Tag Archives: business

Engage in Improving the Management System

To actually improve management you need to engage in continual improvement of your management systems. This requires doing the hard work of challenging complacency. The job of those improving the practice of management is not to make everyone happy and just ignore that the words about improvement are not actually carrying through to changes in behavior.

Do Executives “Get It?”

So many times executives spout the importance of new initiatives like wellness programs, safety programs, or improvement projects like Lean, Six Sigma, etc. They talk about how great they are and how everyone should embrace them so the company can improve, but when push comes to shove, their actions indicate they really don’t believe in them.

If you are trying to bring about change you need in-process indications of actual success at improving the management system. Instead it seems to me, most of the time, the focus is on spinning what is being done to convince others that what is being done is good. This is not helpful and not useful.

Without in-process indications of how the movement to a better management system is performing the pattern is all too common. People want to show they are doing a good job (which often includes not being too negative – because if they criticize results they can be branded as negative). So instead we end up with actions that would be used if one assumed that while we had problems with the last 4 management fads we implemented, now we have this wonderful new idea it will avoid all the problems.

So we start our new process, and write up reports and presentations for meetings talking about our successes. We are careful to ignore any warning signs. Then, after 1, 2… years (in a good economy this can last quite a bit longer), the boss says the results are not improving, this isn’t working. Everyone quickly agrees and the improvement effort is dropped. Usually there will be a period of time taken until and a new fad is found that everyone agrees is wonderful for 2-5 years until they then all agree was a failure. Repeat for the rest of your career.

To break this cycle and actually continually improve we can’t go along with the in-process indications that the management improvement system is not really working. We need to seek out indications that it is not working and address those issues and build a strong continually improving management system.

Related: Management Advice Failuresflavors of management improvement effortsmanage what you can’t measureFederal Government Chief Performance Officer (a specific example of the repeated failure to improve), just pretending the failures in the past didn’t exist doesn’t help the current effort

Narcissistic Cadre of Senior Executives

In yet another voice against the looting mentality of the current crop of executives Chris Bones, dean of Henley Business School writes a A crisis of confidence?

This has resulted in the creation of a narcissistic cadre of senior executives who knew no right but their own perception and brooked no criticism or check on their ambition. In their demands for personal rewards we have seen them in their true light.

Secondly, a responsible organisation should set limits above which senior reward will not stray. I cannot see a reason why any annual bonus plan should be worth more than 100% of salary or should pay out more than 50% of this in the year in question. I do not think there is any justification for the annual value of chief executives’ rewards to be more than 20 times that of the average employee. Rocketing executive pay is in no one’s interests, except the small number of executives involved, and limiting it voluntarily is a better solution than the state intervening through taxation changes.

Business schools can help rebuild confidence in business leadership. But they too have to change—to become critical friend rather than fawning supporter. MBA programmes have to produce values-driven general managers, not finance-driven technocrats. They must build critical thinkers with the ability to make decisions that benefit all stakeholders, not just themselves.

It really is a shame that the executives leading so many companies are so moral, ethically and managerially bankrupt. We need to stop allowing such people to become executives in organizations. With such fundamental problems in their basic understanding of human systems the correct solution is to stop allowing such flawed people to have power not to try and convince such flawed people to behave responsibly.

That executives believe they should act as royalty taking what they wish from the value produced by others is so fundamental a failure that I do not believe reform is the best solution. They should just be removed. If you are lucky some competitor will hire them and you can gain not only from their removal but from the damage they cause your competitor.

Related: Warren Buffett on Excessive CEO PayHonda Executives not OverpaidUnconscionable Executive PayTilting at Ludicrous CEO Pay 2008Looting: Bankruptcy for ProfitMore on Obscene CEO Pay

Build Your Business Slowly and Without Huge Cash Requirements

Get Rich Slow by Josh Quittner

At no other time in recent history has it been easier or cheaper to start a new kind of company… These are Web-based businesses that cost almost nothing to get off the ground

The term ramen profitable was coined by Paul Graham, a Silicon Valley start-up investor, essayist and muse to LILO entrepreneurs. It means that your start-up is self-sustaining and can eke out enough profit to keep you alive on instant noodles while your business gains traction.

“At this point, it would be hard for companies to get any cheaper,” Graham said. Since everyone already has an Internet-connected computer, “it’s gotten to the point that you can’t detect the cost of a company when added to a person’s living expenses. A company is no more expensive than a hobby these days.”

I see a great deal of truth to this and it provides interesting opportunities. Including being able to build a business slowly while still working full time. I have written about Y-combinator previously they have helped make this model popular. And the services these companies make seem to me to often be much more refreshing than ideas so watered down they lose much passion (so common from so many companies). Though some large companies provide great web sites.

Related: Some Good IT Business IdeasFind Joy and Success in BusinessOur Policy is to Stick Our Heads in the SandSmall Business Profit and Cash Flow

Why Pay Taxes or be Honest

This kind of stuff makes me mad. I was taught about robber barons in school (or actually I think by my uncle but…). And what I was taught was that business used to be seen as an amoral area. But then society agreed (or rather it no longer was an accepted excuse to claim business was an amoral area) that morality applied to whatever you did, whether you were at work, or not.

