Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Need to Improve Management While Building Organizations Fit For Human Beings

Gary Hamel: Reinventing the Technology of Human Accomplishment

I agree with Gary Hamel that we need to adopt new management strategies. I happen to believe most of new strategies we need to adopt have been known for decades, we just fail to implement many of them.

He argues it is hard to retain knowledge advantages (within companies). I agree. However execution advantages it seems to me are not that difficult to maintain. Few companies actually focus on the customer and continual improvement. Toyota can be incredibly open but still few others are not willing to actually put in the effort to execute fully.

The reverse accountability idea he discusses I don’t love as much as he does. I do believe it is good to value the entire workforce more and not base decisions on HiPPOs. Accountability is a loaded term, in my opinion. Even in he talk he focuses on the “fear” – if the supervisor doesn’t fix the issue to the reporters satisfaction in 24 hours it is escalated to the next level. The process could be better, without what seems like driving in fear, to me.

I agree that the best management strategy is to adopt the thinking he captures with “you cannot build a company that is fit for the future, without building one that is fit for human beings.” The part I don’t agree with is phrase he lead that quote with: “Because I think for the first time since the industrial revolution…” isn’t right. I think Dr. Deming taught that idea to Japan in the 1950’s and as we all know Toyota adopted as the core “Respect for People” principle. That concept was important in 1950. That management idea is needed. Adopting that principle would be new for many of our organizations. But it also is true that the idea has been known for decades.

I return to this theme frequently. We don’t need many new ideas. We just need to adopt the good ideas that have been proven for decades. The new ideas are mainly just a bit of flavoring to tweak the good ideas we have had available and just chosen to ignore.

Related: Respect People by Creating a Climate for Joy in WorkManagement Advice FailuresPositivity and Joy in Work

Rude Behavior Costs Companies

Approximately one-third of consumers surveyed reported they’re treated rudely by an employee on an average of once a month and that these and other episodes of uncivil worker behavior make them less likely to patronize those businesses.

Customers rarely report such behavior to employee supervisors, and management systems are so poor they don’t deal with this problem (good systems will – Trader Joe’s or Crutchfield, for example) ensuring a relentless cycle of poor employee behavior that leaves consumers angry and frustrated and saps businesses of customer loyalty, return business and profits, according to researchers from the University of Southern California and Georgetown University. Having tried many times to report failures in their systems to organizations I can say I am either treated with we have no way to accept your feedback or obvious disinterest.

Even, long after Brian Joiner told me he stopped wasting his time for most companies as they obviously had no interest in improving systems to avoid customer hardship I keep banging my head against a wall. It is very rarely that I don’t get complete disinterest. About the best is “you are so right, this is a problem I have to deal with all the time, I have told ‘them’ about the problem but nothing ever happens, I’ll pass on your comment.” It is no surprise people don’t bother to point out problems.

A majority of the respondents went home and told friends and family members about the incident (and connected customers often speak out online to large audiences about bad customer service). Managers are unable to address the issue with employees if the managers don’t have a grasp on what is going on at the gemba. The study found that witnessing employee incivility makes customers angry. Customers are less likely to repurchase from the firm and express less interest in learning about the firm’s new services. For managers who are made aware of the offending behavior, their own harsh treatment of the employee can also prompt negative reactions from consumers.

Related: Customer Service is ImportantUnited Breaks GuitarsFlaws in Understanding Psychology Lead to Flawed Management

“Regardless of the perpetrator or the reason, witnessing incivility scalds customer relationships and depletes the bottom line,” report the co-authors, Georgetown University Assistant Professor of Management Christine Porath and USC Professors of Business Administration and Marketing Debbie MacInnis and Valerie S. Folkes.

The best response is a simple apology, which researchers found was a just and proper response from both the employee and the supervisor. Of course, you should also address any other issue the customer has. Once you mistreat people they often are much more sensitive to things that they would have accepted otherwise. So I believe you would be wise to apologize and ask if there is anything you can help them with. Leave them with a positive, rather than just apologizing for the negative. It would be best to avoid the problems in the first place. Training programs that foster employee civility in order to prevent harmful outbursts may well be wise.

From the abstract of the paper:
Continue reading

The Theory of Knowledge in Deming’s Management System: How Do We Know What We Know?

I contributed an article to the Process Excellence Network’s Deming Files that was published yesterday: How Do We Know What We Know?. I took on the task of explaining the theory of knowledge, as one article in a four part series looking at the four components of Dr. Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge.

The other 3 articles are:

I hope you enjoy all 4 articles. Every two weeks a new article is published by the Deming Files exploring Dr. Deming’s ideas on management. The articles provide a nice dose of views on applying Deming’s ideas today. The network also has series on Drucker ideas and articles on many other management topics (six sigma, lean, etc.).

Related: Deming on Management2009 post: How do we Know What we KnowData Doesn’t Lie, We Can Draw Incorrect Conclusions from DataCorrelation is Not Causation

Management Improvement Carnival #143

The Curious Cat Management Improvement Carnival has been published since 2006. We find great management blog posts and share them with you 3 times a month. We hope you find these post interesting and find some new blogs to start reading. Follow me online: Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, more.

