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    I am now using this blog to re-post some comments I make other blogs. For my full management blog see the Curious Cat Management Blog

    Sunday, July 05, 2015

    Customer Service is Often More Like a Mugging Than Service

    It is so frustrating to deal with most companies with monopolistic positions in the USA (which is a lot of them).

    I find dealing with those companies a matter of being confronted by someone trying to pick your pocket while they both ignore and insult you and give you orders about what hoops you have to jump through if you want to stop one of the things they are doing to harm you.

    Some are not that bad, I get water and garbage from the local county, they are actually the best service I get from a monopolistic provider. The electricity provider is just designed mainly to make their lives easy but they don't make it horrible to deal with them.

    Getting broadband (Verizon and Comcast where I am) is horrible - dealing with them is exactly what I wrote above. Health insurance (and I don't even make any claims) is bad, and if I actually got any service I imagine it would be horrible dealing with the service providers seeking to rip you off and the paperwork being a nightmare.

    I avoid dealing with the monopolistic providers as much as possible but you often are stuck. For example, I can (and have) only use sensible providers to get my mortgage, but then they are sold to service companies that are horrible and I have no say in the matter.

    Much more than the costs taken by companies when they can buy politicians in order to allow the abuse of the market by dominant providers I abhor the pain of dealing with these companies as a customer and the constant vigilance required to protect yourself from them ripping you off. It is like being forced to commute in a packed subway with bought off police that allow pickpocket teams to work without interference.

    Related: Worst Business Practices, Fees to Pay Your Bills - Customers Get Dissed and Tell - Incredibly Bad Customer Service from Discover Card - Don’t Let the Credit Card Companies Play You for a Fool

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    Tuesday, June 02, 2015

    Learning From Process Improvement Efforts

    Comment on: How to Improve (at just about anything)

    1. The classic way:

    Do – make an improvement
    Do – change a process
    Do – implement some training
    Do – install a system

    When you have been through the 4 do’s keep right on doing.
    2. The recommended way:

    Plan – develop an idea or innovation, work out how you will implement it.
    Do – carry out the plan on a small-scale, test it to see if it works.
    Check – study what happened, did the plan work? If not why not? What can you change?
    Act – adopt the change and roll it out, abandon it or learn from it and adapt it.

    Another huge benefit to the PDSA cycle in my experience is to learn. I can't remember how many times I would see in the do-do-do-do organization that

    do#1 was x
    do#2 was y
    do#3 was x again
    do#4 was z
    do#5 was y again

    Um, ok, yeah why are we trying things we already know don't work (they are presented as fixes not, as well this old way wasn't great but jeez it was much less bad than the mess we have now so lets go back). Why are we thinking x is going to work when we just dumped x because it wasn't working? PDSA makes you think about the process, study the historical data and document your predictions. The learning will

    Related: How to Improve - Document Your Decisions to Learn More Effectively - Learn by Seeking Knowledge, Not Just from Mistakes - Write it Down

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    Tuesday, May 26, 2015

    Businesses Need to Capture Potential Information and Use the Creativity of Employees

    Comments on: Asking the Employees

    The problem I see is that management systems can't be seen as independent from the specific tactic in some area (for example getting employees to share ideas). So the effectiveness of soliciting ideas from employees varies mostly by the overall management system unrelated to the specific tactics of the attempt to get ideas from employees. The specific tactics matter but less than the management system (which is often a mess and something no one wants to address).

    My father wrote an article a long time ago on how to use ~"two resources, largely untapped in American organizations: potential information and employee creativity."

    I think it provides worthwhile ideas.

    Related: Trust Your Staff to Make Decisions - Leading Improvement and Enjoying the Rewards - Do What You Say You Will

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    Tuesday, May 19, 2015

    Deming Wanted Managers to Understand the Systems They Managed and to Visit Where the Work was Done

    Comments on Deming wasn’t a fan of Management by Walking Around

    Deming’s view is entrenched in Lean management practice in the form of “Genchi Genbutsu”, literally “go and see” at the “real place”. Where practitioners of Management by Walking Around merely visit the workers for a chat, practitioners of Genchi Genbutsu stay with the workers to understanding what is going on.

    True, and the details you provide are important. It wasn't managers going to the gemba Deming was against. What mattered is the system. Some people did Management by Walking Around (MBWA), even decades ago, in a useful way - with understanding. But most did not.

