Monthly Archives: November 2007

Getting and Keeping Great Employees

I am not convinced of the premise of The new war for talent: that there will be a great shortage of talent soon. But the article makes some interesting points.

The Conference Board CEO Challenge of 2007 points out that “Cracking the U.S. Top 10 this year is finding qualified managerial talent and top management succession.”

If we neglect to engage our own employees, those who are frustrated can surf hundreds of job boards to see what other opportunities await

A cumbersome and complex ERP system will not suit the masses of young talent joining today’s workforce.

I think the main thing to do is to respect employees (and have that visible in the management decisions made in the organization). Stopping the demotivation would be a big step for many organizations. And to manage your organization with the understanding that the organization’s purpose should be to benefit the various stakeholders (shareholders, customer… and employees).

Related: People are Our Most Important AssetHow to ImproveWhat is Wrong with MBA’ssoul crushing work (comic)

Arbitrary Rules Don’t Work

Photo showing evidence of people ignoring gate

Procedurally Enforcing Workflow by Michael Salamon:

UI gem, and a great reminder for the RIAA/MPAA:

You can’t force people to follow directions they deem arbitrary.

I bet if that gate spit out $100 bills people would use it.

Why matters. You can’t just expect people to act in a way that seems arbitrary. As I stated in Poka-Yoke Assembly, Do you Read Instructions Carefully Before Assembly? Nope, I don’t. I expect I can make a quick judgment if I really need to or I basically get it and can put things together well enough. I expect the supplier to make very obvious anything critical. It is not ok to expect people to think the way you want them to. You have to understand how people will react and create solutions based on that.

We have discussed similar ideas: Why Isn’t Work Standard?Visual Work InstructionsVisual Instructions ExampleEuropean Blackout: Human Error-NotFind the Root Cause Instead of the Person to Blame

A similar example I learned long ago. Many schools try to force students not to walk on the lawn and create ugly paths through the grass. A smart alternative. Wait for the students to wear a path. Then pave that. If you are frustrated because people won’t follow your rules your rules are probably bad. Fix the rules (or procedures…). Don’t expect telling people in a loud voice (or stern memo or…) that they must follow your rules.

Joy in Work – Software Development

The wonderful cartoon in this link illustrates the all too common despair in work. Software programmers are more likely to really enjoy what they do. There are many reasons for this not the least of which is that they have a fair amount of control over their careers. If they don’t like what they are asked to do, the tools they are asked to work with… they will (more than others) leave for another job. Some managers get frustrated that such people are not willing to put up with the normal bother everyone else seems willing to accept (programmers are often “unreasonable”). But I see an occupation that is more focused on joy in work than most. And creating joy in work is what managers should be worrying about – not getting troublemakers to fall into line.

Why I Program In Ruby (And Maybe Why You Shouldn’t):

Harmony and balance make you feel good. American Rubyists frequently take up all the points of Ruby’s power, expressiveness, and efficiency, but they don’t seem to register the point that Ruby was designed to make you feel good. Even Rubyists who want to explain why Ruby makes them feel good often fail to mention that it was expressly designed for that exact purpose.

Don’t program in Ruby because you want power or efficiency. Don’t program in Ruby because you think you “should”, either. Program in Ruby because you like it. And if you don’t like it, don’t program in it.

I enjoy programming using Ruby on Rails.

Related: Hiring Software Developersposts on improving software developmentDon’t ask employees to be passionate about the company!A Career in Computer ProgrammingIT Operations as a Competitive AdvantageReddit, a living example of how software coders thinkFocus on Customers and EmployeesSigns You Have a Great Job… or Not

Toyota’s Effort to Stay Toyota

Toyota’s All-Out Drive To Stay Toyota

“We are making every effort not to lose our DNA,” says Shigeru Hayakawa, president of Toyota Motor North America.

Just in case St. Angelo forgets any of his Toyota training, he has someone watching his back. His retired predecessor, Gary Convis, still gets paid to advise him. That’s an idea Toyota imported from Japan, where the company asks retiring engineers to stick around to mentor young employees. The ranks of these old-timers are growing rapidly as the company tries to safeguard its culture. Last year, Toyota rehired 650 of the 1,200 skilled workers eligible for retirement in Japan, and will soon have 3,000 of these folks on its payroll.

Related: lean manufacturing portalToyota management postsToyota IT OverviewNew Toyota CEO’s Views

Insights from Jim Womack

Jim Womack provides great insights in a recent interview, Thought Leaders — Lean On Me:

All the Japanese car companies did the quality thing based on the Deming Prize criteria and so forth back in the 1960s and 70s. What that meant was, they tried to get from end-of-the-line inspection to inspection at the source. And they did a pretty good job on that, no question about it.

