Friday, November 10, 2023

The Value of a Management System Accommodating Remote Work

Working remotely creates a significantly different system than working all next to each other. There are big advantages to working right next to each other. There are also really bad office designs (which are very common) which detract from success of working next to each other (distractions etc. that cubical farms, "hoteling" create etc.).

There are challenges to managing a system of work with people not being right next to each other. There are also huge advantages of hiring people that are not within commuting distance of your location. In my opinion organizations that learn to manage a dispersed workforce effectively will have huge competitive advantages long term.

Of course we have decades of evidence of organizations electing to ignore better management practices so I imagine most organizations will be dragged kicking and screaming into the future (if they ever get there at all).

There is some sense in my opinion to focusing on working all next to each other as your organization's management style. But my guess is for all but the richest organizations (that can afford to overpay, pay premiums to those that are willing to commute, willing to tie themselves to one physical location, happen to be in the area...) there are large gains possible by learning and creating a manage system that works effectively with remote workers. When you can't just pay huge salareis to put up with the large shortcomings of your management system it is important to find other ways to compete in the marketplace.

Figuring out how to work effectively remotely provides huge potential advantages for many organizations.

Thursday, August 05, 2021

Psychology Often Drives Decisions Rather Than Rational Thought


Comments on  Becoming Trustworthy

 After years of seeing this “irrational” behavior in managers, co-workers and consultants I realized it is usually not irrational, just hard to comprehend.

I think that the primary thing to remember is that often people's actions and decisions are guided by psychology rather than thoughtful deliberation and choosing the most sensible option (given that person's desires).  What this means is you can't expect rational decision making to guide others decisions and actions.  You are often better understanding common psychology and how that impacts decision making.

If you are intending to understand them then this is often more useful.  And if you are attempting to change behavior to improve results often you need to understand not the psychology that will help people change much more than the logic behind what is the most rational decision based on the facts in this case and the individual's desires.

There are times when you think a decision was irrational but you were mistaken.  The person does have rational reasons that were responsible for the decision they made.  Even in a case where a person has went through a rational decision making process but made an error and chose an alternative that did not result in what they imagined it would I think you can call that a rational choice. 

 But I think much more often (even for business decisions) there was no rational decision making. They may have made the choice mainly out of fear (which I would see as different than taking into account the risks and deciding that they wanted to avoid the risk even if it meant the business would suffer because they personally would avoid risk).  Or they may have just said no because they don't like change (which again is different than choosing to say no because the costs of change when rationally weighed against the possible benefits are not worth it).  Etc. There is a big difference I think in believing people are making rational choice and believing that most often people do not do so, they are guiding by unconscious decision making factors that they don't understand and did not evaluate in coming to the decision they did).  

There are 2 reasons this is important: first you are likely making decisions this way and can improve your decision making by understanding how you are making decisions.  And second if you are trying to influence others understanding how they make decisions is important.

Thinking about these, and related ideas, is valuable.  Even when people disagree I think this is a valuable process.

I have several related blog posts
  Customers Are Often Irrational
  Design the Management System with an Appreciation of Confirmation Bias
  The Importance of Critical Thinking and Challenging Assumptions  

Stated Versus Revealed Preference  

Packaging Affects Our Perception of Taste

 Ignoring Unpleasant Truths is Often Encouraged


Sunday, May 30, 2021

Creating an Integrated Life Where Work Adds to Life


 Response to: What Does Work/Life Balance Mean to You?

My father did a great job with work/life balance by integrating work with life to an extent that most people do not. Instead of the typical what I do for work requires sacrificing "life" he built a life where what he did for work enhanced life. He was a professor and worked for a year in London a year in Singapore and a year in Nigeria. The life experiences that having work and excelling at work to the extent that he could arrange such options provide a much richer life than if he maximized life by restricting his effort in work. We had experiences that are invaluable and extraordinary.

I realize doing this to the extent he did is very difficult. But growing up with it I learned that the idea that you could design the whole life (including everything) to maximize life.  And that it may well be that extra effort at work rather than detracting from the rest of life enhances it. For me the key is to focus on maximizing the whole and within that realizing sometimes there are tradeoff (essentially a zero sum game) but there may well be times when you can design the system of your life to find win win solutions.

I wrote about this on my blog The Aim Should be the Best Life – Not Work v. Life Balance

 Both my brother and I have applied the lessons we learned from that integration of work and life to our lives in ways that made our lives much more meaningful and rewarding.

Friday, February 07, 2020

Experimenting to Improve Sleep Quality

comments on: Can a Humidifier Help You Sleep Better and Snore Less?

After doing some research I learned that humidifiers have helped folks snore less. So, after some more research, I picked up a slick little ultrasonic humidifier and gave it a try. Now, it’s been less than a week which I know isn’t enough to get too excited about statistically speaking. But one thing is becoming crystal clear…it’s most definitely helping me sleep better.

Interesting post, which includes control charts showing the impressive progress.

"I’m also still trying to figure out what caused the three special cause signals in January." One nice aspect of improvement is sometimes you can make a system improvement that even without knowing the causes of previous problems, the new improvement stops those from happening again. Maybe that won't be the case this time but maybe it will. Health related issues are so touchy that I could imagine it is something like a couple bad factors stacked on top just push things over the limit. So being a bit tired and say too low humidity and you didn't drink quite enough liquid and sleep quality is bad but just 1 or 2 of those and it might be a bit worse but not horrible.

Special cause signals will be more frequent if several factors together amplify each other (and they rarely happen together so those amplified results are rare). What happens is those rare amplified events will be special, outside of the system that generates that regular variation when they act alone but when all that variation lines up just right the result will be outside what is normal (due to the very large change in the result for that special case where the individual factors acting together (amplifying) create a very large change in the result.

