Monday, June 26, 2006

Employee Ownership

H.C. Miller workers to earn ownership by Richard Ryman.

I have always liked the idea of employee ownership. To me this can be a great help in creating a system where employees, owners, customers, suppliers work together. Alone an ESOP does little. But as part of a system of management it is something I think can be beneficial.

Employees of H.C. Miller Co. have learned to look at their company differently. And because they did, on July 31 they will become its owners.

The 120 or so employees of the 118-year-old company will implement an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. An ESOP is a retirement plan in which employees are assigned shares in the company annually. Those shares accumulate in a retirement account.

Employees shouldn't allow too much of their savings to be tied to the company (see Enron). Of course those ignoring this advice that worked for Microsoft, Walmart... in their early days did quite well. But the risk of your paycheck and too large a percentage of your savings being tied to the success of the same company is not wise.

Roberts said the company has used elements of several efficiency programs and under Hayes' oversight will adopt the Lean manufacturing process in the next year. Lean manufacturing leads to a more efficiently organized manufacturing process and allows employees to quickly make changes at the floor level.

Hopefully HC Miller can successfully adopt lean manufacturing methods. Thousands of similar small manufacturers are part of the reason the United States manufacturing output continues to rise (of course the additional Toyota production is a big factor).

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Universal Health Care in San Francisco

San Francisco's Latest Innovation: Universal Health Care by Laura Locke:

Starting in early 2007, every uninsured San Franciscan can seek comprehensive primary care at the city's public and private clinics and hospitals, including top research facilities like the University of California at San Francisco. Coverage includes lab work, prescriptions, X rays, hospitalization and surgery. Annual funding for the $203 million program will come from re-routed city funds (including $104 million that now goes toward uninsured care via emergency rooms and clinics), business contributions and individual enrollment fees, which will be income-adjusted.

This needs to be approved by the city council to go into effect. It is far from perfect but the health care system is broken and we need actual innovation to find workable solutions. The effects of the health care system on the economy are huge. Health care costs are a huge part of both losing jobs to other countries and eroding pay rates.

We need to experiment with ways to improve the health care system.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Toyota IT for Kaizen

How Toyota Uses Information Technology (IT) for Kaizen by Jon Miller. He quotes Toyota's CIO from the Japanese article:

Part of my job as CIO is to take on these company-wide issues and use this data to make improvement suggestions when I have an opportunity to meet with the managing executives.

Of course, it requires more than me making suggestions for Toyota to make good use of IT. The departments who are the users of information technology must be motivated for IT use to spread. Fortunately, the departments who are users of information technology frequently contact me to ask "Can we use IT for this?"

Working in Information Technology myself I see many great uses for IT. I also see all sorts of poor attempts to try creating IT tool for quality (including lean) tools that work much better in there original state. I can also see why people make fun of IT: If Tech Companies Made Sudoku.

IT often does the opposite of lean management and makes things more complex, more prone to error, less effective, etc.. Often all in search of only one thing - cutting costs. For that people should not be faulted for being skeptical of IT solutions. However, that does not mean that IT cannot play a part in improvements. It can, just be careful.

I find it a good sign when the CIO office is helping people find solutions at the request of the users rather than dictating solutions from on high. Some of the dictating might be necessary to optimize the system of IT (some local sub optimization may be required for the overall good) but in my opinion this is used as an excuse far too often.

He also mentions:

If anyone out there knows of a grant to read Japanese literature and share summaries with English-speaking audiences, or some other scheme that would allow me to pay the bills e-mail me.

Please do, we can all benefit from his translations, like: Gemba Keiei by Taiichi Ohno.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

See the Doctor Without Long Wait

Amazing Single Piece Flow MD Office by Mark Graban:

This doctor re-thought the entire patient process, from the perspective of a patient. He was inspired to do this after he had a lousy experience being a patient for another physician.

Imagine this sort of experience as a patient:

* You show up for your appointment and walk to the counter. You say "I'm here" and don't have to sign in or do anything.
* You are immediately walked to your exam room where an assistant takes basic information and enters it directly in their Electronic Health Record (EHR) system that's right there in front of you.
* On average, 63 seconds (SECONDS!) later, the MD comes in and sees you. The MD sees the information that the assistant took down so you don't have to repeat yourself. While talking, the MD takes notes directly into the EHR (while not really losing eye contact from you).

