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
Institute for Healthcare Improvement
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
The Problem Is Exacerbated by Fear of the Word Problem
Should I be in the Check Phase of PDCA Daily?
Below is my response on closed forum about whether doing the "check" phase of PDCA daily was too often. I expanded on my comments there a bit in this post.
The check/study phase should be reviewing the results of the experiment done in the Do the experiment phase. "Checking" how things are going during the experiment makes sense but that isn't the check/study phase of PDSA .
For example, you don't want to pay no attention during the experiment and then look at the data and discover the data shows obvious signs the operational definitions were not clear, or the process is providing very bad results. So you need to have those doing the experiment paying attention daily.
Remember one key to using the PDSA cycle is to turn through the whole cycle quickly
. Daily would be exceptionally quick. Moving through the whole cycle in 2-6 weeks is more normal. Organizations successful using PDSA will quickly turn the cycle 4+ times for a specific effort (often the 2nd, 3rd... times through are much faster than the first time through).
More on how to use the PDSA well:
Labels: data, evidence based management, experiment, process improvement, quality tools, six sigma
Intrinsic Motivation and the Danger of Overgeneralization
Comments on Motivation
by Kurt Häusler
> You have to pay enough to keep the issue of money off the table
I agree with that sentiment. And I agree we do tend to overgeneralize and discuss management practices without enough attention to local conditions (at the country level, and even smaller geographic level and even very big differences between organizations).
But I strongly disagree with "so intrinsic motivation is of limited utility."
Creating and maintaining workplaces that let people take pride in their job is hugely important. We spend a huge amount of our time and energy at work. Even if we are paid less than we should be it is still important to have work we can be proud of doing. Yes, the issue of low pay also has to be addressed but it isn't an either-or choice.
In fact, by creating systems that let people take pride in their work
we take advantage of more of their potential and thus create more value which can make it easier to pay more money. If we instead, decide to reduce the importance of intrinsic motivation in our management systems that is likely to be a mistake. Granted in some places the importance of intrinsic motivation may be so well understood and incorporated that focus should go elsewhere but I question how often organizations are really doing so well on that front they need to reduce that focus in order to focus elsewhere.
Related: Motivation, Rewards, Performance Appraisals and Your Career
- Motivate or Eliminate De-Motivation
- Two resources, largely untapped in American organizations, are potential information and employee creativity
Labels: business, career, culture, employees, managing people, psychology, respect for people
Most Popular Posts on the Curious Cat Management Comments Blog in 2016
The most popular posts on this blog:
Breakdown of popular posts by year: 2016 - 2, 2015 - 2, 2014 - 2, 2013 - 1, 2012 - 1, 2006 - 1, 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 (2015 edition)
- Most Popular Posts on the Curious Cat Management Comments Blog (2014 edition)
Don't Claim Your Customer's Suffering from Your Management System Results are a "Learning Opportunity"
From, Microsoft finally admits that its malware-style Get Windows 10 upgrade campaign went too far
It’s all well and good for a corporation to promise that its learning from mistakes, but it’s awful hard to believe such promises when the mistakes in question violate basic principles of software design and customer service
They are exactly right. This is one of the huge problems with the "learning from mistakes" excuse. Some mistakes are a sign of an extremely bad management system.
If you force the consequences of mistakes on your customers making up excuses about how this failure is a learning experience for you is only ok if you actually spell out how you are changing to assure you don't fail your customers due to this same management system failure again.
You need to design your systems to minimize consequences to customers
when something goes wrong.
Acting as though a problem is due to some specific issue only with the exact circumstances that created the consequences is exactly the message you expect from businesses that have no respect for customers. It is exactly he cover your butt mentality of organizations you definitely do not want to be a customer of.
We need to stop accepting transparent excuses that indicate no acceptance of responsibility for mistreating customers. This wasn't a mistake about updating software. This was a mistake of a management system that allowed colossally customer hostile action to be taken and then continued and accepted meaningless excuses as if they were relevant. Microsoft manages to fail even the extremely low expectations we have for them over and over again.
I was foolish enough to continue to use Skype after Microsoft bought them. I added money to my account so that I would have access to Skype on my trip to China. 3 minutes into my first phone call they disconnected me. They then put up the most customer hostile form I have ever seen. I literally have over 30 questions that were required to be answered (things like what month and year did you sign up). I can't remember them all but at least 15 were insane to expect any customer to know. Needless to say they provided no way to contact them outside the ludicrous form. You can't have such repeated massive failures of basis common courtesy for decades without a horrible management system being in place.
