We are lucky to have so many great management blogs to read all year that provide inspiration and great advice. This year 12 management bloggers contributed to highlight nearly 40 blogs, be sure to check out all the posts.
Jon Miller is the of the Executive Director of Kaizen Institute Consulting Group and author of the excellent Gemba Panta Rei blog. With so many good management blogs it is hard to read all the good posts, but this is one blog that is at the top of my to do list.
Jon provides extremely thought provoking posts that challenge managers to think. Over the years I have been thinking about why so many organizations fail to get most of the benefits provided by lean thinking and I have become more convinced in recent years a significant problem is the oversimplification and desires for solutions that don’t require thought. If you are not willing to spend time thinking about the profound implications of lean thinking the benefits you can achieve are several limited. Jon’s blog will help you by providing a reminder. But you then have to think yourself about how the ideas he raises relate to your situation. A few posts from last year in this vein:
The New Math of Daily Kaizen – “When kaizen is done in ways that it involves everybody and everywhere, but not on a daily basis, the gains from each additional person or area is additive. However, when even one person in one area is able to do kaizen every day, a curious thing happens. The impact is not additive. It is geometric, transformational.” [Lean is geometric, transformational, when done right. Reading Jon’s blog and adopting fundamental changes in how you think and work is how you can find yourself on this path instead of one where you have incremental success but not much more. – John]
Lean Maturity and the Four Stages of Competence – “The lean journey is a long and arduous one. It spans one’s full lifetime… There is a larger contest that is being played out every day: the battle of backsliding versus continuous improvement.”
The Importance of Thinking About the Box – “The fruit I buy travels in boxes of metal, wood, cardboard and finally reaches me in a plastic container. Nature only makes containers that are edible, biodegradable or both. That is a thinking box worth stepping back into.”
Why Don’t We See More QC Circles? – “Even today the span of control of a typical leader is far too large and ineffective, driven by direct-to-indirect labor ratios and financial models that are divorced from the reality that people who function in small teams can solve and prevent problems in ways that lower cost. [I recently posted some comments on QC circles – John]
Kitchen Jidoka: Low Cost Automation Example – “separate human work and machine work so that humans can do less non value added and more value added work within a given period of time… Second, autonomation is used to prevent processes from making error after error by building in en error prevention or detect-and-stop functions.
Another theme on the Gemba Panta Rei blog is ambiguous visual controls. Effective visual management tools greatly enhance safety, productivity and usability. But using a concept is not the same thing as successfully using it, as the periodic posts on failed attempts Jon posts illustrates very well. Ambiguous Visual Controls: Airport Hotel Edition, too much information, in the park, lost in the supermarket…
Kevin Meyer found some bright spots on his trip to India and documented them in several fun articles in Evolving Excellence. My favorite was leadership lessons from Ganesha, a set of mindsets and behaviors that are both motivating personally and constructive in motivating others.
On productivity and motivation, one article began by explaining how researchers found that doing or saying something nice, even if this was a very small gesture, has proven to improve the job performance of people including doctors. The premise is that positivity promotes performance.
Addressing the question of “Where do I start?” in learning lean thinking and putting it into practice, Mark Rosenthal suggests adopting the find the bright spots advice from the book Switch. Finding brights spots is always good advice. While companies fail at thing for a wide variety of local and specialized reasons, success tends to cluster around a handful of factors; motivated people; removing waste, variation and burden; a long-term view. We need to drill a level deeper in each one of these.
I agree that motivation is a very important topic. I think trying to improve management without a good understanding of how people are really motivated is very difficult and weaknesses in this area end up frustrating many improvement efforts.
Since I’m just back from the 1st Lean for HR Summit, I thought I would also showcase an HR-oriented blog. This one from Emily Douglas challenges HR to step up to the plate in The HR Puzzle.
Old Lean Dude, aka Bruce Hamilton, aka “Toast Guy”, writes in Illogical Progression on how hoshin gets used as an organization progresses on their lean journey.
Michael Baudin writes about the use of sports metaphors in Black belts, scrums, and other metaphors. His opening sentence says it all: “To be useful, a metaphor must help understanding.” Too often, metaphors are cute but not useful.