Now that is impressive. I can only hope for such treatment. I rarely have had to use our health care system. But the last time I did I left the ER because they seemed so unconcerned with patient care. I don't want to have to deal with our health care system any more than I want to deal with our airlines. I keep hoping IHI and others will get enough of the system in decent shape before I need to use it. I think that is a tall order. But articles like this give me some hope.

Lean Six Sigma - An Oxymoron?

Lean Six Sigma - An Oxymoron? by Mike Micklewright raises some interesting questions. Take a few minutes and read his article, it is definitely worth the time. And then take the time to think about some of the questions he raises.

I admit I am not convinced many using the term lean six sigma are intent on fusing the ideas from both areas: I think marketing might be the primary motive. However, I do believe both offer value. And I believe it is possible to adopt both within one management system. And both share many "quality management tools."

For more see Curious Cat six sigma portal and lean management portal.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Lean, Six Sigma and Innovation

Jeffrey Phillips brings up the question of how lean and six sigma work with innovation in his post: Lean on me. He raises many good questions. Let me share some thoughts on this topic here and later I will try to address this area more comprehensively.

Fast Cycle Change in Knowledge-Based Organizations by Ian Hau and Ford Calhoun is a good example of lean thinking, eliminating waste... in an innovation setting.
In, Turning Limitations into Innovation, Marissa Ann Mayer explains one of the systems improvements well:

Since only 1 in every 5 to 10 ideas work out, the strategy of constraining how quickly ideas must be proven allows us try out more ideas faster, increasing our odds of success.
In cases like these, the people working on it have spent so much time and are so personally invested that it's too painful to walk away. They often know the project is misguided, yet they see the effort through to the painful, unsuccessful end. That's why it's important to discover failure fast and abandon it quickly. A limited investment makes it easier to walk away and move on to something else that has a better chance of success.

This is a great example of applying management improvement ideas to innovation. You need to look at the system of innovation. Determine weaknesses in the system. Implement procedures to counteract those weakness. You also want to systemically support what is good, of course.

The PDSA cycle is a great tool for innovation, even for only for a portion of the innovation process. Other "lean" methods that support innovation: long term thinking, respect for people, constancy of purpose (shared vision), customer focus).

The tools (of quality, TQM, six sigma, lean thinking...) each have benefit. Those tools can be misapplied in relation to innovation. That would be an example of using the tools improperly, not an example that lean (or six sigma) doesn't work with innovation.

Can lean and Six Sigma concepts work in an area that almost demands that we work on items that can't really be quantified.

Yes, Deming knew you need to manage what can't be quantified and I believe lean thinkers do too (six sigma proponents might have more trouble with this but they can see this too).

DeBono, Hamel and Christensen have many good ideas on innovating effectively.

Also see:

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog

We have updated the design of the Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog. Please share your comments on the design: we plan on moving this blog to a similar design.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Health Care Crisis

Topic: Management Improvement

Probe finds nation's emergency care system at 'breaking point' by Lauran Neegaard:

It's a sobering symptom of how the nation's emergency-care system is overcrowded and overwhelmed, "at its breaking point," concludes an investigation by the Institute of Medicine.

The spate of similar articles reminded me of the recent post by Mark Graban: Stop calling it "ER Congestion". He states: "It's not an ER problem, it's a systemic hospital problem." I agree. The health care system is broken and has been for a long time. Symptoms like the huge cost of health care, medical errors, ER problems etc. are all related.

From the original article:

"It is the only medical care to which Americans have a legal right," noted Kellerman, adding that what constitutes an emergency is different to a doctor than to a desperate patient. Last week, he treated a woman who wound up in the ER after running out of some crucial medication and being turned away by four different clinics.

Most of the news stories touch on the systemic nature of the problems with such statements. So it is not that people are unaware of that truth but the importance of a systemic fix seems minimized.

What we need more of:

And less of:

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Thinking About the Future

Topic: Management Improvement, Economics, Systems Thinking

In Thinking About the Future Russ Ackoff does his usual great job of providing insightful ideas while not being afraid to be controversial. In this speech Dr. Ackoff discusses his thoughts on the issue of global development at the occasion of his receipt of the Tallberg Foundation / Swedbank Leadership Award:

So much time is currently spent in worrying about the future that the present is allowed to go to hell. Unless we correct some of the world's current systemic deficiencies now, the future is condemned to be as disappointing as the present.

