The Fad Lifecycle (‘Agile’, ‘Lean’, ‘Lean-Startup’ and ‘Design Thinking’ are dead)

Over the course of time, various frameworks, methodologies, and approaches (I would call them tools with labels) have come and gone. Panaceas that promise much and purport to solve our problems, turn into fads and die, bowing out to the next wave of ‘new thinking’ and labels.

While in vogue, the people that promulgate them (usually consulting firms and ‘thought-leaders’) extoll their merits and attempt to convince the unwitting of the need to buy their tools, attend their training classes, obtain certification, and buy their books. To not do so, they warn, is to be left behind; the fear marketing hyperbole: that your competitors are already doing it – and if you don’t join them – you will be left behind, or worse, you could become the next Kodak or Nokia. Fear sells.

If you are involved in the creation of technology today, then you will no doubt be aware of tools such as ‘Agile’, ‘Lean’, ‘Lean Startup’ & ‘Design Thinking’. The various consulting firms have done an outstanding job at marketing each, with the message reaching right up to the boardroom.

Each of these tools started small, and have over the ensuing years grown into the technology creation and transformation consciousness.

The ‘Innovation adoption lifecycle’ is a sociological model created by researchers Beal and Bohlen in 1957. It describes the adoption or acceptance of an innovation. The model indicates that the first group of people to use something new are called ‘innovators’, who are then followed by ‘early adopters’. Next come the ‘early majority’ and ‘late majority’, with the last group to eventually adopt called ‘laggards’.

Diagram: Innovation adoption lifecycle. Source: CC BY 2.5 https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11484459

A panacea or fad can be characterised in the same way. A new tool is created, and the ‘innovators’ begin to use it. Next, the ‘early adopters’ jump in, promoting the promise that this tool is better than the last. Popularisation occurs in the ‘early majority’ through promulgation by ‘thought-leaders’ who write books, articles, blogs, tweets and give presentations at conferences. The big firms, who smell money, enter and begin marketing and selling ‘benefits’ to the ‘late majority’, and finally, the ‘laggards’ catch up through fear marketing.

When the purported benefits of the fad do not materialise, the fad begins to die, and typically, a war of words ensues between naysayers that have arisen (sometimes the originators themselves) vs hardcore followers and other originators of the fad. The cycle repeats itself when the next new tool – often the same thing just with a new label – comes along to take its predecessor’s place.

I call this the ‘Fad lifecycle’.

Diagram: The Fad Lifecycle. Source: David Joyce, CC BY 2.5 AU

Psychologists have learned that if a person is presented with attitudes or actions that are difficult for them to accept, then their defensive mechanisms kick in. It results in the person attempting to rationalise – they think of reasons to justify or explain, in a seemingly rational or logical manner, to avoid the true explanation.

Rationalisation happens in the last stage of the fad lifecycle. Fads seldom completely die out, its originators, and some of its hardcore followers who remain loyal, rationalise that ‘people didn’t do it properly’, or ‘snake oil sales people ruined it’, or in extremis ‘in time we will be proven right!’. The most common rationalisation is to point to what has ‘worked’ and ignore the rest.

What has this got to do with ‘Agile’, ‘Lean’, ‘Lean Startup’ and ‘Design Thinking’? Well, if we examine each, they are following a familiar pattern – they are all trudging through the fad lifecycle.

Agile is dead

From beginning small in the early 1990s under a variety of different guises, ‘Agile’ was born in 2001 following the creation of the Manifesto for Agile Software development. Since then it has gained in popularity, progressing through the stages of the fad lifecycle.

Today, ‘Agile’ is in no doubt mainstream, with both the late majority and laggards embarking on ‘Agile’ transformations. Some of these endeavours are happening beyond the confines of its roots in technology development. Fuelled by ‘thought-leaders’ (sales people) who promise that ‘Agile’ is the antidote to outdated command-and-control hierarchies and bureaucracies, they recommend that it should be implemented across the entire organisation, thus going way beyond the original intention of a set of values that were created for Agile Software Development.

Unfortunately, popularity doesn’t necessarily translate to results. ‘Agile’ is now teetering on the edge of the ‘Fad begins to die & rationalisation begins’ stage of the fad lifecycle.

