Category Archives: Management Articles

Another Year of CEO’s Taking Hugely Excessive Pay

I continue to do my part to publicize the abusive CEO pay packages that the current crop of unethical CEO’s, and those sitting on corporate boards have supported (Tilting at Ludicrous CEO Pay 20082007 post on CEO pay abuses). It does seem there is more anger now at the looting these corrupt CEOs have engaged in; though far too many people seem to think the corruption is some isolated few CEO’s. The widespread failure of ethical standards by an enormous number CEO’s (those taking from corporate treasuries as though it was their own personal bank account) is the problem (not a few individuals). The looters certainly have littered their “courts” with apologists for their egregious behavior. Even with the large amounts they pay such lackeys I am surprised they find such willing apologists, in such large numbers.

2007 pay
Company CEO 2008 Pay 2007 Pay CEO % of 2008 Earnings total employees
1 Motorola Sanjay Jha $104,400,000 company lost $4.2 billion 64,000
2 Oracle Lawrence Ellison $84,600,000 $61,200,000 1.5% 86,600
3 Walt Disney Robert Iger $51,100,000 $27,700,000 1.2% 150,000
4 American Express Kenneth Chenault $42,800,000 $50,100,000 1.6% 66,000
5 Citigroup Vikram Pandit $38,200,000 company lost $27.7 billion 322,800
6 Hewlett-Packard Mark Hurd $34,000,000 $26,000,000 7.4% 6,200
7 Calpine Jack A. Fusco $32,700,000 327% 2,000

This executive pay data is for 2008, from the New York Times article, Pay at the Top. Earnings and employee data for 2008 from Google Finance. I would not pay any of these guys 1% of what they were paid if I owned the company, myself.

These guys and their friends have created a culture where their looting is as accepted as the clothes the emperor is not wearing. We need to wake up and stop letting these people steal the bounty created by the employees, customers, community, suppliers, investors… They want a world where they can behave like nobility – taking whatever they want from the value created by others. And lately they have succeeded in creating such a world. They leave in their wake very weakened companies and societies.
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Management Blog Posts From December 2005

chart of executive pay 1990-2005

The executive pay excesses are so great now they will force companies to choose to:

  1. take huge risks to justify such pay and then go bankrupt when such risks fail (and some will succeed making it appear that the pay was deserved rather than just the random chance of taking a large risk and getting lucky).
  2. make it impossible to compete with companies that don’t allow such excesses and slowly go out of business to those companies that don’t act so irresponsibly.
  3. hope that competitors adopt your bad practice of excessive pay (this does have potential as most people are corrupted by power, even across cultural boundaries). However, my expectation is the competitive forces of capitalism going forward are going to make such a hope unrealistic. People will see the opportunity provided by such poor management and compete with them.

As long as the pay packages were merely large, and didn’t effect the ability of a company to prosper, that could continue (slicing up the benefits between the stakeholders is not an exact science). The excesses recently have become so obscene as to become unsustainable.

  • Innovate or Avoid Risk – “There are many reasons why avoiding risks is smart and should be encouraged. But when avoiding risks stifles innovation the risks to the organization are huge.”
  • Quality, SPC and Your Career – “I believe far too often we look for the newest ideas and miss all the great ideas that have been known for decades but are not practiced widely. The key to success is applying good ideas well – not just applying new ideas.”
  • America’s Manufacturing Future – “The best hope, as I see it, for retaining manufacturing leadership in the USA is through increasing the adoption of management improvement methods including lean manufacturing.”
  • Ford’s Wrong Turn – “The biggest change needed is an improvement in management. Other things would also help greatly, such as improving the health care system.”

NUMMI, and GM’s Failure to Manage Effectively

Gipsie Ranney recently sent me an article on her thoughts on NUMMI and the current problems with the Big Three car makers to post to the Curious Cat Management Improvement Library. NUMMI is the plant that Toyota and General Motors run together as a joint venture. The article is excellent.

The answer to a question asked by someone else on the tour was stunning to me. The person asked what kind of computerized inventory system they had at NUMMI. The leader of the tour at the time – a materials management person – responded, “we don’t have one; the Japanese say that computerized inventory systems lie.”

The most remarkable insight I gained at NUMMI came as an answer to a question from a member of the touring group. The person asked what had been learned about the reasons that management/labor conflict had been reduced so much. The tour guide answered, “The answer we get from members of the labor force is that the Japanese do what they say they will do.” This was the same labor force that had held the record for most grievances filed per year in an assembly plant in the U.S.

The Big Three are responsible for managing their organizations wisely. I think that will take more than money. It will take a different culture and a different mind.

I agree. The problem is that management fails to manage well and has been failing to do so for decades. They have improved over the last few decades but not nearly fast or consistently enough. Gipsie worked closely with Dr. Deming and serves on the W. Edwards Deming Institute Board of Trustees.