My preoccupation is with where we would ideally like to be right now. Knowing this, we can act now so as constantly to reduce the gap between where we are and where we want to be. Then, to a large extent, the future is created by what we do now. Now is the only time in which we can act.

via: Thinking about the Future and Globalization

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Lean National Health System

Topic: Management Improvement

A presentation today, Lean Thinking For the NHS, by Dan Jones is getting press coverage in England.

NHS should embrace lean times:

The improvements came through examining the patient's whole experience, and removing the sometimes-fatal delays in getting them into the operating theatre, such as creating a faster process for radiology and removing unnecessary paperwork.

These changes also lessen staff frustrations by allowing them to spend more time helping patients. Also, by cutting length of stay and complications, costs should also start to fall, although Mr Fillingham - former director of the NHS Modernisation Agency - said it will take several years for the savings to become substantial.

This is an example of focusing on improving the system which will then result in improved measures (cost savings for example). This systems approach contrasts with cutting costs by cutting every budget by 5% across the board which often fails. Without improvements in the system reducing budgets just reduces capability.

NHS 'should copy Tesco' to boost efficiency by Elsa McLaren (Times Online - UK):

"Every one organisation, public and private, has major problems with waste and inefficiency," she said. "The NHS can learn from the latest thinking as adopted by the Royal Navy, RAF, Tesco and Toyota."

Bolton Hospitals NHS Trust has been using the method and has seen a reduction of one third in death rates for hip operation patients. The trust has also reduced paperwork in trauma units by 42 per cent, and had a 50 per cent reduction in the amount of space needed by the pathology laboratory.

Making the NHS into a lean machine by Nick Triggle, BBC News.

More Kaizen

More Kaizen - Why Not Eleven?:

We also talk about lean production and Toyota methods and how far you have to go. He tells me about a course he did where the company took him out of work for a couple of days and sent him to another plant where they showed him how to work an assembly line station, then set him to come up with 5 improvements for the process before lunchtime.

When he delivered they said, what about another 5. Then it was come back in the morning with 10 more. When he delivered 10 they said, "why not 11?" Then he got it. Kaizen is not just taking millions of little steps, it is not just doing it because the boss says so, it is not even because you take pride in your work and you want to do the best job you can, its because you do everything with your customers and their needs in mind.

I really like how the idea of always looking to improve was presented here: Kaizen Means Thinking "Now Things are the Worst Ever":

In order to do kaizen and keep working towards becoming Lean, you need everyone to think "The current situation is the worst. I can't stand it. I need to make it better." This is a significant culture change for most of us.

It is difficult to do this in an organization that has not accepted lean principles. You have to be careful to not be seen as negative and just focusing on problems when so many others are trying to cover up problems and focus on what makes them look good (they have to think about their next performance appraisal after all).

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Dell Falls Short

Good post by Mark Graban: Once Again, Dell is Not TPS:

Their factories are great examples of flow, raw material comes in one side, finished product comes out the other, with minimal WIP in between.

But, lean isn't just about reducing waste. The Toyota Production System is also about "respect for people," meaning your employees, suppliers, and customers. Dell definitely scores higher on "reducing waste" than they do on "respecting people."

Good points.

So here you have Wall Street telling Dell that it's bad business (in the short term) to provide good customer service. That explains a lot right there.

True, but don't give management a free pass just because they cave in to short term thinking. Management should know better and has a responsibility to do better. It is predictable that if management fails to setup an effective management system that they will fall victim to short term thinking. Still that doesn't mean they are not responsible for making decisions. They are the managers of the company not some analyst on Wall Street.


Monday, June 12, 2006

Manufacturing is Cool

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers brings us the web site: Maybe this is the answer to Bill Waddell post: We Don't Get No Respect :-)

From the manufacturing is cool site:
Video tapes and books full of additional information regarding the many interesting careers available in manufacturing engineering and technically oriented material.

Professionally prepared classroom programs and curriculum resources available to enhance your instructional capabilities.

Ways to help young people find career opportunities in manufacturing and engineering. Also refer our searchable database that shows college and universities that offer manufacturing programs, options, courses or labs. There is also a list of accredited programs and options in manufacturing engineering, engineering technology or industrial technology.

The site really does have some useful and interesting material (especially for teachers). Demonstrating the coolness of manufacturing might need a little work, but this is a start.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Cat and a Black Bear

Topic: cats

Tabby cat terror for black bear

A black bear picked the wrong yard for a jaunt, running into a territorial tabby who ran the furry beast up a tree - twice.

