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Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
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#Lean stalled? Back to #TWI basics!

December 15th, 2010 Posted in Lean Tags:

Looking around for some Training Within Industry material, I stumbled upon this article which clearly addresses the problem of Lean turnovers that fail: TWI: Training Within Industry.

The article addresses the lack of follow-through actions after an improvement have been done. Of the four-steps methods devised by Charles Allen (Preparation, Presentation, Application and Testing; this method is at the origin of Job Instruction, Methods and Relations Training), only the second step (Presentation) is usually done in companies.

People are told what to do and expected to comply. No wonder there’s “change resistance”!

  • No preparation: management does not inquire into what employees know about the job and the reasons for change or improvement. The underlying assumption is that they’re not working properly without being explained why!
  • No application: no assurance is secured of the way the job or new method is going to be applied (or whether is fit the job anyway!) or whether it’s been understood.
  • and No testing: which means that people can almost safely go back to work as usual since nobody is going to check on them (not in a spirit of control but just to be sure that no other problem occurred and that the method is indeed well suited for the job).

Of this article, I’d add another mandatory step, that goes way before improvements are done: before everything starts, actually. Which brings me back to my previous article about coaching. You need to secure top management involvement in deploying Lean for it to succeed. And that securing includes Checking that improvements are indeed coming in (among other things)!

Sheesh. The Lean deployment problems we’re experiencing today were already known (at least!) in 1913 (date of Charles Allen book on his four-step instruction method).

Didn’t we learn anything since then? In a spirit of Appreciative Inquiry, should we ask about “what worked” in deploying Lean, I guess TWI would come top of the list with a huge list of successes. Of course, Toyota really improved on TWI, especially regarding Job Methods (the improvement part). But should you only do JMT properly, you’d outwin your competitors, for sure.

#Lean may need real coaches at the beginning

December 14th, 2010 Posted in Change, Lean Tags: , , ,

There are things that we just do more easily when someone is doing them with us or accompanying us in order for us to do them. These are generally the not-so-sexy-things-to-do: fat-loosing-sports, medical appointment, and on a more general scale, anything that is not bringing us satisfaction on the short term. Like continuous improvement.

If it doesn’t hurt enough, you won’t change.

So you really need to be in a catastrophic situation to ponder the possibility to change (and even then… but that’s for another article).

What’s the problem?

I think we have some very experienced Lean senseïs or Lean consultants. A whole bunch of them can be seen on The Lean Edge. I know some of them and I wouldn’t call them… gentle. Experienced? Efficient? Right to the point? Definitely! But not that pushy for clients not ready to commit deeply to what Lean requires from them. These consultants are more on the style of “either you badly want it or I leave”. Which is somewhat fine since there are quite a number of people wanting to embark on the Lean journey and there are indeed very few of these consultants. Which is a way for them to filter their clients, I guess (or a form of Lean efficiency: don’t accept bad products from the preceding step in the process – the defects there being a lack of motivation to do Lean).

What we have here is a self reinforcing loop whose limit is the maximum number of clients the consultant can handle:

Lean consultant fame system dynamics diagram

Lean consultant fame system dynamics diagram

Like all growing loop, this one exhibit an exponential growth behavior:

Lean consultants fame graphic

Lean consultants fame graphic

Of course, there’s an increasing stock outside of frustrated clients that can’t be served by the famous consultants.

We also know that there are a whole lot of clients that tried Lean and failed to continue with it. We can blame the clients for not doing what Lean required of them (deep commitment). And this is in some way true and the underlying assumtion done by the famous consultants I spoke of just above (or the easy way for them to select clients). And, by coming to this conclusion, this is also the underlying assumtions of the (not as famous but still skillful) other consultants. Indeed, by accepting unmotivated clients, you get fewer results, which confirms you that your clients were unmotivated. This is indeed a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But what would happen if we’d take the assumption that the clients are willing to do Lean but need some motivation to do it before doing the real stuff?

Read more »

Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog » Building Adoption of Management Improvement Ideas in Your Organization

December 10th, 2010 Posted in Change, Lean, Systems Thinking Tags: , , , ,

This is an interesting blog entry of John Hunter (Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog » Building Adoption of Management Improvement Ideas in Your Organization).

It might well be studied as a way to go to increase Systems Thinking into management (and employees) heads.