‘Agile’ was born from frustration. The blame for the large-scale failure of technology projects had been pinned on the ‘Waterfall’ methodology, while ‘Agile’ proponents promised these issues would be alleviated. Sixteen years on since the creation of the Agile Manifesto, there are just as many technology failures as there were in the days of ‘Waterfall’. The promised panacea hasn’t become a reality.

In evidence of ‘Agile’ being in the final stage of the fad lifecycle, there is a growing number of people today who claim that ‘Agile’ hasn’t worked, has become bastardised, and that ‘Agile is dead’ – some of whom were its founders.

6point6 commissioned a survey of 300 CIOs in the UK and the US to examine their experiences of Agile and measure how successfully the principles of Agile are being applied and executed.

The research … uncovered that over half of CIOs regard agile development as “discredited” (53%) while three-quarters (75%) are no longer prepared to defend it.  Almost three quarters (73%) of CIOs think Agile IT has now become an industry in its own right while half (50%) say they now think of Agile as “an IT fad”.

Others acknowledge there are issues but are equally as quick to rationalise by pointing out the advantages that have been gained. As Jim Highsmith, one of the 17 original signatories of the Agile Manifesto, wrote:

“I’d prefer to focus on the positive – virtually no one is “starting” a waterfall implementation these days, how we’ve learned to deliver value to customers faster, how we’ve brought quality to the forefront in ways that haven’t happened before, and how we’ve improved the quality of workplaces around the globe.”

Other people claim that newer kids on the block that followed ‘Agile’ – labels such as ‘DevOps’, ‘Modern Agile’, and ‘Strategic Agility’ – will ‘do it this time’. Here we see the first stage of the fad lifecycle beginning again.

Lean is dead

The term ‘Lean’ first gained widespread popularity after the success of the book ‘The Machine that Changed the World’ (Womack, Jones and Roos, 2007, first published 1990).

The book became a bestseller, the term ‘Lean’ became widely known and a movement duly spawned. It moved through the fad lifecycle, spreading not only in manufacturing but also into service organisations and technology creation.

In the West, ‘Lean’ has often been promoted as the Toyota System in a box. Taiichi Ohno, the man who developed the Toyota System, insisted it shouldn’t have a name at all lest managers expect it to literally come in a box. Ohno was quite prescient, as this was the very marketing opportunity many early and recent Western ‘Lean’ promulgators tapped into, and they did so successfully, moving ‘Lean’ through the fad lifecycle.

In recent years there has been growing criticism of ‘Lean’, the Western attempt to reproduce the innovations in manufacturing practice first developed at Toyota in the 1950s.

Two of the authors of influential books on ‘Lean’, Mike Rother and Jeffrey Liker, highlighted the lack of sustainable results in an Industry Week survey which found that:

“only 2 percent of companies that have a lean program achieved their anticipated results” 

Rother kick started the fad lifecycle again by proclaiming that what was needed was a new label called ‘Kata’, duly publishing a ‘Toyota Kata’ book along with ‘Improvement Kata’ and ‘Coaching Kata’ practice guides.

More recently Jim Womack, one of the authors of the book ‘The Machine that Changed the World’ and founder of the Lean Enterprise Institute stated:

“… we need to acknowledge that our efforts to dramatically transform large, mature organizations haven’t worked and aren’t going to work, even when these organizations encounter crises.

Similarly, we need to acknowledge that our traditional ways of teaching lean methods through workshops and explaining our ideas through workbooks are at a point of diminishing returns.”

Just as Highsmith did, Womack then rationalised the failure:

“Yes, after so many years, I’m disappointed in how far we have gotten in spreading lean thinking … as a community, we will need to rethink our tactics, stick to our purpose, and better understand the challenges preventing us from staying on course.”

‘Lean Startup’, started, stalled and died

In addition to ‘Agile’ and ‘Lean’ and there are two other tools that have gained notoriety; ‘Lean Startup’ and ‘Design Thinking’.

‘Lean Startup’ is a methodology for developing businesses and products, which aims to shorten product development cycles by adopting a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and validated learning.

It is described as an intersection of customer development – which offers a way to find, test and grow customers – and ‘Agile’.

In 2008, Eric Ries started the fad lifecycle with ‘Lean Startup’, duly publishing a book called ‘The Lean Startup’ in 2011. It sold like hot cakes becoming a bestseller. Ries quickly became in demand on the conference circuit.

‘Lean Startup’ advised to use a new concept called a ‘Minimum Viable Product (MVP)’, then, based on user feedback loops, make small, fast incremental changes, evolving the design into something that customers can’t live without. As Eric Ries describedThe minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.’

