Monthly Archives: August 2007

Data Visualization

Data is often displayed poorly, making it difficult to see what is important. When data is displayed well the important facts should leap off the page and into the viewers mind. Edward Tufte is an expert on this topic with great books. If you have not read them, you should: Beautiful Evidence, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Envisioning Information and Visual Explanations.

Smashing magazine has some nice examples of good display techniques in Data Visualization: Modern Approaches. I don’t like all the examples they show but it does provide some help by showing some creative ways to display data.

Related: Edward Tufte’s new book: Beautiful EvidenceGreat ChartsData Visualization Example

Constant Change and Growth

The Toyota Secret: Constant Change And Growth by Norman Bodek

the chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation. He said, “Failure to change is a vice! I want everyone at Toyota to change and at least do not be an obstacle for someone else who wants to change.”

Every day the manager should look around the company, take videos and still pictures, and challenge people to grow, to eliminate non-value adding wastes, to use their brains to identify and solve problems, and to improve their skills and capabilities. Why else do we need managers? A manager’s job is to stimulate people to change for the better, every day.

Great article. Kaikaku by Bodek. via New Norman Bodek Article

Related: Lean Podcast with BodekChange is not ImprovementWhat Is Muda?lean management resourcesCurious Cat management articles

August 2005 – Management Improvement Posts

A few posts from the Curious Cat Management Improvement blog 2 years ago – August 2005:

The Importance of Management Improvement

John and Bill Hunter

If organizations just adopt management improvement practices I firmly believe customer service, financial performance and employee satisfaction could be improved. This was a big part of the reason I started to use the internet to share management improvement ideas back in 1996 (plus I find management improvement interesting).

On the note of making a difference in people’s lives. I have had far more people tell me how my father (Bill Hunter) made a huge difference in their lives than ever tell me anything like that about myself. Now there is the sensible explanation, that he actually had a big impact on people’s lives (but you also have to figure most of those people never saw me so the chance for them to say anything didn’t exist…). I believe far more people told me (after he died) than ever told him, which says something about psychology in the USA, I think. But I don’t really know what people told him – so I could be wrong about that.

Anyway the point of this is that many people have told me their life was significantly changed by working with him on management improvement initiatives (mechanics talking about how he changed the workplace they had been in for years, people who saw that they could contribute more and changed careers, managers that realized how much damage they had done but now were on the right track…). There was obviously a great deal of emotion for many people. And it was largely about applying concepts like Deming’s management system, Toyota Management practices, statistics (yes even that)… and his ability to talk to everyone and make them comfortable (tons of people mentioned this – that this university professor would ask me questions and talk to me like a person, not talk down to me and be interested in my answers and…). As I continue through life I realize that this management improvement stuff really can matter if done right.

I have grown to enjoy maintaining the management improvement resources and other Curious Cat web sites but this is the reason I started and continued these efforts over the years. Today there is a great amount of useful management information online – but for years the pickings were quite slim.

The photo is of dad and me a few years ago.

Related: Quality in the Community: Madison, WisconsinStatistics for ExperimentersDoing More With Less in the Public Sector: A Progress Report from Madison, WisconsinManaging Our Way to Economic Success: Two Untapped ResourcesInvest in new management methods not a failing company

Pragmatism and Management Knowledge

Is the Theory of Constraints (TOC) a Theory? [the broken link was removed]:

I suppose it’s a question of precision then. There are many things that you could argue are useful, if you argue backward from the end result. Yet they are not predictive, or repeatable to any degree of precision. In addition to “last things” there should also be the “next things” that a theory allows for or predicts. As a pragmatist, it’s hard to argue with results. As a Lean thinker, I have to argue for process and predictability.

There are strong ties between Deming’s ideas and the pragmatic philosophy; one paper offers a nice overview: Deming and Pragmatism [the broken link was removed].

I like George Box’s quote “All Models Are Wrong But Some Are Useful” This can also be dangerous when people don’t understand the limits of usefulness. A danger is that people believe the model is more true than it is (they don’t understand the limitations).