Toyota has a supplier management system that is still the best-in-class, and a good part of Toyota’s recent quality issue has been bringing in a whole bunch of non-Toyota traditional suppliers and trying to teach them the Toyota Management System, and they’re struggling because it turns out — and I should know this better than anybody, it’s what I’ve been doing for the last 20 years — it’s hard to get people to change old ways of thinking.

We’ve got now a nation full of kaizen consultants doing kaizen, and almost all of that kaizen would be unnecessary if the production process had been laid out the right way the first time, which is what Toyota does.

What we see is a lot of partially lean businesses but not much to show in the way of totally lean businesses, and I would say that Danaher probably comes the closest. So the prize is still out there to be gotten by somebody, and of course Toyota as they try to continue this breakneck ramp-up, which in some ways is not all that different from Boeing in 1998, except the problem here is the constraint is not suppliers but management. Can Toyota train enough young managers to understand its management methods to keep managing the way it’s managed that’s put it on top?

Most managers think that their greatest contribution to the business is doing workarounds on broken processes rather than doing the hard work to get the process right so it never breaks down so you don’t need to do workarounds.

Other posts discussing some of these ideas, and more: Management ImprovementFrom Lean Tools to Lean ManagementArticles by James WomackTransforming With LeanDeming’s thoughts on Management by John HunterDanaher Expands Lean Thinking One Acquisition at a Timeposts mentioning WomackNo More Lean ExcusesBetter and DifferentManagement Training Program

Management Improvement Carnival #23

Please submit your favorite management posts to the carnival. Read the previous management carnivals.

  • Assessing Results vs. Reflection by Mark Rosenthal – “Your plan for the year consisted of a designed experiment. ‘If we do these things, we expect this results.’ Then do that thing, and check that you actually did it. Compare your actual result with the expected result. Explain any difference. Learn.” – This process is key to improving, see my previous post: Predicting Improves Learning John
  • Leadership and Systems Thinking by George Reed – “Success in the contemporary operating environment requires different ways of thinking about problems and organizations…It is insufficient and often counterproductive for leaders merely to act as good cogs in the machine.”
  • “Heightened Vigilance” is Not Enough by Mark Graban – “Instead, we blame, we punish, and we say “be careful.” No wonder we have such problems. Being careful helps, but it is not enough.”
  • Top 10 Problems with Problem Statements by Jon Miller – “1. Assign a cause 2. Contain the solution 3. Are based on conjecture or belief rather than fact 4. Are too long”
  • Root Cause Customer Service by Kevin Meyer – “Why are customers calling? What is wrong with the design, quality, intuitiveness, or use of the product that creates problems? With few exceptions, having to answer a call from a customer is a band-aid on a problem.”
  • Continue reading

3M Cuts Back on Six Sigma for Research and Development

3M Shelves Six Sigma in R&D

For the past two years, 3M Corp. has been giving back freedom and decision-making to its researchers following four years of Six Sigma mania under former CEO and Chairman W. James McNerney Jr. Six Sigma is a data-driven methodology and associated toolset for eliminating process defects.

Under McNerney’s successor, 3M CEO George Buckley has de-emphasized Six Sigma in R&D. At the same time, R&D spending in 2007 has been increased by 11 percent over 2006. “3M is a technology company so it’s essential that we keep investing in and creating new technology and product platforms

“George is throttling back in the laboratory and in R&D. At the same time, he’s a very strong proponent of lean Six Sigma in manufacturing and our supply chain,” according to Wendling. “Six Sigma has a place, but more in what I’d call transactional activities as opposed to basic research and product development. The key is to selectively use what makes sense in R&D, but not let Six Sigma become the end. For instance, we use (Six Sigma) design of experiments routinely in basic research

My previous posts on the proper use of six sigma: Process Improvement and InnovationSix Sigma Outdated? No.3M CEO on Six SigmaWill Six Sigma Fix Bad Management?New Rules for Management?Quality and Innovation

Six Sigma for Erie County Government

Chris Collins proposed bringing six sigma to Erie County government in his campaign for county executive. He won the election. From his web site:

In business, you satisfy your customers or you fail. But in Erie County government, if you fail taxpayers who are your customer, nothing happens. Under Chris Collins, that will change.