Diagram: Process for Lean Startup. Source: The Lean Startup, Eric Ries, 2011

Terms such as ‘MVP’, ‘Build-Measure-Learn’, ‘Validated learning’, and ‘Pivoting’ entered the technology production and transformation lexicon. ‘Pivot’ became so overused that it made its way into a cartoon in the New Yorker where a couple, sat at a table outside a café, had the caption underneath “I’m not a leaving you. I’m pivoting to another man.”

Just as Ohno was prescient about ‘Lean in a box’, so was Ries: “Throughout our celebration of success of the Lean Startup movement, a note of caution is essential. We cannot afford to have our success breed a new pseudoscience around pivots, MVPs, and the like.”

However, this is what happened. Coupled with fear marketing around ‘being disrupted’, consulting firms latched onto concepts like MVPs with feverish activity. Other labels such as ‘Enterprise Lean’ arose, piggybacking concepts started in ‘Agile’, ‘Lean’ and ‘Lean Startup’, but this time applied to enterprise organisations. Another example of selling ‘Lean in a box’. A new role called the ‘intrapreneur’ became fashionable – quasi Richard Branson’s – except they were suggested to be managers within an enterprise organisation with attributes of entrepreneurs and startup founders.

A movement had been born that quickly made its way into the ‘Mainstream marketing and selling’ stage of the fad lifecycle.

Did it deliver on its promise? Do less startups fail? Are enterprise organisations full of intrapreneurs? Or is it entering the latter stages of the fad lifecycle?

Predictably, articles appeared claiming ‘Lean Startup is dead’, ‘Lean Startup, and how it almost killed our company’ and ‘What’s wrong with the lean startup methodology?’.

Other labels began to kick start the first stage of the fad lifecycle, for example, ‘Minimum Loveable Product (MLP)’, ‘Minimum Desirable Product (MDP)’, ‘Minimum Valuable Product’, and ‘Riskiest Assumption and Test (RAT)’.

In his article for ‘startup daily.’ titled ‘Is the lean startup dead?’ Luke Fitzpatrick, who teaches startup entrepreneurship at Sydney University stated:

“Eric Ries, admitted that his theory was developed for startups particularly in San Francisco, and may not work for places outside of the United States. Ries has also said that the lean methodology probably wouldn’t work for startups like Facebook or Uber.”

Ben Silbermann co-founder and CEO of Pinterest, now worth USD 1.57 billion, said he was grateful he didn’t read Lean Startup in the early days of Pinterest because it might have convinced him to give up at that point.

‘Design Thinking’ out-thought

Lastly, we come to ‘Design Thinking’.

If we were to give an award for the best-marketed tool at the executive level, it would go to ‘Design Thinking’. In testament to this, the large consulting firms and corporations have been snapping up design agencies.

Even though ‘Design Thinking’ has been evolving since the 1960’s, it is only more recently as an umbrella term that it has achieved fame and continued to gain popularity.

Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, and Roger Martin, author of books such as ‘The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage’ helped popularise ‘Design Thinking’ moving it through the fad cycle.

‘Design Thinking’ has become so well marketed, that it is now taught at Stanford University, and you can obtain a Master of Design/MBA at the IIT Institute of Design.

Richard Perez, a Director at Hasso Plattner Institute of Design Thinking at the University of Cape Town, extols the benefits of ‘Design Thinking’: “Design thinking helps to break down silos across corporate departments. With multiple disciplines around a table, it’s possible to bring new perspectives to a problem within a structured framework for working together.”

David Campey, co-founder of Afrolabs and Lean Iterator agrees: “The hidden gem of design thinking is the multidisciplinary team,”

In addition, its proponents argue that ‘Design Thinking’ is the missing component from ‘Agile’, ‘Lean’ and ‘Lean Startup’, where ‘Design Thinking’ is the starting point before development occurs, used to identify the problems to solve – sometimes problems people don’t realise they even have.

Perez continues: “The discovery phase is critical in design thinking. Most of the work is focused on developing a human-centred understanding of the problem before going into solution mode.”

Diagram: Process for Design Thinking. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:IDEO_process.png

Donald Norman, author of The Design of Everyday Things explains: “Designers don’t search for a solution until they have determined the real problem, and even then, instead of solving that problem, they stop to consider a wide range of potential solutions. Only then will they converge upon their proposal. This process is called Design Thinking.”

