Tag Archives: productivity

Magnetic White-Board Kanban Card Options

Just some quick ideas for Kanban whiteboard magnetic card options from a question I answered on Reddit.

Here is the best lean solution: Trying Out My Agile Kanban Board from Jon Miller.

kanban board with magnetic whiteboad  cards

Magnetic kanban board from Jon Miller.

Why, well mainly I am kidding about it being the best, but if you don’t read his Gemba Panta Rei blog you should! Go add it to your RSS feed reader, before you continue with this post.

Ok, welcome back. In addition to thinking his blog is great the solution from his blog is very flexible and easy – though it isn’t quite a packaged solution (as asked for on Reddit). Also that post provides some good insight into the thinking behind the board (as well as how to create your own).

More links with kanban board options: Magnetic whiteboard cards (50-pack)Physical TaskboardsI think just magnetic symbols (not magnetic white board card) but could use magnet with icon to stick paper to the board

Another silly site, that sells some sort of solution, blocked my access because they don’t sell in the country my computer reported being located in. So I didn’t give them a free plug (assuming their product was decent which it might be?). Very dumb design if you ask me; well even though you didn’t ask, I told you anyway.

Localization that impedes users rather than helping them seems far far too common in my experience. Mapping (and related – find closest…) uses are about the only localization stuff I find useful – country based localization I nearly always find annoying or crippling. And showing my location on a map is totally awesome (especially as I travel around as a tourist – or really in whatever capacity). Such bad design and poor usability decisions cost companies money.

Related: Visual Management with Brown M&MsMaking Data VisibleDeming and Software Development

Executive Leadership

Senior executives must lead management improvement efforts. When senior executives only give lip service to management efforts the result is normally the same: little happens.

When Dr. Deming was working with companies after the 1980’s NBC white paper, If Japan Can Why Can’t We, he wouldn’t work with companies if the CEO wasn’t attending the meetings and learning how to manage the organization better. Dr. Deming had seen far too many CEOs want improvement but wanted to delegate the effort of getting there. Dr. Deming saw when senior executives delegated improving the management system it didn’t work.

There are a number of problems with senior executives not taking improvement seriously. First, and most common, they don’t really believe it and have no interest in improving practices – they just want to magically get better results without improving how things are done.

Second many senior executives don’t understand what management improvement is about. They think it is something those other people do on the factor floor or in the call center or somewhere. The most important changes will be in the c-suite for organizations that make substantial improvements. But when executives are out of touch (as so many are) in both management practice and how their organization actually works (at the gemba) then improvement efforts are extremely difficult.

If those senior executives are taking part in the improving the management system they will learn and then will be able to help improve the management system. If they are not engaged in actively working PDSA (on their workload) learning about variation, looking at their organization as a system, making changes to the organization given an understanding of respect for people the potential gains are severely limited.

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Management Improvement Blog Carnival #183

The Curious Cat Management Carnival is published twice each month. The posts selected for the carnival focus on the areas of management improvement I have focused on in the Curious Cat Management Improvement Guide since 1996: Deming, innovation, lean manufacturing, customer focus, leadership, six sigma, respect for employees…

    Huge statue at Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

    Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by John Hunter.

  • How would you explain what Lean is to a 7-year-old? by Ron Pereira – “Daddy tries to teach people how to work faster and make less mistakes. And, most importantly, we also try to teach people to be nice and respect each other… that way everyone can do their very best.”
  • We must think of the whole enterprise as a continually evolving system by Jeff Liker – “Customer care call center–This is housed in the same building as Toyota Motor Sales in Torrance California and the call centers function like the work groups in Toyota plants to the extend of even holding weekly quality circle meetings and having a team leader and group leader structure as well as visual metrics with targets for improvement.”
  • The maker/manager transition phase – “One of the hardest things as a developer transitioning into a manager role has been to get a feeling of progress without writing code. Progress is usually clear with code, and harder with manager activities… As a founder you’re in the best position to guide people and help them be super productive. That becomes your role.”
  • How do mid-level managers convince the CEO that adopting lean practices is worthwhile? by Michael Ballé – “You can’t convince your boss to do lean, but you can become more convincing yourself by doing lean rather than talking about it. Few consultants ever get lean because they’re always thinking about getting others to apply it, but not them. As a result, their own learning curve stagnates. Don’t fall into that trap. Lean yourself before you try to lean others.”
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Management Improvement Carnival #133

photo of Tree at the Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve The Curious Cat management blog carnival is published 3 times a month with select recent management blog posts. I also collect management improvement articles through Curious Cat Management Articles, you can subscribe via RSS to new article additions.

