Monthly Archives: April 2006

Airline Quality

The Inmates Are Running The Asylums by Bill Waddell.

For instance, I found something called NWA’s [Nortwest Airlines] “Customer First” Customer Service Guide. Incredibly, it includes the statement, “Ensure that you receive a response to your written complaints within 60 days of their receipt by our Customer Relations department.” That’s right – you tell them about a problem in writing and, by golly, within two months they’ll get back to you.

I flew JetBlue Airways last week. The help at the counter was polite and friendly. While this is only one data point (and hardly a “high bar” to meet) it contrasts with most of my flying experience (in my experience Southwest has a good likelihood of meeting this goal). It would be nice if more airlines could be like Southwest (which manages to be profitable in a very challenging industry – LUV stock info).
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Most Meetings are Muda

Most Meetings are Muda (Waste) from Got Boondoggle:

I will not waste your time and regurgitate all the expert based meeting protocols like following an established agenda, having a meeting plan, taking meeting notes, etc. All these ideas are great and work well. Instead, I have a list of a few meeting musts that may guide you to more productive meeting time.

The post provides good tips on what to avoid. Given how many people know that many meetings are a waste of time, taking steps to improve meeting effectiveness is a good way to gain some credibility for management improvement activities. Doing so is very visible. Unfortunately, even with the simple and good ideas on how to do better – many meetings that are full of waste.

Here are some good tips from 37 folders; 9 tips for running more productive meetings:

Follow up – If you have been utilizing a project manager or note taker (and God knows you should), be sure to use a few minutes at the end for him or her to review any major new projects or action items that were generated in the meeting. Have the PM email the list of resolved and new action items to all the participants.

This is an important step missed far too often. Doing so helps make sure that upon leaving the meeting everyone has the same understanding of what has been decided: in addition to reviewing new assignments I would suggest review all significant decisions made. Far too often, people have very different ideas on what happened in previous meetings.

The Team Handbook also has good information on running effective meetings.

Curious Cat Management Improvement Dictionary: Muda definition

Quality Conversation with Gary Convis

Quality Conversation with Gary Convis by Norman Bodek:

There are two pillars; one is continuous improvement. You might not call this a human issue exactly, but Toyota’s success rests on the need for all employees, all management, to be looking for and striving for continuous improvement and never being satisfied.

We believe very strongly in what the Japanese call “genchi genbutsu,” the foundation of Toyota’s engineering strategy, which means “Go, see, confirm and be aware with your own eyes.”

The other pillar of the Toyota way is respect for people and honesty. If you don’t have respect for people who work for the company, you’’re in the wrong business.

More lean thinking articles

More posts on Toyota and TPS (lean)

Why are you afraid of process?

Why are you afraid of process? by Seth Godin

I spend a lot of time railing against organizations and teams that fall in love with process at the expense of innovation. This is not a post about that.

It’s about the opposite.

Seth Godin does a great job helping people think creatively. I am glad he sees that process management is not in conflict with that. Many others fall into the trap of thinking it is, see our previous post: Not the End of Process.
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Creativity Overflowing

Creativity Overflowing [the broken link was removed] :

It was clear that Whirlpool needed to reinvent its corporate culture. To do so, it had to figure out the answers to basic questions that managers everywhere struggle with: How do you define innovation? How do you measure success? How do you teach people to be creative?


Using Design of Experiments as a Process Road Map

Using Design of Experiments as a Process Road Map by Davis Balestracci:

The current design of experiments (DOE) renaissance seems to favor factorial designs and/or orthogonal arrays as a panacea. In my 25 years as a statistician, my clients have always found much more value in obtaining a process “road map” by generating the inherent response surface in a situation. It’s hardly an advanced technique, but it leads to much more effective optimization and process control.

DOE is a tool that is very useful. And while the situations in which DOE is the best tool to use is limited the limited use of DOE is used less than it could be. See more articles on the use of design of Experiments (DOE).