    Gemba walks are much more likely to be useful (because the expectations are for a more engaged leader) but there are plenty of times those are not done well, and are no better than bad MBWA. Jim Womack has a book out on Gemba Walks which provides good details to managers on what they should do (and what Deming wanted them to do).

    Related: Out of Touch Executives Damage Companies, Go to the Gemba - Leadership and Management - Jeff Bezos Spends a Week Working in Amazon’s Kentucky Distribution Center (2009) - Customer Gemba

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    Wednesday, May 13, 2015

    What is a Lean Program, Deming Program?

    Thoughts in response to: Dr. Deming’s Last Interview & Jack Welch’s Thoughts on Him by Mark Graban.

    Deming sure provided some great quotes in that interview; those you listed above and more (in fact I posted about one this week in To Achieve Success Focus on Improving the System Not On Individual Performance). From Mark's post:

    I’m not sure what 'a Deming program' is anymore than I know what 'a Lean program' is sometimes.

    This is so true. Basically organizations can be making good progress but essentially none that *have* a Deming or lean program. Toyota is sensible to consider the closest - I mean lean after all originally was just documenting Toyota and calling it lean instead of Toyota management or whatever. But Toyota does plenty of things that are not what even Toyota says how things should be done.

    And beyond that lean has evolved away, IMO, from just being able to say anything Toyota does is by definition lean. Lean and Deming are more about a philosophy of managing - continual improvement, respect for people, etc. than prescriptions. So you can't really have a checklist and say that if your org can check off all these things they are lean or Deming.

    The fact that the management systems can't be reduced to a checklist is a necessary given the long lasting power they offer. When you reduce the ideas for management that far (so you have a checklist of exactly what to do) you get a stupid system that can't be used for managing large systems of people. Organizations doing the best job of being worth of claims of being true to the management systems are likely to have the widest understanding of all the ways in which they are failing to live up to that vision.

    I continue to think Toyota is doing a very good job. But they also have plenty of room to improve. And they continue to be tempted by becoming more like other companies instead of recommitting to the principles of lean and Deming.

    Related: Rethinking or Moving Beyond Deming Often Just Means Applying More of What Dr. Deming Actually Said - Long Term Thinking with Respect for People - Deming and Software Development

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    Thursday, May 07, 2015

    Building a System to Reduce Interruptions for Software Developers

    I feel strongly about the damage done by interruption to makers focus. My appreciation for this damage to system performance was greatly enhanced as I became a software developer.

    In my work prior to software development I could see that interruptions were not ideal but they were not so damaging to my work and they do also have value. But work that requires extra focus, and software development sure did for me, the damage increasing greatly.

    Over 20 years ago at the Madison Area Quality Improvement Network they had a simple visual management sign at everyones office and cube. You could dial between various settings - GREEN available (free to interrupt)... RED busy, don't interrupt... There were 3 to 5 settings. It worked very well for them.

    Of course such a system is highly dependent on the overall management system. Just putting that up in most offices would likely fail. MAQIN was an organization that embodied modern management practices (Deming, lean, respect for people, organization as system, etc.). It worked very well for them.

    When building a software development team I tried to protect developers from interruption while having very open communication between developers and program managers (product owners). As is often the case, the real roles didn't line up exactly. In our organization, the people that needed us to develop software (to varying levels) didn't want to take on the responsibilities that agile would suggest (setting priorities etc.). Nor did the that organization want to deal with the conflicting priorities of the various people in their organization had for software development. As part of making things work, I took on a bit of the priority setting roles.

    One of the things I did was explain to those that had us do software development was why it was critical to allow software developers to have uninterrupted time to focus. I shared various articles and reports over time and would talk about this as I interacted with them. I encouraged people to talk to me first (at that time I had transitioned from developer/software-development-program-manager to nearly entirely a program manager role).

    We also had weekly meetings (when it made sense) with the "product owners", me and the developers working on the software. We scheduled additional meetings when necessary.

    I also encouraged people to use email when possible to just check on things, ask simple questions, ask to meet. Again I explained how just going up to talk to the developer could impose significantly higher costs to them being able to focus of their work than there were for interrupting my work or others that had work that could more easily be interrupted with lower consequences.

    When there were very important deadlines I would increase these instructions not to interrupt the software developers. And I would talk to the developers about how things were going and if the developers wanted help pushing back a bit I would then do so - mainly by trying to work on the system (provide a set time to allow needed discussions, coach the "product owners" on the difficulty caused by interruptions etc.).

