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  • 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.

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  • 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.”

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    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.

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  • 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.

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    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.

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  • The Transformation is Everybody’s Job

    There are quotes you can pick to make it seem like executives are responsible for the system and individuals workers have little impact on overall results – “A bad system will beat a good person every time.” This shows the limitation of isolated quotes more than anything else.

    Complex systems have many leverage points and can be influenced in many ways. It is unreasonable to have a broken management system and blame those working within it for the naturally poor results than such a system creates. And executives have more authority and thus more responsibility for creating a good management system that is continually improving. But such a management system requires that everyone in the organization is contributing.

    Those with authority must modify the management system to allow everyone to contribute. But that doesn’t mean everyone else just sits by waiting for those with more authority to transform the organization. Transformation doesn’t work that way. It is a dynamic, interconnected process. It isn’t as simple as turning on a light (or declaring this is our new transformed management system).

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  • Riding a Bike and the Theory of Knowledge

    This video is a wonderfully visual example of how hard it can be for us to drop our ingrained habits and pick up new ones. When you watch this think about management concepts that are so difficult to drop that managers feel like this person trying to ride a bike.

    The bike looks just like any other bike but reacts in a different way to the bike riders actions. But that small adjustment on how the bike reacts is very challenging to overcome and makes you very uncomfortable while you try to make sense of this odd new system.

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  • 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.

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  • The Road Not Taken

    Robert Frost was poking fun at his friend who would obsess over what fork to take in the path as they walked when in reality the choice made no difference.

    And “that has made all the difference” is poking fun at self justifications of our actions; congratulating ourselves for doing something not really worthy of accolades.

    Still the top three lines do seem like insightful advice. Of course what is really needed is insight into when choosing the road less traveled is wise (or at least a sensible gamble) and when it is less traveled for very good reasons.

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  • Google: Experiment Quickly and Often

    this is basically piloting changes on a small scale, analyzing the results and repeating that quickly. Quick, frequent experimentation with iteration is a tactic all organizations would benefit from.

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  • Poor Management Harms USA Manufactures (2005)

    The global competition in manufacturing is intense. But America is still the largest manufacturer in the world and managers should not be allowed escape responsibility for their failure to manage effectively with claims that manufacturing in the USA cannot compete. The biggest change needed is an improvement in management. Other things would also help greatly, such as improving the health care system.

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  • Educate New Managers on Their New Responsibilities

    Far too often companies promote employees into management positions and expect them to fulfill the obligations of their new position without helping prepare them to meet their new responsibilities. People who excelled at doing their non-supervisory job often have little education or experience to succeed with their new responsibilities.

    Managing a software development team is a completely different job from being a great software developer. Most everyone would acknowledge that: but if you look at what actually happens in many organizations the management system is not setup with this fact in mind.

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  • Jobs to be Done

    If you see your job from the customer’s perspective you may change the scope of your offerings. You can add services that help the potential customer chose you. In the book, they explore the example mentioned in the article in more detail. They also discuss how an online university changed their processes to address the issues their potential customers faced in the “hiring” process. They changed, not the “product” (education), but the processes supporting potential students making the decision to hire Southern New Hampshire University.

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  • Improving Management with Tools and Knowledge

    Both the tools and the underlying principles are catalysts to better management. Alone each can result in a bit of improvement. But when they are used together is when you see remarkable improvement. The effective integration of the principles and the tools is what separates the remarkable companies we respect (and maybe envy) from all the others that are having some success but that are also struggling in many ways.

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  • Who Influences My Management Improvement Thinking?
  • Dilbert and Deming

    Dilbert can show the silliness that is common place in many workplaces, as just that – silly. Point 10 of Deming’s 14 points called on management to eliminate slogans.

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    The text works well for me, but I think Dilbert provides a great service in pointing out the same idea that such slogans are silly and even harmful in a way many others find more accessible.

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  • Toyota as Homebuilder

    many organizations don’t apply many concepts that have been proven effective for decades. So I hope Toyota gets into any business that continues to provide lousy value to the consumer (at least those where that consumer is me). I wish they would create their own credit card (they offer Toyota branded Visa and MasterCard credit cards now, in Japan), provide high speed internet service and run an airline.

    Toyota is probably too smart to try and run an airline in the US (only Southwest seems to be able to that profitably).

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    On the Toyota web site they list the following areas of non-automotive Toyota business: financial services, information and communications, marine and most surprisingly Biotechnology and Afforestation. Toyota states: “Biotechnology may seem far removed from the auto industry. It is, however, closely related to automaking in the context that they are both aiming to achieve a sustainable society, and their close relationship can be seen in the new Raum, launched in May 2003, which uses parts made from bioplastics.”

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