The pragmatists were concerned with the theory of knowledge – how we know what we know. They were very concerned with evaluating thought and beliefs. They believed in testing to determine whether theories were correct. This thinking underpins the Shewhart/Deming/PDSA cycle.

I believe the question raised in the original post is very similar to the struggle Shewhart went through in developing the control chart and Shewhart cycle. He wanted to address the exact issue of finding things that not only appear to be useful (which includes many instances of things that appear to be useful but in fact are not – we people are prone to this in many ways) but are predictably useful.

Related: The Illusion of UnderstandingIllusions – Optical and OtherManagement is PredictionExperiment and Learn

Tesco in the USA

Tesco is opening Fresh and Easy stores in the USA: starting with Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and Las Vegas. Tesco is the third largest retailer in the world and well known for using lean management methods. I added Tesco to my long term stock picks last year (and Warren Buffett owns about $2 billion dollars worth, too). Their recent press release offers hope for Tesco operating with lean thinking in the USA:

“No where is our approach to serving every neighborhood more evident than Los Angeles, where we will open stores everywhere from Hollywood to Compton,” said Tim Mason, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market CEO. “Everyone deserves the opportunity to shop for fresh, quality foods at prices they can afford and Los Angeles is no exception.”
In addition to announcing initial store locations in the Los Angeles area, the company also discussed how it is trying to create a great place to work. Fresh & Easy conducted extensive research with potential employees, who told them that being treated with respect is a key factor.

Fresh & Easy also concluded that employees consistently rank pay, healthcare, retirement savings and paid time off as the top four most valuable components in their rewards program. The company’s rewards package includes those four critical elements and more.

Their blog also offers hope they will practice lean thinking: Keeping things simple at fresh& easy:

For example, why fill a shelf one product at a time if you can figure out a way to fill it twelve products at a time? It makes no difference to customers, it takes the same amount of effort, but it’s twelve times faster. Good for reducing costs, which can then be reinvested in lower prices. Or why use so much energy lighting a store when you can use natural light? You just need windows, and a way of turning down your lights during daylight hours – good for the environment, and good for reducing costs, which again can be re-invested in lower prices.

Perhaps the single biggest example is the way in which we’re approaching our assortment of products. We will only have about a tenth of the range of a full size supermarket, which means that the sales of each individual product will be much higher. This in turn reduces costs across the supply chain, which once more can be reinvested in lower prices.

Related: Lean RetailingTesco InnovationFocus on Customers and EmployeesStarbucks: Respect for Workers and Health Care

Google Video Customer Service

Google Video sold digital videos that were controlled by Digital Rights Management DRM (so the purchaser didn’t buy something they bought the right to view the digital media according to a set of constraints. I, and many others find these DRM deals a bad deal for customers. I think Google realized that DRM made their Google Video a bad business (though maybe they decided it was a bad business for other reasons).

Well Google’s original method of existing the business left many people upset – with good reason I think. Google has wisely reacted to that feedback by improving the exit strategy (including full refunds and the ability to play videos purchased for the next 6 months). This improvement is evident for customers but also is an improvement from the perspective of the other stakeholders too. An update on Google Video feedback

When your friends and well-intentioned acquaintances tell you that you’ve made a mistake, it’s good to listen. So we’d like to say thank you to everyone who wrote to let us know that we had made a mistake in the case of Google Video’s Download to Own/Rent Refund Policy vs. Common Sense.

To recap: we decided to end the Google Video download to own/rent (DTO/DTR) program, and are now refocusing our Google Video engineering efforts. The week before last, we wrote to Google Video DTO/DTR program customers to let them know that videos they’d already bought would no longer be playable.

We planned to give these users a full refund or more. And because we weren’t sure if we had all the correct addresses, latest credit card information, and other billing challenges, we thought offering the refund in the form of Google Checkout credits would entail fewer steps and offer a better user experience. We should have anticipated that some users would see a Checkout credit as nothing more than an extra step of a different (and annoyingly self-serving) kind. Our bad. Here’s how we’re hoping to fix thing…

Related: Dell Listening to Customerother companies refuse to listenGoogle: Good Service not ArbitrageDell, Reddit and Customer FocusDiscover Card Dis-service

Improvement Tools and Improving Management

Tools are just tools [the broken link has been removed] by Lee Fried

We have begun to shift away from a tool driven approach to one more centered on improving our management systems. This makes the work far more difficult, yet far more rewarding.