Yet, I’m more wary of the focus on tools because of the risk of commoditization of what is being introduced (Lean or else). I’ve written about this already.

It also relates to The Chasm and the gap between early adopters and the early majority. Hard work is required to cross the chasm.

Change resistance bell curve

Change resistance bell curve featuring The Chasm

Could it be that Innovators and Early Adopters are quickly and easily building a vision of where they might end with the new, that get them moving into that direction? Wouldn’t trying to work on a better mental image of the future help in trying to make resistant people adopt the change?

Regarding Lean, we have now quite some company that went for a Lean management system. Some were highly successful, other less, but it seems hat failure is generally associated with either not believing in Lean (self-fulfilling prophecy) or not doing “real Lean” (which generally means that Lean activities have been focused on tools and not on the management that should go with them – that’s L.AM.E. (Lean As Mistakenly Executed))

Change This – Radical Management: Mastering the Art of Continuous Innovation

I’ve posted yesterday about a book I’ve heard of: Radical Management: Mastering the Art of Continuous Innovation.

Now, in my mailbox today, I can see the lastest ChangeThis newsletter with a presentation of Steve Denning’s ideas which he details in his book. The manifesto is here: Change This – Radical Management: Mastering the Art of Continuous Innovation.

I’m happy that I’ve read this manifesto, because it allows me to understand more about what that style of management is all about. And I must say that I like it even more!

Being an idea-connector as I am, I can’t help but connect the principles that Mr Denning proposes to the ones I’m more used to. Here they are.

What are the 7 principles?

First, a quick reminder of the seven principles Mr Denning proposes:

  1. The purpose of work is to delight clients through value innovation
  2. Work should be carried out in self-organizing teams
  3. Work should be done in client-driven iterations
  4. Each iteration should deliver value to clients
  5. Total openness: everyone levels with everyone
  6. The workplace is a context in which teams themselves want to improve
  7. Management communicates through interactive conversations

I shall now link these very interesting propositions with the main topics of this blog and show how I feel they relate to one another.

Lean

Lean is a total management system encompassing the whole organization. Or it should be. One of the fundamental principle of Lean is that you must give customers what they want, at the moment they want it, in the quantity they want, all by reducing their burden to buy it from you. As Lean is rather radical in its force to move toward this direction, it means that to reduce your costs, you also need to reduce your turnover and the best way to do that is to give back some power to your employees and take care of them. You need to let them use their mind as to what and how the company can be improved and how they can best work to best serve your customers.

As the driving obsession of Lean is to achieve all that through the mean of reducing the delay between the moment a customer makes a request and the moment you’ve collected the money he gave you in purchase of your product or service, this means that you should try to deliver any products to any customer requesting it (that’s one-piece-flow behind it, for sure).

I relate this to Mr Denning’s points #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5.

Systems Thinking

Systems Thinking is a way of thinking of systems (as defined as a collection of parts related to each others) that allows to see the forest despite the trees. Indeed, the whole has some (emergent) properties worth studying that you can’t see when only studying the parts. There’s a lot more behind this sole sentence and diverse methods to help you achieve that.

One method that I find especially visible through Mr Denning presentation of Radical Management is that of the Viable System Model by Stafford Beer. I’ve uploaded a diagram presenting what the VSM is (same letters, but different than the Lean “Value Stream Map”) behind this link.

Mr Denning’s Radical Management points #2 especially relates to the system law of requisite variety. According to this law, which is a building principle of the Viable System Model, small teams have a better chance of matching the environment’s variety than some top management up the hierarchical ladder. Hence, autonomous teams, all working under the same vision or in the same direction (as set by point #1) are a must. In this view, point #7 might be seen as a new way of interacting with teams corresponding to System 2 in charge of interactions and conflicts between autonomous systems 1 (teams).

Besides, when you have the autonomy to work the way you want, you’re more willing to improve your own work conditions than if they’re imposed on you by some management far away. That’s point #6.

Strength-based approaches to management

I’ve already covered the 7 points. Yet, although it’s not explicitely stated in the manifesto which I link at the beginning of the article, I have the feeling that the whole radical management system is somewhat more strength-based than traditional management approaches. Indeed, when you’re talking of “delighting clients” (#1), “delivering value” (#4), “openness” (#5) and “interactive conversations” (#7), you’re more likely to deal with what works and motivates people than seeking to assign blame for problems.

