Tag Archives: Lean thinking

Applying Toyota Kata to Agile Retrospectives

HÃ¥kan Forss, King (interactive entertainment games), presentation at the GOTO Copenhagen 2015 conference.

I strongly recommend Mike Rother’s book: Toyota Kata.

Description from Workshop description “The Toyota Kata Experience”

Kata means pattern, routine, habits or way of doing things. Kata is about creating a fast “muscle memory” of how to take action instantaneously in a situation without having to go through a slower logical procedure. A Kata is something that you practice over and over striving for perfection. If the Kata itself is relative static, the content of the Kata, as we execute it is modified based on the situation and context in real-time as it happens. A Kata as different from a routine in that it contains a continuous self-renewal process.

I think the great number of worthwhile conference presentations we can all now get sitting wherever we are provides us a great opportunity (and lets us avoid missing out of good ideas because “How could they know“).

A point made in the presentation that is very simple but still constantly the source of failure is that the current system isn’t supporting improvement. Retrospectives are a good method to help improve but if there is no time to think about the issues raised and come up with experiments to improve and review of whether those experiments worked or not and why failure to improve is the expected result.

Creating a culture where it is expected that any improvement ideas are tested and evaluated is one of the most important changes on the path to a company that will be able to continually improve. If not, what happens is some changes are good, many are not and soon people lose faith that any effort is worth it because they see how poor the results are. By taking care to evaluate what is working and what isn’t we create a process in which we don’t allow ad hoc and unsuccessful changes to demoralize everyone.

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Revolutionary Management Improvement May Be Needed But Most Management Change is Evolutionary

This month the ASQ Influential Bloggers were asked to respond to the question – will the future of quality be evolutionary or revolutionary?

I think it has been and will continue to be both.

Revolutionary change is powerful but very difficult for entrenched people and organizations to actually pull off. It is much easy to dream about doing so.

Often even revolutionary ideas are adopted in a more evolutionary way: partial adoption of some practices based on the insight provided by the revolutionary idea. I think this is where the biggest impact of W. Edwards Deming’s ideas have been. I see him as the most revolutionary and worthwhile management thinker we have had. But even so, few organizations adopted the revolutionary ideas. Most organizations nibbled on the edges and still have a long way to go to finally get to a management system he was prompting 30,40 or more years ago.

A few organizations really did some revolutionary things based on Deming’s ideas, for example: Toyota. Toyota had some revolutionary moves and adopted many revolutionary ideas brought forward by numerous people including Taichii Ohno. But even so the largest impact has been all those that have followed after Toyota with the lean manufacturing strategies.

And most other companies have taken evolutionary steps from old management paradigms to adopt some new thinking when trying out lean thinking. And frankly most of those efforts are so misguided or incredible small they barely qualify. But for those that successfully improved their management system they were mainly evolutionary.

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Managers Are Not Non-Leaders: Managers Need to Practice Things We Classify as Leadership Traits

Saying “Managers care about efficiency and leaders care about effectiveness” is like saying “Doctors care about theory and nurses care about patients.”

Managers that don’t care about effectiveness are lousy managers.
Leaders that don’t care about the gemba are lousy leaders.
Doctors that don’t care about patients are lousy doctors.
Nurses that don’t care about theory are lousy nurses.

Your role in the organization (and for the particular situation in question) and training and the situation will impact how you contribute. But the attitude that leaders are visionaries that think big thoughts, make decisions then tell everyone what to do (act as the brain for the organization) is outdated. Every list of what traits are for leaders that then contrasts them with managers that I have seen shows leadership traits managers need.

Seeking to separate leadership and management is a bad idea. If you want to have a few leadership traits that you want to focus on at various points (creating engagement, communicating a vision, building consensus, setting organizational direction) that is fine. But those things are traits managers need; they are not traits reserved for some separate leadership cadre.

And disconnected leaders that don’t understand the organization, the organizations customers etc. are not going to lead well (normally the contrast lists have the managers doing all the hands on stuff, at the gemba, with customers etc.). Nurses may not have as complete an understanding of the theories behind medical treatment decisions but they need to know a great deal of theory to do their jobs well. Everyone contributes and has different roles to play but I don’t see value in the contrast of leaders and managers mentality.

From what I have seen mainly the manager v. leader comparisons seem to be about belittling managers and elevating leaders; but leaders are this vague concept that isn’t well defined. Who are these leaders? Are they only senior executives? They can’t be managers because you are contrasting them with managers – by the contrasting model used they can’t be leaders and managers.

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Getting Known Good Ideas Adopted

This month Paul Borawski asked ASQ’s Influential Voices to explore two questions; first, what is the most important challenge the quality community faces in ensuring that the value of quality is fully realized for the benefit of society?

