Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Leadership: Finding the Right Path

Response to: The Simple Leader, Find Your Unique Path

Like the spiritual journeys of Buddhists, Gnostics, and Christians like Thomas Merton, when you are on your own journey, you must first seek to learn, understand, contemplate, and reflect on your circumstances and beliefs. Only then can you apply what makes sense to create your own path. Don’t simply accept what others say or copy what others do.

Very well said.

The value of being open to ideas that are not part of the dogma is overlooked. And as a leader highlighting those that challenge the dogma (such as Thomas Merton for the Catholic church) is wise for a leader to do. Of course, you need to highlight efforts that hold true to the spirit/core-values while challenging dogma. It isn't just different ideas that are needed but the right different ideas.


Bench in forest at the Abbey of Gethsemani (where Thomas Merton lived)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Sign of Decline at Apple

Comments on: This Apple Store Sign Seems to be a Sign of Apple’s Broader Troubles

I agree that sign is more important than many people might think. For a company like Apple that spends likely hundreds of millions of dollars a year on design and conveying a message through that design (in Apple stores, with products, with presentations, with ads...) it is not acceptable. They have held themselves to high standards. When that starts to slip if they are not proactive it slips quickly.

For a normal business they would be at the mercy of the management company to fix the door and the manager of the store would pass the buck to them. I can say if I were the manager of that store for Apple, if it wasn't fixed immediately I would have it fixed myself (and then bill the management company). If it couldn't be fixed immediately I would have a decent sign put there and it would make sure it got fixed very quickly. That isn't the same action I would take if it were some small shop I was responsible for where I knew we could only afford a cheap place and things like broken doors take a while to be fixed. For an Apple store that is unacceptable.

My main complaint with Apple is the poor software quality over the last 5 to 10 years. Software quality started to slip and kept slipping and no-one at Apple that had the authority dealt with the decline. The Apple Maps fiasco was a symptom of this long term failure by Apple. Tim Cook responded to that symptom but I don't see Apple giving software quality nearly the attention it deserves. My MacBook Pro has had numerous software issues for years. I have looked at other hardware and it is very difficult to find hardware of the quality of Mac laptops. My next computer would likely be an Ubuntu laptop if I can find good enough hardware. Another option is installing Ubuntu on the MacBook and just using that most of the time (there are some reasons Mac software can be useful so having it as a fallback is a benefit). But it is sad that Apple has let software quality slide for so long.

Related: Practicing Mistake-Promoting Instead of Mistake-Proofing at Apple - Aligning Marketing Vision and Management - Human Proof Design - Vision can be a Powerful Driver but Most Often It is Just a Few Pretty Words

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Priorities

Too often people chose "no" for the things they were planning on doing because they say "yes" to some new thing without comparing to what will have to be sacrificed in order to say "yes" to this new option.

Being open to new possibilities is good. But they must be considered within the context of what must be let go to accommodate them.

My comments on: The Simple Leader: Just Say No

Related: Manage Better by Managing Less - Carve Out Time to Think

Thursday, June 01, 2017

A "Demotivated" Workforce is a Symptom of the Culture of the Organization

Comment on: Are You "Perfectly Designed" for Morale Issues? (Yes) – and Employee Surveys Won't Fix It. (Demotivators: Part 1) [original post was removed so I removed the link].

Creating a system that gives people pride in their work will cause many motivation issues disappear. A significant part of that is eliminating the de-motivation that exists in the management system:

Motivate or Eliminate De-Motivation

Build an Environment Where Intrinsic Motivation Flourishes


A "demotivated" workforce is a symptom of the culture of the organization. That is how the issue needs to be looked at to improve results. Blaming people and attempting to motivate without fixing the causes of demotivation is not effective.

Related: How to Deal with Motivation Problems - Motivation, Rewards, Performance Appraisals and Your Career - Dangers of Extrinsic Motivation - Stop Demotivating Employees - How to Motivate Front Line Workers

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Interactions Among the Four Fields in Deming's System of Profound Knowledge

Question on Reddit:
I would like to see expansion of Deming's SoPK with more examples of interactions in the four fields of knowledge. Are you aware of any?

My response:

I think this is actually very common, but often it isn't explicitly mentioned. To explain this well would take a fair amount of time. Let me just give 2 quick examples

Distorting the System to meet a target

This certainly is about the interaction or understanding variation (in this case people not understanding data well enough and being mislead), psychology (how people respond to pressure to meet goals), theory of knowledge (not understanding the difference between the proxy value of data and the underlying truth) and systems thinking (how a system is likely to react to meet goals - distorting data and distorting the system, and using simple measures where those things work to get numbers).

Create a System That Lets People Take Pride in Their Work

Appreciating that results will be better when people are doing work they are proud of involves at least appreciation
for a system and psychology.

