Monthly Archives: February 2007

Curious Cat Management Improvement Web Site

The Curious Cat Management Improvement site includes a wide array of resources for management professionals (and has been growing and improving, I hope, since 1996). Our calendar now includes several interesting opportunities including Performance Measures and Statistics Workshop [the broken link was removed] in Richland, Washington, USA by Stephen Prevette. This workshop looks interesting. We have mentioned the presenter in other posts.

Our management improvement job board currently lists jobs including: Six Sigma/Technical Specialist, Supply Chain Project Manager (Google), Quality Control Specialist (Toyota) and Quality Engineer. The service is free, both to those posting and those responding to jobs. If you are looking to fill a management improvement position or for a position please give it a try.

In addition to the blog we also offer links to hundreds of articles on management topics we have selected, a dictionary of management terms, annotated directory to management resources and recommended management books.

Please let us know what you like and what we could improve.

Six Sigma City Government

A recent report from the Brookings Institution, Reconnecting Massachusetts Gateway Cities [the broken link was removed], has some good words on the efforts of Fort Wayne, Indiana:

In a short time, the city reduced water main replacement costs by 18 percent, cut pothole response time by 86 percent, and slashed the waiting time for building permits from 51 days to 12 days. And because the Six Sigma process permeates all functions of the city’s government, these productivity enhancements have piled up, generating more than $10 million in cost savings over the last five years.

In this time, Fort Wayne’s first-in-the nation municipal foray into Six Sigma practices has proven that statistical analyses and stringent quality control standards do not lose their power outside the boardroom. Such data-centric attention to detail, in fact, is making all the difference.

Related: Doing More With Less in the Public Sector: A Progress Report from Madison, WisconsinPublic Sector ManagementLean Government – Quality Best Practices in Government [the link that ASQ broke was removed] – Six sigma management resources

The Georgetown Kentucky Way

The Scott County Way [the broken link was removed] by Jillian Ogawa:

It seemed only natural that Toyota’s corporate culture would influence the local schools, said Superintendent Dallas Blankenship. He estimated that one in three students in the school district have one or more parents that work for either Toyota or a Toyota supplier. The school district has had several partnership programs with Toyota in Georgetown. “Simply over time, we learned a lot of practices that have helped us to become a better school system,” he said.

Center for Quality People and Organizations:

The QUEST process consists of teaching students teamwork philosophies to learn current curriculum in all different subject areas. We provide a safe environment (parameters/ground rules) and a process for the students to conduct their groups using problem-solving techniques (PDCA: Plan Do Check Act)

Great. The Education area does require special care but management improvement concepts can work very well in education. David Langford has done some great work in this area as has Alfie Kohn. They are not focused on the Toyota Way but their principles and lean thinking go together well and there expertise in the education area is very important.

via: Scott County Schools Trying Out the Toyota Way [the broken link was removed]

Related: K-12 (kindergarten though high school) improvement resourcesarticles on quality educationposts on Toyota management methodsquality learning books

Firing Workers Isn’t Fixing Problems

I commented on a post on Evolving Excellence that Jim Jubak is a wall street guy who has good ideas. He has posted another good article: Firing workers isn’t fixing problems [the broken link was removed]

Both CEOs, Edward Zander at Motorola and Jeffrey Kindler at Pfizer, of course, kept their jobs and their paychecks. According to Motorola’s latest proxy statement, Zander received a salary of $1.5 million, a $3 million bonus and $2.3 million in restricted stock in 2005.

For this kind of money, investors — let alone the workers who are being fired — deserve something a little more imaginative as a turnaround strategy. Cutting jobs has become a reflex, not because it works especially well at fixing the real problems at companies like these but because firings produce the kind of immediate earnings improvements that help CEOs keep their jobs. Getting rid of workers, you see, lets a company forecast the kind of immediate cost savings and surging profit margins that keep shareholders from marching on the executive suite.

Right. Wall street is not incapable of seeing past short term “thinking.” Even if many on wall street can’t seem to understand. I am far from convinced short term thinking is Wall Street’s fault, it seems to me many executives have this problem and blame “Wall Street.” I believe short term thinking is mainly management’s fault.

Short term thinking is part of the management system. Exorbinant executive pay exacerbates the problem. A failure to understand variation exacerbates the problem.

Continue reading

Dell Innovation

Dell has been taking some interesting actions recently. Several months ago they started blogging and interacting with bloggers. Those steps have been interesting since few other companies of their size have taken such action (nothing amazing, but seem much beyond the common corporate, totally out of touch attempts to adopt new technology – they seemed to be committed to actually try to learn about interactive web thinking).

They recently created IdeaStorm to Turn Up the Volume of Customer Voice [the broken link was removed] (quite an innovative attempt at customer focus). There are issues with the method they are using, but innovation is about trying to find new ways of doing things there often are questions about the new methods. The simple view is they are using the a tool of the social web (Digg, Reddit) to discover what the users of IdeaStorm want from Dell (obviously this is only a subset of Dell potential customers – and a small one I would imagine). Essentially users can post ideas and then others promote those they support.

