Interview with Bill Hunter, Brian Joiner and Peter Scholtes (listen to the interview) on a Public Affair, National Public Radio about improving management practices in the USA. The interview is over 30 years old now but the better management ideas are as true today as they were then.
Sadly we have not improved management practices based on these ideas very much. There have been improvements in how many organizations are managed but those improvements are so slow that fundamental problems remain serious problems decades later.
Brian Joiner (quotes from the interview):
[We place] a great deal of emphasis on identifying the causes of problems rather than shooting from the hip and jumping to solutions before you really know what the problems are…
Many many dollars, many many hours of time are wasted on “solutions” that are not really solutions.
Well the people out there realized the city was just losing money with this policy so they gathered data, they put it together, they put together a solid case that nobody could argue with that the city should have a preventative maintenance program.
They were able to put together a presentation to the mayor and city council people making their case that there should be a preventative maintenance program. The mayor and the city council people there listened to this presentation of the data and they conclusion was a good proposal.
Another experience from the first street garage where workers presented a new problem that was occurring and wanted to fix the root cause of the problem instead of just treating the symptoms as those symptoms appeared. They took a couple people 1 hour a day for 4 days to find the root cause of the problem (which wasn’t part of their normal responsibility) and fix the system to prevent it from continuing to cause problems.
Bill on creating jobs people want to do:
Managing Our Way to Economic Success: Two Untapped Resources by Bill Hunter.
The change to basing decision on data and experiments instead of opinion and the person’s rank is profound.
This is a very important point. The way to improve morale is to improve the work. Eliminate things that drive workers crazy by making their work more difficult, by creating work that should never have to be done if the system were designed better. You improve morale by making the job better, by creating systems that allow people to take pride in their work and eliminate waste that frustrates them.
Related: Doing More with Less in the Public Sector: A Progress Report from Madison, Wisconsin – Interview of Bill Hunter on Improving Quality and Productivity in Organizations – Business 901 Podcast with John Hunter: Deming’s Management Ideas Today
Comment by Paul Hollingworth on Linked In cross-post:
Peter Scholtes makes a truly vital point. My experience is that when employees approach their line manager with an opportunity for improvement, the majority of managers hear a worker complaining about the work (and by implication, the management). Understandable, because an opportunity for improvement can only come from criticism of the current process.
What changes everything is when the worker is properly trained to collect and present data. This alters the entire dynamic. Now the worker and manager can stand shoulder to shoulder to study the problem, together.
I have seen homemade graph paper prompt huge improvement, it does not have to be a powerpoint presentation to the board.
As Don Wheeler says, “the guy with the best data wins”.