John Hunter Online

Years ago I would publish multiple blog posts here every month. More recently I have posted several blog posts a year. For those interested I have several options to receive more frequent updates.

Feeds of my previous management blog posts allow you to subscribe and receive daily updates on management improvement ideas. So even though I am not posting many new posts here anymore you have several options to get you more frequent management improvement content delivered to you. The feeds also allow you to choose to see items on additional topics (investing, engineering, travel, etc.).

photo of John Hunter at Zion National Park

John Hunter at Zion National Park, Utah, USA. One of the things I have been doing while not writing blog posts here is hiking in national parks (including Zion National Park earlier this year).

RSS feed options:

Interview of Bill Hunter: Statistical Variability and Interactions

Interview of Bill Hunter on Statistical Variability and Interactions by Peter Scholtes, 1986:

In this interview Bill Hunter describes how results are made up of the impact and interactions of many variables. Many of those variables we don’t know about or account for. What we normally do is try to figure out the most important variables for processes and then experiment with those variables to find the best options given what we are trying to achieve.

Often the description of what is going on in such cases is that there is arbitrary error or random variation that influences the final results. What Bill discusses in this interview is that what is seen as arbitrary or random is often identifiably caused by specific variables. But often we don’t know what those variables are or how they are varying while we are getting different results over time.

He discusses how many research efforts seek to find the most important 2 variables and create a model based on those 2 variables to predict results. Even in PhD level research that is often done. He then discusses how to deal with other important variables.

He discusses the real world problems businesses must face in creating solutions that work.

If they are going to sell the product in Mississippi, and they are going to sell in Arizona and North Dakota, they have to have a robust product that will work in all these different conditions… It is not good enough for them to have a model that works sometimes… they’ve got to probe deeper and learn how relative humidity affects things and build that into the whole system in a different kind of way… they have to try and dig out the effects of these other x’s

So the business has to figure out the impact of many more variables in order to create reliable and robust products and services. This example is about variables that impact the use of the product by a customer, but the same concept applies to processes within your business.
(more…)

Profound Podcast with John Hunter, Part Two

John Willis interviewed me for his Profound podcast series, this posts is about part two of the interview (listen to part two of the podcast, John Hunter – Curious Cat). See my post on part one of the interview.

photo of John Hunter in front of graphic for Plan Do Study Act cycle

John Hunter presenting at Deming Institute management seminar in Hong Kong

This post provides links to more information on what we discussed in the podcast. Hopefully these links allow you to explore ideas that were mentioned in the podcast that you would like to learn more about.

Find more interviews of John Hunter.

Profound Podcast: John Hunter – Curious Cat

John Willis interviewed me for his Profound podcast series (listen to part one of the podcast, John Hunter – Curious Cat)

This post provides links to more information on what we discussed in the podcast. Hopefully these links allow you to explore ideas that were mentioned in the podcast and that you would like to learn more about.

We also talked about six sigma a bit on the podcast. While I believe six sigma falls far short of what I think a good management system should encompass I am less negative about six sigma than most Deming folks. I discussed my thoughts in: Deming and Six Sigma. In my opinion the biggest problems people complain about with six sigma efforts are about how poorly it is implemented, which is true for every management system I have seen. I have discussed the idea of poor implementation of management practices previously also: Why Use Lean (or Deming or…) if So Many Fail To Do So Effectively.

I will add another blog post for part two of the interview when I get a chance.

Listen to more interviews with me.

Interview of Bill Hunter, Brian Joiner and Peter Scholtes on Better Management Practices

Interview with Bill Hunter, Brian Joiner and Peter Scholtes (listen to the interview) on a Public Affair, National Public Radio about improving management practices in the USA. The interview is over 30 years old now but the better management ideas are as true today as they were then.

Sadly we have not improved management practices based on these ideas very much. There have been improvements in how many organizations are managed but those improvements are so slow that fundamental problems remain serious problems decades later.

