Rss logo

Posts selected fromManagement Blog - Engineering Blog - Investing Blog and other blogs

  • Examine the Results of Your Testing Practices and Continually Improve Your Methods

    The idea of delibrately examining your software development and testing practices will be familar to those using agile retrospectives. The power of continually improving the development practices used withing the organization is hard to appreciate but it is immense. The gains compound over time so the initial benefits are only a glimpse of what can be achieve by continuing to iterate and improve.

  • Using Deming’s Ideas When Your Organization Doesn’t

    First, you can transform yourself. You can transform your understanding and how you learn (with an appreciation for the theory of knowledge and what conclusions you can and cannot draw from the data you use). You can transform how you act.

    View your organization with an understanding of Deming’s management ideas. Think of the organization as a system. Even if you can’t persuade others to do this, you doing so will help you understand the situation more clearly and allow you to think of solutions that take advantage of this understanding. System thinking will allow you to find leverage points that can be used to multiply the benefits of improvements.

  • Podcast: Building Organizational Capability

    From a podcast with me:

    Changing how organizations are managed makes a huge difference in people’s lives, not all the time and I understand most of the time it doesn’t. But when this is done well people can go from dreading going to work to enjoying going to work, not every single day – but most days, and it can change our lives so that most of the time we are doing things that we find valuable and we enjoy instead of just going to work to get a paycheck so we can enjoy the hours that we have away from work.

  • 6 Tips To Help You Achieve A Better Retirement

    Are You Adding to Your Retirement Savings With Each Paycheck?
    Direct some of your paycheck to a 401(k) or IRA and you will soon be above average in preparing for your retirement.
    One of my favorite tips to nearly painlessly greatly improve your retirement life is to put some of every raise you get toward retirement savings.

    While these six ideas are easy enough to grasp and won’t require any financial wizardry to put into action, the challenge is breaking bad habits and replacing them with good ones. It’s uncomfortable, of course, but if you do, it will be rewarding in the long run. The earlier you get started, the better your retirement options will be.

  • Continually Improving Using a Focus on Delighting Customers

    A deep appreciation for the long term needs of your customers and potential customers should guide where in the system to continually improve. And my belief on how to continual improve is to create and continually improving management system with principles of experimentation (with the necessary understanding of what conclusion can be drawn from results and what cannot), an understanding of the organization as a system and respect for people as principles to be guided by to achieve continual improvement.

    Quality practices of experimentation directed at continually improving management practices and internal processes need to be completely integrated with the efforts to continual improve customer delight. Those efforts should be one process and therefore they automatically grow together.

    The success of improvements should be evaluated at the system level (outcome measures not merely efficiency measures). In process measures are useful in adding evaluating improvement and monitoring processes but the end result for the overall system must always remain the primary concern.

  • Using Checklists to Reduce Process Variation and Improve Results

    At the core the Checklist Manifesto is about determining the critical process conditions and creating a system to assure that the those process items are properly handled.


    It is critical that checklists be developed at the gemba (where the real work is done) and that they are modified based on experience. A good checklist system integrates continual improvement to adjust checklists based on user experience.

  • Add Constraints to Processes Carefully

    Frequently I see unnecessary constraints creating the edge case excuse. By burdening your process with unnecessary constraints you create edge cases that fail and then use the excuse that each of the edge cases is rare and therefore you can’t justify the expense of fixing them.

    But if you designed the process sensibly in the first place the edge case never would have failed and you wouldn’t need special work arounds for such “edge cases.” A simple example of this is unnecessarily complex web page code that fails if to submit a button without javascript. Yes, a small number of users won’t have enabled all javascript to run (today anyway) so it is an “edge case” to deal with if you don’t have the form work without javascript. But there is no decent reason to have it fail in most cases.

  • Backyard Wildlife: Family of Raccoons

    I took this photo of this mother Raccoon with 3 youngsters in my backyard. Raccoon’s are pretty big; it is somewhat amazing to me they manage to find enough to eat. I have seen individuals around over the years (not very often though) but only saw this family twice.

  • 84% of Software Defects Found in Production Could Have Been Found Using Pairwise Testing

    Studies show that 84% of defects found in production could have been found by testing every pair of parameter values.  Those bugs were the result of interactions between 2 parameters.  The complexity of software means there are many interactions and as the data shows often the bugs seen in production are the result of such interactions.

  • Transforming the Management System of an Organization

    I don’t think there are simple answers to the questions that take the form of “do this simple thing and you will have the results you wish to see.”


    There are principles that can be fairly easily captured (respect people, improve using iterative experiments, use data to learn and test your understanding when possible but also realize that using data is not always possible…), but doing that does not offer a simple recipe laying out what steps to take.  What should be implemented in your organization and what specific steps to take are not obvious, it requires applying the principles to your organization. And doing that also requires building the capability of your organization (including your people) to operate using those principles.

  • 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.