Tag Archives: management system

George Box Articles Available for a Short Time

A collection of George Box articles have been selected for a virtual George Box issue by David M. Steinberg and made available online.

George E. P. Box died in March 2013. He was a remarkably creative scientist and his celebrated professional career in statistics was always at the interface of science and statistics. George Box, J. Stuart Hunter and Cuthbert Daniel were instrumental in launching Technometrics in 1959, with Stu Hunter as the initial editor. Many of his articles were published in the journal. Therefore we think it is especially fitting that Technometrics should host this on-line collection with some of his most memorable and influential articles.

They also include articles from Journal of the American Statistical Association and Quality Engineering. Taylor & Francis is offering these articles freely in honor of George Box until December 31st, 2014. It is very sad that closed science and engineering journals block access to the great work created by scientists and engineers and most often paid for by government (while working for state government universities and with grants organizations like the National Science Foundation[NSF]). At least they are making a minor exception to provide the public (that should be unlimited access to these works) a limited access to these articles this year. These scientists and engineers dedicated their careers to using knowledge to improve society not to hide knowledge from society.

Some of the excellent articles make available for a short time:

The “virtual issue” includes many more articles.

Related: Design of Experiments: The Process of Discovery is IterativeQuotes by George E.P. BoxThe Art of DiscoveryAn Accidental Statistician: The Life and Memories of George E. P. Box

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Interview on PDSA, Deming, Strategy and More

Bill Fox interviewed me and has posted part one of the interview on his web site: Predicting Results in the Planning Stage (sorry, the link has been hijacked to forward to an unrelated page [so obviously I removed the link], I have posted the interview which can now be reached here):

Bill: John, what is your best process improvement strategy or tactic that has worked well for you or your clients?

John: I would say the PDSA improvement cycle and a few key practices in using the PDSA properly like predicting the results in the plan stage—something that a lot of the times people do not do—to determine what would be done based on the results of that prediction.

People discover, especially when they’re new to this stuff, regarding the data that they’re collecting, that maybe even if they got the results they are predicting, they still don’t have enough data to take action. So you figure that even if that number is 30, they would need to know three other things before they make the change. So then, in the plan stage, you can figure that you need to address these other issues, too. At any time that people are collecting data is useful to figure out, for instance: “What do we need to do if the result is 30 or if the result is 3?” And if you don’t have any difference, why are you collecting the data?

Another important piece is the D in Plan, Do, Study, Act. It means “do the experiment”. A lot of times, people get confused into thinking that D means deploy the results or something like that, but thinking of D as ‘doing the experiment’ can be helpful.

A really big key between people that use PDSA successfully and those who don’t is that the ones that do it successfully turn the cycle quickly.

Another response:

Bill: What is the biggest misunderstanding about the Deming Management System you think people have?

John: I would say that there are a couple. The followers that want to pin everything to Deming tend to overlook the complexities and nuances and other things.

The other problem is that some of the critics latch on to a specific quote from Deming, something like a one-sentence long quote, and then they extrapolate from that one sentence-long quote what that means. And the problem is that Deming has lots of these one-sentence quotes that are very memorable and meaningful and useful, but they don’t capture every nuance and they don’t alone capture what it really means (you need to have the background knowledge to understand it completely).

They are sort of trying to oversimplify the message into these sound bites, and I find that frustrating. Because those individual quotes are wonderful, but they are limited to one little quote out of hours of videotape, books, articles, and when you don’t understand the context in which that resides, that’s a problem.

See the full interview for more details and other topics. I think it is worth reading, of course I am a bit biased.

Related: more interviews with John HunterInterviews with John Hunter on his book: Management MattersDeming and Software DevelopmentLean Blog Podcast with John Hunter

Innovative Thinking at Amazon: Paying Employees $5,000 to Quit

Amazon continues to be innovative not just in technology but with management thinking. Jeff Bezos has rejected the dictates espoused most vociferously by Wall Street mouthpieces and MBAs that encourage short term thinking and financial gimmicks which harm the long term success of companies.

Most CEOs and executives are too fearful or foolish to ignore what they are told they must do because Wall Street demands it. CEO’s and boards often ratchet up the poor management thinking by tying big bonuses to financial measures which are much more easily achieved by gaming the system than by improving the company (so companies get the games there boards encouraged through their financial extrinsic motivation focus).