It is so frustrating that such customer hostility is allowed to continue. Microsoft has a massive, decades long problem with treating customers horribly and making excuses for decades. This is just one more example of that pattern. Supposedly they are less horrible today than 20 years ago. Maybe that is true but they give me no reason to want to test out if that is true with their well publicized continuing of their customer hostile patterns.
Sure Apple's very poor software quality over the last 5+ years makes me frustrated with them. But Microsoft is much much worse so I have no desire to make from Macbook to any Microsoft software. Google has issues but if they would target users that don't have (or want to rely on) great internet connections to use their computer I would consider them. Ubuntu is the leading solution Apple has pushed me into strongly considering. The biggest issue I have not is the hardware for Ubuntu just isn't nearly as good as MacBooks. Granted the latest MacBook hardware choices Apple made are somewhat lame, but still it is much better hardware than others offer. Sadly it is stuck with their bad software and combine that with the sky high prices (the old MacBooks were expensive but well worth it) I just don't think I will buy another. While less than great I think one of the Dell laptops is in the lead for my next laptop.
You can't allow your business to treat customers horribly if you don't have a monopoly (or monopolistic position). Sadly for those stuck with Microsoft, they have close to that monopolistic position and rely on that. They have an extremely long way to go just to stop treating customers horribly. And treating an inexcusable failure as something they are learning from is yet another indication they are not learning at all.
Related: Practicing Mistake-Promoting Instead of Mistake-Proofing at Apple
- Making Life Difficult for Customers
- Incredibly Bad Customer Service from Discover Card
Labels: business, critical thinking, culture, customer focus, customer service, process thinking
Will the Government Adopt Better Management Methods This Time?
How to Improve at Understanding Variation and Using Data to Improve
My comments based on a question on, How to Use Data and Avoid Being Mislead by Data
Thanks for this post John. This is the part of Deming’s teaching that I often struggle with (understanding variation). I read Wheeler’s book Understanding Variation and it helped me with the concept, but I am challenged trying to apply it where I work. I often am not sure what to measure and if I do, I’m not sure how to measure it. Folks appreciate my burn down charts showing trends, but this is about the best I’ve been able to do. Do you have any recommendations on where I can look to help me get better at this?
Getting better at using data is a bit tricky, so struggling is fairly common.
Probably the easiest thing to do is to stop reacting to normal variation (caused by the system) as if it were special. This isn’t super easy but it is the easiest step. And it does make a big difference even if it doesn’t seem very exciting.
The idea of actually using data properly provides big benefit but it much trickier. Don Wheeler’s book is a great start. Making predictions and evaluating how those predictions turn out is also valuable. And in doing so often (though not always) it will also spur you to collect data. This process of predicting, figuring out what data to use to help do so (and to evaluate the results) and considering the result of the prediction and how well the predictions overall are working can help.
You learn what data is often useful, you experiment with real data and real processes and you learn what needs to improve. If you are at least somewhat close to using data well then just doing it and learning from your experience is very useful. If you are really far off the experience might not help any 🙁
The links in the post above I think provide some useful tips (and the links within the posts they link to…).
More: Measurement and Data Collection
If you don’t have an answer for how you will use the data, once you get it, then you probably shouldn’t waste resources collecting it (and I find there is frequently no plan for using the results).
It isn’t uncommon that the measures you would like to have are just not realistically available or are hard to determine. How to get started in this is one of the tricker pieces in my experience. It is a place where consultants may be very helpful. If that isn’t an option another possibility is just to ask others at your workplace for ideas for metrics (there are issues with this and a big one is that many metrics will more likely to lead you astray than actually help).
This can also be an area where seeing what others are using can be helpful. Because it is hard to think up what are great metric seeing what others are doing may provide insight. Of course, the ideas must be evaluate for whether they would work for you (even if they are right for others they may not be right for you – and many are not really right for others it is just a thing they measure and while they have associated it with good things maybe they are wrong (correlation but not causation]).
Labels: data, evidence based management, statistics
How to Help Instigate Change in an Organization
My comments on The W. Edwards Deming Institute blog
in response to:
I’d like to see some posts about how to implement change in an organization. How does one get an organization to start looking at itself as a system? How does one get the organization to realize that the most important figures are unknown and unknowable? How does one convince an organization the importance of driving out fear? In short, how does one get an organization to listen to what Deming had to say?