But we keep getting these continuing examples that are so distressing: Enron, Worldom, Tyco, Accenture, HP [the broken link was removed]… It is so disappointing that such behavior is mainly excused (until finally the evidence presented is so damning that most stop defending the specific case in question).
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Danaher Practicing Lean Thinking

Manufacturer’s Acquisition Strategy Sets It Apart From The Pack [the broken link was removed], Investors Business Daily:

“It’s adapted from the Japanese Kaizen system,” Holmstead said. “Kaizen is a way of removing waste and standardizing processes and bringing underperforming or slow-growth companies with maybe single-digit margins up to midteen margins.”

The keys are standardization, measurement and innovation — all directed toward the goal of continuous improvement.

“It’s basically a set of tools that allows Danaher to make whatever widget they are manufacturing at a cost less than most of their competitors,” said Morningstar analyst Eric Landry. “Over the past decade they have (also been moving) DBS into the back office and into sales. It produces a culture where you are never satisfied.”

The quotes are from Wall Street Analysts. I think basically they like the ever increasing cash flow and then use the story the company gives for why they are successful. Still they are playing up lean thinking.

See my comments on: Wall St. Doesn’t Respect GE’s Processes

via: The Kaizen Turnaround Kings at Danaher [the broken link was removed]

Related:

Gladwell (and Drucker) on Pensions

The Risk Poolhttps://management.curiouscatblog.net/2006/08/21/gladwell-and-drucker-on-pensions/ by Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point and Blink):

The most influential management theorist of the twentieth century was Peter Drucker, who, in 1950, wrote an extraordinarily prescient article for Harper’s entitled “The Mirage of Pensions.” It ought to be reprinted for every steelworker, airline mechanic, and autoworker who is worried about his retirement. Drucker simply couldn’t see how the pension plans on the table at companies like G.M. could ever work. “For such a plan to give real security, the financial strength of the company and its economic success must be reasonably secure for the next forty years,” Drucker wrote. “But is there any one company or any one industry whose future can be predicted with certainty for even ten years ahead?” He concluded, “The recent pension plans thus offer no more security against the big bad wolf of old age than the little piggy’s house of straw.”

Pension plans did work well for a short period of time. But recently they (along with the attached retiree health care) are one of the big problems facing large old companies: like GM. Gladwell talks about the dependency ratio for an economy and the dependency ratio of companies. Worsening dependency ratios can cause pension plans to kill companies (if they are not funded when the obligation is incurred) – as the company is forced to pay for more and more retirees with fewer and fewer workers.
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Interviews with Innovators

Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days by Jessica Livingston is an interesting looking book to be published in a few months. The book consists of interviews with founders of technology companies exploring the initial efforts to create a new company.

Interviews include: David Heinemeier Hansson [the broken link was removed] (who many of our readers may not have heard of but who has recently done a great web development framework [Ruby on Rails] and development philosophy very compatible with lean thinking), Evan Williams (founder of blogger), Craig Newmark (founder of Craigslist), Joel Spolsky (who we have referenced in various posts), Ray Ozzie, Paul Graham and many more. The interview of Steve Wozniak [the broken link was removed] is available online [make that was]:
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Drucker Opinion Essays from the WSJ

The Wall Street Journal has posted selected opinion essays by Peter Drucker [the broken link was removed] along with several tributes to Drucker.

The Five Deadly Business Sins (article removed so link removed), 1993:

  • the worship of high profit margins and of “premium pricing”
  • mispricing a new product by charging “what the market will bear
  • cost-driven pricing
  • slaughtering tomorrow’s opportunity on the altar of yesterday
  • feeding problems and starving opportunities

Is Executive Pay Excessive?, 1977. In 1977, his answer was, no. As pay did become excessive, Drucker became a prominent voice against the unjust pay of CEO’s.
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Excessive Executive Pay

Topic: Management Improvement

Via Christian Sarkar, Too Many Turkeys, The Economist:

Executive compensation in America – already far ahead of the rest of the world, despite the best efforts of overseas managers to catch up – is now rising inexorably again. In fiscal year 2004 the total compensation of the median American company boss rose in every industry… according to a new report by the Conference Board, a research organisation. In the big companies that comprise the S&P 500 index, median total chief-executive compensation increased by 30.2% last year, to $6m, compared with a 15% rise in 2003

Christian Sarkar asks, can we outsource the CEO to a low-cost country? That is exactly what will happen at the ludicrous levels pay has risen to. If the United States were to lock into a payscale that is unsustainable globally US companies will not be able to compete. My guess is plenty of people in the USA will be glad to compete against the brooks brothers bureaucrats but if not, others will.

The excesses are so great now they will either force companies to:

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Deming’s Ideas at Markey’s Audio Visual

Last week at the Deming Institute seminar: How to Create Unethical, Ineffective Organizations That Go Out of Business, Mark Miller, General Manager, Markey’s Audio Visual spoke on Markey’s experience adopting Deming’s ideas.

It was a great presentation. He did a great job of explaining what it was like to work at a company focused on applying Deming’s management philosophy. I capture some of the points he talked about below.

1986 Markey’s started providing Audio Visual support to all Deming’s seminars. The technicians came back after 3 sessions to encourage Mark Miller (employee number 16 at Markey’s) to attend, himself. He went to a Deming 4 day and decided the owners should attend. They did and then Markey’s sent employees to attend future Deming 4 day seminars.

He recommended, The Team Handbook and The Leader’s Handbook by Peter Scholtes.

Points:

  • Constancy of Purpose
  • Their business has greatly changed. Customers used to need a service provider to project onto a screen, now they all own projectors for laptops, Markey’s needs to anticipate the changing needs of customers and anticipate those needs
  • Page 141 of Out of the Crisis: “Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your product of service” (Markey’s uses Deming’s books in the training for staff)
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