Related: Gadgets to Mask Noise and Help You Sleep or Concentrate - Apply Management Improvement Principles to Your Situation - Zeo Personal Sleep Manager - Using Control Chart to Understand Free Throw Shooting Results

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

The Importance of Providing Context for Data

Data in Everyday Life: How Serious is the Student Loan Debt Crisis?

Did you know that 1 in 4 Americans have student loan debt? In the United States, there are more than 44 million people who collectively owe $1.56 trillion in student loans.

I thought 25% seemed too high. Thankfully this post also provides the number, 44 million. The USA population is currently estimated at 330 million. 44 million is closer to 14% than 25%. My guess is that the 25% is of some subset of the USA population (people between certain ages maybe)?

I think a point about the importance of providing the proper context when showing data has also been made in this post. There is certainly a sensible argument for why 25% of certain ages is a more useful figure for understanding how widespread student debt is (rather than saying 14% those in the USA have student debt). But in the case where that decision is made the details should be spelled out.

Related: Operational Definitions and Data Collection - Data Can’t Lie (data can be wrong) - Poorly Stratified Data Leads to Mistakes in Analysis - Understanding Data

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Take Risks to Learn and Improve, But Do So Wisely

My edited comments on: The Limits of Learning From Failure

Failure can be a great learning tool, especially if it is planned. Create an environment that supports and learns from failure, but also use the scientific method, coupled with experience, to understand and mitigate the risks.

I agree, I wrote about this on my blog: Accept Taking Risks, Don’t Blithely Accept Failure Though

The goal is to maximize innovation and improvement. To the extent we need to take risks and accept some failures to achieve this we should accept failure. But that doesn’t mean we don’t continually try to improve our management systems to reduce the costs of failure. Even while we take risks we want to do so intelligently.

It is true many organization are so fearful of being blamed for failure that sensible risks are avoided. We do need to create management systems that allow taking sensible risks but we need to learn while still limiting damage from failures. Do experiments on a small scale, iterate quickly and expand the scope as you learn.

Related posts: Learn by Seeking Knowledge, Not Just from Mistakes - Risks Should be Taken Wisely - What is the Explanation Going to be if This Attempt Fails?

Monday, February 04, 2019

Outside the Box Thinking

comment on: Is Thinking Outside the Box Out of the Box Thinking?

I remember Russel Ackoff* telling a story about that 9 dots problem where his daughter shared a solution to cover the dots in 1 line. She folded the paper to the dots were all lined up and drew one line that went through all of them. The teacher said that was wrong! Great teaching about "outside the box" thinking there. But it is a great illustration that just saying "outside the box" isn't the same as adopting that mindset.

* It has been a long time, I might be be wrong but I think it was Ackoff that told that story.

Related: The Psychology of Change is Often the Trickiest Part of Process Improvement - Children are Amazingly Creative At Solving Problems - Innovation Strategy

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Shared Principles for Managing People Engaged in Diverse Tasks

This post expands on my response to Michael Sweeney's (Cloud Infrastructure Engineering for Salesforce) comments on Linked In:

This is a great blog to follow [Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog] if you aren’t aware of it. I agree with John, in general, but in this post I felt the missed one basic thing that I’ve seen in my own career- software is not physical and people who write great software and people who make great physical things MUST think (and therefore be managed) differently. The crossover between Agile and Lean thinking, to me, is the ability to identify non-value added activity (waste) in the Toyota sense, and empower small teams to make decisions and charge forward in the Agile sense. Getting a combination of software and hardware thinking together will be the key to winning the Cloud Wars and moving into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Thanks for your comments. I do agree that the system within which people are operating determines how they must be managed. There are definitely features of software development that are significantly different than manufacturing scalpels or basketballs or tables. As there is a difference between a surgical team in an operating room, road construction, mining, editing books, investment banking, manufacturing industrial robots, researching new drugs, manufacturing drugs, teaching in a university, maintaining plane engines, coaching an athletic team...

I see universal principles of management (respect for people, customer focus, continual improvement...) that cross all different human enterprises. How those principles should be manifest in a particular situations depend on the work being done, the management system that is in place, the individual people involved, the specific focus of the effort right now... The way those principles are manifest will look very different in all the varied types of organizations we create and the different work and processes used within those organizations.

John Hunter, presenting at a Deming management seminar in Hong Kong

It is interesting (on the software v not software divide) to note that 100 years ago what was manufactured didn't contain software elements. And the manufacturing process also didn't involve software. That isn't very often the case today. Think of all the manufactured things you use and a high percentage (measured by the cost of the manufactured goods) have software components (cars, phones, appliances, speakers...) and they are built with a great deal of software involved in the manufacturing process.

In addition, the sales process and other processes involved in the organization doing the manufacturing rely heavily on software. As you say "Getting a combination of software and hardware thinking together" is indeed key today and will be continue to be in the future. While relying on software as part of the manufacturing process (and in the supporting processes) isn't the same as developing software the thought process on how to use software within manufacturing systems and how that software should work, be adjusted... is very different from the work of manufacturing tires 100 years ago.

I also discuss related ideas in: Deming and Software Development.

Related posts: How to Manage What You Can’t Measure - Create a System That Lets People Take Pride in Their Work - Good Process Improvement Practices - The Importance of Management Improvement - Thinking Required, No Simple Management Recipe to Follow -Unpacking the Components of Hard Work to Design Better Work Conditions - Do We Need to Find Management Ideas from Our Industry? (No) - Avoiding Difficult Problems