    As you might expect this worked better with some people than others. It made a significant difference though. And in our organization it was actually a bit less effective because the software developers were all so nice. They could say how interruptions damaged what they could do systemically but were always super friendly whenever they were interrupted. I was by far the most willing to actually disappoint people face to face in the name of improving overall performance.

    It is very hard to overestimate the systemic nature of all of this. By delivering great results we were able to reinforce that if we followed the modified Deming/agile methods we were using were important. Those needing work from us ranged from very skeptical to accepting of those ideas but our performance (both in meeting their desires for software and for interpersonal interactions) made them willing to go along with the methods we said were important.

    Related: Deming and Software Development - Mistake Proofing Deployment of Software Code - Creating a Culture that Values Continual Improvement

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    Wednesday, April 29, 2015

    A College Degree Isn't an Acceptable Hiring Screen

    Comment on: Do You Need a Degree to be Hired to Develop Software?
    In all the time I hired developers (about 10 years), I never made a college degree a requirement.
    The best developer (who was also much more - designer, coach, architect, program manager...) I ever helped hire didn't have a college degree.

    Our company had just hired a new HR person that started "showing their worth" with new rules such as the dictate that all hires must have a college degree. Thankfully out team agreed higher him was wise and the CIO decided that dictate was nonsense and we hired the applicant.

    I have written about what a great software development team we created.

    In addition to a college degree being a lousy hiring screen, so are most of the automated screen poorly designed HR departments use. Years of experience, experience with a list of specific software, keywords listed, etc. are just lazy and poor criteria to use to reject applicants.

    Related: Dee Hock on Hiring (2010) - Hiring – Does College Matter? (2007) - Google’s Answer to Filling Jobs Is an Algorithm (but yours shouldn't be) - The Illusion of Knowledge - Working as a Software Developer

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    Wednesday, April 15, 2015

    Did Deming and Drucker Agree on Important Management Practices?

    Response to, Help needed fleshing out differences between Drucker & Deming? on The W. Edwards Deming Institute LinkedIn group.

    Here are some links about the topic

    There were cases where Deming and Drucker disagreed but in many ways the ideas they proposed were compatible.

    Drucker did propose MBO, his version was not the same thing we criticize. Drucker did criticize how it was being implemented. I think you can argue even with the way Drucker wanted it done, but that way isn't nearly as bad as the way it was done in practice (so don't think Drucker was promoting managing in the way MBO has often been practiced).

    And also don't tie Drucker to just MBO, he had lots of ideas over a very long career and many work fine with a Deming management system. I think in many ways Drucker's stuff can be more easily molded to whatever someone wants it to be - this is one reason I think you see Drucker taught in business school. They can claim Drucker wouldn't object to many things, even though, really I think he would - I am not sure Drucker spoke out so directly (especially compared to Deming).

    But Drucker was direct on some things, like how bad excessive taking of company's money by executives was. And MBA programs seem perfectly fine ignore this, even though what Drucker found horrible has become mathematically 10 times worse than it was.

    I think Drucker was ahead of Deming on this. I don't know that Deming ever was clear on how bad this practice was, but I think he would be clear about it today (though that is just my guess, I could be wrong). I think Dr. Deming would add that to the list of deadly diseases. Remember the original list was 5 before he added 2, to make it 7.

    Related: Deming's Point 11.b of 14 - Deming versus Drucker - Why There's No Right Way to Do MBO - 3 Deming-Based Alternatives to Management by Objective

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    Saturday, April 04, 2015

    The Value of Putting Pen to Paper

    Comments on Learning by Writing… by Hand
    The psychology behind the learning advantage of handwriting is starting to be understood... [Carol Holstead] "It turned out my theory was right and now is supported by research. A study published last year in Psychological Science showed that students who write out notes longhand remember conceptual information better than those who take notes on a computer."
    I am also a fan of technology. And also a fan of learning and paying attention to research. Pen on paper has advantages for learning that technology has yet to equal. At the same time technology has many advantages also.

    We seem to understand the advantages of using technology fairly well but under-appreciate the advantages of pen on paper. To make sure we don't lose out due to this bias we should think before we accept that pen on paper isn't worthwhile.

