Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Informal, Subconscious PDSA Experimentation

"Informal" PDSA is basically how babies and kids learn.  They don't formalize the theory they are testing but their brain is doing it for them.  If they touch the hot stove they learn hey touching that hurts.  Most brains figure out hot feeling gets super hot if I touch what appears to be the source (even without a helicopter parent telling them).  I don't want to be hurt again.  Don't touch that hot thing.  A bit old they connect the stove place as likely to be hot...  Sometimes they are a bit lame and they fail to make the connections until they get burned a couple times.

Same thing with say putting food into their mouth.  They try various ways of doing so with various levels of success.  Eventually they find good ones.  As kids get a bit older they have to modify the most effective ways of getting food to their mouth to make sure the big huge person sitting next to them doesn't stop them (factoring in "manners" as part of what is needed not just efficiency).

Kids really are amazing at doing "informal PDSA."  But their are ways to get even better by realizing what you are testing consciously.  Especially as systems get complex relying on your brain decoding everything behind the scenes (doing its own subconscious pdsa) gets less reliable.

Response to: PDCA – So Simple, It’s Child’s Play

Related: Encouraging Curiosity in Kids - Experience Teaches Nothing Without Theory - Keys to the Effective Use of the PDSA Improvement Cycle

Friday, January 18, 2013

Look First to Improve Your Performance and That of Your Sphere of Control

Improving the State of your Testing Team: Part One – Values
Typically, the first thing out of my test teams mouths when asked “how can we improve the state of testing here”, usually relates to something that other people should do. Very few people or teams take an introspective based approach to improvement, or state their management values, but the ones that do, typically have great success.
Being accountable for taking ownership of getting things done – upwards and downwards – is what people expect out of their leaders, and will move the test team higher up the value chain.
Several of the points resonate with me. The idea that so many find it easy to see how others should improve performance but seem surprised they should consider changes themselves is common. I also find the understanding that we run into many problems based on what we think we know (but isn't so) as important and something many people miss. This idea holds true for teams also: look to what we are a group can do to improve not just all sorts of changes other people should make to stop causing the problems we experience today.

In Dr. Deming's management view the second point is explored as part of the theory of knowledge.

People do have to be responsible. I worry about "accountability" because so often it is managers designing and enforcing bad management practices which make good performance difficult and then use "accountability" to blame those in the system for the results of the system.

"the aim of leadership is not merely to find and record failures of men, but to remove the causes of failure: to help people to do a better job with less effort." Dr. Deming

Related: Sphere of control

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Long History of Lean Thinking in Government

This is my comment from a closed access Linked In group.

It is good news that a government organization is adopting lean thinking ideas, but this kind of thing has been going on for decades. My father wrote a short section in Dr. Deming's Out of the Crisis on applying these ideas in the City of Madison (early 1980's). I was involved in the Public Sector Network (federal, state and local gov in 1990's) that group joined ASQ and is now the ASQ government division. I was involved with the Federal Quality Network 1990s (federal government effort). I worked in the Office of Secretary of Defense Quality Management Office 1996-2001. I created and maintain the Public Sector Continuous Improvement Site.

There have been many great efforts over the years. Sadly most fade away leaving behind the use of a few good tools and a bit better process thinking but that is about it. Executive comprehension of the better management methods seem to disappear quickly (the executives, in government [not all of them of course, some do great stuff], are also much more reluctant to embrace better management practices than others in the organization).

  Doing More with Less in the Public Sector, A Progress Report from Madison, Wisconsin, 1987.
  Transformation and Redesign at the White House Communications Agency by March Laree Jacques, 1999.

We have to expect more of our governments. Better management practices will provide more value at less costs - both of which are badly needed in the economy today.

Related: Managing Our Way to Economic Success Two Untapped Resources - Focus on the Work: Pick Improvement Projects that Really Help Your Agency's Operations - Using Quality to Develop an Internet Resource