Brian Joiner

Brian Joiner (quotes from the interview):

You cannot really produce quality in any cost competitive way by relying on inspection to achieve quality. The only way you can really achieve quality in the modern sense is by improving all the processes that go to deliver that product or service. And that requires that you study those processes. And when you study them you very often need to collect and analyze data to find what are the causes of problems.

[We place] a great deal of emphasis on identifying the causes of problems rather than shooting from the hip and jumping to solutions before you really know what the problems are…
Many many dollars, many many hours of time are wasted on “solutions” that are not really solutions.

Bill Hunter:

The problem that employees at Motor Equipment were aware of at the very beginning of this whole business, and for a long time previous – I mean years, was that the city of Madison did not have a preventative maintenance program for vehicles because a mayor said, many years ago said “we fix trucks and other things when they break and then we will save money because we don’t be fiddling with them before.

Well the people out there realized the city was just losing money with this policy so they gathered data, they put it together, they put together a solid case that nobody could argue with that the city should have a preventative maintenance program.

They were able to put together a presentation to the mayor and city council people making their case that there should be a preventative maintenance program. The mayor and the city council people there listened to this presentation of the data and they conclusion was a good proposal.

(more…)

How to Lead From Any Level In the Organization

This was originally published on the Aileron blog; since it has been deleted from the blog I have reposted it here.

In looking to create great results, we have to balance getting results in the near-term with building our organization’s capability to maximize results in the long-term.

But what are the methods and ways in which we can help encourage this kind of continual improvement within our organization? And how can anyone, no matter their role or authority level, create value and shape their influence so that the company can amplify positive results?

To answer these questions, we asked John Hunter, a Senior Facilitator for the W. Edwards Deming Institute. John has also written a book called Management Matters: Building Enterprise Capability, a book that provides an overview for using a systems view of management.

The Art of Influence in an Organization

John says that in Steven Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, there are three concepts brought up: the circle of control, the circle of influence, and the circle of concern. When it comes to leading and influencing other people in an organization, these concepts provide an effective framework to look at how you can influence decisions over time.

The circle of concern is what we are concerned with at work. “Our circle of concern covers those things we worry about. Often, we believe because we worry, that we should find solutions,” explains John. For example, an employee who regularly has face-to-face interaction with customers might have a sphere of concern that is centered on pleasing customers.

In your circle of control, you have much more autonomy—and much more perceived control. “The idea is that this domain is totally within your control, you don’t have to worry about convincing other people,” he says.

“This is a useful construct, but it is often much more complex than it sounds. What it really comes down to is almost everything is in your sphere of influence. When you’re talking about organizations—which are made up of people—nearly everything is about sphere of influence. Even the stuff that’s called circle of control is largely influence,” says John.

Recognize that you can change (and grow) your sphere of influence over time

(more…)

Learning from Customers

Don’t make it hard for customers to be heard.

Provide training and tools to employees to document customers voices. Train employees to learn as much as possible from customers. Value the time employees spend listening to customers and learning from them.

Most customers won’t speak up, those that do speak up provide valuable insight. Don’t waste what they offer.

graphic with the quote - The quality revolution is nothing more, or less, than the dramatic expansion of scientific problem solving using informed observation and directed experimentation to find out more about the process, the product and the customer. by George Box

Create a management system focused on continual improvement that is engaged in seeking out customer feedback and continually improving the value provided to customers.

Most organizations do the opposite of this. They make put many barriers in the way of customers speaking to anyone that will listen. They put systems in place to discourage feedback from customers.

Those organizations use surveys of customers that seek to limit customers voices to a few well defined paths that don’t learn from customers at all. How large USA companies design customer surveys.

  1. Did you think we were great, very good, good or other?
  2. If you didn’t think we were great which front line employees should we blame?

Sure they word it a little bit differently, but that is close to what I see almost every time I get a survey to complete. And there is no room to explain that the problems are not the fault of front line employees but decisions by the company to waste customers time. A few organizations behave differently. But not many.