  • Why I can’t convince executives to invest in UX (and neither can you) by Jared Spool “Neither I, you, nor anybody else can convince an executive to invest in user experience… You’ll need to do something custom. Something specific to their current focus. And if that doesn’t work, maybe it’s time for you to find someplace else to work. Someplace where the executives are already convinced and want to make the investment.” [You can substitute “lean, six sigma, customer focus or any other wise management strategy for UX in the quote above. – John Hunter]
  • Jeff Bezos on innovation at Amazon – Jeff Bezos: “If you invent frequently and are willing to fail, then you never get to that point where you really need to bet the whole company… We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details…. We don’t give up on things easily. Our third-party seller business is an example of that. It took us three tries to get the third-party seller business to work. We didn’t give up.”
  • Kanban and Shifting the Burden by Karl Scotland – “The Containment action is the symptomatic solution taken to resolve the problem quickly. Then, after root cause analysis, the Countermeasure action is the fundamental solution to prevent repeated recurrence.”
  • The Iceberg That Sinks Performance by Dan Markovitz – “Time management ‘problems’ are really just manifestations of dysfunction in one or more of the following areas: strategy; priorities; internal systems and processes; corporate cultural expectations; or individual skills.”
  • About that bus … by Wally Bock – “This is the kind of guru advice where the principle (get the best people you can) is good, but to use it you have to deal with reality that’s a lot messier than it seems in the books. “
  • Drucker and Executive Compensation – Are CEOs Paid Too Much? by Robert Swaim – “Few people- and probably no one outside the executive suite – sees much reason for these very large executive compensations. There is little correlation between them and company performance.” Peter F. Drucker, The Frontiers of Management, 1986.
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Productivity Improvement for Entrepreneurs (and Everybody Else Really)

The 3 Factors That are Limiting Your Productivity by Evan Carmichael

Elimination is at the core of every successful business. You have to focus on what you’re really good [at], what drives your business forward, and what you’re legally required to do in order to stay in business. Everything else should be eliminated.

Just because everyone else does it or because you’ve always done it that way, it doesn’t mean you have to continue doing it.

The order of Eliminate, Automate, Delegate is very important.

Eliminate is first. You don’t want to automate or delegate something that can be eliminated because it’s a non-productive task. Automate is next. You don’t want to delegate something that can be automated because it is more expensive and more prone to error.

I agree that eliminating non-value/low-value work should be done much more often. Automating makes a great deal of sense, though I would generalize it to process improvement. Automation is great: I think that is a specific form of process improvement – automation is wise, but maybe limiting. You improve productivity both by taking less time and by producing more effectively. If you produce something of more value to customers in the same time that improves productivity.

I also think there is another important area for people to think about – new ideas. Spending more time on something might seem counter-productive to productivity improvement. It takes time after all. Going and seeing what is really going on with your own eyes takes time, but trying to save time by acting based on reports results in ineffective and therefore unproductive action.

One of the things I first when looking at using internet technology to improve performance was that the technology opens new opportunities that were not feasible previously. People often focused just on how to improve what was done. People forget to look at things that were not pursued before that are now possible. With the time you save by eliminating, improving and delegating maybe you would get a big productivity improvement by coaching someone – or by being coached yourself. Or by reading about how to apply successful management improvement strategies that are too often ignored. Or you can learn about a new strategy that is more effective such as, combinatorial testing. Or learn to eliminate ineffective strategies such as: multitasking .

A number of “new ideas” are round about ways to eliminate work, in some form, though in a bit less direct way than people normally would consider elimination. For example, if you focus on reducing turnover, you can eliminate time spent bringing new people up to speed. If you make a process more reliable you can reduce the time spent dealing with the problems from a less reliable process.
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What to Wear to an Interview

Response to What to Wear for an IT Job Interview?. Is this just a huge bit stereotypical?

Who can blame them for not wanting to bother with their wardrobes? Fashion is fickle. Fashion is expensive. Fashion requires imagination and inspiration, and let’s face it, after a long day spent debugging code or trouble-shooting computer problems, there’s not a lot of creativity left for clothing.

But if there’s one professional occasion when a tech worker should think fashion first, it’s the job interview. CIOs says so. According to research conducted by Robert Half Technology, more than one-third (35 percent) of CIOs surveyed say that IT professionals should sport a suit for a job interview.