Thanks for your comments. We will certainly address those topics in future posts.
We have explored some similar ideas in the past, here are some links that may be useful.
Dr. Deming "Statistical principles and techniques must be rooted and nourished with patience
, support, and recognition from top management."
I don't think there are simple answers to your questions that take the form of do this simple thing and what concerns you is taken care of right away. You need to work with what you can and gain credibility
so people are more and more willing to listen to you. Transforming the Organization – Deming Podcast with David Langford
has some good ideas.
I have written about the questions you bring up on my Curious Cat Management blog: Habits
and What to Do To Create a Continual Improvement Culture
My basic philosophy is that the way to do what you are asking is to help people improve and while doing so explain how it relates to the points you mention (fear caused the problem we had to fix...). Few believe you at first. After you help numerous times more people start to believe maybe the overall philosophy actually is worth listening to since you seem to be able to make things better and you keep tying it back to view the organization as a system, understanding variation (and what data can and cannot tell you...), etc..
Labels: change, culture, Deming
The Psychology of Change is Often the Trickiest Part of Process Improvement
Comments on, The Time I Volunteered at a Distillery and Couldn’t Help Doing Kaizen
It’s “Kaizen” because it made my work easier. It improved quality and consistency. I did it because I WANTED to. This is really repetitive work and not particularly skilled work. But I discovered there was a “knack” to it. Doing repetitive work allowed me to exercise my brain to do problem solving and come up with a better way.
So Then What?
I’m an individual worker, but there are others doing the same work.
An interesting thing happened... I tried sharing my discovery with other volunteers.
“Hey, can I show you something I learned about doing this?”
The general response was, “Nah, I’m doing fine… thanks, though.”
I have had a similar experience when volunteering. In my case it was primarily compiling a packet of information - very repetitive. It didn't take me long to figure out ways to improve the process. Getting people to accept changes to the process is tricky when people are unfamiliar with each other (I have found). I was tried to get my group to change but they didn't want to, but another group did so I showed them (they had overheard bits of it). At the end I think 4 of 6 groups switched (one of those that didn't was my original group).
Even once it was obvious the new way was much quicker (over twice as quick) the group that decided "no" to switching stuck with their original decision. My guess is this relates to psychology and I bet experiments would show a group that decided "no" would be among the most stubborn at sticking with the old method because they would have to accept they were reversing their original decision.
I knew it could be tricky to get people to change and I tried to present the case for change in a way that had a good chance to success originally. Even so it failed. The psychology of such efforts is usually much trickier than the process improvement. This point is actually one of the reasons creating a continual improvement culture that has respect for people at the core. When you create such a culture the psychology of change piece becomes much much easier which and as you continually improve processes the most obvious process improvements are made. If you don't create the right culture continuing the continual improvement process gets more and more difficult but if you do create the right culture it gets easier.
Related: Businesses Need to Capture Potential Information and Use the Creativity of Employees
- The Importance of a Work Culture That Values and Supports Critical Thinking
- Change Management: Create a Culture Seeking Continual Improvement or Use Band-Aids?
- Communicating Change
Labels: business, case study, critical thinking, culture, employees, lean thinking, management, managing people, process improvement, systems thinking
Addressing Systemic Policing Issues
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:
Download Award Criteria and Nomination Form (DOC)
- A Communicator
- A Consultant
- An Educator (especially for practitioners)
- An Innovator
- An Integrator (of statistics with other disciplines) and
- An Implementor (who obtained results)
include: Gerald Hahn, Brian Joiner, Soren Bisgaard, Christine Anderson-Cook and Bill Hill.
Labels: data, statistics
The Absence of Defects Does Not Necessarily Build Business
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.
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: business, culture, customer service, ethics, investing, overpaid executives, society
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 say "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: agile software development, management, programming
Don't Use Targets as a Management Tool
Most Popular Posts on the Curious Cat Management Comments Blog
The Importance of a Work Culture That Values and Supports Critical Thinking
Quality Digest: How to Create a Culture of Continuous Improvement
Root Cause - Addressing Systemic Causes Not Symptoms
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: business, customer service, management
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: business, career, coaching, employees, evidence based management, leadership, management, managing people, organization as a system, process thinking, systems thinking