Related: Customer delight requires understanding your customers needs and desiresDon’t Ignore Customer ComplaintsCustomer Focus by EveryoneStated Versus Revealed PreferenceQuality of the Entire Customer Experience

Most Popular Posts on the Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog in 2020

These posts were the most popular posts on the Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog in 2020 (as measured by page views recorded by my analytics application).

I wrote very few posts for this blog last year. The historical Curious Cat management RSS feed provides a feed of all the past posts about management (I also provide other Curious Cat RSS feeds).

This year 15 posts are repeats from the 2019 top 20 list. Of the new top 20 posts 3 were published in 2006, 1 in 2010 and 1 in 2011. The long term value of good blog content is overlooked by many people. I hope you continue to enjoy this blog, both the new content and the content I published many years ago.

photo of John Hunter at the Borobudur Temple

John Hunter at the Borobudur Buddhist Temple in Indonesia.

(more…)

Interview of Bill Hunter: Improving Quality and Productivity in Organizations

Interview of William G. Hunter on Improving Quality and Productivity in Organizations by Peter Scholtes.

Bill taught a course at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, Improving Quality and Productivity in Organizations, which was co-sponsored by the business school, statistics department and industrial engineering department.

There were a few undergraduate students, more graduate students and even more students who were working full time (many of whom only took this course – they were not pursuing a degree at the university). The course met 7 to 9:30 PM (often going longer) once a week. The main focus of the course was projects undertaken at banks, industry, city government, etc..

The course was designed with an understanding of how adults learn. The interview includes a discussion of andragogy, pedagogy and how to facilitate learning by adults. The course was designed to let students apply the ideas on management improvement in real organizations while learning about the principles.

Bill discusses the parallels to how a manager applying management improvement principles is very similar to an educator facilitating adult learning. Rather than an authoritarian approach where the boss tells subordinates what to do a manager helps employees achieve better results by supporting their efforts.

A student mentioned a common objection that managers have to adopting the management improvement methods that promote respect for people:

[Applying these management methods] requires that the workers care about what they are doing, to contribute ideas, to get involved, to be enthusiastic and to try and make things work better and to improve productivity. They are not going to do that, I mean, they come and they are sort of in prison from the time they come to work until they go home. It is when they leave work that they get to live and enjoy themselves. Going to work is just getting a paycheck… It is simply not going to work.

Bill talks about the experience with Joe Turner and Terry Holmes at the City of Madison First Street Garage. Out of the Crisis by W. Edwards Deming includes a couple pages on a project involving them (and Bill Hunter and Peter Scholtes). The bottom line is those two gave a presentation to the class sharing how the attitude in the question was overcome at their unionized workplace.

This question though is a challenging one. The problem is that overcoming decades of bad management practices that lead many people to think in the same way this questioner did is not easy. I have written several posts related to this topic, including: Effective Change Management Strategies and Tactics, People Take Time to Believe Claims of Changed Management Practices, How To Create a Continual Improvement Culture and A Practical Approach to Change: Some Strategies and Tools, a presentation by Peter Scholtes. Sadly you don’t have a huge advantage that the City of Madison project had, the involvement of Bill Hunter and Peter Scholtes.

(more…)

I Have Published an Update to Management Matters: Building Enterprise Capability

image of the cover of Managmenet Matters by John Hunter

Management Matters by John Hunter

I have published some edits and additional content for my book – Management Matters: Building Enterprise Capability.

One of the things I really like about how I have published the book (with Leanpub) is that anyone that has previously purchased the book gets these, and all future, updates for free. So if you have purchased it, go get your free update. If you haven’t purchased it, please consider buying a copy. Another nice feature of Leanpub publishing is that I set a minimum price and recommended price and with those constraints you can decide what you want to pay.

You may view a sample of the book (which currently is about one third of the book) for free.

Related: My New Book: Management Matters, Lean Blog Podcast with John Hunter on Management Matters, Podcast Discussion on Management Matters, Leanpub Podcast on My Book – Management Matters: Building Enterprise Capability