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  • Stone Bridge over River, Yangshuo, China

    Stone bridge over river (that I was rafting down) in Yangshuo, China.

  • Optimize the Overall System Not the Individual Components

    The results of a system must be managed by paying attention to the entire system. When we optimize sub-components of the system we don’t necessarily optimize the overall system.

    ...

    Optimizing the results for one process is not the same as operating that process in the way that leads to the most benefit for the overall system.

  • Bell Labs Designing a New Phone System Using Idealized Design

    I remember hearing this same story when Russ Ackoff spoke at the Hunter Conference on Quality (which was named in honor of my father) in Madison, Wisconsin.

    If you haven’t heard this story you are in for a treat. And if you haven’t heard Russell Ackoff before you get to enjoy a great storyteller.

    Watch the video...

  • Hand by John Hunter

    Art by me when I was in Nigeria (and was 10 years old).

  • Understanding Data is Often Challenging

    Using data to understand the system and validate our theories and successful improvements is an important part managing well. In some cases it is fairly easy to understand and collect data that provides a clear and accurate measure of what we care about. But getting data that helps can also be very challenging.

    Creating a management system that aims to use data while focusing on continually improving is a great start.

  • Burning Toast: American Health System Style

    Democrats and Republicans have created a health care system in the USA over the last 40 years that “burns toast” at an alarming rate. As the symptoms of their health care system are displayed they call in people to blame for burning toast.

    Their participation in the “you burn, I’ll scrape” system is even worse than the normal burning then scraping process. They create a bad system over decades and ignore the burnt toast just telling people to put up with it. And when some burnt toast can’t be ignored any longer they then blame individuals for each piece of burnt toast.

    They demand that those they bring before them to blame, scrape off the burnt toast.  And they act shocked that the "toaster" burns toast.  It is the same "toaster" they designed and maintain at the behest of those benefiting from burnt toast and of course it burns toast (those results are the natural outcome of the system they designed and maintain).

  • Huge Payments to Executives for Good Luck

    A recent Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation article on the finding that:
    90 Cents of Every “Pay-for-Performance” Dollar are Paid for Luck. I agree that mainly we award senior executives huge pay based on luck and the natural result of the organization they are a part of.

    It is my personal belief that the excessive pay of executives reached such a harmful level that Dr. Deming would have added it to his list of 7 deadly diseases long ago if he were still with us.

  • USA Health-Care System Ranks 50th out of 55 Countries

    None of these rankings are perfect and neither is this one. But it is clear beyond any doubt that the USA healthcare system is extremely costly for no better health results than other rich countries (and even more expensive with again no better results than most poor countries). It is a huge drain on the economy that we continue to allow lobbyists and special interests to take advantage of the rest of us...

  • W. Edwards Deming Discussing the Leadership We Need in Our Organizations

    He mentions that walking around can be useful but it isn’t effective. Without the proper focus you only see a glossy picture. Going to where the work is done is important. But as with most management practices it must be done within a proper context and sadly it is often done in a superficial way. I discussed these ideas in my blog post, Management by Walking Around...

  • Improving the System to Reduce Costs Isn’t The Same as Cost Cutting

    Cutting costs by fiat via executive orders reduces the capability of the organization. Those costs are often born by customers. In the short term reducing costs in such a manner improves the financial statements. In the long run those cost reductions harm the companies ability to innovate, improve and delight customers.

    If instead we create a continual improvement capability and culture in the organization we will make improvements that in turn reduce costs (the Deming chain reaction).

  • Making Money as a Nomad in the USA

    There are many posts about how to make money online as a nomad. Some ideas work pretty well for some people (freelance work – especially as a digital nomad, writer, bookkeeper, etc.). The biggest problem isn’t learning about these options (they are repeated all the time in many different places online) but actually making them work for you.

    ...

    I have been paying much more attention lately to nomads in the USA which opens up income possibilities in addition to online income.

  • How to Lead From Any Level In the Organization

    From an interview with me:

    2. Help people solve their problems.

     Similar to helping other people grow their careers is the idea of helping other people to solve their problems. Again, this starts with a clear understanding of your sphere of influence. “It determines what strategies you can pursue, and building your sphere of influence should be part of your decision making process.”

    What it comes down to is proving yourself in this way—and doing so consistently. “It isn’t some secret sauce. Prove yourself to be valuable and you will gain influence. Help people solve their problems. They will be inclined to listen to your ideas.”

  • Better Meetings for Your Organization

    This is similar to Deming’s ideas on management, I don’t believe their is a recipe to follow. There are principles that are universal. But what specific form they take depends greatly on the specific circumstances and systems in place.

    Here are principles I believe will help:

    • Have a written objective
    • Document decisions and actions to be taken
    • Prepare people in advance (and don’t expect people to come if there isn’t a good reason for them to be there)
    • Talk to those involved in the meetings to learn what is working well, what needs to be improved and if the meetings are worth the effort (should there be fewer meetings or should less time be taken with them)
  • Using Outdated Management Practices Can Be Very Costly

    The dangers of strict sales targets are well understood by those that study management and human behavior. Sadly our management practices often fail to advance even as those that do seek to understand how to better manage our organizations make great strides in advancing our knowledge.

  • How to Improve at Understanding Variation and Using Data to Improve

    Getting better at using data is a bit tricky, so struggling is fairly common.
    Probably the easiest thing to do is to stop reacting to normal variation (caused by the system) as if it were special. This isn’t super easy but it is the easiest step. And it does make a big difference even if it doesn’t seem very exciting.

    The idea of actually using data properly provides big benefit but it much trickier. Don Wheeler’s book is a great start. Making predictions and evaluating how those predictions turn out is also valuable. And in doing so often (though not always) it will also spur you to collect data. This process of predicting, figuring out what data to use to help do so (and to evaluate the results) and considering the result of the prediction and how well the predictions overall are working can help.