    From a post I wrote in 2005, Measurement and Data Collection

    I believe, it is better to focus on less data, really focus on it. My father, Bill Hunter, and Brain Joiner, believed in the value of actually plotting the data yourself by hand. In this day and age that is almost never done (especially in an office environment). I think doing so does add value. For one thing, it makes you select the vital few important measures to your job.
    Lots of data will be kept in computers and that makes sense. But putting pen to paper has value that we too quickly dismiss.

    Related: Experience Teaches Nothing Without Theory - The Illusion of Knowledge - Write it Down to Improve Learning (Ackoff)

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    Tuesday, March 24, 2015

    Learning Can't Take Place Without Theory

    Response to: The Secrets of Lean

    I think you make good points, but I think you make a mistake stating:

    "This system of learning has come from experience, not theory."

    For some reason, culturally, we created this idea that theory was about disengaged people (away from the gemba) thinking in a way disconnected from practice. But this is not what theory is.

    Learning can't take place without theory. Experience doesn't lead to learning. Experience with a theory and an informed observer that questions what they see can lead to learning.

    It seems to me accept theory that is separated from the gemba as what theory is and then say theory is not useful, experience is. But we are making a mistake when we think this way. The problem we see in theory being used disconnected from feedback from the gemba is a bad use of theory. But the problem is not that theory needs to be eliminated, but that theory disconnected from the gemba is not useful in learning about systems and improving our organizations.

    Related: Experimentation is an iterative process - Effort Without the Right Knowledge and Strategy is Often Wasted

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    Monday, March 09, 2015

    Lowering Expectations Isn't Respect

    My comments on good post by Michael Ballé - How demanding can a lean leader be while remaining respectful of staff?

    Being respectful means first not dismissing people’s difficulties but making the utmost effort to figure out the problems they mention and their origins.

    ...

    Being demanding is a large part of lean leadership and, to be honest, in most cases, all goes well and people respond... there’s always one in ten who throws up a fuss, makes tantrum and will accuse you of being disrespectful in your very requests.

    ...

    Being respectful means making sure people can succeed to the fullest of their abilities.

    ...

    as a leader, your first job is to teach people to change.
    A big problem we have (at least in the USA) is the opinion some people develop that respect has to do with not making anyone uncomfortable. That isn't respect, that is creating a dysfunctional mindset.

    Fear driven culture that give mouth service to "respect" often create a climate in which managers find themselves fearful of being blamed for "disrespecting people" (which often means making someone uncomfortable). If they truly are being dis-respectful their boss needs to be dealing with that and helping them improve (which their boss should know because they are actually involved in management - but in many organization, probably most, the their boss would be clueless).

    These management system concepts are all connected - weaknesses in critical areas create huge problems. If management doesn't know what is going on in the gemba they are suppose to manage, problems are very likely. Sadly this is often the case.

    What you say is well put. We need to have high expectations and expect that people will rise to the challenge. And if people can't (with help and good systems) we need to find them a new position at which they can excel. Babying people isn't respectful to them or everyone else.

    Helping people be as contribute is respectful. While ignoring poor performance is often easier for the manager than addressing the issue and helping the person improve doing the difficult task is what managers need to do if they respect people. And likely managers should be spending a lot more time doing this and eliminating other things taking up their time (unless they are in an amazing organization where coaching is a huge part of the managers job - in which case, wonderful).

    I have written about this several times: Practical Ways to Respect People - A Good Management Culture Encourages the Debate of Ideas - Respect for People Doesn’t Mean Avoiding Any Hint of Criticism

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    Thursday, February 26, 2015

    Patient Centered Doesn't Mean Patient Directed

    One thing I find annoying is when people talk about patient "choice" as if that is the fundamental principle in health care. We often try to simplify things so much that they are untrue. Health care is complex and trying to point to pithy sayings does more harm than good I think.

    Patient focus matters but there are conflicts between what is the best care and what patients want. And there are conflicts between what those paying for care want and drug companies want and hospitals want and doctors want. These require difficult choices and in order to optimize results we need very well designed systems that take these issues into account.

    Sadly I think the USA generally has very bad systems in place. The rest of the world isn't that great either, but by and large is better than the USA and much cheaper. Most health care providers care about patient care and often make heroic efforts to provide it. But the systems are just lousy.

    Those systems that seem the most lousy to me around extracting cash from payers - it is absolutely horrible in so many ways in the USA. Sadly this creates hugh waste in the USA that is ripe for improvement (and has been for at least 30 years). Patient care also has plenty of room for improvement, but thankfully it isn't as messed up as the whole payment system is.