Related: Could Toyota Fix GM (2005)At Ford, Quality Was Our Motto in the 1980sBig Failed Three, Meet the Successful EightWhy Fix the Escalator?Invest in New Management Methods Not a Failing Company (AMC) by William Hunter, 1986 – Ford and Managing the Supplier RelationshipNo Excessive Senior Executive Pay at Toyota

Applying Disruptive Thinking to the Healthcare Crisis

Update: Sadly MIT delete the video. It is a shame educational institutions lose interest in knowledge just a couple years later. Thankfully we didn’t have to rely on the people deleting web content at universities to keep all the historical content we have in books from hundreds of years ago. I think it is a huge lose to what the mission of these schools should be but that attitude doesn’t seem to be shared by the schools.

The Innovator’s Prescription: A Disruptive Solution to the Healthcare Crisis:

Christensen spies symptoms of such disruptions bubbling up in the healthcare industry, such as molecular diagnostics, imaging technologies and high bandwidth telecom, and business model innovations. Integrated health systems like Kaiser Permanente have a leg up in deploying and optimizing these disruptive technologies.

The push for widespread healthcare reform must come from employers, who in spite of their declared intent to cut healthcare costs also know “they profit when their employees are healthy and productive.” Affordable healthcare, he concludes, “doesn’t come by expecting high end, expensive institutions or expensive caregivers to become cheap, but by bringing technology to lower cost providers and venues of care, so they can become more capable.”

Clayton Christensen is the rare management thinker that I feel real provides profound insights into thinking about management. There are many other good management thinkers that offer valuable idea, just most of them (in my opinion) really are presenting material in ways that offer managers a good way to take action on all the long known good management ideas that we fail to adopt successful for decades.
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Helping Employees Improve

One aspect of managing people is to provide positive feedback and show appreciation. Doing so is important. People benefit from encouragement and reinforcement. In addition to just telling them, take action to show your appreciation.

The Dilbert workplace is alive and well. And even in above average management systems there is plenty of resistance faced by those looking to improve systems. For those employees that are making the attempt to improve the organization go beyond saying thanks: actually demonstrate your appreciation. Do what you can to help them achieve.

A manager should be enabling their employees to perform. That means taking positive steps that help them perform. This is even more appreciated than saying thanks. And has the added benefit of helping the organization by helping along their good idea. It is win, win, win. They win, you win and the organization wins.

Thoughts on: Rewards and Recognition

Related: Keeping Good EmployeesRespect for People Requires Understanding PsychologyPeople are Our Most Important AssetMotivationIncentive Programs are Ineffective

Hire People You Can Trust to Do Their Job

How great companies turn crisis into opportunity

The right people don’t need to be managed. The moment you feel the need to tightly manage someone, you’ve made a hiring mistake.

The right people don’t think they have a job: They have responsibilities. If I’m a climber, my job is not [just] to belay. My responsibility is that if we get in trouble, I don’t let my partner down.

The right people do what they say they will do, which means being really careful about what they say they will do. It’s key in difficult times. In difficult environments our results are our responsibility. People who take credit in good times and blame external forces in bad times do not deserve to lead. End of story.

I think he makes a very good point, but may overstate it just a bit. The right people do need management to do their job: to provide guidance, to work on improving the organizational system, to coach employees when needed, to plan for the future, to determine where to focus the organizations resources… But they don’t need to be micro-managed. They can be expected to do what is needed when the proper conditions are set, including a clear understanding of what is needed, communication of current conditions and changing needs, a shared understanding of roles (for people and organizations)…

Also, just to be clear, it can be the right thing to closely manage someone as they are learning. This is true when a new employee starts with the company. And also when they take on new responsibilities. I would have no problem with a company tightly managing a new supervisor. In my experience the exact opposite problem is much more common, moving people into supervisory roles with little support, to sink or swim on their own (well perhaps sinking those around them too). At both times they should get the support they need and the freedom they need to work effectively.

Related: Keeping Good EmployeesFlaws in Understanding Psychology Lead to Flawed ManagementPeople are Our Most Important Assetposts on managing peopleThe Joy of Work

Creating Customers For Life

How These Businesses Made Me A Customer For Life

So I walked out of Ray’s that day with a great deal and everything that I needed to get started. Since then, I have made every single sewing related purchase possible from their store. In some cases, I have gone way out of my way to drive there (it takes 20 minutes) just to pick up some spools of thread. I have also referred them to all of my friends. As far as I’m concerned, there are no other sewing dealers that I’m willing to deal with other than Ray’s.

I can speak so highly about these businesses because I’m extremely passionate about what they have to offer. Can you extract this kind of loyalty with your small business? You bet you can. Just think about the places and businesses that you are loyal to and replicate what they do. What sets your business apart from the competition? What can you do to provide lasting value? Keep a tally of these attributes, focus on the long run and you’ll be on the right path.

I love how easy it is to deal with Amazon. I’ll use them unless they don’t have an item. Shopping at Trader Joe’s is odd. The workers actually seem like they like that they have customers. And seem as though they want to do what they can to please customers. You wouldn’t think this would be an odd trait if you read about management in a book and never actually went to stores. But I find almost few retail employees see happy provide customer service.