Conclusion

All in all, Radical Management seems to be a very good approach to management, with a nicely put combination of Lean, Systems Thinking and Strength-based approaches to management. Being from a Lean background mainly, I can only regret that of all the fantastic Lean books available, people only remember the tools part and not the management part. That’s similar to trying to use some powerful tool without reading the accompanying instructions: no wonder you end up hurting people.

So, if some management book can focus readers on improving their management skills, so far so good! We’re in desperate need of some new style of management and Radical Management, in my opinion, greatly fills the gaps.

#SystemsThinking for Contemporary Challenges

December 9th, 2010 Posted in Systems Thinking Tags: ,

Here is a nice blog entry at Pegasus Communication: Systems Thinking for Contemporary Challenges.

I quote one of the end paragraph which seems to echo very well some discussions going on LinkedIn group “Systems Thinking World” about how to increase awareness of systems thinking in the general public…

The zero-impact building session was a great segue to John Sterman from MIT, who spoke about climate change. He was critical of systems thinking practitioners who have failed to develop tools and a language that governments, leaders, and everyday citizens can use to understand the long-term consequences of their actions. He cited the example of the “bathtub”and the C-ROADS simulator as examples of systems tools that help people change their mental models, especially around issues as complex as climate change. According to Sterman, if the systems thinking community is not willing to build a new set of tools to address these large-scale challenges, then very little will change.

I started to think about doing an Appreciative Inquiry into what works for raising systems thinking awareness and then devising a plan to do more of it. Contributions are starting to come smoothly. As soon as I have synthesized them, I’ll post them on the blog.

Meanwhile, you might be interested in some great work that is available to freely raise your skills in Systems Thinking. I’ve see the following (free) resources really helpful. Feel fre to comment to add your preferred ones:

As for the “not free” resources, I’m a recent subscriber of “The Systems Thinker” PDF magazine, which I must admit is a gold mine (pun intended: Michaël Ballé, author of the Lean turnaround novel “The Gold Mine” sometimes write for this newsletter – hint, hint! :-).

Leader’s Guide to Radical Management & #Lean transformation

December 9th, 2010 Posted in Change, Lean, Systems Thinking Tags: , , ,

Here is a nice blog article about a book I have not read (isn’t it great? I’m talking about someone’s talk about something I have not read! Internet’s so fantastic…)

Guru Review: Leader’s Guide to Radical Management | Matthew E. May.

I relate what is said about the book to whole systems change and Donella Meadows 12 leverage points of Systems.

What it seems is said in this book is that because the goal (and even the Paradigm) of the Prisons changed, the whole system changed as a result. Of the 12 leverage point, goal changing is number #3 most efficient in changing a system and Paradigm change is even #2.

And yes, this is radical (hence the title).

Of course, when you decide to go for Lean, you enter, knowingly or not, that same kind of change.

By “doing Lean”, you can go for:

  • reducing stocks (=buffers), which is leverage point #11
  • changing the structure of stocks, leverage point #10
  • reducing delays of processes, hence feedback between beginning and end, in order to change the way the process works according to its output, leverage point #9
  • putting visual management all other the place and ensure that everybody looks at them at least once a day, to share information, leverage point #6
  • promoting problem sharing rather than fingerpointing, leverage point #5
  • empowering employees to change what needs to be changed to achieve what is expected, leverage point #4
  • changing the goal of the organization: delighting customers rather than producing widgets, leverage point #3
  • changing the paradigm of the organization: simultaneously develop employees, delight customers and reduce costs, leverage point #2

Of course, when you do Lean, you do all of the preceding points, and then more.

All parts that make Lean what it is are related to oneanother. Remove any one of them (a fortiori more than one), and the whole thing start to work less efficiently. Then, one could say the Lean is a system by and in itself. But I won’t claim it high and loud, for fear of starting a flamewar on this blog 😉

#Lean from a #SystemsThinking Point of View

December 8th, 2010 Posted in Lean, Systems Thinking Tags: , ,

I was reading one of Michael Ballé’s blog article about Lean, on Lean Edge (great web site!) and it reminded me of one of those “aha moment” I had when reading the beginning of Toyota Culture. There is described the relations between production improvement and employee development (like a double DNA spiral). Then it occurred to me that I could model this using my Systems Thinking modelling tools (here, Vensim from Ventana).