As County Executive, Chris Collins will reform county government to make sure it serves its customers: the taxpayers. He will implement new management techniques – Total Quality Management, Continuous Improvement, ISO, Six Sigma and more – to focus on making every government agency and worker more efficient and accountable. These are the same techniques he’s used to turn around failing companies.
Chris Collins will also choose a business management expert as Deputy County Executive – and then make their only duty to fight everyday to make sure taxpayers get the value we deserve for our tax dollar

Where did he pick up this interest in six sigma? He is the founder, owner, Chairman and CEO of Audubon Machinery:

Audubon is a Six Sigma quality company focused on Total Quality Management, Continuous Improvement, and Lean Manufacturing. The operations manager at Audubon is a Six Sigma Black Belt driving continuous improvement with a focus on customer service.

Audubon Machinery is one of the fastest growing companies in the United States and will be recognized on the INC 500 list this year as well as the new Business First list of the fastest growing companies in Western New York.

I wish him luck in bringing management improvement practices to Erie County.

Related: Bringing Deming to the Public SectorPublic Sector Continuous Improvement SiteSix Sigma City Government

Engineering Innovation for Manufacturing and the Economy

Editorial: Engineering Innovation, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

They are the invisible heroes in business, the men and women who make innovation possible. They are people like Mary Ann Wright at Johnson Controls in Milwaukee, the former chief engineer for the Ford Escape hybrid who is leading a team bent on establishing world leadership in hybrid battery systems.

Or Werner Zobel, a Modine Manufacturing engineer working in Germany who hatched the idea for a new cooling system that the Racine-based company believes could be revolutionary. The system uses ultra-thin layers of aluminum to dissipate heat, a breakthrough that has potential for car and truck radiators and air conditioning condensers.

Intellectual candlepower will fire the regional economy, the Milwaukee 7 regional economic development group believes. Its strategic plan relies on innovation-driven manufacturers that are heavy with engineers. But across the region, those companies say they can’t recruit enough engineers, and they worry that shortages will worsen as baby boomers retire. Complicating the picture is a shortage of visas for foreign-born engineers and increased competition from rapidly developing economies in China and India for those students even when they complete their studies in the United States.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Marquette University and the Milwaukee School of Engineering are racing to fill the pipeline. Marquette and UWM are promising expansive new buildings and increased enrollment of both undergraduate and graduate students.

The USA continues to be by far the largest manufacturing in the world. And one important reason is the contributions provided by science and engineering (fed by strong science and engineering schools). In addition to other smart economic policies (The World Bank’s annual report on the easiest countries to do business in ranks the USA 3rd – after Singapore and New Zealand). Wisconsin manufacturing continues to get good discussion on various lean blogs for good reason(More Wisconsin Lean, Wisconsin Continues to Lead in Lean Government, History repeats itself). The success Wisconsin is enjoying is not due to one single factor but the efforts of many actors including companies, universities, government, the press… and groups like the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Madison Quality Improvement Network (I have managed MAQIN’s web site since it was created – John Hunter).

Related: Best Research University Rankings – 2007S&P 500 CEOs – Again Engineering Graduates LeadInvest in New Management Methods by William G. Hunter, Commentary to the Milwaukee Journal, 1986

Good Customer Focus Idea for Banks

Why Your Bank Needs a Free Coin-Counting Machine

But this overall strategy also included a Trojan horse, and that Trojan horse was the bank’s Penny Arcade. If you walk into most Commerce branches, you’ll see a machine or two that will count buckets of loose change. Unlike the Coinstar machines that you might find at supermarkets, Penny Arcades don’t take a cut of your change as a fee if you want plain cash in exchange for your coins. Instead, the arcade simply counts your coins and prints out a receipt you can take to the teller to get crisp bills.

And here’s the crazy part: The Penny Arcade is free for anyone, whether they have an account at Commerce or not. It seems like an act of corporate generosity–and, actually, it sort of is–but having Penny Arcades in a branch also benefits the bank, as I discovered when I went to use one about a month ago. In rapid succession, I noticed three things:

1. I was in the bank on a Sunday afternoon. I’ve never been in a bank on a Sunday afternoon, because no other bank I know of is open on a Sunday afternoon.

3. I was on a line about seven people long. In addition to two tellers, there was a greeter at the entrance and a manager who walked around. About a minute into my wait on line, the manager directed the greeter to leave her post and open up a new teller window. Three minutes after that (and after about four more people joined the line) the manager himself opened up a new window.

The opportunities to improve are everywhere. It is a shame so many banks seem to focus on tricking customers into paying big fees. The idea of actually serving customer well and making a fair profit just doesn’t seem to be very common.

Related: Good Customer Service ExampleWhat Could we do Better?Poor Customer Service from Discover CardCredit Card Tips