    One of the things people ignore is that we are not talking about GM in the 1980s being pitiful compared to Toyota. When we look at how poorly the USA health care system does it is in comparison to other rich countries it isn't a comparison to "Toyota." It is more like being pitiful compared to 1980s Fiat or something. When you are twice as expensive with no better results than Toyota that is somewhat lame. When you twice as expensive as not very well run systems with no better results that is super lame. And then add on the top of it that you bankrupt hundreds of thousands of people a year, force people to avoid health care so they don't go bankrupt...

    We need to have systems that are patient focused but that doesn’t mean patients dictate treatment. And we need to see a much wider system than we normally do. We need to be focused on healthy living not just disease treatment. And given the mess that is the USA health care system we need to focus on reducing the burden of coping with the horrible USA health system bureaucracy - that system does great damage to those having to deal with it (and it is nearly all waste that shouldn't be creating such hardship).

    Response to: A Story About a Hospital Putting Safety First Over Patient Satisfaction

    Related: USA Health Expenditures Reached $2.8 trillion in 2012: $8,915 per person and 17.2% of GDP - Our Failed Health-care System - Overview of 5 Nations Health Care Systems

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    Sunday, February 15, 2015

    Influential Women in the Field of Quality Management

    My response, off the top of my head (there are plenty of others to include) to Who Has Inspired You About Quality? by Nicole Radziwill.

    I searched online and found a nice “List of Gurus” that someone put together that includes my extra picks! But!! There’s a problem with it. Where area the women? The one woman in this list is someone I’ve never heard of, which is odd, since I’ve read papers by (or about!) all of the other people referenced in the list. Which brings me back to my original point: Where are all the women quality gurus? It’s time to start celebrating their emerging legacy. If you are a woman who has made significant contributions to our understanding and/or practice of quality and improvement, Please contact me. I’d like to write an article soon.
    Joyce Orsini and Gipsie Ranney have done lots of good stuff. So has Clare Crawford Mason.

    Gertrude Mary Cox isn't known so much for "quality" as statistics but she was an impressive person and a generation or two ahead of others (and it really is related to quality).

    Mary Poppendieck has really good stuff at the intersection of quality and software development.

    Meg Wheatley was really popular in the 1990s in the systems thinking area of quality. I thought her stuff was good, but wasn't as impressed with it as many people - I haven't seen her stuff in a long time.

    There are a couple recent podcasts from the Deming Institute with Paula Marshall, Andrea Gabor and Monta Akin (as well as others listed above).

    Most, or all, of those could be good articles.

    Related: My post on Who Inspires Your Management Thinking and Action? - women in science and engineering

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    Wednesday, February 04, 2015

    A Good Management Culture Encourages the Debate of Ideas

    my comments on Political Correctness Comes To Lean

    Criticism is one of the ways in which knowledge advances. It is a type of thoughtful feedback (and subsequent dialogue) that helps expose blind spots, identify misunderstandings, provide alternate explanations, or uncover errors that others cannot see or are unwilling to acknowledge.

    ...

    Without criticism from others, we are unlikely to challenge our own thinking or escape the comfort of self-satisfaction. We fall prey to the confirmation bias and accept information that confirms one’s views and reject all information that does not. We also develop a love for the status quo. Criticism is rejected without consideration and attributed to people who are simply uninformed or who suffer from professional jealousies.

    The outcome is blocked information flow, which is the opposite of what we seek to achieve in Lean management.
    I agree with you. I put much of the blame on insecurity and mistaking respect for people with not making anyone uncomfortable. When people are insecure or unconfident they often take criticisms of ideas, plans, results, etc. as personal attacks. Then misunderstanding of don't be "dis-respectful" to people comes into play.

    I have written about this several times

    Respect for People Doesn’t Mean Avoiding Any Hint of Criticism

    Building a Great Software Development Team, a significant part of which was hiring people that would debate ideas without becoming overly personally defensive.

    And those posts link to more related posts. The retreat into criticism of ideas is dis-respectful is a real problem for management improvement. Usually there are plenty of other more severe problems, but if you are doing well and getting rid of common failures to manage the organization as a system, experiment and base decisions on data (in many ways) you are likely to reach a point where the fear of debating ideas common in the USA becomes a serious problem.