System Diagram of Lean from a Systems Thinking Point of View

Lean from a Systems Thinking Point of View

The explanation can then go something like this (of course, being circular, you can start wherever you want): by applying a Lean tool to a process, you expose some of the wastes as defined by Lean (Overproduction, Overquality, Excess motion, Excess transport, Stock, Errors, Waiting time). Exposing the wastes allows for their removal, which, by way of having people think on how to do this, develop your employees. By their increased understanding of the way the organization and Lean tools work, they become more competent at using Lean tools to expose further more waste. And so on.

One could draw lots of other systems diagrams on the effects of removing waste in an organization (I may do later on). But one can see that Lean is far more than just doing some kaizen workshops to improve something. The fact is that we can just hire some Lean consultant to tell us what to do without the burden of thinking ourselves. If the objective of the Lean program is to give short term results, it’s probably the easiest way to go. If the objective of the Lean transformation (notice the name change…) is to have sustainable continuous improvement, then there’s no better way than involve people in doing so. And it better involve management as well as frontline employees or management will end up using all employee time for production and forget about continuous improvement! I never had better long term involvement with Lean than when I had management participate in workshops (yeah, I know, I know: workshops should not be the norm, but I had no choice at that time).

I’ve already blogged about this problem of Commoditization of Lean… It’s a case of Shifting the Burden systems archetype.

Christmas dynamics

December 8th, 2010 Posted in Systems Thinking Tags: ,

Christmas is approaching. Parents and relative usually buy toys for children (theirs and others). But, given the increasing revenues in developed countries and decreasing costs of toys (thanks to production outsourced to developing countries with low production costs), children often have more and more toys for Christmas.

I tried to modeled the way children usually engage with toys and the consequences for them. The diagram is provided below.

SD diagram for a fix that fails in buying more toys for children

SD diagram for a fix that fail in buying more toys for children

It goes something like that:

When provided with toys, children play with them, which directly reduces their need for new toys. But, the more toys are provided to the children, the less they can engage with them (because their attention is spread over all the toys). The less engaged they are with the toys, the more boredom they experience, which increases their need for new toys. And then, because/when parents can offer new toys, the cycle goes again, this time with even more toys provided, which on a short term allows the children to play with them, but in the longer term, further spread their attention and then will increase their boredom.

So providing a lot of toys works on the short term, but fails on the long term. This is an archetype of Fix that Fail.

What are effective strategies? The archetype proposes two of them:

  • advance planning, which would mean anticipating the situation and don’t offer too much toys
  • disconnect the unintended consequence from the action (offering toys), which would mean here to provide toys that don’t induce boredom. Maybe toys that are so versatile that each time you engage with them, they provide for something new? This might be an explanation of why Playmobil, Lego, Meccano or other dolls are so popular, even after all these years: you can create stories out of them!

I would also encourage parents not to provide too much toys to their children (and ask relatives not to compensate for that!) That’s heartbreaking for sure, but we (yes, I too have kids) need to think to their long term benefits. Didn’t your parents or grandparents talked about when they were kids and could play for hours with very few toys?

So, should we inquire into what works for the sustain enjoyment of kids, we would know the answer. How come we can hardly apply that knowledge?

ReBlog: #Lean meets #SixSigma meets Frankenstein, or show me the money!

November 30th, 2010 Posted in Lean Tags: ,

Nice article from Dan Strongin about the fact that most often, Lean and Six Sigma are not much more than tool-waving, producing local gains at the expense of global costs.

How come it’s so difficult for management to understand that people are not machines? Taylor wondered why when you buy hands, a mind is sold with them (indeed, Lean discovered years later that not only does this mind come for free, but the company has more success when you use it!). Now, it’s being said that when you buy a head, you’re given a heart for free.

Hint, hint!

ReBlog: Avoid Creating Resistance To #Change

November 30th, 2010 Posted in Change, Systems Thinking Tags: ,

I have just stumbled upon this nice blog article: “Avoid Creating Resistance To Change – A Change Managment Tip“.

The rest of the blog features some interesting articles as well!

In short: use systems thinking, without using bad words.

The LinkedIn group “Systems Thinking World” features a number of discussions about that very same topic as well.

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