Tag Archives: management experts

Classic Management Theories Are Still Relevant

Good management is good management: it doesn’t matter if someone figured out the good idea 100 years ago or last week.

Are “Classic” Management Theories Still Relevant?

It did make me wonder about the staying power of management models, processes, skills, and conventional wisdom…

There are way too many people in our field that are not true professionals – they don’t do their homework, and rely too much on their own personal experience. They’re the ones who tend to jump from one fad to the next, enthusiastically promoting each one with an almost religious passion.

However, there’s also a danger of not keeping up with the times and sticking with models or skills that really have outlived their usefulness. At best, you run the risk of coming across as a dinosaur when you explain a management model that was developed in the 1920’s to a group of Millennials. Even worse, you may be relying on models that really don’t apply in today’s world.

Classic management ideas are definitely very valuable today. It is amazing how little use of long known good leadership lessons actually takes place in organizations. You don’t need to discover secrets to improve, just adopt ideas others ignore since they are not new (or whatever justification they use for ignoring them).

One of the main things I have been trying to do with my web sites is to get people to use the already well documented successful management practices.

Bad management ideas are bad: Regardless if they were good ideas 40 years ago, or not. I find bad management practices most often never were good practices so worrying about outdated good practices is not something that merits much time. Just avoid bad practices, don’t worry about when the practices were adopted.

As Dan McCarthy says in his post: “Read and respect the classics and keep up with the latest.”

And if you have to focus on one, focus on the classics. Most of what is new isn’t worthwhile so you will likely spend a lot of time reading about fads that die before you can even try to adopt the ideas into your organizational system. There are good new ideas – read Clayton Christensen, for some good new ideas (even many of those are nearly 10 years old now). Agile software development is another area where good tactics seem new. Mainly agile management offers good ideas on tactics for applying lots of good management ideas (often these ideas are not new), it seems to me.

Related: New or Different? Just Choose BetterManagement Advice FailuresNew Management Truths Sometimes Started as HeresiesNot New Rules for Management

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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Dr. Deming Webcast on the 5 Deadly Diseases

The W. Edwards Deming Institute has posted Dr. Deming’s 1984 video on the 5 deadly diseases of western management.

  • Lack of constancy of purpose
  • Emphasis on short term profits – “creative” accounting, focus on quarterly profits
  • Annual Performance Appraisals – management by objective, management by fear
  • Mobility of management – [see Toyota for a great example of a company that operates on different principles – where the leadership has been with Toyota for decades]
  • Running a company on visible figures alone – many important factors are “unknown and unknowable.”

Dr. Deming added 2 diseases to reach his famous 7 deadly diseases: excessive medical care costs and excessive legal damage awards swelled by lawyers working on contingency fees.

Personally I believe all 7 of those diseases are still prevalent and causing damage. I do think some progress has been made on longer term thinking but far too many organizations still are extremely short term focused. And I would add two new deadly diseases of management: excessive executive compensation and an outdated intellectual property system.

Related: Deming CompaniesPurpose of an OrganizationContinual ImprovementCreating JobsNew Management Truths Sometimes Started as Heresies

Bogus Theories, Bad for Business

The Wall Street Journal has a book review of The Management Myth by Matthew Stewart. The book flushes out the ideas Matthew Stewert explored in a previous article in the Atlantic about the failure of management to mature as a discipline.

Mr. Stewart quotes Bruce Henderson, the founder of the ­Boston Consulting Group, who describes consulting as “the most improbable business on earth” and who goes on to ask: “Can you think of anything less ­improbable [sic] than taking the world’s most ­successful firms, leaders in their businesses, and ­hiring people just fresh out of school and telling them how to run their ­businesses, and they are willing to pay ­millions of dollars for their ­advice?”

I’m not sure about the book, I have not read it but that is a great statement. And I firmly believe managers need to become experts at managing and by and large they have quite a long way to go. Dr. Deming talked about how we “know” what we know in the aspect of his management called the theory of knowledge (which is not included in any other management philosophy I have seen). That area (with interactions in other areas) explores why people often believe what is not so. And management seems to have a surplus of beliefs that are not based on sound theories.

Read this good article I have mentioned before on this topic by Carlie and Christensen: The Cycles of Theory Building in Management Research.

Related: Righter IncentivizationAnother Quota Failure ExampleManagement Advice FailuresWhy Extrinsic Motivation FailsInnovation StrategyDoes the Data Deluge Make the Scientific Method Obsolete?Data Based BlatheringDoing the Wrong Things RighterHarvard’s Masters of the Apocalypse
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Red Bead Experiment Webcast

Dr. Deming used the red bead experiment to present a view into management practices and his management philosophy. The experiment provides insight into all four aspects of Dr. Deming’s management system: understanding variation, understanding psychology, systems thinking and the theory of knowledge.