Jack, a 15-pound orange and white cat, keeps a close vigil on his property, often chasing small animals, but his owners and neighbors say his latest escapade was surprising.

"We used to joke, 'Jack's on duty,' never knowing he'd go after a bear,"

See larger photo - AP Photo by Suzanne Giovanetti

Clawless kitty chases bear up tree - read more on the story and see more photos.

In, How to get traffic for your blog, Seth Godin writes: "Don't write about your cat, your boyfriend or your kids." Good advice, in general. Of course he follows that up with: Write about your kids - a sentence later. You have to learn the rules and then learn when (and how) to break them.

Curious Cat Travels: Bear Warning sign (I will have to see about bring Jack on my hiking trips) - Bear at Yellowstone - Big Cats in Kenya

Management Advice Failures

Topic: Management Improvement

Management Advice: Which 90% is Crap? by Bob Sutton, Stanford University:

At first, I couldn't believe that someone as well-read as Hamel claimed an old idea was new and that he had invented it. But I eventually realized the problem wasn't Gary Hamel, or any other individual making claims of originality. Rather, his column reflected a prevailing practice in the business knowledge business. I asked two former Fortune columnists why "Hamel's Law" and similar claims that old ideas are brand new appear so often in the business press.

Both emphasized that you couldn't blame Hamel - that was just how things were done. Both writers even speculated that some Fortune editor probably had inserted the phrase, "Hamel's Law," to create the impression that the magazine publishes exciting new ideas. After all old news doesn't sell magazines!

I share this frustration with declaring old ideas new: Management Improvement', Better and Different, Quality, SPC and Your Career, Deming and Six Sigma, Management Lessons from Terry Ryan, Everybody Wants It, Toyota's Got It, Fashion-Incubator on Deming's Ideas and on and on.

Why does this matter? Two reasons, most importantly to me is that when we fail to value the best ideas, instead valuing the new ideas, we are not as effective as we could be. We often accept pale copies of good old ideas instead of going to the good old ideas - which will often lead to a much richer source of knowledge. When I compare copyrighted versions of management thinking to ideas from people like Ackoff, Deming, Ohno, Scholtes, McGreggor the depth and richness of those I admire is much greater than the packaged solutions, as I see it (and they are often more concerned with furthering the practice of management than further their brand). Second, it is often dishonest, or at least sloppy thinkers, that don't acknowledge the history of management ideas.

There is a huge body of research that shows they are ineffective, yet no one seems to remember these policies have failed over and over in the past.

Sloppy (or dishonest) thinking feeds this condition. Either people fail to learn (PDSA is a great way to encourage learning - predict the results of the improvement strategy, then measure the results and then study the results) or they just want to accept some easy fix today that they know won't work (which puts off trying to find a real fix until later). It is amazing to me how often we accept non-solutions. If someone objects that we have tried that "solution" and it didn't work they are often shut down with a version of: "don't be negative" or "I don't want to hear we tried that before and it didn't work" (we are different now) or "we need team players" or "if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem"...

read the acceptance speeches given by Nobel Prize winners. I did this a few years ago. All the winners in economics, for example, carefully went through the ideas they borrowed, listed the scores of people who inspired them, and emphasized that their contribution was a logical extension and blend of existing work. Something is wrong with this picture the gurus claim breakthroughs, but the Nobel laureates do not.

Great point. Dr. Deming was constantly citing the sources of ideas he discussed. Maintaining academic and scientific integrity is not just a sign of honesty but I believe leads to better performance. When one markets that they are the source of new wisdom they have to try and separate themselves from the past and others. Over time they will do so not just in marketing but in their own thoughts. When one is trying to bring together great ideas they can continually learn from the past and present.

via: Required Reading For The Weekend

Some of my thoughts on good sources for management ideas: Management Improvement Leaders,
and Management Improvement Thought Leaders

Friday, June 09, 2006

If Tech Companies Made Sudoku

Topic: Management Improvement

A fun post as we head into the weekend: If Tech Companies Made Sudoku by Kathy Sierra

Frankly, we're a little baffled that your original design was so... simple. I'm sure we all recognize that our target market demands a much more media-rich, interactive, high-action experience. Love the whole grid thing, though.

