Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Customer Focus is Central to Lean Thinking

Agile UX vs Lean UX – How they’re different and why it matters for UX designers by Anders Ramsay
Good design is good design, regardless of if we are living in an Agile or Lean or [insert new term] universe. The only real difference when adopting these methods is in the How.
So, while there certainly is a lot that UX designers can learn from Agile thinking on software delivery (such as to automate everything that can be automated), the real pay-off for UX practitioners is in the collaboration part.
Lean UX, on the other hand, is really a reference to Lean Startup a la Eric Ries (and Steve Blank, basically the godfather of Lean Startup, and creator of concepts like Customer Development and GOOBing), which extends Agile ideas to include methods for ensuring that there in fact is a market for the product you are doing such a good job designing and shipping early and often.
Lean is also very concerned with customer value. From that perspective usability is directly relevant and fits perfectly in the lean context. Lean focused on the ideas of usability for customers in the world of physical products. Usability of software fits with this perfectly.

The focus of reducing waste in lean context is to look at the "value stream" and eliminate what doesn't add value to the customer. The primacy of user is there (though some applying lean don't understand this).

Dr. Deming said the customer is the most important part of the production line. He understood the customer (end user) had to be the focus of your efforts to improve. Toyota took Deming's ideas and created the Toyota Production System (Shoichiro Toyoda, Honorary Chairman and director of Toyota: "There is not a day I don't think about what Dr. Deming meant to us. Deming is the core of our management.". Lean manufacturing is the name given to the practices of Toyota as Jim Womack and Dan Jones as they researched the company (and wrote The Machine That Changed the World.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Acknowledging Failure and Learning and Improving

The Importance of the Knowledge Distillery by Kevin Meyer
Failure is important. Teaching kids to learn from failure even more so. Maybe you're simply not cut out to be a dodge ball athlete. Best if you learn that early. Modern society generally moves in the same direction. Instead of trying to just create equal opportunity, there is a tendency to want to create equal outcomes - to cushion or even eliminate the impact of difference, or even failure.

Acknowledging failure is important.  We have created situation where success and failure are reduced (in seeking to reduce failure).  But we also just ignore failure when it happens.  Doing that doesn't eliminate failure it just eliminates the incentive to improve.

I completely agree our desire to avoid failure or even criticism is a big problem.

Related: Failure: Honda’s Secret to Success - Creating a Nation of Wimps

We often lower standards so that we avoid having to face failure.  I have failed plenty of times.  It isn't some horrible result.  Learn and more on.  Don't just pretend you don't fail because failure is seen as something to be stigmatized.  You will have more success by challenging your self, accepting and learning from failure than you will by avoiding challenges and failures at all costs.

Obviously depending on the consequences of failure you should adjust your strategies.  If the consequences are really bad then use strategies that are very unlikely to fail.

Shielding people from failure is a sign you don't respect them.  If I respect someone I know they can accept failure and I don't have to treat them like a little kid.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

How to Grow Manufacturing in the USA

American factories, foreign lands: How can we keep our companies here?

Lower cost of labor is only part of a more complicated story. Apple, and other manufacturers, need flexible and responsive partners that can, and are willing to, react quickly to changing demands. This more nimble and cooperative supply chain is a valuable asset–a competitive advantage for manufacturers.
What can we do to keep even more companies from taking their manufacturing facilities abroad?

Lots of things can be done to improve the results of manufacturing in the USA.  First though we should realize the manufacturing results for the USA are really pretty good.

China's results are exceptional but the USA has done well.  Manufacturing jobs have decreased everywhere dramatically - the USA job losses (while current data is hard to get) are possibly than global manufacturing job losses.

The biggest thing that could be done to improve the manufacturing situation in the USA is significant fixes to the health care system.  The cost of support the broken USA system is enormous.  The second is to have managers of our organizations understand current management concepts like lean manufacturing and Deming's ideas.

They would then understand the weaknesses in spreadsheet thinking that lead to seeing outsourcing to cheap countries as the solution to all problems.  They would see the benefits of producing close to consumers (which also means in the case of some that manufacturing everything in the USA moving some production offshore - for offshore customers - may well make sense).

Putting the focus on improving the processes the company uses instead of just looking for a cheaper way to do what they do increases the desirability of the USA.  Currently (this will change) the USA has people better prepared to take on a leadership role in improvements.  By valuing the brainpower of your employees the desirability of locating in the USA is increased.  This is merely due to current practices around the globe, this advantage for the USA will change (Japan and Germany are very strong in this area as is much of Europe).

Related: Manufacturing Employment Data: USA, Japan, Germany, UK... 1990-2009

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Great Companies to Work For and Invest In

What Are the Amazing Companies?
If I hear one more reference to Semco as an example of an amazing company, I’m going to scream. Really. And I’ve also heard the names of W.L. Gore, Whole Foods Market, and Southwest Airlines a few times too often. Can we move on with the good examples please?
I don't see why the same companies are so annoying to so many people. But you certainly are in the majority of people that share that attitude. People don't seem to say, jeez can't we get paste the ideas of Einstein, I am so tired of paying attention to what he said. Trader Joe's is pretty cool (private co, but the few shareholders I bet are doing well). Crutchfield is cool too. Cannon does lots of good stuff (maybe not for shareholders?). Netflix is good (a couple years ago maybe people didn't want to hear about them anymore, now that the press has been bashing them maybe it is ok, to acknowledge they are still pretty great). Have you heard of Apple? They do some cool stuff :-P Danaher does some good stuff (lean) - they are large but really quiet about lean, compared to some others. Ritz Carlton is one you used to hear about a lot but not so much anymore, I am pretty sure they are still good. Zappos seems pretty good (and their parent Amazon) - maybe they are too popular too? Google (too popular - too many people saying bad things now)? Another private one I hear good things about is SAS Software. Staying great is hard. I think companies like Toyota, Gore, Southwest Airlines... deserve lot and lots of attention. Related: What Companies are Practicing Deming Ideas - Trust Employees to Make Decisions - Build an Environment Where Intrinsic Motivation Flourishes