• Home
  • What Could we do Better?
  • Instituting a Management Improvement Culture in Your Organization
  • Find the Root Cause Instead of the Person to Blame
  • Good Process Improvement Practices
  • Management is Prediction
  • The Purpose of an Organization
  • Performance Without Appraisal
  • Manufacturing and the Economy
  • Practical Ways to Respect People
  • 10 stocks for 10 years
  • Deming and Toyota
  • Curious Cat Management Improvement Articles
  • John Hunter
  • Institute for Healthcare Improvement
  • Superfactory
  • Management Improvement Jobs
  • Deming on Management
  • Management and Leadership Quotes

    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

    Monday, March 14, 2016

    William G. Hunter Award (nomination deadline June 30th)

    William G. Hunter Award
    Nomination Deadline: June 30

    Criteria for Selection - The William G. Hunter Award is presented annually in order to encourage the creative development and application of statistical techniques to problem-solving in the quality field. Named in honor of the Statistics Division’s founding chairman, the award recognizes that person (or persons) whose actions most closely mirror Bill Hunter’s strengths, which were as:

    • A Communicator
    • A Consultant
    • An Educator (especially for practitioners)
    • An Innovator
    • An Integrator (of statistics with other disciplines) and
    • An Implementor (who obtained results)

    Download Award Criteria and Nomination Form (DOC)

    Past awardees include: Gerald Hahn, Brian Joiner, Soren Bisgaard, Christine Anderson-Cook and Bill Hill.

    Labels: ,

    Friday, February 05, 2016

    The Absence of Defects Does Not Necessarily Build Business

    Comment on: Saving Money vs Making Money

    by saving money, we make more money – simple (and easy); anyone should be able to see that! And while this may be true for the short term, it doesn’t support any longer term growth.
    So, what do you want to do? Do you want to save money or make money?

    Let me know your thoughts!

    How about Deming's thoughts :-)

    "No defects, no jobs. Absence of defects does not necessarily build business… Something more is required." W. Edwards Deming

    Waste can be equated to defects and the sentiment is the same. I share more of my thoughts on the topic in a 2006 post: Quality and Innovation.

    Related: Zero Defects Isn't the Right Goal - Customer Focus by Everyone

    Labels: , , , ,

    Friday, January 29, 2016

    Ikea Business Model; and Growth and Society

    comments on: Peak Stuff and the Hierarchy of Useless Things

    "stock analysts" don't exist for Ikea. They have no stock holders. They are completely owned by a "charity."

    But all you have to do is look at all the extremely highly paid executives in USA charities to see that charities often take on the form of corporations being run 1st to make executives happy and 2nd for other reasons (charitable in the instance of charities, education in the instance of large universities, profits of shareholders and all the other stakeholders in the instance of companies).

    Another similar model you can view is tax evasion trusts set up by the rich which subvert the social contract. They have bought laws and regulation that allow them to set up trusts to benefit them, and/or their kids, and/or their grandkids and have those trusts treated beneficially for the rich, at the expense of society. Some argue Ikea has the same model, pretend it is a charity and use the funds primarily to benefit those creating the charity ("What emerges is an outfit that ingeniously exploits the quirks of different jurisdictions to create a charity, dedicated to a somewhat banal cause, that is not only the world's richest foundation, but is at the moment also one of its least generous"). In Ikea's case some amount does go for the "charitable purpose of Ikea": interior design.

    The growth mindset certainly permeates Ikea, as it does public USA companies and "wall street."

    > "not as much in the quality of customer experience"

    This is so true. As a consumer, I find the customer experience painful much more often that it is good. Basically, the best it gets in the USA (for 95% of the companies) is when you don't have to interface with them at all. Then things are good. And I do think companies have made strides in removing the need to call to get things fixed... But oh my, when you do need them to actually get a hold of them the extremely bad experience is pitiful and truly far beyond pitiful most of the time. They setup extremely insulting processes that completely disrespect your time and humanity.

    The horrible experiences when needing to deal with large USA companies is by far my biggest frustration of being back in the USA. As long as you don't have to contact them things are usually decent but I dread any time I need to contact one of them.

    My father really liked Small is Beautiful by EF Schumacher which I think takes issue with the growth focus that permeates society (it has been decades since I read it) and instead wishes to focus on better lives not lives with more things.