There is no doubt ‘Design Thinking’ has caught on in both the private and public sectors. In evidence of this, the stated aim of the ‘Explore Design 2017’ conference in Canberra, Australia was billed as a ‘whole of government initiative, responding to a growing need across the public sector to use design thinking to collaboratively develop more impactful policies and services.’

It goes on to state ‘… the event focuses on how we can use design thinking for developing and improving policy development and service design.’

These examples show that ‘Design Thinking’ has well and truly passed through the ‘Mainstream Marketing and Selling’ stage of the fad lifecycle.

Now widely in use, has ‘Design Thinking’ delivered on its promise of breaking down silos across corporate departments? Are results matching intent, or are previous proponents now dreaming up new labels because ‘Design Thinking’ has entered into the ‘Fad begins to die and rationalisation begins’ stage?

Bruce Nussbaum, Professor of Innovation and Design at Parsons School of Design, and an award-winning writer who describes himself as one of design thinking’s biggest supporters called ‘Design Thinking’ a ‘failed experiment’.

Nussbaum recommends that we should move onto a new label (kick start the fad lifecycle) called ‘Creative Intelligence’.

In addition to Nussbaum, other ‘thought-leaders’ have come up with new labels to replace ‘Design Thinking’ such as ‘Design Doing’, ‘Design Driven’ and ‘Product Thinking’.

Commenting on Nussbaum’s ‘failed experiment’ proclamation, in his article ‘Is Design Thinking a “Failed Experiment?”’, John K. Coyle, Design Thinking & Innovation Expert, Author and Professor of Innovation, rationalises the failure and lays the blame on the culture and mindsets in organisations:

“[I] strongly agree with Bruce that many many design thinking efforts, particularly at large organizations, failed. I worked for years trying to bring the mindset and process of design thinking to large organizations and by far the mindset element was often the missing ingredient.”

Once again, we are into the rationalisation stage.

A way out

When we teach students on Masters courses, we impress upon them the need to ask every lecturer who teaches them tools two questions:

  1. Who invented this tool?
  2. What problem was he or she trying to solve?

Students are then encouraged to ask themselves: does my organisation have this problem?

It never ceases to amaze us how few lecturers can answer the two questions. They, like the commercially-motivated toolkit sales people, usually react defensively when unable to answer the questions and assume tools have universal application. These actors have produced an army of fools with tools.

These two questions offer a way out of the fad lifecycle – it helps us recognise wrong-headed thinking that churns out fads, and enables us to avoid the trap of buying into tools that are just more of the same – tools and labels that apply the same logic that created the problem in the first place.

 


To obtain differentiated results, progressive leaders are turning to the Vanguard Method which has received numerous academic awards for contribution to management science and were the first winner of the Harvard Business Review / McKinsey Management Innovation Prize for ‘Reinventing Leadership’.

If you would like to learn more, join us at the Progressive Leaders Summit 2017, Melbourne Arts Centre, on the 2nd November.

Progressive pioneers in private sector organisations like IOOF, Aviva, O2, E.On, and Lloyds Banking Group, along with public sector government agencies have achieved substantial, rapid and innovative change – delivering outstanding results in service, efficiency, revenue and morale.

Using the Vanguard Method, these pioneers have understood why their system fails customers – despite the efforts, commitment and skills of those within their organisation – and how to fix it.

You will see the principles that have been employed to design far more effective services; and to top it all off, you will see how improving effectiveness drives up customer satisfaction and drives down costs – and not by a little but by a lot.

This is a well-trodden path that you will be able to follow; no need for faith or hope, no worries about whether it could work for you, only confidence that if you do as these pioneers have done, you will achieve similar remarkable results.

You can register here: https://whatisthevanguardmethod.net/progressive-leaders-summit-2017/

 

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The greatest challenge is management resistance (Déjà vu)

Déjà vu is the phenomenon of having the feeling that the situation currently being experienced has already been experienced in the past.

I have this happen to me regularly. Let me give you an example. I recently read a report titled ‘Insights into how to keep up with today’s changing world‘ written by the Australian Transformation and Turnaround Association. I recommend reading it.

The report was written after surveying transformation and change leaders, in over 900 businesses, covering industries from banking and finance, manufacturing, technology, consulting, government, academia, and health.

