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  • Problems with Bonuses

    Commission pay and bonus often set up a conflict between what is in the interest of the company and the employee. They lead to bunching of orders around quarterly quotas, deadlines and competitions. They lead salespeople to think their job is to sell whatever pays them the most not to assist the customer.

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  • A Company’s Purpose is to be Useful to Society

    (Toyota President, Katsuaki Watanabe) eschews the normal management mantra of shareholder value above all. A company’s purpose, Watanabe insists, is to be useful to society.

    Which, of course, echoes W. Edwards Deming's words on the purpose of a business.

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  • People: Team Members or Costs

    Both Toyota and GM seek to use technology to improve but Toyota sees the technology as useful to help people to be more efficient, eliminate menial repetitive tasks, eliminate tasks that cause injury… and it seems to me GM saw technology as a way to eliminate people. The action showed a company that viewed people as a cost to be eliminated. GM did not act as though people were their “most important assets” as we so often hear, but see so little evidence of in the action of companies.

    Toyota does try to reduce overall costs (including labor costs) by continually improving and making cars more and more efficiently (so they can produce cars using fewer hours of labor in the future than they need today). Trying to become more efficient by engaging everyone in the effort is a part of the system of management at Toyota. The current Toyota employees are an important part of the system and are not viewed as a cost to eliminate. 

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  • Good Customer Service Example

    Recently I bought a new digital camera, Canon A700. Part of the reason I bought it was I had heard they actually provided customer service – you could call them and they answered and helped (plus they have long practiced good management improvement concepts, in general).

    Well I received my camera and I could not open the battery compartment: which was quite frustrating. I tried following the instructions but I couldn’t get it to open. So I tried calling Canon and I got a person on the phone within 30 seconds (there was system to direct me to the right person but it was as speaking the answer to a couple questions).

    Within a couple minutes the service person (based in Virginia and a Canon employee, as I understand it) had picked up a Canon A700 and explained how to open the door.

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  • Shenandoah National Park Photos

    Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, lies in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a few hours from Washington DC. Skyline Drive runs the length of the park as does the Appalachian Trail. I hiked several trails in October, 2004 and took these pictures.

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  • Secrets of the World’s Best Companies

    As Dr. W. Edwards Deming said there is no instant pudding for management (no quick fix). And management requires customization to the organization. You cannot just copy management practices from one place, where they are successful, to another. You can learn from what has been successful and adopt it to your organization if you have knowledge and theory and know how to test (pdsa) the effectiveness of new ideas in your organization.

    I don’t find many of the “secrets” mentioned in the article to be the greatest ideas for management (the best ideas I find among the thoughts of Deming, Ackoff, Ohno, Provost, Csikszentmihalyi, Hoerl, etc..

    Still, I believe it is good to learn about what others are doing. 

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  • Lean Thinking and Management

    I agree that we should acknowledge the paucity of success stories for improving the practice of management. The failures of management are not minor. The problems are large and the successes seem limited. The biggest thing I think we need to learn from this is that improving management is not easy. The concepts may seem simple but most of us can look around and see much more Dilbert Boss behavior than lean thinking behavior. And the gap between those two types of behavior seems to rise as you go “up” the organization chart.

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  • Using Design of Experiments

    Design of Experiments can seem complicated but at the core it is fairly simple and powerful. By applying the proper techniques it allows you to gage the effect of several variables and, very importantly, the interactions of those variables with a small number of experiments (or tests or pilots).

    George Box is a wonderful author (and friend) who can write for mangers who are not knowledgeable about statistics and statisticians. Statistics for Discovery does a good job of explaining how organizations should use experiments to improve.

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  • Deming and Toyota

    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).

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  • Six Sigma Won’t Fix Bad Management?

    Like most management concepts how it is applied varies tremendously. If one just uses some tools that are part of the “Six Sigma tool kit” (mostly tools from TQM and the like) then you might improve bad management only marginally.

    But if you read the work of Roger Hoerl, Soren Bisgaard, Forrest Breyfogle III… and learn and apply what they talk about as Six Sigma you will definitely have to address bad management practices. Their Six Sigma is definitely a management improvement system (you can’t apply their concepts of Six Sigma without fixing many bad management practices).

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  • Mount Rainier National Park Photos

    I have posted photos from the final destination of my trip last summer to the Pacific Northwest National ParksMount Rainier National Park.

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  • Saving for Retirement

    Saving for retirement is not complicated, it is just a matter of priorities. Most people care more about a Startbucks coffee each day (or season tickets, or new shoes, or a new car every couple of years or…) today than saving money for retirement. In a capitalist society we believe in letting people make their economic choices. The choices most of us make (in the USA) lead to the results above (few saving enough for retirement).

    Savings for retirement is difficult mainly because of our trouble planning for the long term, it is not at all a complex problem. The fable of the ant and the grasshopper illustrates this point very simply and it is really that simple. People need to do a better job of applying the lessons from that story to their retirement savings.

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  • Cease Mass Inspection for Quality

    Deming believed in improving the process, and doing so using process measures (which often may involve sampling) to guide improvement efforts. He did not believe in using inspection to select out the bad products, which is what inspection largely was before Deming.

    More on Deming’s thought on Inspection...

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  • Not Lean Retailing

    Nothing is wrong with major decisions being made by the leaders but the article leaves the impression many non-major decisions are cetralized too. That is a problem for those who believe in management improvement ideas including lean thinking.


    Again moving away from good lean management ideas such as: longevity of management, focus on value of employees rather than cost of employees…

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  • Is Made in the USA Back In Vogue? (2006)

    This example provides more evidence of the benefits of "lean manufacturing," though it seems they are getting only a few benefits (reduction of waste, faster resupply of "hot items") and they may well not know about <a href="http://curiouscat.com/management/leanthinking.cfm">lean thinking</a>.  By studying and applying lean ideas they should be able to reduce the 45 day turn-around time.  Perhaps they should read the Fashion Incubator blog...

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