    Related: Kleptocrat CEOs and Their Apologists - Pretending to Listen to Customers Rather Than Actually Doing So - Why Pay Taxes or be Honest - Corrupt Looters at AIG

    Labels: , , , , , ,

    Wednesday, January 20, 2016

    How to Respond to a Request for Estimates on Software Development

    Response to: Do We Really Need Estimates?

    I think it is a question of addressing the purpose those see for estimates. If they just quote lots of people do it, so we should then your answer is fine in my opinion.

    If they say they need some way of deciding if doing that work is wise or something that is going to be so difficult that it isn't worth it then a different answer is needed. If they talk about scheduling then other explanations make sense to me - talking about the issues with fixed estimates etc. but giving them alternatives of fixed schedule with variable features (if there is a business need to deliver on some date)., etc.

    Related: Agile Story Point Estimation (2012) - Assigning Story Points to Bug Fixes (2011)

    Labels: , ,

    Monday, January 11, 2016

    Don't Use Targets as a Management Tool

    comments on: Deconstructing Deming XI B – Eliminate numerical goals for management

    I agree with the comments that targets are unwise. There is one sense in which I think the idea of (but not actual) targets can be useful and that is in setting the scope.

    If we want to find an improvement that is immense (versus small continual improvement) that can set the expectation of how we approach improvement, including an understanding that we are going to have to really make big changes in how things are done.

    I have written more about this, here:

    Deming on Targets

    Basically I don't see that scoping "target" as really a target but it is similar so if you want to see it that way, then in that sense I can see a "target" as useful.

    Related: Innovation at Toyota - Targets Distorting the System - Righter Incentivization

    Labels: , , , , , ,

    Wednesday, December 30, 2015

    Most Popular Posts on the Curious Cat Management Comments Blog

    The most popular posts on this blog (10 May 2010 through today - the data I have doesn't let me just look at data for 2015):

    1. Profit = Market Price - Actual Cost or Price = Cost + Desired Profit (2012)
    2. Mistake Proofing and Mistake Making Less Easy (2013)
    3. Performance without Appraisal (2005) - which was my 100th post
    4. Cease Mass Inspection for Quality (2006)
    5. 14 Plus Potentially 14 More Years for Copyrights Has Become 120 Years (2013)
    6. Sustaining Management Improvement Through Personnel Changes (2014)
    7. Causes of the Health Care Crisis (2011)
    8. Global Manufacturing Data by Country (2006)
    9. Data Must be Understood to Intelligently Use Evidence Based Thinking (2014)
    10. Deming and Toyota (2006)
    11. The Failure of Hero Worship Thinking at JC Penney (2013)
    12. Customer Focus is Central to Lean Thinking (2012)

    Breakdown of popular posts by year: 2014 - 2, 2013 - 3, 2012 - 2, 2011 - 1, 2006 - 3, 2005 - 1.

    I started this blog over 10 years ago. After I figured out that I thought blogging would work for me I created a self hosted blog (the Curious Cat Management Improvement 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 - often things I wanted to be able to find later).

    Related: Most Popular Posts on the Curious Cat Management Comments Blog (2014 edition) - 10 Most Popular Posts on the Curious Cat Management Blog in 2014 - 20 Most Popular Posts on the Curious Cat Management Blog in 2015 - 10 Most Popular Post on The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog (2015)

    Labels: , ,

    Wednesday, December 09, 2015

    The Importance of a Work Culture That Values and Supports Critical Thinking

    Critical thinking is tremendously important. I have come to think it might be the most important precursor to management improvement (evidence based management, continual improvement...).

    One of the big issues is for people to understand thinking critically about ideas isn't an insult to whoever came up with the idea being discussed. This isn't something I would have thought of as important until seeing so many cases where people are not comfortable discussing ideas (and weaknesses in those ideas) in the workplace.

    Comments prompted by: thinking critically

    Related: A Good Management Culture Encourages the Debate of Ideas - Respect for People Doesn’t Mean Avoiding Any Hint of Criticism - Dangers of Forgetting the Proxy Nature of Data

    Labels: , , , , , , ,

    Tuesday, December 01, 2015

    Quality Digest: How to Create a Culture of Continuous Improvement

    Tuesday, November 17, 2015

    Root Cause - Addressing Systemic Causes Not Symptoms

    Comment on Just Ask Why Five Times? Effective Problem Solving for #Lean or #LeanStartup Doesn’t Start or End There

    > Would you agree that complex systems rarely have a single root cause?

