Posts selected fromManagement Blog - Engineering Blog - Investing Blog and other blogs
- Management Improvement History and Health Care
I think it is wise to think about what improvement methods were tried in the past and try to understand why they failed in order to improve the chances of success today. I think the many of the things which tripped up TQM, Six Sigma, re-engineering… efforts in the past are waiting to do the same to those efforts today, including lean thinking efforts.
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- Deming in the New Economy
Innovation rarely comes as the result of an apple falling from a tree and hitting you in the head.
Innovation is more of a process – sometimes simple and buried deep within the psyche of the individual, and sometimes methodically sewn into the practices of a team – that is put in motion by the desire to improve the status quo.
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- Going lean Brings Long-term Payoffs
The early successes provide resources to invest in making large more fundamental changes to the organization. Those successes also help convince people these lean ideas have merit. Dilbert does a good job of illustrating how many workers feel about the latest words spoken by their management. Without visible success expecting employees to believe the new management practices is unwise.
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- Thoughts on Hospital Management by Deming
A physician cannot change the system. A head nurse cannot change the system. Meanwhile, who would know? To work harder will not solve the problem. The nurses couldn’t work any harder.
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- Toyota IT Overview
IT solutions should support your processes not dictate them. I am a big fan of avoiding inflexible, proprietary (off the shelf) software. I am willing to spend money on in house developers to create customized IT solutions that support the business processes instead of IT solutions that dictate business processes.
continue reading: Toyota IT Overview
- Complicating Simplicity
This post on the excellent signal vs. noise blog illustrates how one can lose their way when trying to simplify. Lean and other management improvement folks can learn a lot about eliminating non-value added steps, clean design, simplifying systems to improve performance… from this blog. The examples are mainly relating to software development from a true understanding of lean thinking(though I don’t have any evidence they are familiar with the Toyota Production System or lean tools/concepts)...
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- Intellectual Property Rights and Innovation
How intellectual property influences innovation and growth in the economy depends on the application of intellectual property law. No intellectual property (IP) rights would hinder innovation. Complicated application of confusing and overreaching IP rights also hinders innovation. Now I see the USA systems as having overreaching claims of IP rights, IP rights granted for obvious ideas which then are used to extort those actually producing value and overall a system much in need of improvement.
Related: The Patent System Needs to be Significantly Improved - The New Deadly Diseases That Severely Damage our Economy
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- Making Changes and Taking Risks
The system had to change. “We eliminated commissions, incentives, promotions, contests, P&Ls, forecasts, budgets, the entire functional organization chart,” Rodin says. It was a radical move. Contests and commissions — internal competition — were a way of life in the industry, the universal motivational tool.
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- Internet Access at Work (2006)
Providing internet access at work can create some management issues. However, the correct solution to those problems is not to be overly restrictive on access to the internet.
...coach and work with your employees to make sure they behave responsibly. The information available on the internet can aid employees in doing their job in many ways. And it can also aid them in living their lives – don’t discount this benefit.
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- Gladwell (and Drucker) on Pensions
The most influential management theorist of the twentieth century was Peter Drucker, who, in 1950, wrote an extraordinarily prescient article for Harper’s entitled “The Mirage of Pensions.” It ought to be reprinted for every steelworker, airline mechanic, and autoworker who is worried about his retirement. Drucker simply couldn’t see how the pension plans on the table at companies like G.M. could ever work.
Pension plans did work well for a short period of time. But recently they (along with the attached retiree health care) are one of the big problems facing large old companies: like GM. Gladwell talks about the dependency ratio for an economy and the dependency ratio of companies. Worsening dependency ratios can cause pension plans to kill companies (if they are not funded when the obligation is incurred) – as the company is forced to pay for more and more retirees with fewer and fewer workers.
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- Ackoff, Idealized Design and Bell Labs
“Doesn’t it strike you as odd,” he said, “that the three most important contributions this laboratory has ever made to telephonic communications were made before any of you were born? What have you been doing?” he asked. “I’ll tell you,” he said. “You have been improving the parts of the system taken separately, but you have not significantly improved the system as a whole. The deficiency,” he said, “is not yours but mine. We’ve had the wrong research-and-development strategy. We’ve been focusing on improving parts of the system rather than focusing on the system as a whole. As a result, we have been improving the parts, but not the whole.
We have got to restart by focusing on designing the whole and then designing parts that fit it rather than vice versa.
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- Photos of my HIke on the Appalachian Trail
- Distorting the System or the Data is Easier Than Improving the System
3 ways to improve the figures: distort the data, distort the system and improve the system. Improving the system is the most difficult.
When people mistake the data proxy for the thing to improve they focus on improvement of how the data looks not of the system. That is the wrong strategy. The correct strategy is to focus on improving the system and as a way of verifying results you then look at measures. But you must always remember those measures are not the end they are an attempt to measure the end you are trying to achieve.
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- Improving the 401(k) System
Many people don’t even take advantage of a 401(k) to save for their retirement. From a public policy perspective it creates a huge long term problem. The economy will end up with millions of people that didn’t save for retirement and will be a drain on those who did save for retirement and the rest of the economy.
So Congress actually passed a good revision to the law. Employers will now be required to default to having employees save for their retirement in 401(k) plans. The employee still has the option to decline doing so, but now, without such a choice, they will automatically save for retirement.
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- Patent Review Innovation
Michael Crichton wrote an essay critical of the current patent law: This Essay Breaks the Law. I believe the US is making significant mistakes in how we are proceeding with the patent system, see: The Patent System Needs to be Significantly Improved.
That’s the basic concept behind a pilot program sponsored by IBM (Charts) and other companies, which the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office appears poised to green-light. The project would apply an advisory version of the wiki approach to the patent-approval process.
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