Stop Demotivating Employees

Why Your Employees Are Losing Motivation by David Sirota, Louis A. Mischkind, and Michael Irwin Meltzer from the Harvard Management Update:

Most companies have it all wrong. They don’t have to motivate their employees. They have to stop demotivating them.

Clear, simple and right. Douglas McGregor explored this topic well in 1960. He explained theory X management (managers believe the workers will do only what they are forced, coerced into doing) and theory Y management (managers believe the workers want to do a good job and the managers job is to help them do so) in his excellent book: The Human Side Of Enterprise.

According to the Harvard Business School article:

To maintain the enthusiasm employees bring to their jobs initially, management must understand the three sets of goals that the great majority of workers seek from their work – and then satisfy those goals:

  • Equity: To be respected and to be treated fairly in areas such as pay, benefits, and job security.
  • Achievement: To be proud of one’s job, accomplishments, and employer.
  • Camaraderie: To have good, productive relationships with fellow employees.

One goal cannot be substituted for another. Improved recognition cannot replace better pay, money cannot substitute for taking pride in a job well done, and pride alone will not pay the mortgage.

It would be nice if we can do a better job in the next 46 years of incorporating theory Y style into our management systems. The article provides good ideas on what management should do. While not amazing new ideas, the ideas presented are good ideas that management far too often fails to properly apply.

Blogging is Good for You

Blogs ‘essential’ to a good career [the article has been moved behind an expensive paywall and is not even close to worth 1/100th of the cost so I removed the link. I added some links to related content at the end of the post.]

For those with blogs this is a nice article to read – good positive reinforcement. It is probably a good marketing move to write an article that bloggers will like. Many will then post their thoughts on your article on their blog.

The article is a bit overly enthusiastic still it includes some good points. And these points are especially valuable for those interested a creating a career in management consulting: particularly as an individual or part of a small firm where the focused marketing can make a difference. Marketing is often one of the most difficult parts of making a successful career as a consultant. As the article says:

You can’t make it on your own unless you’re good at selling yourself. One of the most cost-effective and efficient ways of marketing yourself is with a blog.

Related: The Benefits of Blogging (2014)Your Online Presence (2007)Hire Me to Manage Your Blog or Web Presence (2015)

Lean Accounting: What’s It All About?

Lean Accounting: What’s It All About? [the broken link was removed] by Brian H. Maskell and Bruce L. Baggaley:

Companies using Lean Accounting have better information for decision-making, have simple and timely reports that are clearly understood by everyone in the company, they understand the true financial impact of lean changes, they focus the business around the value created for the customers, and Lean Accounting actively drives the lean transformation. This helps the company to grow, to add more value for the customers, and to increase cash flow and value for the stock-holders and owners.

This article reviews the thoughts presented at the 2005 lean accounting summit. The 2006 summit [the broken link was removed] takes place in September. Jim Womack, Norman Bodek and Richard Schonberger are presenting at the conference.

Toyota in the US Economy

Some figures on Toyota’s economic impact in the USA. Toyota North American vehicle manufacturing totals:

graph of Toyota North American production

From Toyota’s web site: Toyota Manufacturing in the USA [the broken link was removed]: by 2008, Toyota will have the annual capacity to build 1.81 million cars and trucks, 1.44 million engines, and 600,000 automatic transmissions in North America.

The company’s direct employment in North America is more than 38,000 and direct investment is nearly $16.8 billion with annual purchasing of parts, materials, goods and services from North American suppliers totaling an additional $26 billion.

Toyota Touts Impact on U.S. in Billboards [the broken link was removed] :

The messages highlight numbers, such as 13 — “Donuts in a baker’s dozen; Toyota’s U.S. investment, in billions,” and 386,000 — “Kilometers to the moon; U.S. jobs created by Toyota.” The billboards are in some two dozen U.S. markets where Toyota has factories or supplier operations, from Fremont, Calif., where Toyota partners with GM at an automaking plant, to Huntsville, Ala., where Toyota makes engines.

Overview of Toyota’s North American Engineering and Manufacturing