    Related: What Does Respect for People Actually Mean? - Disrespecting most people in order to avoid confronting one person is not good management (or respect for people)

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    Sunday, January 04, 2015

    Most Popular Posts on the Curious Cat Management Comments Blog

    The most popular posts on this blog: I started this blog over 10 years ago. After I figured out I thought blogging would work for me I created a self hosted blog and moved the content to that blog. But I kept up the post here since web pages should live forever. For several years (about 2005 to 2011), I posted occasionally to this blog, sometimes the posts were comments made on other blogs.

    In 2011 I started to use this blog a bit more consistently to collect the management and leadership related comments I made on other blogs here (when they seemed to say something useful or interesting that were worth posting on this blog).

    Related: 10 Most Popular Posts on the Curious Cat Management Blog in 2014 - 20 Most Popular Post on Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog in 2014

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    Sunday, December 21, 2014

    I Don't Take "Better Management" for Granted

    My response to a post on Management Innovation is at the Top of the Innovation Stack and the authors reply to my first comment:

    JD Meier: "I think we are so used to 'better management' now that we take it for granted."

    You are much luckier than I (both as an employee and customer). I find very few companies show evidence of practicing what Deming, Drucker, Ackoff etc. talked about many decades ago. Better management is still a distant hope for most organizations in my opinion.

    I do think Hamel talks about lots of good stuff. I admit my study of his is not extensive, but from what I remember he does tend to (as do nearly all these people trying to sell their ideas) make more of what he is saying than is merited.

    It reminds me of college when about 50% of my professors in the first lecture had some version of: In [this class] we are studying the true core of knowledge, everything else is just a different take on what we will study here. If it was physics then chemistry, biology... are really sub-disciplines of physics. If it was philosophy everything else was a sub-discipline of philosophy. I thought it was pretty funny. And that passion likely made them great professors, even if I think they lost perspective on reality.

    I think even many fairly good management thinkers get hung up on the wonderfulness of their thoughts and how critical their details are. I do still I do like Hamel but I think he is too caught up with his ideas and thinking what he has been looking at is more important than it really is.

    My first comment:

    I agree with what I think is the premise - that better management is critical for the ability for an organization to successfully innovate. And that bad management can kill otherwise excellent innovation in the other domains you list.

    I think calling it management innovation however is misleading. It is true management at very valuable companies (and less valuable ones) needs a great deal of improvement. But it is mainly adopting good management practices people like Deming, Ackoff and Drucker talked about many decades ago.

    Related: The Need to Improve Management While Building Organizations Fit For Human Beings - Quality and Innovation - New? Different? How About Better?

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    Tuesday, December 16, 2014

    Niche Markets

    One of the things I find amazing is how focused niche markets are. I noticed this as a kid collecting baseball cards and then paying attention to all the very focused niche markets I saw. When people find it surprising that people actual focus on that I don't really find it surprising but I do still find it interesting.

    Here is a good example of what I mean, a business focused on manufacturing bottle caps specifically for use in craft and jewelry projects. That is not a market I think most people think of and say wow if only I could build a business in that market I would be set.

    But by focusing on customers and building your business to give customers what they want you can build a good business. That is how the Bottle Cap Company built itself. It started out selling on bottle cap products at local farmer's markets and then ended up with an extra supply and sold that on eBay. And based on that response they saw a larger global market and expanded. And now they ship products and supplies daily all over the world from their warehouse located in Nampa, Idaho.

    The success of companies like Google and Apple and Tesla are interesting. But far more success is gained in small companies providing needs to niche markets. I wrote about recent lean startup weekend in Johor Bahru, Malaysia recently along the lines of providing products and services to meet customers needs and not needing to try and become the next Twitter. Sure making billions sounds nice but that is extremely unlikely. However building a successful small business is possible by managing the business well and applying good customer focus principles.

    Related: What Works for One Business May Not Work For Others - Pilot on a Small Scale First, Good Advice We Often Ignore - The Customer Knows Best?

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    Sunday, December 14, 2014

    It isn't Fair to be Judged for Performance Outside Your Control

    My response to Simon Guilfoyle post
    It’s also necessary to acknowledge that multiple variables affect crime rates; factors such as economic cycles, substance abuse, the weather, societal influences, changes in legislation, and so on. None of these are directly within the gift of the police to influence. Also, what about where the police cause an increase in reported crime by having the temerity to find someone carrying a weapon? Surely proactive problem-solving should not be discouraged on the basis that finding hitherto unreported criminal offences is incongruous with an over-simplified crime reduction narrative...
    I would say many of the examples are outcome measures of the system - which is a better measure than is often used.