I really think it is just getting the good ideas to improve management, that have been around for decades, adopted. This might not seem that important. But I hear almost no talk about this and tons of talk about all sorts of “new ideas” for management.

The “new ideas” that I look into don’t seem like very new ideas to me. The best of these ideas are usually well thought out tweaks and enhancements (along with a potentially better presentation of the core ideas) that are useful. But they are really just about getting old ideas adopted, it seems to me. Still this is good and useful work.

Unfortunately the vast majority seems to me to be overly simplistic ideas that involved more thought in creating something to market than in creating something to improve the practice of management.

We seem to spend all sorts of time and energy focused on new branding for management ideas when we would be better off focusing on how to get organizations to adopt good practices. I think the distraction with finding new ways of clothing the same old ideas is a distraction that prevents focus where it would be more worthwhile. This is especially true because those rebranding old ideas often don’t understand the old idea. They seem to see it would easier to sell if it were simplified so they do that and rebrand it but they don’t understand that they left of critical components and it won’t work – even if it is easier to sell.

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Quality Processes in Unexpected Places

This month Paul Borawski asked ASQ’s Influential Voices to explore the use of quality tools in unexpected places.

The most surprising example of this practice that I recall is the Madison, Wisconsin police department surveying those they arrested to get customer feedback. It is obvious that such “customers” are going to be biased. Still the police department was able to get actionable information by seeking the voice of the customer.

photo of a red berry and leaves

Unrelated photo from Singapore Botanical Garden by John Hunter.

Certain of the police department’s aims are not going to match well with those they arrest (most obviously those arrested wish the police department didn’t arrest them). The police department sought the voice of the customer from all those they interacted with (which included those they arrested, but also included those reporting crimes, victims, relatives of those they arrested etc.).

The aim of the police department is not to arrest people. Doing so is necessary but doing so is most similar in the management context to catching an error to remove that bad result. It is better to improve processes so bad results are avoided. How the police interact with the public can improve the process to help steer people’s actions away from those that will require arrests.

The interaction police officers have with the public is a critical gemba for meeting the police department’s aim. Reducing crime and encouraging a peaceful society is aided by knowing the conditions of that gemba and knowing how attempts to improve are being felt at the gemba.

All customer feedback includes bias and personal preferences and potentially desires that are contrary to the aims for the organization (wanting services for free, for example). Understanding this and how important understanding customer/user feedback on the gemba is, it really shouldn’t be surprising that the police would want that data. But I think it may well be that process thinking, evidence based management and such ideas are still not widely practiced as so the Madison police department’s actions are still surprising to many.

Quality Leadership: The First Step Towards Quality Policing by David Couper and Sabine Lobitz

Our business is policing, our customers are the citizens within our jurisdictions, and our product is police service (everything from crime fighting and conflict management to safety and prevention programs.)

If we are to cure this we must start to pay attention to the new ideas and trends in the workplace mentioned earlier that are helping America’s businesses; a commitment to people, how people are treated — employees as well as citizens, the development of a people-oriented workplace, and leadership can and does make a difference.

If we change the way in which we lead the men and women in our police organizations, we can achieve quality in policing. However, wanting to change and changing are worlds apart. The road to change is littered by good intentions and short-term efforts.

This article, from 1987, illustrates the respect for people principle was alive and being practiced 25 years ago; most organizations need to do a great deal more work on applying practices that show respect for people.

Related: Quality Improvement and Government: Ten Hard Lessons From the Madison Experience by David C. Couper, Chief of Police, City of Madison, Wisconsin – SWAT Raids, Failure to Apply System Thinking in Law EnforcementMeasuring What Matters: Developing Measures of What the Police DoThe Public Sector and W. Edwards DemingDoing More with Less in the Public Sector – A Progress Report from Madison, Wisconsin

Management Blog Review 2012: Not Running a Hospital

Paul Levy started the Running a Hospital blog when he was the CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Thankfully he has continued the blog, renamed to Not Running a Hospital, after leaving that position. Paul provides a huge number (the lowest number of posts in a month was 32) of valuable posts focused on health care, but worthwhile for everyone interested in improving the practice of management.

Image of cover of Goal Play!

In addition to his blog, during 2012 Paul published a wonderful book – Goal Play!: Leadership Lessons from the Soccer Field. In my first 2012 management blog review I take a look at Not Running a Hospital.

Some of the thoughtful posts by Paul in 2012:

  • How to get better at harming people less – “Imagine what we as a society would do if three 727s crashed three days in a row. We would shut down the airports and totally revamp our way of delivering passengers. But, the 100,000 people a year killed in hospitals are essentially ignored, and hospitals remain one of the major public health hazards in our country.”
  • Medtronic’s Lean Journey – “They knew they would have to think big, but then sweat the details. Over time they figured out how to collaborate.