Me in my father's office, drawing by John, photo by Bill Hunter
Why Startup Hubs Work by Paul Graham – “The problem is not that most towns kill startups. It’s that death is the default for startups, and most towns don’t save them… Both components of the antidote—an environment that encourages startups, and chance meetings with people who help you—are driven by the same underlying cause: the number of startup people around you.” [Creating entrepreneurship hubs is extremely important economically. Many countries are very interested in making this work for them. Doing so is not easy and still is a huge advantage the USA benefits from in the Valley and also NYC, Boston… – John, previous post: The Future is Engineering]
About Spread by Lee Fried – “While spreading standard work over time is essential to increasing the rate of improvement of an organization it will never occur or sustain without simultaneously putting in place a Management system.” [this theme is repeated over and over, without a management system the gains made are real, but small fractions of what is possible when management thinks and acts fundamentally differently – John].
Questioning the Value of the P-Value by Jon Miller – “Father of modern statistics Ronald A. Fisher invented the p-value as an informal measure of evidence against the null hypothesis. Although often overlooked, Fisher called on scientists use other types of evidence such as the a priori plausibility of the hypothesis and the relative strengths of results from previous studies in combination with the p-value.”
Teachers Cheating and Incentives by Dan Ariely – “they began to do anything that would improve their performance on that measure even by a tiny bit—even if they messed up other employees in the process. Ultimately they were consumed with maximizing what they knew they would be measured on”
It’s About The Journey and Sometimes It Starts With Failure by Tim McMahon – “If we allow ourselves to become discouraged during the learning process we may give up right before we reach our goal. Anytime we learn from our efforts we are in the process of succeeding. Each lesson brings us closer to our intended result.”
When Patents Attack – “as many as 80 percent of software engineers say the patent system actually hinders innovation. It doesn’t encourage them to come up with new ideas and create new products. It actually gets in their way.” (I added “An outdated intellectual property system” as deadly management/economic disease number 9 – building on Deming’s 7 deadly
diseases a few years ago – John). Also from NPR: The Patent War
The Purpose of a Business is not Customer Value by Jurgen Appelo – “Every business is a complex adaptive system of stakeholders working together in order to create value for everyone involved… Unfortunately, again and again, management fads and hypes try to reduce this systemic view on organizations into a simplistic view, with dumb suggestions such as “maximize shareholder value” or ‘delight your customer’.” [Curious Cat on the purpose of organizations – John]
Line of Sight, Employee Engagement, and Daily Kaizen [the broken link has been removed] by Mark Hamel – “Perhaps the toughest transformational challenge is flipping the organizational pyramid “upside down” so that the leaders become enablers, not bottlenecks.”
Should You Let People Go, or Keep People and Reduce Salaries? by Harwell Thrasher – “When faced with the choice between layoffs and reducing salaries across the board, most businesses and governments follow the logic I’ve outlined above, and they go with layoffs. It’s the easy choice, but as I’ve noted in my list of three exceptions, it’s not always the best choice.”
Thoughts on Exceptional Leaders [the broken link has been removed] by Wally Bock – “Exceptional leaders constantly work at getting better.”
Jerry Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret by Brad Isaac – “Think for a moment about what action would make the most profound impact on your life if you worked it every day. That is the action I recommend you put on your Seinfeld calendar.”
Employee Engagement by Krista Ogburn Francis – “Meaningful work. Most people want to know that their 8+/- hours of effort aren’t in vain, that their day results in a product or service they can believe in and feel proud of.”
Going to Gemba by Pascal Dennis – “The more time spent at Gemba, the more you know about what’s actually happening, so the less time you need to spend in meetings trying to figure out what’s going on, and the faster you’ll solve small problems before they become large business killers.”
The 0th Trap of Teams by Esther Derby – “The zeroeth trap of teams is calling any old group of people a team and then expecting teamwork and collaboration. “
More Problems is a Good Thing by Kevin Meyer – “To fix the process you must first understand the failures occurring in the process. If you focus on the person caught up in the failed process you won’t learn about many of the failures and therefore won’t have the ability to even start to fix and improve the process.”
Five Steps to Breaking the Multitasking Cycle by Holly Green – “research shows time and again that business leaders need long periods of uninterrupted time in order to perform at peak levels… Most important, it enables us to refocus on the high-level activities we should be doing that move us closer to our strategic goals.”
The management blog carnival is published 3 times a month with select recent management blog posts. Since 2006 the carnival has focused on finding interesting posts for managers on improving the performance of organizations (lean manufacturing, Deming, agile software development, leadership, systems thinking…).