    However, they are often beyond the control of individuals and even police departments overall (many other factors play a part - economic development, social services system, education system...).

    Likely more directly relevant the measurement error is often so high that the figures have more to do with measurement than the actual outcome. And when the figures are being used to blame then it dramatically increases the likelihood the figures will be a poor representation of outcomes.

    I would rather see more focus on outcome measures. We should also reduce incentives to misreport data (often blame related).

    I think the issues you raise about the system being larger than the police can tackle alone should be a reason to INCREASE the view of the SYSTEM. The important system is LARGER than the police department. When we have institutional walls that break up the system we need to find ways to knock down those walls so the system can work together. Granted this seems nearly impossible given how much difficulty we have even just breaking down barriers inside tiny pieces of our organizations.

    Nevertheless that is where the focus should be. We shouldn't decide the outcome measures are not fair given where we put organizational barriers. We should decide that we need to realize when we cut funding for x it drives bad results in section a. And when we allow y to retain fitfully outdated management practices that doesn't just impact their ability to succeed it likely creates lots of other problems all over the place.

    Related: Be Careful What You Measure - Millennium Development Goals

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    Sunday, December 07, 2014

    Sustaining Management Improvement Through Personnel Changes

    My reply to a comment on Reddit about my interview: Leadership While Viewing the Organization as a System.

    So if a new manager is able to mess it up, the system was necessarily weak? Not sure I agree.


    Looking at the context the interviewer asked about a new CIO coming in a gutting the management system. I said if they have a strong management system that can't happen. Executives can't just have whims (usually driven by a desire to "make their mark") that throw out the principles used to manage the company if there is actually a strong management system.

    Most organizations just float with whatever fads are going on, so in most they can flip flop as new executives come into place.

    On the question of new managers making mistakes. Yes, I agree they can. Once again good management systems make a significant effort to bring new managers up to speed. Those management systems reduce the likelihood of failures created by new managers making mistakes. Again, most organizations do a poor job of brining new managers up to speed: Toyota does a good job, the USA military does also, Costco does a good job, I think P&G does (but my information could be outdated). Many others do this well, but the majority of companies do this extremely poorly. That is a serious failure of a management system and I would put more of the blame for those failures on the poor management system, that the managers making mistakes when they were put in a position they shouldn't have been (being made responsible without proper preparation).

    Related: Poor Results Should be Addressed by Improving the System Not Blaming Individuals - Management Training Program (2005 Curious Cat post) - Curious Cat Management Improvement Dictionary

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    Monday, December 01, 2014

    Data Must be Understood to Intelligently Use Evidence Based Thinking

    All metrics are wrong, but some are useful
    Metrics might tell you something about the world in a quantified way, but for the how and why we need models and theories … metrics are generated must be open and transparent to make gaming of the system more difficult, and to expose the biases that are inherent in humanly created data
    True, understanding the proxy nature of data (and how well or questionably the proxy fits) is important.

    Data can't lie but we often make it easy for others to mislead us when we don't understand (or question) what the data really means (what operational definitions were used in the collection, etc.).

    Related: Operational Definitions and Data Collection - Actionable Metrics

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    Sunday, November 16, 2014

    How to Deal with Motivation Problems.

    Comment on, The Great Addiction to Motivation
    By saying that we lack the motivation, it gives us another excuse to procrastinate.

    ...

    Have any tips for getting your motivation back? I’d love to hear them.
    I think we misidentify the issue when we claim it is motivation (as you allude to). For why we don't take action I believe it is more about habit than motivation. As to what to do, make habits of what you care about.

    Our organizations often demotivate us. We don't need pep talks and reward/carrots to get over the de-motivation. We need the practices that de-motivate us (Dilbert does a good job highlight many of these) to cease. In this sense what is needed to motivate us is to remove those things that are de-motiving us. Leaving those in place and relying on pep talk and such gimmicks is a losing strategy.

    Words about how employees should be all motivated about work while the organization beats out the intrinsic motivation people have at ever turn only drives de-motivation to higher levels. Instead, build an organization where intrinsic motivation flourishes.

    For more ideas see the Curious Cat Management Improvement blog posts on motivation.

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