The graphic on the original post is great. You can also read about an attempt to focus IT differently: The Declaration of Interdependance by Alistair Cockburn:

Lean manufacturing teaches us that having large inventories is inefficient. It also teaches us that the overall efficiency of a process improves as the batch size passed from stage to stage is reduced. Today this has become accepted in most (but not all) manufacturing circles, yet many people may be surprised that it also applies to software development.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Tesco: Lean Provision

Topic: Management Improvement - Investing

Lean Provision Is Tesco's Secret Weapon in Battle with Wal-Mart:

Tesco's lean provision system combines point-of-sale data, cross-dock distribution centers, and frequent deliveries to many stores along "milk-runs" to stock the right items in a range of retail formats. These include Tesco Express convenience stores at gas stations and busy intersections; Tesco Metro (small supermarkets in cities); traditional Tesco supermarkets in cities and suburbs; Tesco Extra ("big box" superstores in suburbs); and for web shoppers.

Great stuff. In fact I would add Tesco to our marketocracy portfolio created as a result of our 10 stock for 10 years post. Why would, (not did)? Martketocracy won't process purchase request for Tesco. You can view Tesco on Google Finance but you can't add it to your portfolio.

Tesco is a retailer based in England that is expanding internationally - rapidly. They are moving into the United States in 2007. Warren Buffett picked up over $300 million worth of Tesco stock in March.

The quote above is taken from a Lean Enterprise institute news release. Why do companies repeatedly send out news releases and fail to (or delay) post them to their own web site? I am amazed how often this happens. It wasn't posted on LEI's site when I first saw the release but they have posted in now with additional details - good for them, what they have added it valuable. It would be better if they included a web page to link to, including the extra info (not just an adobe acrobat document, including the acrobat document is fine they just should have a web page to link to - now I have to just link to their main news page, which will work but not ideal).

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Microsoft CMMI

Topic: Management Improvement

Microsoft webcast on Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI is the process developed by the Software Engineering Institute that was heavily influenced by Quality Management) and the approach taken for continuous improvement - mapping to concepts like Six Sigma and Kaizen. Each webcast with David Anderson, is an hour long.

Program information: presentation to CMMI appraisers on the Microsoft Solutions Framework for CMMI Process Improvement.

Tag: -

Lean Beyond the Factory Floor

Topic: Management Improvement

Spreading the lean tonic:

One problem, says Michele Bonfiglioli, chief executive of Italian manufacturing consultancy firm Bonfiglioli Consulting, is that many manufacturers have a 'blind spot' when it comes to understanding just how non-lean and inefficient their administrative functions are. "Manufacturing is full of metrics: takt times, OEE and a host of others - but no one measures what goes on in the offices," he observes.

The focus on the whole organization is increasing moving to the forefront of discussions. While there are still huge gains to be made using lean manufacturing, the success of many efforts is leading to expanding the scope beyond the more limited early efforts. To me this is a consistent pattern.

Experts (in TQM, Deming's idea's, Six Sigma, BPR, Lean...) always stress the importance of involving not just others (when talking to management) but your (managers) work too. But pretty consistently management adopts new management ideas much more for others than they do themselves. And over time the talk of going beyond "factory floor" improvements becomes more common.

Fast Cycle Change in Knowledge-Based Organizations by Ian Hau and Ford Calhoun, Jun 1997 is a good example of lean thinking, eliminating waste... outside the factory floor. This is also an example of the reports I mentioned in the comments on the Kaizen research post from the Center for Quality and Productivity Improvement at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Kaizen Event Research Project

Topic: Management Improvement

NSF Funded Kaizen Event Research Project

First, this research seeks to identify the most important factors influencing successful outcomes (both technical and social)...

The second objective investigates the sustainability of Kaizen events over time.
The research team has visited numerous organizations utilizing Kaizen events across
multiple areas. Leaders in some organizations acknowledge that some areas will quickly (within 6 months to one year) revert back to the pre-Kaizen performance levels. Yet other organizations appear successful in sustaining results, even improving them further over time. Thus, this research will seek to identify the most important factors influencing sustainability of outcomes.

There is an opportunity to have your organization studied - see the article for contact details. Companies involved in textile manufacturing, food processing, or other continuous manufacturing process industries are of special interest.

Description on NSF web site

The NSF Innovation and Organizational Change (IOC) program supports scientific research directed at advancing understanding of how individuals, groups and/or institutional arrangements contribute to functioning, effectiveness and innovation in organizations.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Lean, Mean, Six Sigma Machines

Topic: Management Improvement

Lean, mean, Six Sigma machines by Tam Harbert:

Without exception, each company is healthier now than it was five years ago. Three of them have turned profitable, and the fourth - Celestica - is close to turning the corner... The question is how much credit for their progress goes to Lean Six [Sigma].