Slow and Steady, and Routine by Jamie Flinchbaugh – “Truly internalizing behaviors and skills cannot be done all at once. It takes repetitive practice, which cannot be compressed into one single experience.”
Why Do Some Testers Find The Critical Problems? by Michael Bolton – “Testers, to be successful, must be given the freedom and responsibility to explore and to contribute what they’ve learned back to their team and to the rest of the organization.”
Lean Lego Game – 4 Rounds to Successful Lean Training – “Covering many Lean concepts including waste (the seven wastes), inventory buffers and kanban, kaizen and workcells, it’s perfect for facilitating your own Lego session, whether you’re implementing Lean in software development or on a manufacturing shop floor.”
The Hole in the Soul of Business by Gary Hamel – “Apple is in the beauty business. It uses its prodigious software and design talents to produce products and services that are aesthetic stand-outs. There are many within Google who believe their company is in the wisdom business, who talk about raising the world’s IQ, democratizing knowledge and empowering people with information. Sadly, though, this kind of dedication to big-hearted goals and high-minded ideals is all too rare in business.”
Why Don’t We See More QC Circles? by Jon Miller – “The lean community seems to be largely rediscovering ideas that were developed 100 years ago, abandoned, adopted, rediscovered, abandoned and discovered yet again. Perhaps QC Circles are the next thing for lean?”
Thinking about Moving to Management by Wally Bock – “Are you willing to make decisions and be accountable for the results? Leaders take the blame and share the credit. Are you OK with that? Do you enjoy helping others succeed? It will be your primary job…”
Continual Learning by John Hunter – “Look at people like Ackoff and Deming. They knew more than pretty much anyone about management. Yet both continued learning until the day they died. They were quick to credit others. They were quick to challenge people but also had an obvious respect and compassion for people.”
Once again I think the review provided a reminder many excellent posts from the last year and showed us some posts we missed. In addition, hopefully you found new blogs to add to the RSS feeds you subscribe to. With the enormous number of excellent management blogs, it makes me wonder why we still see so many management miscues.
Dennis Stevens writes a blog of the same name focused on agile software development principles with a strong focus on Dr. Deming’s ideas and lean thinking.
What’s Deming got to do with Agile – “Deming is not about manufacturing. He is about showing management how to create an environment for success. Deming is about culture – and his System of Profound Knowledge creates an environment that is especially effective for knowledge work… In knowledge work, where products are invisible, impact can be difficult to demonstrate. Kanban clearly shows progress and demonstrates the contribution of each person to the delivery of value. Additionally, PDSA provides opportunities for everyone to contribute to improving the quality of the organization’s capabilities.”
Kanban Mental Models and Double Loop Learning – “the Kanban cycle supports continuous learning that the team internalizes. Argyris’s model gives us some insight into why Kanban teams are consistently achieving double-loop learning and rapid maturity.”
We are Doing QQ All Wrong– “Developers should be using tools that support automated unit testing and only checking in code that passes all their unit tests… Test driven development or test just after development should be ubiquitous – but it is not. Continuous Integration environments that ensure that each check-in results in a valid and testable platform help teams perform integration and build validation.”
Shorten and Reduce Variability in Lead Times Using Kanban – ” identify and leverage strategies like reducing waiting, reducing rework, making work ready, defining small size work, and swarming, to improve lead time. Tracking causes of defects and blockages can help make decisions to focus these strategies appropriately. Reducing lead time duration and variability will result in increased predictability, faster feedback, improved flexibility and responsiveness.”
Common Mistakes when we are Problem Solving – “Not utilizing the ‘Power of the gemba’,–or often referred to as “Go see the work/process“.!! I often see teams working together in a room trying to solve the problem by using their experiences, hypothetical guesses, and what their opinion is. I quickly disperse the huddle to “go-see” with their own eyes the current situation.”
How many different types of A3’s are there? – “I will briefly describe the 4 different types of A3’s and when to use them based on my experience: Problem Solving A3, Proposal A3, Status Report A3, Strategic Planning A3. All A3’s should follow the PDCA thinking regardless of which type you are working on.”
Why is asking “Why” so important? – “It is important to ask why repeatedly when visiting the gemba to determine what is current happening versus what should be happening. In many cases we stop at a symptom to the problem because we are often pressured for results and quickly solving the problem without going past the symptom seems to be the best answer.” [this one is actually from 2009 but I included it anyway – John]