  • U.S. Patent Overhaul Won’t Help Innovators by “What they found is that America’s patent system only provides positive incentives for innovation in two industries: pharmaceuticals and chemicals. The value that a patent confers on its owner is outweighed by the cost of obtaining, asserting, and defending that patent for almost all American companies. Anyone innovating outside of those two industries would be better off if there were no patent system at all.” [9 deadly diseases – adding outdated intellectual property practices and excessive executive pay to Dr. Deming’s 7 deadly diseases, John]
  • An Explanation and Some Reflection by Reed Hastings (Netflix CEO – see video also) – “Companies rarely die from moving too fast, and they frequently die from moving too slowly. When Netflix is evolving rapidly, however, I need to be extra-communicative. This is the key thing I got wrong.” [Clayton Christensen: “Netflix are going to be held up as a gold standard of how to avoid being disrupted“].
  • User stories applied by Luigi Agosti [from User stories applied for agile software development by Mike Cohn, a great book – John]- “A user story is composed of three aspects:
    Card : written description of the story used for planning and as a reminder
    Conversation : conversations about the story that serve to flesh out the details of the story
    Confirmation : tests that convey and document details and that can be used to determine when a story is complete”
  • “Do You See What I See?” by Mark Hamel – “An example – three people walk the newly designed leader standard work. They stop at each audit point and, without conversing, do the audit…and then share.”
  • Continue reading

Management Improvement Carnival #142

The Curious Cat management improvement blog carnival is published 3 times a month with hand picked recent management blog posts. I also collect management improvement articles through Curious Cat Management Articles, you can subscribe via RSS for new article additions.

  • 5 Things a Good Product Manager Should Think About by Joseph Puopolo – “User experience has become such a core function to any product manager. Is this easy to use? Do people get pissed off when they have to use key features on the site? Will it cause people to abandon your site? UX can be a core competency and key differentiator. Always focus on this!”
  • 21 Concrete Practices for Agile Managers by Jurgen Appelo – “1) Take part in a team’s stand-up meetings, and also answer the questions “What I did yesterday”, etc… 9) Keep every morning free of meetings, so you can do a gemba walk and solve problems… 18) Regularly have a look at a team’s output (the application that they are building).”
  • Why Create Poka-yokes—and Why Disconnect Them? by Michael Ballé – “Lines with overly complex Poka-Yoke devices tend to lose much productivity by having operators simply run the part through the detection device again until a part would be consistently stopped. Not surprisingly, production management can be tempted to simply disconnect the poka- yoke in order to run the line.”
  • 10 Signs You Have a Bad Boss by Alison Green – “7) Ruling by fear. Managers who rule through rigid control, negativity, and a climate of anxiety and fear don’t trust that they can get things done any other way… 10) Fear of conflict. If your manager avoids conflict and tough conversations, chances are high that employees don’t hear much feedback and problems don’t get addressed.”
  • Should fixing bugs count toward velocity? by Jason Yip – “Velocity is a vector, not a scalar. So, should fixing bugs count toward velocity? No, we are measuring progress toward a goal, not effort expended.”
  • Interview with Akio Toyoda about Toyota Under Fire – Akio Toyoda on Jeff Liker’s new book, and Toyota: “you emphasize that you have to go back to the basics and this is the thing that I want them to learn the most. The business environment keeps changing. It is a dynamic environment, but as a company Toyoda was able to grow for the past 70 years or so and this is because there are some timeless values that we always have to keep true to. And that is the basics and that is what I would like them to learn.”
  • Continue reading

Steve Jobs Discussing Customer Focus at NeXT

Video from 1991 when Steve Jobs was at NeXT. Even with the customer focus however, NeXT failed. But this does show the difficulty in how to truly apply customer focus. You have to be creative. You have examine data. You have to really understand how your customers use your products or services (go to the gemba). You have to speculate about the future. The video is also great evidence of providing insight to all employees of the current thinking of executives.

Related: Sometimes Micro-managing Works (Jobs)Delighting CustomersWhat Job Does Your Product Do?

Management Improvement Carnival #141

photo of rushing water joining the sea

Creek joining the Andaman Sea in Khao Lak, Thailand, by John Hunter.

The Curious Cat Management blog carnival highlights recent management blog posts 3 times each month. The posts generally focus on the areas I have focused on in the Curious Cat Management Guide since 1996 (Deming, leadership, lean manufacturing, customer focus, six sigma…).

  • Kill Rats – Not Messengers by Bill Waddell – “Seems pretty clear to me that YUM’s stock price and sales should drop if there are rats running around their restaurants. The YouTube video isn’t the cause of dropping sales and stock prices – lousy management that lets rats have the run of a Taco Bell is.”
  • Jobs made Apple great by ignoring profit by Clayton Christensen and James Allworth – “When the pressure is on and the CEO of a big public company has to choose between doing what’s best for the customer or making the quarter’s numbers… most CEOs will choose the numbers. Apple never has.”
  • Banishing Fear In The Workplace: Interview With Gallup’s Tom Rieger by Matthew May – “We realized that fear was eroding all these companies in very similar ways—so similar, in fact, that the pattern could be easily recognized if you only knew what to look for.”
  • Saving capitalism from itself by Simon Caulkin – “The theories have driven damaging short-termism, fostered amoral and immoral executive behaviour, and favoured the mushrooming growth of parasitic players in the expectations market to whose tune real-market actors are increasingly made to jump.”
  • The Just-Do-It – Reflect cycle by Jason Yip – “We’ll set aside some time to think about what we want to do, which is hard work, but then we’ll just do it… and then based on a trigger and/or a set time, we’ll reflect and adjust.”
  • Continue reading