Red Bead Experiment by Steve Prevette

Various techniques are used to ensure a quality (no red bead) product. There are quality control inspectors, feedback to the workers, merit pay for superior performance, performance appraisals, procedure compliance, posters and quality programs. The foreman, quality control, and the workers all put forth their best efforts to produce a quality product. The experiment allows the demonstration of the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of the various methods.

Related: Fooled by RandomnessPerformance Measures and Statistics CoursePerformance without AppraisalExploring Deming’s Management IdeasEliminate Slogans

Jeff Bezos and Root Cause Analysis

Jeff Bezos and Root Cause Analysis by Pete Abilla

There are several things amazing about this experience:

  1. Jeff Bezos cared enough about an hourly associate and his family to spend time discussing his situation.
  2. Jeff properly facilitated the 5-why exercise to arrive at a root cause.
  3. He involved a large group of stakeholders, demonstrated by example, and arrived at a root cause and he didn’t focus on symptoms of the problem.
  4. He is the founder and CEO of Amazon.com, yet he got involved in the dirt and sweat of his employees’ situation.
  5. In that simple moment, he taught all of us to focus on root causes — quickly — not heavily relying on data or overanalysis of the situation, and yet he was spot-on in identifying the root causes of the safety incident.

Using quality tools really works. Lots of people don’t use them. Improving is often not any more difficult than just applying tools that have been used for decades. Improving does not require rocket science. Just do the simple things and you are well on your way to great success. Of the 10 stocks in my original 10 stocks for 10 years post Amazon is one of 4 that are up.

Related: Bezos on Lean ThinkingAmazon InnovationBezos Webcast on the Internet BoomImprovement Tools and Improving ManagementRoot Cause AnalysisEuropean Blackout is Not “Human Error”

Management Advice Failures

Topic: Management Improvement

Management Advice: Which 90% is Crap? by Bob Sutton, Stanford University:

At first, I couldn’t believe that someone as well-read as Hamel claimed an old idea was new and that he had invented it. But I eventually realized the problem wasn’t Gary Hamel, or any other individual making claims of originality. Rather, his column reflected a prevailing practice in the business knowledge business. I asked two former Fortune columnists why “Hamel’s Law” and similar claims that old ideas are brand new appear so often in the business press.Both emphasized that you couldn’t blame Hamel – that was just how things were done. Both writers even speculated that some Fortune editor probably had inserted the phrase, “Hamel’s Law,” to create the impression that the magazine publishes exciting new ideas. After all old news doesn’t sell magazines!

I share this frustration with declaring old ideas new: Management Improvement, Better and Different, Quality, SPC and Your Career, Deming and Six Sigma, Management Lessons from Terry Ryan, Everybody Wants It, Toyota’s Got It, Fashion-Incubator on Deming’s Ideas and on and on.
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Management Improvement History

Originally posted to the Deming Electronic Network, 22 Sep 1999, in response to this message (link removed because it was broken).

I would like to say that I think it is good that we have disagreements on the DEN. I think it is a strength of the DEN, not a weakness. However, I think we sometimes get to personal with no real purpose. One example of this, for me, is: “Well, I guess we knew different Demings. Mine was a teacher named Dr. W. Edwards Deming.” I doubt this statement is meant to be taken literally, and if it is not I do not see what it adds to the discussion. I point this out not because I think this is some bad act that should be punished but that I think we need to continue to develop a sense of how we wish to express our disagreements and I think that we should try to do so more constructively.

For the past 60 years we’ve been looking for the magic bullet that will improve the quality of our products, services and lives. In the 1940s, we applied statistics through sampling, SPC and design of experiments to improve our products. In the 1950s, we used quality cost and total quality control to bring about quality improvement. In the 1960s, zero defects and MIL-Q-9858A drove the quality improvement process. In the 1970s, quality circles, process qualification and supplier qualification became key quality issues. In the 1980s, employee training in problem solving, team activities and just-in-time inventory were the things to do.”

I find this statement so far from the truth that it would seriously damage any PDSA with this as an accepted assessment of history. I do not believe Deming had such an inaccurate view (of course I may be wrong). I do believe we need to improve our practice of Quality (and to do that we need to understand what happened in the past and why it was not more successful). The idea that Design of Experiments (DoE) was at the core of some Quality Movement to me is not at all accurate.

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