    Yes. And also "root cause" is a neat concept but in reality it is not usually "true" but an a sensible acceptance of a cause that is systemic enough and addressable enough to consider "root." It isn't that there is this "true root cause" that created the current problem. There is a way to look at the issue and find a deeper cause that will allow you to address it and improve the future performance of the system.

    Depending on how you look at the problem there can be many different "root causes" that are sensible from their different perspectives. The important thing is by aiming to fix root/systemic problems you will not just treat the current symptom you are dealing with today but eliminate future problems from occurring. If you are doing that, you are doing well.

    If you start noticing that you are addressing problems that could have been addressed in previous attempts to address root causes, you can exploring whether going further in each attempt makes sense. It isn't as simple as this but if you notice you addressed a systemic problem at the "branch" level effectively for example. So if you had 3 fixes that did stop future problems on each of the branches but on the fourth fix you looked and said hey all 4 of these connect to this larger branch (or tree trunk - which is connected to a real "root") I would say asking if you should have addressed the "next why" may well make sense.

    Related: Root Cause, Interactions, Robustness and Design of Experiments - Address the Root Cause Instead of Finding the Person to Blame - Poor Results Should be Addressed by Improving the System Not Blaming Individuals - Firing Workers Isn’t Fixing Problems - Examine the System, Don't Look to Blame a Person - Why Do You Ask Why?

    Labels: , , , ,

    Tuesday, October 20, 2015

    How Badly Are Companies Treating You?

    Comment on: How well does your organization treat clients or customers?

    Our reader poll today asks: How well does your organization treat clients or customers?

    – Extremely well — we take great care of them: 35.17%
    – Very well — we treat them better than most other companies: 34.88%
    – Well — we do a decent job but could improve a bit: 25%
    – Not well — we could treat them much better: 3.49%
    – Poorly — I’m surprised we even still have customers: 1.45%
    Do you agree

    No I don't agree; maybe I just have the lousy sample of companies I interact with. Truthfully I don't deal with companies that treat me poorly unless I don't have a choice - but that is not uncommon at at (ISP, airlines, electric company, mortgage company...).

    The survey results don't surprise me, given how out of touch executives and managers are about what their customers must put up with.

    I intentionally pick companies that are good, but for example with a mortgage it is then sold and I am forced to deal with a bad company...

    I am thrilled when a company treats me well (because my expectations have been so beaten down that just not being treated as a huge bother is a rare), but it is rare. Trader Joe's does consistently. My credit union does. In general restaurants do.

    What I have found is that if the executives are paid more than $1,000,000 the company probably treats me very poorly. I don't think is a cause, but I do think it is correlated. The executives seem to always have room to pay themselves huge salaries but are loath to provide the customers someone that answers the phone or email without wasting tons of the customers time.

    Upon my return to the USA after 4 years overseas the biggest annoyance has been dealing with these companies I am forced to deal with that treat me with complete distain. They see no problem wasting my time or forcing me to follow some idiotic processes that make life easy for them.

    Related: Customers Get Dissed and Tell (2008) - Is Poor Service the Industry Standard (HP in 2006)? - Don’t Ignore Customer Complaints (2014) - Customer Service is Important (2006)

    Labels: , ,

    Tuesday, October 06, 2015

    Spend More Time Doing What You Do Well

    Comment on: Is it Better to Work on Strengths or Weaknesses?

    As you say to the extent your weaknesses are things you have to do spending time improving them usually makes sense. I think often the most productive thing is to spend time working on the system to maximize the use of people's strengths and minimize the use of their weaknesses. This often has a big impact without much effort.

    And when you do that it is often the magnitude of strengths that makes a big difference. So you can avoid dealing with much of the weaknesses in the team and focus most effort on the strengths. And when you do that my getting even better at x allows the improvement not to just be x * 1.1 but (x * 1.1) + (y * 1.3) + (z * 1.4) - (if say I am now 30% "better" than y at the task and 40% better than z. Obviously it doesn't work so cleanly in the real world but that concept that you can get way more improvement normally by adjusting the way work is done than just by having everyone get less bad at the stuff they really should avoid doing most of the time.