Great post. Great goal; and quite a challenge. My personal belief is while you are trying to make this change (which takes years) to become an organization that acts as a system you must balance education (an investment – one of the best forms of investment often) and improvements gains today (both are needed). And just applying tools effectively can often provide nice gains today (with the right guidance and proper restraint).

Often the two go hand in hand – there is little more educational than actually participating in using quality/lean/improvement tools and concepts to solve your own problems. That is the best way for managers to learn about lean thinking. But I think when you see this dual role of current improvement efforts it changes your measure of success – not just measuring improvement for today (or improvements in the value stream that will pay dividends for years) but also valuing the new knowledge gained by the participants. I have never been able to quantify the benefit of the education but that doesn’t bother me.

Related: Systemic ImprovementEncourage Improvement Action by EveryoneKeeping Track of Improvement OpportunitiesSearch management improvement sites selected by Curious Cat

Deming Institute Annual Conference: Oct 2007

Impage of W. Edwards Deming and the Purdue Campus

Learn how to do your work better, faster, and for less cost, plus find more time to plan your future and develop balance in your life – Attend The W. Edwards Deming Institute Fall Conference. Gain new insights to:
* Reduce product and service variation
* Enhance job satisfaction
* Redesign organizations as a system
* Appreciate the thinking behind the Toyota Production System
* Discover the role of psychology in continual improvement
* Understand trends in improving healthcare

Speakers include: Norm Bafunno (Senior Vice President – Manufacturing and Administration, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana, Inc.), Bill Bellows – Associate Technical Fellow, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne), Joyce Orsini (Fordham University, Deming Scholars MBA Program), John Pourdehnad – Ackoff Center for Advancement of Systems Approaches), Gipsie Ranney (Statistical Consultant) and Don Wheeler (Consulting Statistician and Author).

Related: Curious Cat Management Improvement CalendarThoughts on 2006 Deming Institute ConferenceImprovement at UTC (2005 Deming conference)Deming’s Ideas at Markey’s Audio VisualImproving Problem Solving by Ian Bradbury and Gipsie Ranney.

More Bad Customer Service Examples :-(

It is sad to see so many examples of bad customer service. I wish enough companies would adopt management improvement principles so that at least I could avoid dealing with the others altogether. Here are 2 more bad examples from the Washington post today. Cellphone Contracts – Hard to Get off the Hook

Fed up with dropped calls and a string of defective cellphones, Corey Taylor said he became irate when he learned he’d have to pay $175 to get out of his long-term contract with Verizon Wireless. So he resorted to a rather extreme measure. He faked his own death.

Consumers filed more complaints about cellphones than any other industry for the past three years, according to the Council of Better Business Bureaus; contract issues consistently rank among the top three gripes, along with billing and service problems.

Another in the long list of bad service from Verizon examples. And the Post also has a story on the continuing Passport saga, which just feeds the perception that government can’t manage:

“This is a clear admission of failure and a decision not to solve the problem, leaving thousands of travelers in the lurch,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). “What color is the sky in their world?” Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) said to the Associated Press. “I can’t believe they’re proposing a rule where they want to charge you the same amount, and in return, you’re virtually guaranteed to get worse service.” Demand for passports soared at the beginning of the year as travelers sought to comply with a new border security law requiring passports for all U.S. citizens flying within the Western Hemisphere.

Wouldn’t you love to see what lean thinking passport operations could accomplish (which is really just part of the system that passed the law – one of the numerous failing of the State Department was not adequately explaining the consequences/requirement of the new law? I know I would.

Related: Customer Hostility from Discover CardStandard Prepaid Cell Phone PolicyAsk Your Customer What They Would Like ImprovedWhat Job Does Your Product Do?Public Sector Continuous Improvement Site