    There were five stages in the process:

    1 — Define our operating standards, who we aspire to be.
    2 — Set a global expectation to accelerate improvement.
    3 — Develop the ability to assess current state.
    4 — Create ongoing mechanisms to learn and leverage to close gaps.
    5 — Continually check and adjust.”

  • Sarah Patterson informs about Lean – “Would like Va Mason org to operate like an aircraft carrier. How to run a complex business safety.

    Aircraft carrier = an airport on top of a nuclear power plant comprising a bunch of 19 year olds!

    Aircraft carrier needs complete alignment with the mission. If not done well, puts others at risk.

    Aircraft carrier requires an incredible commitment to adoption of standard work. Relentless focus on training.

    Create jobs that are doable. Train people to do them. Hold people accountable to them.

    Adopted TPS=customer first, highest quality, obsession w/ safety, staff engagement, successful economic enterprise

    Senior leader regular gemba rounds to view one aspect of standard work.”

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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.

My New Book: Management Matters

Image of the book cover of Management Matters by John Hunter

Management Matters by John Hunter is now available.

I have a new book in progress: Management Matters. It is now available in “pre-release format” via leanpub. The idea I am experimenting with (supported by leanpub) is pre-publishing the book online. The ebook is available for purchase now, and comes with free access to the updates.

My plan is to continue working on the book for the next few months and have it “release ready” by October, 2012. One of the advantages of this method is that I can incorporate ideas based on feedback from the early readers of the book.

There are several other interesting aspects to publishing in this way. Leanpub allows a suggested retail price, and a minimum price. So I can set a suggested price and a minimum price and the purchaser gets to decide what price to pay (they can even pay over suggested retail price – which does happen). The leanpub model provides nearly all the revenue to the author (unlike traditional models) – the author gets 90% of the price paid, less 50 cents per book (so $8.50 of a $10 purchase).

They provide the book in pdf, mobi (Kindle) and epub (iPad, Nook, etc.) formats. And the books do not have any Digital Rights Management (DRM) entanglements.

Management Matters covers topics familiar to those who have been reading this blog for years. It is an attempt to put in one place the overall management system that is most valuable (which as you know, based on the blog, is largely based upon Dr. Deming’s ideas – which means lean manufacturing are widely covered too).

I hope the book is now in a state where those who are interested would find it useful, but it is in what I consider draft format. I still have much editing to do and content to add.

Leanpub also provides a sample book (where a portion of the content can be downloaded to decide if you want to buy). If you are interested please give it a try and let me know your thoughts.

Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog Carnival #174

The Curious Cat management blog carnival is published 3 times a month with hand picked recent management blog posts. I also collect management improvement articles for the Curious Cat Management Articles site; an RSS feed of new article additions is available.

  • How to Identify Your Team or Organization’s Purpose by Jesse Lyn Stoner – “What is the end-result that you offer? Look at your purpose from the viewpoint of the result, not the products or services you offer.”
  • What we can learn from Russell L. Ackoff by Aleksis Tulonen – “If you want to (dis)solve the problem you need to understand how (dis)solving the problem will affect the system and what the problem really is. Gathering the mental constructs of several people with different mindsets will gain you more understanding of what you are dealing with.”
  • photo of White House Rose Garden with Oval Office in the background

    White House Rose Garden, Washington DC. By John Hunter. See more photos from Washington DC.

  • Why smart managers do stupid things by John Stepper – “What You See Is All There Is. Over and over, he demonstrates how people systematically disregard basic probability and other facts in order to (quickly and easily) make up a story that fits with the things they see.”
  • Downtime Antipatterns for SaaS owners, ZipCar edition – “Use an automated system to point DNS entries to a ‘sorry, we’re down, please see http://status.zipcar.com’ page running on a commodity VPS in a completely different datacenter. Provide useful information to the customer RIGHT AWAY, and don’t leave them wondering why the page isn’t loading.”
  • Espoused Vs. In-Use by Anthony DaSilva – “From over 10,000 empirical cases collected over decades of study, Mr. Argyris has discovered that most people (at all levels in an org) espouse Model II guidance while their daily theory in-use is driven by Model I.”
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Management Improvement Blog Carnival #166

Tim McMahon is hosting the Management Improvement Blog Carnival #166, highlights include:

  • Performance Organizations – Art Smalley answers why is there such a resistance to creating learning organizations and why are leaders letting the future deteriorate without doing anything about it.
  • Trust – Cornerstone of Performance – George Rathburn explains that teams lose trust in their leaders when they fail to show trust and respect in their teams.
  • Lean Snake Oil Cures What Ails Ya – Mike Wroblewski takes some creative license to explain Lean and it benefits but warns against secrets to implementation as Lean takes hard work and personal commitment.

Take a look at the entire post on Tim’s blog: A Lean Journey

The management sub-Reddit is a social network for those interested in management improvement to post useful online resources and recommend those they found most worthwhile.