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  • Blogging is Good for You

    Blogs are a valuable tools for individuals (or small firms).  They allow for focused marketing that allows you to make a good impression by sharing your thoughts. Marketing is often one of the most difficult parts of making a successful career as a consultant.

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  • Toyota in the US Economy

    From Toyota’s web site: Toyota Manufacturing in the USA: by 2008, Toyota will have the annual capacity to build 1.81 million cars and trucks, 1.44 million engines, and 600,000 automatic transmissions in North America.

    The company’s direct employment in North America is more than 38,000 and direct investment is nearly $16.8 billion with annual purchasing of parts, materials, goods and services from North American suppliers totaling an additional $26 billion.

    [In 2016 Toyota manufactured 2,450,000 vehicles in the USA, Toyota promotes a fake number for employees counting many non-employees, employees of suppliers etc., so you can't view the accurate data on their site in 2017 - in 2006 they did post an honest number].

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  • Quality and Costs

    Deming explained that increasing quality decreases costs. Page 3 of Out of the Crisis: Improve Quality –> Costs decrease because of less rework, fewer mistakes, fewer delays…

    Like most models this does not explain everything. Achieving some quality desires does cost more. And the article examines how to look at the issue of cost reduction in health care, where the view that higher quality costs more persists to a larger extent than elsewhere. There is significant room in health care for adopting improvement that will improve quality and reduce costs because the systems are so poorly designed they are both increasing costs and decreasing quality over what could be achieved.

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  • China’s Manufacturing Economy

    The constant mention of the eroding manufacturing sector on the USA I believe leads many to think it is shrinking and small. Yet output continues to increase and the share of worldwide manufacturing output is holding steady. China is gaining substantial ground but the Chinese increase has largely come from Japan and Europe. To me this understanding is important because of my felling about the misperceptions of many.

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  • Dell, Reddit and Customer Focus (2006)

    I think most of Dell's users do not notice what Dell is doing, exactly. Reddit readers, however, by and large, do, which is one thing that makes reading Reddit fun. I find Reddit's users can point out, not just problems, but the systemic causes of those problems (so they vote up the links that do exactly this).

    Most customers might not see the chain leading to their frustration but the do know they don't like that the computer is slow and they have to wade through all sorts of software (much of which they don't need or want). I think the author was exactly right that the source of the problem is Dell's monetary incentive is to get paid to add more and more stuff not to give the users what they need.


    Mainly I think these critical looks at practices are fun reading, but there is also a management issue to understand.  There are many smart people who know how to voice their opinion (and the internet can connect that voice to large numbers of people).   In this day and age, if you think your imperial halo with protect you from the masses you had better hope none of these people get a look at what you offer.  If you are figuratively naked, they will see, and they will shout that fact from the mountain top.

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  • PBS Documentary: Improving Hospitals

    This rare good news documentary reports on a surprising solution to escalating costs, unnecessary deaths and waste in America’s hospitals. Doctors and nurses tell how they did their best, working overtime, while hospital conditions worsened. They were delighted to learn a new way to improve patient care dramatically and reduce unnecessary deaths, suffering, errors, infections and costs without additional resources or government regulations.

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  • Manufacturing Jobs Data: USA and China

    10-20% of manufacturing jobs disappeared worldwide from 1995 to 2002. China lost between 17% and 34% of theirmanufacturing jobs and the USA lost 11.4% of theirs.

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  • Lean Manufacturing Success

    Not only is this a nice story but it is one small example of the good people working at GM and Ford. The problem is not the individual workers it is management. It is too bad that those companies, that did take great strides in the 1980 and early 1990s to improve (starting with Deming’s Management ideas) let those efforts fade away.

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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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