Related: Ritz Carlton and Home Depot contrast in customer serviceGood Customer Service ExampleSeven Steps to Remarkable Customer ServicePaying New Employees to QuitCustomer Service is Important

Lean and Kanban for Software Developers

Lean and Kanban for Software Developers by Clinton Keith

Time-boxing allows us to employ a very powerful aspect of Kanban. The cards in each column represent capacity for each stage of the value stream. As we see above, each stage can only handle one zone at a time. That is the capacity of each stage, if we have one person working at each stage.

Time-boxing is the first step in beginning to find a balanced flow for our value stream as visualized on our Heijunka board. However, one problem exists. Each stage of effort in the stream will require a different length time-box. This can cause gaps and pileups.

For example, if our level designer can lay out a level in a week, but the high res artist requires two weeks, then a lot of work can pileup for the high res artist. Conversely, if the concept artist requires two weeks to complete the concept art for each zone, the level designer might be waiting for work with nothing to do. We have to find ways to balance this workflow smoothly so that everyone has work to do every day. One way of doing this is to balance the effort on each stage to achieve the same flow through the system.

Related: Lean, Toyota and Deming for Software DevelopmentKanban In Software EngineeringA Programmers Take on Agile Software DevelopmentAgile Software DevelopmentSix Sigma in Software DevelopmentCurious Cat Management Improvement library

Idle Workers Busy at Toyota

Idle Workers Busy at Toyota

Instead of sending the workers home, as the Detroit makers often do, Toyota is keeping them at the plants, though. The employees spend their days in training sessions designed to sharpen their job skills and find better ways to assemble vehicles.

At its Princeton plant, by contrast, Toyota is using the down time to hone its workers’ quality-control and productivity skills. The company has pledged never to lay off any of its full-time employees, who are nonunion.

Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales, the company’s U.S. sales unit, said the company believes keeping employees on the payroll and using the time to improve their capabilities is the best move in the long run. “It would have been crazy for us to lose people for 90 days and [then] to rehire and retrain people and hope that we have a smooth ramp-up coming back in,” Mr. Lentz said.

In Princeton, senior plant manager Norm Bafunno said he can already see the benefits of the training. Mr. Bafunno cites a Teflon ring designed by an assembly worker during the down time that helps prevent paint damage when employees install an electrical switch on the edge of a vehicle’s door.

Mr. Mason, a 40-year-old former firefighter, added: “One of the major things that everyone is grateful for is that they thought enough of us to keep us here.”

Toyota continues to show intelligence, long term thinking, respect for people… in their management decisions. I worry they may capitulate and make explanations about how the economy forced them to abandon their principles. I hope they prove that cynical fear in me to be wrong, in their case.

Related: Bad Management Results in LayoffsToyota Management Not Close to Being DuplicatedToyota’s Commitment to CustomersPeople are Our Most Important AssetJim Press, Toyota N. American President, Moves to Chrysler

New Management Truths Sometimes Started as Heresies

‘New’ management truths sometimes started as heresies by Cecil Johnson

“The most effective management ideas follow a life cycle — from heresy to outlier (championed by a small group of people) to ingrained practice to conventional wisdom,” Kleiner writes. “In the process, if they are genuinely powerful management ideas, they distinguish the organizations that adopt them.”

One of the management heresies focused upon by Kleiner that has morphed into accepted management wisdom of the highest order is the Toyota Production System, which embraces much of the thinking of heretical quality advocate W. Edwards Deming. That system, Kleiner reminds the reader, entrusts teams at each station in the assembly process to control their local operations. Performance is not evaluated on a predetermined numeral basis.

I agree with this idea except the implication that these ideas are accepted now. To the extent they are excepted it is only a surface understanding of a couple of tools and concepts. The true power of the new ideas are still adopted in a very small number of organizations. Thankfully small initial steps are being made but there is much more to be done, before we can think of these ideas as accepted.

Which of Dr. Deming’s seven deadly diseases of western management have been effectively addressed in several decades? My opinion? Zero. Granted 2 are probably closer to economic failures (political issues that management could have spent time trying to fix but not really in the control of a single company): excessive medical costs and excessive legal damage awards.

Excessive legal damage awards was the one disease most business school graduates would have agreed was a disease decades ago, and they still do. They have spent a great deal of effort to reform the legal system, but have not been effective. Many now agree the health care system is broken. But I would say less than 50% understand this, even decades later, even after the situation has deteriorated much further. And certainly little effective effort at improving the health care system has been made. At least in the last 5 years some real efforts are being made by senior executives as some companies.

And I strongly believe Dr. Deming would see the current unjustified taking of companies resources by CEOs for their own use, in ludicrous pay packages, as a new disease. If these “new” (the system of management ideas are at least 30 years old, as a system, and it has been 60 years since Dr. Deming present them in Japan after World War II) management ideas were common, such horrible behavior as we continue to see would not be tolerated.

Related: Deming CompaniesToyota Execution Not Close to Being CopiedManagement Advice FailuresPurpose of an OrganizationNew Rules for Management? No!