Yes that is indeed a good question. What management claims as the reason for results is not necessarily actually the reason (and this is true not just if they say forced ranking is good [which I disagree with] or lean thinking is good [which I agree with]).

A great difficulty in evaluating management concepts is that the complexity (including interaction) makes it very difficult to determine the results of specific management decisions (separating out the effects of one or several decisions from the hundreds that were made and outside influences, etc.). How much of the success of Google is due to the 20% "engineer time." Can you calculate the return? I don't think so. But you can make a judgment that it is a benefit.

A great quote from Out of the Crisis by W. Edwards Deming, page 121, states:

the most important figures that one needs for management are unknown or unknowable (Lloyd S. Nelson, director of statistical methods for the Nashua corporation), but successful management must nevertheless take account of them.

Another inconvenient truth the article mentions is that attempting to test management concepts across organizations is not easy. The repeatable conditions desired for testing a hypothesis are difficult to find between two organizations.

With their own jargon and complex frameworks, each methodology alone is hard to understand... Put them together and add each company's own unique recipe, and identifying the exact ingredients is next to impossible.

Successful management concepts are not "cookie cutter" implementations. There are general concepts that apply everywhere. And there are tools that can be used everywhere. But exactly what form the management system takes, if successful, depends on the organization. And the system of management will not be the same even if they have the same named program whether it be: TQM, Six Sigma, learning organization, BPR, MBO...

Exploring the ideas raised by this article is worthwhile. Just remember "the most important figures that one needs for management are unknown or unknowable, but successful management must nevertheless take account of them." And, just because you cannot accurately measure something does not mean you cannot manage it (or learn from it to help you improve your management).

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Signs You Have a Great Job ... or Not

Signs you have a great job ... or not by Jeanne Sahadi

This article, while presenting an overly simplistic view in my opinion, actually provides some good reminders. The article focuses on 12 questions that seem to be the focus of a recent business book. And some of those questions provide good reminders to managers of things they should pay attention to, such as:
  • Do I know what's expected of me at work?

  • At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

  • In the last 7 days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?

  • Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

  • Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
For me, this list is more valuable than most of these types of things you see in "pop management" articles. Maybe my mood (I played some good basketball today, which always puts me a good mood) is causing me to be overly positive, but I actually think this article is worth a few minutes to read and then some reflection.

I believe managers need to look to provide opportunities for the people that work with you. They need to make time for doing so (because it is something that often is neglected). If someone doesn't want new opportunities, that is fine, but don't accept that as a permanent state. Make sure you continue to offer opportunities, what people want can change. It is easy to focus on meeting goals (which you should be trying to eliminate from your management system but...) and fire fighting. Don't forget to help people grow.

This also relates to the question "do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day." A manager must balance what people would like to do (and other long term system factors) and what is best for the company today. Sometimes the organization may need someone to work in an area where they are less skilled. That is fine. In that the manager is optimizing the system by sub-optimizing their performance: just don't forget that is what is being done.

And don't forgot for most people this can be stressful. So try to adjust the system so you don't over burden people for too long. When someone is learning a new skill they will often need to spend time developing (which mean they won't be doing what they do best). Again this is expected but managers, by and large, don't do enough to support development in my opinion.

Ok, moving past the potentially basketball induced rose colored view; while I find this article worth reading I still find the follow statement meaningless at best:

I asked Coffman what percentage of companies he thinks actually pass the 12-question test. His estimate: No more than 15 percent. But within a company, he said, individual departments may meet the test, even if the company overall doesn't.

This and other such statement seem to drive so much reporting. And, to me, they do nothing but provide vastly oversimplified views that provide no real value to managers trying to improve.

I also am extremely skeptical of statement like:

"We were searching for those special questions where the most engaged employees ... answered positively, and everyone else .... answered neutrally or negatively,"

I find that such statement seem to be made for every claimed new management strategy. And most of those strategies seem to offer very little of value. You will get all sorts of correlation in data if you look at enough data: the conclusions people draw from such correlations are often useless.

An example I remember is from Statistics for Experimenters (by George Box, William Hunter (my father) and Stu Hunter (not related): page 8 shows a graph of the number of storks and the population of Oldenburg. As the book says: "Although in this example few would be led to hypothesize that the increase in the number of storks caused the observed increase in population, investigators are sometimes guilty of this mistake in other contexts."