When the question was asked ‘What is the greatest challenge facing your organisation this year and next?’ – a whopping 71% of respondents answered: ‘Management resist change’. It was followed closely by ‘New technology & business models’ which 67% of respondents also identified.

When I read this, it triggered a feeling of déjà vu. I was sure I had heard this before…

I looked around at some old articles and found one written 25 years ago titled: ‘Improving the performance of workgroups through information technology’ by Clive Holtham.

In 1992 Holtham stated:

The failure to improve the effectiveness of work groups often lies for less in any technical dimension than deep in the management style and culture of an organisation. If key strategic steps are not taken from the top of the organisations, no amount of effort at middle levels can compensate for this

Déjà vu!

Holtham is right when pointing to the top of organisations. We shouldn’t just limit management resistance to the often criticized ‘middle-management’ – or the ‘frozen middle’ as Peter Drucker termed them. A good example of this is when the CEO of one of Australia’s biggest banks announced that his organisation was embarking on a transformation that will move away from a traditional hierarchal structure, and yet, in that same announcement, the CEO also stated that the transformation would cut in two levels below him.

As with most problems that organisations are trying to solve, the problems have existed for a long time. Over the course of time, various frameworks, methodologies, and approaches have come and gone. Panaceas that promise much and purport to solve these problems, turn into fads and die, bowing out to the next wave of ‘new thinking’. As the 71% of respondents to the question: ‘What is the greatest challenge facing your organisation this year and next?’ can attest, Holtham’s issues of management resistance, highlighted in the early 1990s, gives empirical evidence to the fact that the latest panacea does no better than its predecessors

As with most problems that organisations are trying to solve, the problems have existed for a long time. Over the course of time, various frameworks, methodologies, and approaches have come and gone. Panaceas that promise much and purport to solve these problems, turn into fads and die, bowing out to the next wave of ‘new thinking’. As the 71% of respondents to the question: ‘What is the greatest challenge facing your organisation this year and next?’ can attest, Holtham’s issues of management resistance, highlighted in the early 1990s, gives empirical evidence to the fact that the latest panacea does no better than its predecessors

Turning our attention to ‘New technology & business models’, the paradox here is that IT & Digital teams do not have what is required within them to make it work either, or to put it another way, IT & Digital is cultural too.

Over and over again, new technology and business model improvements are thwarted by forces that are not commonly-known, and are illusive to those attempting to make changes. This social inertia is because of the lack of effectiveness in current methods available to technology professionals and managers alike.

Our findings show that the 71% quoted in Australian Transformation and Turnaround Association report is an underestimate. We have found that almost 100% of transformation activities fail, or fail to sustain, due to being fought off by the management culture, or to be more precise, fought off by the organisational system the managers have created.

Why do I want to turn the attention to technological transformation? International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts worldwide spending on digital transformation technologies will reach $1.2 trillion in 2017. That’s a lot of money being spent on change. How’s it all going?

PointSource, in 2017, surveyed 300 decision makers in Marketing, IT and Operations, and published the results in their ‘Executing Digital Transformation study’.

In their key findings, PointSource reported:

Organizations are not confident in their visions for the future: Less than half (44 percent) of respondents are extremely confident in their organization’s ability to achieve its vision for growth, and 4 percent are not confident at all.

Why the lack of confidence? The study found that management culture was an issue. For example, when decision makers were asked ‘Does your culture support change and innovation?’ – it was found that:

  • ‘Department leaders do not regularly collaborate with one another: Just 30 percent of respondents say departments across their organization always come together to problem solve.’
  • ‘Respondents feel their company culture supports the ideals of innovation, but they cannot overcome a lack of internal collaboration that makes executing digital transformation difficult.’
  • ‘(76 percent) of respondents say their department competes with other departments in their organization for resources and/or budget.’

The report goes on to give rationalistic ‘Tips for organisations’ to help them solve these issues. One ‘tip’ is: ‘Organizations must work to remove silos so that all members can collectively contribute to an improved end product that exceeds audience expectations.’

I had that feeling of Déjà vu once again…

Back in 1992, Holtham wrote:

It is necessary to be able to create new, more fluid partnerships and alliances, both within and between organisations

It is almost as though we learn nothing from our experience. The same issues are prevalent 25 years later, supporting the reality that they are designed into the organisation.

