Friday, March 14, 2014

Students as Customers

Competition in Higher Education
A recurring theme among faculty in public higher education is criticism of the “student as customer“ viewpoint held by administrators, politicians, and others. Most of the criticism misses the mark
I find that normally the "they are not customers" crowd (doctors, government, education) are not doing a decent job of understanding what they disparage.

It is true that it isn't appropriate for many providers of services to do whatever those who are paying want. That isn't what "customer focus" means.

I can understand how people can leap to accepting the idea that understanding "customer" needs and values is problematic - it is normally a sign of destructive management practices intertwined with proclamations to "treat customers well."

As you say there is much good to be found in "customer focus" in education but it has to be part of a sensible management system.

Related: Customers, End Users and Payers - Customer Focus by Everyone - Problems With Student Evaluations as Measures of Teacher Performance

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Ex-Toyota Manager Consulting with Porsche in 1994

Interesting article from 1994. Shock therapy for Porsche: The prestigious German car firm was speeding to destruction, so its chief swallowed his pride and hired Japan's top consultants to improve outdated methods of production. John Eisenhammer charts the brutal remedies they prescribed at the company's plant near Stuttgart:
The results are already impressive. The production time of the new Porsche 911 Carrera has been reduced by a third, to 86 hours. That is still some way behind the best comparable Japanese time of 50 to 60 hours, but Porsche claims to be well on target. Whereas 70 per cent of Porsches three years ago required expensive rectification at the end of the production line, the proportion is now half that. Inventory levels have been reduced by 44 per cent: 7,000 square metres of shopfloor space have been freed and rented out. A worker suggestion scheme, which in the past generated fewer than 20 ideas a month, has now exploded to around 2,500
While respect for people is an important part of the Toyota Production System, the practice of former Toyota managers were often the "tough love" variety. Today, many people are often too timid, in my opinion, to call out things that need to be improved for fear of making someone uncomfortable. Where that balance properly lies though is based on the culture of the organization (and what needs to be done - occasionally there is a need to "shake people up" in order to make change take place more effectively).
In his own gruff way Mr Iwata agrees. 'We are not here to praise,' he growls. 'But there is hope for Porsche.'
Related: Early "Lean" Thinking - Pay Practices Say More About Respect for People Than Words Say - Respect for People and Understanding Psychology - Respect for Everyone Funny item from the story:
When not discussing production-line changes or conducting workshops, the Shin-Gijutsu people are ambushing staff. 'When I see one of Porsche's fine engineers, I do not say 'good morning',' grins Mr Nakao. 'I say, 'show me your hands. They must be dirty - engineers must always have oily hands'.' Used also to checking the soles of shoes worn by managers in the finance department, to see if they spend enough time walking around the factory, Mr Nakao was devastated to discover the trick did not work with Germans, who are used to resoling old shoes. 'We do not do this in Japan,' he says. 'How can I see if a man is doing his job properly if he keeps changing his soles?'
It is also illustrates that your practices need to adjust to the system. Time at the gemba is important and transfers. Your specific means of checking that might have to be adjusted.