I think in reality nearly every example involves interactions. We can analytically separate out the one we want to discuss or the one that seems most influential in what we are looking at but in reality it isn't just one.
For example, data issues related to over-reacting to common cause variation is in the "understanding variation" realm. But it is also deeply ingrained in our psychology that we look for special causes. If our psychology was different it is very possible the mistake of "seeing" (and believing) special causes everywhere would not be a problem. But because those 2 area interact in the way they do it is an area of improvement for how we think and manage. By focusing on an understanding of variation we can limit the damage caused by are faulty psychology (seeing special causes where they don't exist - where it is just common causes). And that really integrates theory of knowledge and systems thinking (we chronically over-simplfy and ignore the large system).

Related: 94% Belongs to the System - Encourage Improvement Action by Everyone - Circle of Influence

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Transforming a Management Culture

Thoughts on: Where Lean Went Wrong – A Historical Perspective

I believe that companies that say they are attempting to become lean fail to do so in the most important ways. I do believe most efforts result in improvement but usually are fairly limited by the existing management system and refusal to really change much.

More than "lean failing" I would say transforming to a different management culture fails. Saying lean fails makes it seem to me that what a lean management system was in use and failed which is not really the case it doesn't seem to me.

I wrote about these ideas on my blog: Why Use Lean if So Many Fail To Do So Effectively

and discussed them in this podcast on Building Organizational Capability.

Related: Why Do People Fail to Adopt Better Management Methods? - Transforming a Management System – A Case Study From the Madison Wisconsin Police Department - Culture Change Requires That Leaders Change Their Behavior - Change Management: Create a Culture Seeking Continual Improvement or Use Band-Aids?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Sociology of Organizational Change

Comments on: Researching Laggards

The Late Majority is the stabilizing force, the repository of institutional knowledge that slowly absorbs and productionizes the ideas proven to best serve the organization. They aren’t as eager for change as the Early Majority, but they’re happy to adopt proven practices.

The Laggards provide challenge the Instigators most directly, questioning or outright denying the value of a new idea, and provide the most vocal and active resistance. However, their direct criticism may inspire the Instigators to find unexpected common ground and more effective solutions than they otherwise might.

Yes, I think laggards really are common. The grey area between laggards and late majority may be pretty large. Many are swayed by the critical mass of opinion. At first they seem like laggards because they side with them, as the momentum grows they side with late majority...

True active laggards fighting well after the critical mass makes it obvious the culture expects the "new" behavior" isn't a huge group I don't believe. But getting the point where the those siding with laggards switch to siding with late majority is a very challenging point to reach for most significant changes.

How you help change the culture of an organization requires understanding the inertia against change in most organizations and the strategies that are useful in creating the critical mass to accept new ideas and cultural attributes as the new normal.

Related: Why Do People Fail to Adopt Better Management Methods? - Podcast: Building Organizational Capability - Culture Change Requires That Leaders Change Their Behavior - Transforming a Management System – A Case Study From the Madison Wisconsin Police Department - Change Management: Create a Culture Seeking Continual Improvement or Use Band-Aids? - Communicating Change - Building Adoption of Management Improvement Ideas in Your Organization - Grow Your Circle of Influence

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Iterate to Continually Improve

Thoughts on: The Challenge of PDSA: Feeling Like You’ve Fallen Short

For me, this snowball was the understanding of the continuous improvement cycle, the iterative process towards ideal state or what many call “true north.” I have seen and explained the well-known visual many times; the person climbing up towards target state and, ultimately, ideal state through PDSA, only seeing ahead of them as far as the flashlight reaches.

The relationship of PDSA iterations and ideal state never really dawned on me while I was working through PDSA cycles in problem solving. The visual depicts the learner stair-stepping up through PDSA cycles, each step up the flashlight seeing further, learning more and getting closer to ideal.
...
In absence of a clearly defined Target state, satisfaction with progress, pace, and incremental improvements may more times than not, leave you feeling as if you have fallen short.

Iteration and continual improvement are key. Understanding that "target state" is a temporary target is important. If a "ideal state" is too specific it can hamper innovation. This usually isn't so critical on fairly short term PDSA (except in those cases when we should look at innovation instead of improving the current process).

The PDSA process doesn't hamper innovation. But, when people set in their minds ideal states or targets that they move toward and don't see those as flexible based on new learning they can stunt innovation.

Related post: Resources for Using the PDSA Cycle to Improve Results - Continually Improving Using a Focus on Delighting Customers

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Problem Is Exacerbated by Fear of the Word Problem

Comments on What’s Another Word for “Problem”?

I think this is a wise recognition: "may need help in more areas than process improvement."

Fear is likely a part of the problem (yes problem). Such a desire to ignore problems and the word problem can also be greatly enhanced with performance appraisals systems that create a mindset that is focused on hiding potential issues that may reflect poorly on those appraisals...

The problem with the word problem is often not as simple as it may seem at first. Changing the word used may do a tiny bit of good but not much. The underlying issues that cause people to think problems are something to not acknowledge is not something solved by avoiding the word.

Related: If Your Staff Doesn’t Bring You Problems That is a Bad Sign - The Problem is Likely Not the Person Pointing Out The Problem - Is Using the Words Resources or Assets When Talking About People the Problem? - The Importance of Making Problems Visible

Thursday, February 09, 2017

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:

Monday, January 16, 2017

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