to contribute to improving the quality of the organization’s capabilities.”
Kanban Mental Models and Double Loop Learning – “the Kanban cycle supports continuous learning that the team internalizes. Argyris’s model gives us some insight into why Kanban teams are consistently achieving double-loop learning and rapid maturity.”
We are Doing QQ All Wrong– “Developers should be using tools that support automated unit testing and only checking in code that passes all their unit tests… Test driven development or test just after development should be ubiquitous – but it is not. Continuous Integration environments that ensure that each check-in results in a valid and testable platform help teams perform integration and build validation.”
Shorten and Reduce Variability in Lead Times Using Kanban – ” identify and leverage strategies like reducing waiting, reducing rework, making work ready, defining small size work, and swarming, to improve lead time. Tracking causes of defects and blockages can help make decisions to focus these strategies appropriately. Reducing lead time duration and variability will result in increased predictability, faster feedback, improved flexibility and responsiveness.”
Common Mistakes when we are Problem Solving – “Not utilizing the ‘Power of the gemba’,–or often referred to as “Go see the work/process“.!! I often see teams working together in a room trying to solve the problem by using their experiences, hypothetical guesses, and what their opinion is. I quickly disperse the huddle to “go-see” with their own eyes the current situation.”
How many different types of A3’s are there? – “I will briefly describe the 4 different types of A3’s and when to use them based on my experience: Problem Solving A3, Proposal A3, Status Report A3, Strategic Planning A3. All A3’s should follow the PDCA thinking regardless of which type you are working on.”
Why is asking “Why” so important? – “It is important to ask why repeatedly when visiting the gemba to determine what is current happening versus what should be happening. In many cases we stop at a symptom to the problem because we are often pressured for results and quickly solving the problem without going past the symptom seems to be the best answer.” [this one is actually from 2009 but I included it anyway – John]
As we did last year I think the review is providing a nice reminder of some excellent posts from the last year and showing us some posts we missed. In addition, hopefully you will find new blogs to add to our feed reader. There are an enormous number of excellent management blogs. It makes me wonder why we still see so many management miscues 🙂
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.
Instead of a Layoff by Gregg Stocker – “Everyone has a stake in the company. When a company has a history of layoffs, though, people feel powerless, disconnected, and expendable. The organization’s leaders send a very clear message that employees are not important when jobs are cut in response to a crisis.” (Also see my 2007 post, Bad Management Results in Layoffs, John)
Comparing Lean Principles to the 14 Toyota Principles – “Toyota Principle #1: Base Your Management Decisions on a Long-Term Philosophy, Even at the Expense of Short-Term Financial Goals… Toyota Principle #2: Create Continuous Process Flow to Bring Problems to the Surface”
10 Engagement-Building Behaviors for the Boss by Wally Bock – “Make sure people have the resources to do what you expect. Resources include skills and time and equipment and support. If your people don’t have them, get them before you hold people accountable for results.”
Switching to a Data-Driven Culture by Brent Dykes – “How can a data-driven identity transform your online marketing team’s behaviors? Rather than perceiving analysis to be someone else’s job, what if they thought of themselves as analysts, not just marketers?”
A chance to prevent failures rather than cleaning up after them – “FMEA is an analytical approach that is used in the development stage as well as operations management to focus on “What could go wrong?” with respect to a product or service. Teams identify potential failures in a system, and in the design stage, try to eliminate these potential failures as far as possible.”
Valid or reliable – in the board room by Jamie Flinchbaugh – “In order to maximize the utilization of board time, use of a suite of reliable metrics can provide a steady point of focus. Most of these will be quantitative such as financial, customer-focused, or employee-focused.”
Management Advice Failures – It is amazing to me how often we accept non-solutions. If someone objects that we have tried that “solution” and it didn’t work they are often shut down with a version of: “don’t be negative” or “I don’t want to hear we tried that before and it didn’t work” (we are different now) or “we need team players” or “if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem”…
Edward Tufte’s new book: Beautiful Evidence – Another great book by Tufte in which he explores how to best display evidence looking at: mapped pictures; sparklines; links and causal arrows; words, numbers and pictures together; the fundamental principles of analytical design; corruption of evidence; and more.