I don’t see any harm in wearing a suit and tie or such business attire if you have no other information to go on for IT, or other employees. That advice to candidates is perfectly fine. Asking what is appropriate attire when the interview is set is also a good idea. In fact, that is all you need to take from this post as an interviewee, in my opinion.

Is there any value in you wearing a suit? If so, then not doing so might be a negative. The psychology of what makes people uncomfortable is tricky. And dress is one of those factors that may seem trivial but to differing extents most people base opinions partial on dress (even if they claim they don’t). Some organization with casual dress codes may also look at being too dressed up as a bad sign (out of touch…). Basically they are experiencing the same discomfort with your dress even though most likely they would profess to find those making judgments based on dress to be superficial. The Manager FAQ does a good job of looking at the thought process behind some managers thinking on the topic.

My manager seems to dress funny. Is there any way to impress upon him the pointlessness of corporate appearance?

Your manager is probably aware that, in the abstract, the way she dresses changes nothing. However, part of her job is to interact with other people, and there are rules of etiquette for these dealings. Your manager’s clothing, even when she’s not dealing with other people, is selected in part as a way of telling you that she takes you seriously; it’s just like calling people “sir”. It’s a convention, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a real convention, and your manager is honoring it.

Even if there is no value to doing so there are many people who make judgments on silly factors like clothing.

Now for the most important point for manager’s, from this post, if you evaluate software developers on how they dress please quit and go work in some other line of work. You really don’t have what is needed to manage software developers or system administrators. If you are hiring someone to sit in meetings with MBAs and translate technology to them, then maybe being comfortable in a suit is a valued trait. But if you are hiring someone to create code 90+% of the time the suit is a completely silly measurement of value.

Related: Curious Cat Management Improvement JobsIT Talent Shortage, or Management Failure?Hiring the Right WorkersGoogle’s Answer to Filling Jobs Is an Algorithm
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Managing Passionate Employees

Passion vs. Productive

There are actually few organizations that can support passionate employees – even if they say they want them. That’s because the original industrial revolution was designed to support productivity. Productivity means you produce. That’s how you’re measured. Passion is difficult to quantify

Managers want passionate employees, but don’t always know how to manage them. Passionate employees question things, probe and push. Who’s got the time to deal with that? Productive employees get things done. No questions asked.

if you align someone’s passion with their job description—you just might boost your department’s productivity.

Passionate employees are often not the easiest employees to manage. If a manager confuses ease of managing with best employee they discount the value of a passionate employee. And they often do confuse the two values. A passionate employee can seem like a bother, not willing to just go along but constantly challenging and pushing for new ideas.

One of the things that great managers do is to understand the value of passion and make the extra effort to cultivate and support those passionate employees. Even if occasionally they just want that person to just do their job and stop being so different. The great manager realizes that treating everyone the same is a very bad meme that somehow seems to have taken hold in many people’s mind. People are not the same. Managing a system of people is not the same as maintaining a machine.

A managers job is not to make their own job as easy as possible. When the system is best served by an extra passionate employee, then the manager needs to support that employee. And smooth out others that might get annoyed (often others find the passionate employee should just be like everyone else).

Related: Enhancing Passion of EmployeesDon’t ask employees to be passionate about the company!Signs You Have a Great Job … or NotJoy in Work – Software Development

Joel Management

Topic: Management Improvement, Lean Thinking

Joel Spolsky writes the excellent Joel on Software blog and runs Fog Creek Software. Recently he has been writing about process improvement of the order fulfillment process for a movie on the experience of interns at Fog Creek Software, How to Ship Anything by Joel Spolsky

Shipping an international order now takes about 35 seconds, down from 3 minutes, and can be done by anyone, whether or not they have SQL and Mail Merge skills. Domestic orders are even faster since they don’t need customs forms. Most of all, it’s all really fun.

Joel is a great writer and tells a interesting story about of how they improved the process. This is one of a series of articles on the process improvement around order fulfillment for the documentary made of “project Aardvark”:
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Eliminating Complexity from Work

Eliminating Complexity from Work: Improving Productivity by Enhancing Quality [broken link replaced with link from the Internet Archive] by F. Timothy Fuller. National Productivity Review, Autumn, 1985. A case study of a process improvement from 1985.

as much as half of the activities of about sixty people had been to set up and take down jobs, expedite, move material, count material, and do other tasks that were unnecessary in the new process.

Related: productivity improvement articles and links