Sticking with technological transformation, you can’t move today without bumping into an article or speech that highlights the perils of ‘Being Ubered’ (a phrase coined by Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy, meaning your organisation is at risk of being disrupted and dethroned, and therefore you must evolve). The facts pointed out are stark; very few of the Fortune 500 companies listed in 1955 either still exist, have not gone bankrupt, or have not been merged or acquired by another firm.

Maybe this is another contributing factor for decision makers lack of confidence in their organization’s ability to achieve its vision for growth, as reported by PointSource.

When I was a child I used to watch a futuristic world where the Daleks in Doctor Who would warn “You will be exterminated!” – now I’m an adult, I encounter the world where consultants warn “You will be disrupted!”.

Unfortunately, the prevailing answer to disruption, promulgated by the consulting firms, is to invest in technology. With a $1.2 trillion trough, you can see why. The problem is that to fend off disruption, investing purely in technology isn’t the answer, the organisational operation must also change. Both go hand in hand. Various commentators are now voicing similar opinions. However, is it again Déjà vu?

Peter Keen, in his book ‘Information Systems and Organizational Change’, published in 1980, wrote

When technology is changed, the other components often adjust to dampen out the impact of the innovation. Many writers on implementation stress the homeostatic behavior of organizations and the need to “unfreeze the status quo”

Peter wrote this 37 years ago. It’s not like anyone hasn’t heard of him. If you look at his biography it states that he has been ranked in a number of surveys as one of the world’s top 100 thought leaders in business, the most cited researcher in the academic and business literature, and among the top ten IT consultants!

The challenges of ‘Management resist change’, ‘New technology & business models’, ‘Executing Digital Transformation’ and ‘Not being Ubered’ are all a product of the same superordinate issue; the command-and-control design and management of work, which has dominated organisations for years, and, without method, is remarkably impervious to change.

Peter Keen wrote back in 1980:

We now have adequate theories of implementation. We have less understanding of counterimplementation … overt moves, often made by skilled actors, to prevent a disruption of the status quo.

Technology has been an unwitting instrument and enabler of command-and-control. This is because IT & Digital professionals are being asked to solve problems from a command-and-control point of view, and it is that very point of view that needs to change if we want to enable the technology to work and work well, from the users’ perspective.

Applying a design thinking, human centered, lean-agile approach, by using service design and experience design experts in a command-and-control organisation, will result in little to no discernible change.

The PointSource study shows a deep lack of confidence in executing digital transformation. If organisations are to spend $1.2 trillion, there will be a lot of money poured down the drain. As a consequence, many of the people involved in such programs of work will see their hard efforts wasted. Who wants to put their heart and soul into creating something that is either cancelled or is not valued by the recipients?

This isn’t to say that people at all levels are stupid, or guilty of malintent. This is not about stupidity or intention. Everyone would say they are trying to do things better. What is more appropriate is to state the people are guilty but not to blame, in other words, the crux is that they have been let down by bad perspective and methods.

To solve the challenges of ‘Management resist change’, ‘New technology & business models’, ‘Executing Digital Transformation’ and ‘Not being Ubered’, technology professionals and managers ultimately require a different structure, different measures and, most importantly of all, a different philosophy; one where they move beyond command-and-control, where the prevailing thinking is aligned to customers, and where they see their job as adding value to the work. This will then solve these challenges for good.


To obtain differentiated results, progressive leaders are turning to the Vanguard Method which has received numerous academic awards for contribution to management science and were the first winner of the Harvard Business Review / McKinsey Management Innovation Prize for ‘Reinventing Leadership’.

If you would like to learn more, join us at the Progressive Leaders Summit 2017, Melbourne Arts Centre, on the 2nd November.

Progressive pioneers in private sector organisations like IOOF, Aviva, O2, E.On, and Lloyds Banking Group, along with public sector government agencies have achieved substantial, rapid and innovative change – delivering outstanding results in service, efficiency, revenue and morale.

Using the Vanguard Method, these pioneers have understood why their system fails customers – despite the efforts, commitment and skills of those within their organisation – and how to fix it.

You will see the principles that have been employed to design far more effective services; and to top it all off, you will see how improving effectiveness drives up customer satisfaction and drives down costs – and not by a little but by a lot.

This is a well-trodden path that you will be able to follow; no need for faith or hope, no worries about whether it could work for you, only confidence that if you do as these pioneers have done, you will achieve similar remarkable results.