    You do also have to pay attention to the long term, so if someone wants to move into supervision but has some weaknesses they need to address and strengths to improve working on that makes sense.

    Related: Take Advantage of the Strengths Each Person Brings to Work - Helping Employees Improve
    - Many Good Employees Want to Continue to Do Their Current Job Well - Lessons for Managers from Wisconsin and Duke Basketball

    Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

    Tuesday, September 22, 2015

    Change and the Management System

    comments on: Better Change Leadership as a Countermeasure to “Resistance to Lean”

    I agree, the problem isn't change but the process for change. There are many smart things to do to help the process work better.

    The most important thing though is the entire management culture. Tactics can help change work better. But if the culture is hostile to continual improvement (fear based, performance appraisal based, target based, blame based, imposing from on high...) the tactics are working in a difficult situation. Still, a good idea, but no matter what tactics are used it will be a challenge.

    When the culture has the right environment (PDSA, seek to continually improve the system, respect for people, support for innovation, understanding of variation in results, seek process weakness to improve not people to blame, provide training...) change is set in a system where resistance is much lower (and in very highly functioning systems it is encouraged not resisted).

    Change tactics are still sensible but often they are baked into how things are done. As you grow more toward becoming such an organization change tactics fade into the normal process and the resistance fades too.

    Related: Communicating Change - People Take Time to Believe Claims of Changed Management Practices - Encourage Improvement Action by Everyone

    Labels: , , , , , ,

    Saturday, August 29, 2015

    Pretending to Listen to Customers Rather Than Actually Doing So

    Comment on Are You Really Listening to Your Customer or Just Going Through the Motions?

    I find myself very frustrated at how incredible poor and superficial "listening to our customers" is at nearly all companies I have to deal with. It is atrocious, often beyond the superficialness of any concern is creating hoops to waste customers time who even deign to raise an issue of persistent failures by the company (I have had this with Amazon for the last 2 months - it is amazing how they expect you to repeatedly jump through hopes while they ignore you over and over). I would have dumped them for this horrible service but I can't get them to refund my sizable balance because it isn't their "policy" to bother to refund money in your balance.

    A method to get useful feedback I learned maybe 20 years ago at a quality conference, it is really simple, why nearly no companies do it is a sign how little they actually care about customer service and improvement. Just ask "customers, what one thing could we do to improve?"

    Then you also need systems in place to use what you learn to improve, of course.

    Related: Delighting Customers - Simple Customer Care: Communicate - Poor Customer Service: Discover Card - What Job Does Your Product Do?

    Labels: ,

    Friday, July 31, 2015

    The Use and Misuse of Technical Jargon

    Comments on: You want muda? Let’s talk about muda!

    Essentially the terms are precise technical jargon. As with nearly all technical jargon it is very useful for experts and confusing (and, to many, off-putting) to people that are not experts.

    You are exactly right, overwhelming people with jargon when trying to introduce new ideas is not usually helpful. Using a couple pieces of jargon can be helpful as it reinforces the idea that this is new stuff and can make people tie the new ideas to new terms.

    When some people are learning it is easier to think of muda than "waste." They have an understanding of "waste" and it may well not include what is meant to be included in a lean context. They can rearrange in their head that in the context of lean "waste" is different - we do this all the time.

    For some people using muda to think differently is helpful, for others it is not and often creates resistance.

    English has many words we understand differently depending on the context (for example, "lean"). It works remarkably well but especially when people are learning it is easy to miss special "lean" meaning when using common words. Technical jargon is helpful with experts being able to quickly communicate unambiguous (well less ambiguous) specific meaning which is why jargon usually exists - to allow for communication to be more effective.

    Certainly at times jargon is also used by experts to baffle or impress non-experts rather than to help communication. Reducing this use of jargon would be a good thing.

    Related: Learning, Systems and Improvement - Open Source Management Terms - Getting Known Good Ideas Adopted

    Labels: , , ,

    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

    Labels: , , ,

    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

    Labels: , , , , , ,

    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

    Labels: , , , , , , ,

    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

    Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

    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

    Labels: , , , ,

    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

    Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

    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

    Labels: , , , , , ,