Rss logo

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

  • Quality Customer Focus

    Customers expectations change over time. Often what was once enough to delight a customer (remote control for a TV) becomes expected. Once a feature is expected the organization gets no credit for providing it they only risk a negative reaction if they fail to provide it.

    continue reading: Quality Customer Focus

  • Visible Data

    Take the time to find the important measures and then don’t keep data hidden in some drawer or computer file out of people’s view and therefore out of mind. Post the important data for everyone to see. Review the data as changes are made and see that the changes had the desired result. 

    continue reading: Visible Data

  • Performance Appraisal Problems

    There are no easy answers, but what it should be about is managing the system to produce the best results. My best advice is to read chapter 9 of The Leader’s Handbook and read the rest of the Leader’s Handbook and other great management improvement books. And manage using the ideas of DemingAckoffScholtesMcGregorOhno… 

    continue reading: Performance Appraisal Problems

  • Organization, Systems and Culture

    Management improvement is mainly about using great ideas that have been around for years and decades.

    Useful, innovative new management ideas are great. But far too much effort is placed in trying to package "systems" (or copyrighted terms) as some new breakthrough in management when most often they offer little of value.

    continue reading: Organization, Systems and Culture

  • Toyota Special Report: Thinking Production System

    Minoura warns “simply introducing kanban cards or andon boards doesn’t mean you’ve implemented the Toyota Production System, for they remain nothing more than mere tools. The new information technologies are no exception, and they should also be applied and implemented as tools.”

    Early in his career, Minoura worked under Taiichi Ohno, recognized as the creator of the Toyota Production System. Ohno, through tireless trial and error, managed to put into practice a “pull” system that stopped the factory producing unnecessary items. But Minoura observes that it was only by developing this “loose collection of techniques” into a fully-fledged system, dubbed the Toyota Production System or TPS, that they were able to deploy this throughout the company

    continue reading: Toyota Special Report: Thinking Production System

  • Learning, Systems and Improvement

    Errors of omission, lost opportunities, are generally more critical than errors of commission. Organizations fail or decline more frequently because of what they did not do than because of what they did.


    The corrective action is itself the result of a decision. A record of this decision should be made and treated as the original decision. In this way the process can not only yield learning but also learning how to learn.

    A record of the entire process (all four steps) should be made and stored for easy access by those who may later be confronted by the need to make a similar type of decision.

    Russel Ackoff

    continue reading: Learning, Systems and Improvement

  • Change is not Improvement

    We trained hard… but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion; inefficiency, and demoralization.

    These lines, from the Satyricon of Petronius written 2,000 years ago…*

    * Unfortunately it seems this quote is not actually his.

    continue reading: Change is not Improvement

  • Management Excellence

    Most management practices cannot be plugged into any organization and work well. That practice must be applied in a sensible way given the organizational system. Learning how lean ideas (or other good ideas) are applied in varying systems can provide insight into how to integrate ideas for organizational improvement from those applying lean practices.

    continue reading: Management Excellence

  • Zero Defects

    I do not believe you succeed by declaring your goal to be zero defects. You succeed by creating a culture of never ending improvement, of customer focus, of fact based decision making, of learning, of “empowerment”…

    Part of that improvement is reducing variation, reducing defects, implementing smart new mistake proofing but innovation is too. Effectively zero defects is not really achievable in most cases. Defects are largely a matter of definition. As performance improves expectations will often rise. When you eliminate anything you would have called a defect years ago, standards are higher and things that would not have been called defects are no longer acceptable. At some point the system process advances to such a level where zero defects is possible in some cases but in many (say medical care, air transportation, education, computer software, restaurants, government, management consulting, civil engineering, legal services…) I really think it is basically impossible.

    continue reading: Zero Defects

  • Great Charts

    Karl Hartig displays some excellent charts that he created (for the Wall Street Journal) on his web site. The charts seem very similar to what would result from applying Edward Tufte’s ideas. Rarely do I see charts that do such a good job of visually displaying data. The lack of such effective visual display of information is another example of how much improvement could be made just by applying ideas that are already published.

    continue reading: Great Charts

  • Management Improvement Leaders
    • Russell Ackoff – frankly I find it difficult to imagine a list management thought leader list, not including his name. Organizational development, systems thinking, management improvement, planning, policy deployment, learning.
    • George Box: statistics, design of experiments, finding solutions (problem solving, process improvement), learning, management improvement

    continue reading: Management Improvement Leaders

  • Public Sector Management (part II)

    Deming did acknowledge that the United States government was not designed to be as efficient as possible. From page 198 of Out of the Crisis “Government service is to be judged on equity as well as on efficiency.” He then quotes Oscar Ornati “We have forgotten that the function of government is more equity oriented than efficiency oriented.”

    Deming did not focus on the nature of government extensively, but my recollection is that he acknowledged the wisdom of the American style of government (with checks and balances and fairly complex process for creating legislation) even though parts of that system intentionally makes change difficult.

    continue reading: Public Sector Management (part II)

  • How Not to Convert Equity

     In no way does increasing their leverage convert equity that might melt away. Any amount of “melting away” will still happen after this increase in leverage – no conversion has happened. They still have a full ownership interest in the real estate. If the value of their house fell $300,000 before or after this supposed “conversion” they would “lose” (on paper) the same amount: $300,000.


    The way to convert some of your asset to something else is to sell that asset (or a portion of it or hedge it in some way though for a house this is not easy or maybe even really possible). 

    continue reading: How Not to Convert Equity

  • Customer Service is Important

    My experience did not give me the impression they were focused much on what was important to me as a customers. The service I received seemed to be what I would expect from a company very focused on the idea that the objective of the company is to increase profits at the expense of everyone else. Two models of organization provide a very different customer experience.  One that sees customers as fools to be fleeced seems common among USA arilines, health care providers, cable companies, large banks, car dealers and phone companies.  The idea that organizations exists to provide customers value and the company takes a profit for providing that value sadly seem rare in the USA (though some organizations behave this way: Trader Joe's, many credit unions, many small restaurants and Apple (though some may disagree with me placing them here).

    continue reading: Customer Service is Important

  • Agility vs. Six Sigma

    Some people dislike the idea of managing processes. In my experience they then invent the idea that slow, boring process improvement is an alternative to innovation. That is just wrong. Process improvement should be part of a well run system, as should innovation. Deming, who many believe focused only process improvement, knew the importance of both. See several of Deming’s ideas on innovation.

    continue reading: Agility vs. Six Sigma