You can register here: https://whatisthevanguardmethod.net/progressive-leaders-summit-2017/

 

Learning to See; Learning to Lead

In 2014 I presented at the Agile Australia conference on how to sustainably improve performance in organisations using the Vanguard Method. InfoQ recorded the session, and they have published it here.

http://www.infoq.com/presentations/vanguard-method

The videos that are used in the presentation can also be viewed in high quality here

https://www.vanguard-method.com/content/2/

Glyph Inventory 1_quote-open-2 We applied Systems Thinking from Vanguard. Systems Thinking is a fundamental way of examining the entire organisation, not just the IT component. It is a method to really understand what matters to the customer, to understand the dysfunction of current methods, measures and metrics, to get people who do the work, to experiment locally to design new ways of working. It is incredibly profound. I could talk another 3 hours just on Systems Thinking!

Patrick Eltridge, Former Telstra CIO, 9th December 2014  Glyph Inventory 1_quote-close-2

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Part I of my free eBook has been published

This blog has been pretty quiet over the last 2 years. The reason for this is that I have been working on a free eBook entitled “Theories of Work: How We Design and Manage Work“.

The purpose of writing this book has been to educate and create curiosity. It’s all been written in my spare time. I am not interested in making money from it, I am more interested that nothing inhibits a reader from reading it.

There are three parts to the book, and each part will be published online as a Webisode on a new dedicated site www.theoriesofwork.com. The online format protects the content owner, and enables anyone to either read it, or listen to it (an audio version will be coming soon).

I have “road tested” some of this material, in both the West and the East, and there seems to be genuine interest in its content; validating my assumption that it would be worthwhile writing the book. You may have seen my 21st Century PMO talk last year which contained content from Part I, or you may have seen my talk in Japan which contained content from Part II. You may have also read Deming’s 14 Points on my blog which contains content from Part III.

I have drawn on many sources for the content of the book, and in doing so I have kindly been given permission to use content from various authors, scholars, academics, publishers, institutes, and private individuals, under the agreement that it was a free, independent and a non commercial offering.

I have just published Part 1: Origins of the Design and Management of work at www.theoriesofwork.com.

Perhaps this might be of interest to you and/or to people that you know. I hope you enjoy it, and if you do, please tweet or publicise it so that others may also hear about it.

Here is a list of the Design and Management Concepts that are covered in each chapter.

Introduction and Preface

  • Discoveries
  • Purpose of this work
  • Organisational Norms
  • Panaceas and Fads
  • Organisational Traps
  • The Western Management Trap
  • The Problem to Solve

Chapter One: Early Beginnings

  • Craft Production
  • Industrialisation, Manufacturing Systems, Factories, and Assembly Lines
  • Centralised Authority
  • Cost Accounting
  • Payroll
  • Time and Materials
  • Piece-work
  • Production Quality
  • Standardisation
  • Interchangeability
  • Mass Production, Make and Sell, and Batch Production
  • Economies of Scale

Chapter 2: Management Arises

  • The Organisation, Top Down Hierarchy, Hierarchical Responsibilities, and the Organisation Chart
  • Division of Labour, Line Executives and Staff
  • Decentralisation and Division of Responsibilities, Operating Units and the Departmental Divisional Structure
  • Specialization and Functionalisation
  • Working Hours, Child Labour, Unions and Workplace Inspection
  • Personnel Management
  • Management Reporting and Real Time Data
  • Cost Accounting
  • The Salaried Manager, Management Schools, Textbooks and Manuals
  • Standardisation of Tasks, High-Skill Tasks to High-Cost Workers, and Quality of Output

Chapter 3: Management Science

  • Scientific Management and “Taylorism”
  • Productivity Incentives; Payment by Results
  • Work Analysis, Work Breakdown, and Work Measurement
  • Best Practices and Benchmarking
  • Standardized Work, Standard Times, Production Standards, Work Instructions, Job Descriptions, and Work Inspection
  • Division of Responsibility; Planning vs Doing; Blue-Collar vs White-Collar jobs, and Functional Supervision
  • Process Improvement and Waste Removal
  • Time sheets, Employee Discipline and Employee Performance Records
  • Worker Efficiency, Worker Utilization and Worker “laziness”
  • Staff Suggestion Schemes
  • Management Consulting