More on Obscene CEO Pay – In the 1960’s and a970’s CEO of the largest companies made about 35 times what an average worker did. In the last 15 years they are making 200 times as much. They in no way deserve too.
Signs You Have a Great Job… or Not – “When someone is learning a new skill they will often need to spend time developing (which mean they won’t be doing what they do best). Again this is expected but managers, by and large, don’t do enough to support development in my opinion.”
Trust: Respect for People – “A bit different than laying off tens of thousands of workers and then taking huge bonuses. And in case you don’t know, I think Toyota’s approach is more honorable and what should be aimed for…”
Tesco: Lean Provision – “Tesco’s lean provision system combines point-of-sale data, cross-dock distribution centers, and frequent deliveries to many stores along “milk-runs” to stock the right items in a range of retail formats.”
Bad Arguments Against a Gas Tax – the increased prices, which have the same negative impact of a tax increase go to foreign producers and the oil companies instead of the taxpayers. We would have been better off increasing the gas tax 50 cents a gallon and cutting the huge deficit instead of accepting such arguments that a gas tax would kill the economy.
I started the management improvement blog carnival in 2006. At the time the number of blogs posting useful management ideas had already grown to a large number. It took years after I started my Curious Cat Management Improvement site, in 1996, to have even a handful of consistently useful web sites for those interested in improving the management of organizations.
Blogs really started the explosion of good management content online. Now we have more great blogs nearly every month. This jumbo sized edition could be much larger and still not run out of great posts to include. Hopefully the regular carnivals help you keep up with great management posts from blogs you already enjoy, and introduce you to new blogs to add to you RSS (blog feed) reader.
Remember – We Want to See Problems by Bryan Zeigler – “Well if you designed your system to truly follow the lean ideals, you have problems! That’s the whole point! Make your problems visible instead of hiding them with inventory, extra labor, long lead times, etc.”
Control Systems and Feedback Loops by Tom Foster – “why don’t we change this control system into a feedback loop? Why don’t we have the feedback loop tell the team, and why don’t we run the feedback loop in real time? The manager just gets in the way.”
My Favorite Southwest Airlines Moment by Rachel Barry – ” If you live with gratitude, you will have reached life’s highest ideals. And your letter is grateful. You are a wonderful woman. Thank you, thank you, for being you and for writing me. The truth is, it just doesn’t get any better than that. ” (Southwest encourages people to act like people [and treat customers like people not numbers] instead of cogs in a machine. Not amazing when put that way but when contrasted with most other large companies it is an amazing difference. – John)
Organizational Kryptonite: Fear of Confrontation by Kris Dunn – “Because the world is full of people who suffer from fear of confrontation, giving good, direct, honest feedback in a professional way is often the best way to stand out as someone who can be trusted.”
The False Theory of Meritocracy by Nigel Nicholson – “A true theory of meritocracy would acknowledge that we all have multiple talents and motivations; and that we all can learn and improve in most of the roles in which we are placed — though how much and how fast will vary from person to person.”
Corporate Renewal, Waste, and Turnaround by Pete Abilla – “Each of us has a responsibility to improve those areas where we have influence. Given that, what are you going to do today to improve the business you are in? Help the people you work with? Improve the world around you?”
Show Me the Results by Mike Wroblewski – “Despite our efforts to make all results objective and quantifiable, in many cases, subjectivity remains. Overlooking this problem, we obsess over results… In our obsession with results, do we actually miss something, perhaps something greater?”
Drucker’s Surprising View of Corporate Social Responsibility by William Cohen – “Drucker concluded that considerations for workers in and out of the workplace were the responsibility of the corporate leader just as much as the profits, survival, and growth of the business or organization. Therefore, he taught that there were social responsibilities of business.”