Amazon does many good things focused on making Amazon a stronger company year after year. These innovative management practices seem to largely be due to the thinking of the strong willed founder and CEO: Jeff Bezos. Jeff was smart enough to see the great things being done at Zappos by Tony Hsieh and bought Zappos.

Jeff Bezos has added his letter to shareholders to Warren Buffett’s (for Berkshire Hathaway) as letters worth reading each year. In the latest Amazon letter he includes many worthwhile ideas including:

Career Choice is a program where we pre-pay 95% of tuition for our employees to take courses for in- demand fields, such as airplane mechanic or nursing, regardless of whether the skills are relevant to a career at Amazon. The goal is to enable choice. We know that for some of our fulfillment center employees, Amazon will be a career. For others, Amazon might be a stepping stone on the way to a job somewhere else – a job that may require new skills. If the right training can make the difference, we want to help.

The second program is called Pay to Quit. It was invented by the clever people at Zappos, and the Amazon fulfillment centers have been iterating on it. Pay to Quit is pretty simple. Once a year, we offer to pay our associates to quit. The first year the offer is made, it’s for $2,000. Then it goes up one thousand dollars a year until it reaches $5,000. The headline on the offer is “Please Don’t Take This Offer.” We hope they don’t take the offer; we want them to stay. Why do we make this offer? The goal is to encourage folks to take a moment and think about what they really want. In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.

A third inward innovation is our Virtual Contact Center. It’s an idea we started a few years back and have continued to grow with terrific results. Under this program, employees provide customer service support for Amazon and Kindle customers while working from home. This flexibility is ideal for many employees who, perhaps because they have young children or for another reason, either cannot or prefer not to work outside the home.

The first point reinforces Dr. Deming’s words encouraging companies to do exactly that – pay for education even if it wasn’t related to the work the employee was doing or would do for the company. Still quite rare decades after Deming’s advice.

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Deming and Toyota

In response to Deming Electronic Network message, Deming and Toyota (broken link removed):
“I have read a few of the threads referring to Toyota and their success. I am somewhat familiar with the Toyota Production System (where Lean principles sprouted from), but I have often wondered if Toyota subscribed to all of Deming’s 14 points.

I believe Toyota applied Deming’s ideas to create a management system and continued to develop that system to create the Toyota Production System (also known as lean manufacturing). I believe a convincing argument can be made for Toyota following all 14 points.

An interesting article on Toyota’s web site illustrates their commitment to several of the points, Toyota Special Report: Thinking Production System.
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Organization, Systems and Culture

Organization, Systems and Culture [the broken link was removed] by S. M. Lane, G. J. Garrett, with contributions from R A. Long:

Traditional methods of how companies are organized, staffed and managed have become obsolete. The purpose of this paper revolves around those things most companies can do to remain successful, in spite of changing times, changing economies, global competition and customer needs. The information contained within is not new and is not radical, but it is a different way of handling things. Leaders of today cannot rely on successful past practices to guarantee future success. A new global economy requires a different philosophy that supports the new economic age and a different philosophy must take hold in order to survive and prosper in it.

This paper does a good job of pulling together ideas and present them is a simple manner. It is also refreshing to read an article where many sources are given credit and the author does not attempt to “sell” their unique ideas. Management improvement is mainly about using great ideas that have been around for years and decades.

Useful, innovative new management ideas are great. But far too much effort is placed in trying to package “systems” (or copyrighted terms) as some new breakthrough in management when most often they offer little of value. This article points to a number of very useful sources, in my opinion such as: The Leader’s Handbook.

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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How Toyota Turns Workers Into Problem Solvers

Topic: Management Improvement

How Toyota Turns Workers Into Problem Solvers, Sarah Jane Johnston interview of Steven Spear.

It is our conclusion that Toyota has developed a set of principles, Rules-in-Use we’ve called them, that allow organizations to engage in this (self-reflective) design, testing, and improvement so that (nearly) everyone can contribute at or near his or her potential, and when the parts come together the whole is much, much greater than the sum of the parts.

The main difficulty is not a knowledge gap, but a performance gap. Most of what Toyota does has been published in numerous books (The Toyota Way, The Machine That Changed the World…) and articles (see see Curious Cat links to books and articles on Toyota’s management ideas). Reading that information is wise, but that is the easy part. The difficult part is actually managing more effectively. Some of the concepts can be difficult to accept but they really are not too difficult to understand.
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