Dell has now announced some actions they are taking based on the results thusfar.
Continue reading

Interview with Mary Poppendieck

Lean for Software: Interview with Mary Poppendieck:

We start by asking people to draw a Value Stream Map. You start with a customer problem-need request, and you go to where that request is filled. So, you put on “customer glasses”, and now I want to watch what happens to that problem until it is back and the customer problem is solved. You draw a map or a timeline of everything that happens from the time the customer request comes in the organization until the customer has their problem solved. You lay out the activities there and how much of the time are you really adding customer value and how much of the time is just sitting there contending with other work that has to happen.

New book – Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash by Mary and Tom Poppendieck.

Related: Competing On The Basis Of Speed (webcast)Problems Caused by Performance Appraisal

Talking with Toyota’s CEO

Talking with Toyota’s Top Man [the broken link was removed]

But there’s still more work to be done?
The scariest symptom of “big-company disease” is that complacency will breed in the company. To be satisfied with becoming the top runner, and to become arrogant, is the path we must be most fearful of. There are so many challenges and issues that we need to address. Each individual [needs] to have the mentality to challenge those problems. Problems must be made visible. Not just in Japan but in all affiliated activities around the world.

That’s a very good point and a key element of my own management: how we make sure our own DNA is transferred to the younger generation at Toyota. So long as certain things are achieved, this will be ensured. Going and seeing for oneself is the key. It’s very easy to understand. When there’s a problem, one should drill down and [see] what’s taking place and why a certain problem has occurred. [The key thing is to] teach the method of identifying a problem and implementing the resolution.

Related: New Toyota CEO’s ViewsWhy Toyota Is Afraid Of Being Number OneInterview with Toyota PresidentCould Toyota Fix GMTPS – Take 2

Transformation and Redesign

photo of the White House

Photo of the White House, see more of my photos of Washington DC.

Here is an excellent article from 1999: Transformation and Redesign at the White House Communications Agency (WHCA) (pdf link) by March Laree Jacques

This article describes an organizational transformation effort undertaken at the White House Communications Agency. It shares the Agency’s efforts through the period of 1992-1998, beginning with a Deming-based approach to continuous quality improvement through implementation of a total organizational redesign using systems thinking precepts. It describes the obstacles to implementing quality concepts in a high visibility, high security organization and examines the influence of Agency’s organizational culture on quality performance and improvement. The discussion examines the applicability of several broadly accepted quality concepts to the “ultimate command-and-control” organization.

The article is informative and interesting, enjoy. A couple years after this article I went to work for Gerald Suarez at the White House Military Office (WHMO). WHCA is one of seven operational units of WHMO, others include: Air Force One, Camp David and the White House Medical Unit.

See more management improvement articles including in the Curious Cat Management Improvement Library.

Related: articles and podcasts by Russel AckoffDeming on ManagementDeming related blog postsPublic Sector Continuous Improvement Site

New Zealand Creativity

Saving money by thinking creativity and leanly. $10 wok keeps TV station on air [the broken link was removed]:

Why pay $20,000 for a commercial link to run your television station when a $10 kitchen wok from the Warehouse is just as effective? This is exactly how North Otago’s newest television station 45 South is transmitting its signal from its studio to the top of Cape Wanbrow, in a bid to keep costs down.

45 South volunteer Ken Jones designed the wok transmitter in his spare time last year when he wanted to provide wireless broadband to his Ardgowan home. “A group of us wanted to connect our computers to each other and then we worked out a way to get of getting the signal between two points,” he said.

“The $20,000 for a commercial link was just money we didn’t have, so we bought several woks from The Warehouse instead which was convenient and cheap,” he said. Pre-recorded clips at the studio are fed through a computer and beamed to Cape Wanbrow where they are relayed off to television sets around North Otago.

Related: Why Fix the Escalator?Toyota Shops At Wal-Mart

Performance Appraisals Performance

Appraising the Performance Of Performance Appraisals [the link that IEEE broke was removed] by Harry Goldstein:

The traditional annual review covers a lot of ground: coaching and guidance for the employee, feedback and communication, compensation, staffing decisions and professional development, legal documentation, and ultimately, improvement for both the employee and the organization.

According to Jenkins and Coens, all of the above can be done better and far less painfully by untangling these functions and designing a process for each. First, they argue, companies should decouple compensation decisions from feedback about how the employee is doing. The point is that outside, or extrinsic, motivators such as money do not really work for the vast majority of employees.

One company that found that to be true is Brighton, Mich.-based Peaker Services, which rebuilds locomotive diesel engines and does application engineering work for control systems. In the past, Peaker relied on merit raises linked to annual evaluations, according to president Ian Bradbury.

Related: Deming on Management: Performance AppraisalRighter Performance AppraisalPerformance Appraisal ProblemsEric Christiansen PodcastPerformance Without AppraisalPerformance Appraisal AlternativeSo What’s System[s] Thinking by Ian Bradbury (pdf)