Chapter 4: Scientific Management!  A Mental Revolution

  • Command and Control; A Global Management Mental Revolution
  • The Efficiency Expert
  • The Bonus System
  • Gantt Charts; Planning Work, Presenting Facts about Progress, and Scorecards
  • Getting Work Done on Time, Standard Times, and Service Levels Time and Motion Studies
  • Removing Idleness and Waste
  • Moving the Work to the Workers (the Moving Assembly Line)
  • Task Cards and Time Clocks
  • Worker Report Cards, Inspection of Performance, Performance Reviews, Removing “Dead Wood” and Laggards
  • Forced Employee Ranking; the “Bell Curve”
  • Inspection of Workers, Supervisors and Executives
  • Vacation Schedules and Records of Absence
  • Quick Fix Change Programs
  • Functions with Department Heads and Targets
  • Quality Inspection
  • Activity Based Accounting
  • Mass Management Education, Courses and Literature
  • Documented Best Practices, Codification of Method, Written Documentation and Instructions
  • Assessing Job Applications Through Tests
  • Breaking Work Down into Components, and Specialized Departmental “Factories”
  • Scientific Management Applied to the Office
  • The Head Office
  • Technology to Aid Efficiency
  • Fordism
  • Flow Production, Routinized and Intensified Labor, Analysis and Documentation of Processes
  • Consumerism; Build, Market, Sell, Service
  • International Operations and Franchising Systems
  • The 8 Hour Day and 5 Day Week
  • Company Discount Schemes

Chapter 5: Administration, Bureaucracy and Numbers

  • Financial Reporting Systems, Continual Financial/Operational Planning and Measurement
  • Key Performance Indicators, Performance Measures, Functional Revenue and Costs Accounting, Return on Investment, Return on Sales – and Sales to Assets, Return on Equity, Financial Targets Against Operational Targets
  • Standard Financial Ratios
  • Modern Cost Accounting Practices; Cost Accounts for Labor, Material and Overhead, Standard Costs, Variance Analysis
  • Corporate Budgeting, Budgets for Cash, Income and Capital, Flexible Budgeting, and the Program Budget System
  • Market Forecasting, Sales Forecasts and Planning
  • In Company Pricing Structures – Same Producer Cannibalization
  • Pricing Formulas and Market Based Pricing Systems
  • Autonomous Functional Divisions and Inter-Divisional Relations Committees
  • Mass Production Coupled With Customer Satisfaction
  • Planned Obsolescence; Annual Product Changes
  • Management Efficiency; a Reliable, Efficient, Machine-Like Process
  • Executive Education Programs, Management Schools
  • Coordinated Control and Decentralization
  • Management by Numbers, Financial Controls and Finance as a Dominant Function
  • Dispersal of Company Ownership and Shareholders
  • Classic Organizational Theory; Scientific Management, Bureaucratic Theory, and Administrative theory
  • Hierarchical Structure of Power, Clear Lines of Authority and Control,
  • Rules and Regulations
  • Organizational Principles
  • Bureaucracy, Bureaucratic Principles, the Role of a Bureaucratic Official
  • Administrative Management Principles
  • Management Functions; Forecasting and Planning, Organizing, Commanding or Directing, Coordinating, and Controlling
  • The Seven Activities of Management – POSDCORB; Planning, Organizing, Staffing, Directing, Coordinating, Reporting and Budgeting
  • Short, Medium and Long Range Planning; Annual, Two-Year, Five-Year and Ten-Year Plans
  • Sociological Management and the Informal Organization
  • The Executive Function
  • Authority and Incentives
  • The Acceptance Theory of Management
  • Span of Control

Part I: Origins of the Design and Management of Work – Summary

  • The Prevailing Logic
  • A New Mental Revolution
  • Illusive Forces
  • The Need For Change
  • Escape
  • Beyond Your Mindset

Agile, Lean, and Kanban, Do They Change Management Thinking?

I have been an Agile practitioner for many years now, and was one of the early adopters of Lean thinking and Kanban for software teams. During that time I have observed remarkable improvements at the worker level, at the team level, and at the program level.

However what I haven’t seen when using these methods is a real change in management thinking, which has left me curious.

I am fortunate that over the last few years I have been able to hear opinions and stories from a community of Agile, Lean and Kanban practitioners; in those conversations I have seen a pattern.

People tell me that having applied either Agile, Lean, or Kanban, or some combination of the three, it has led to great results at the individual, project team and program level, matching my own experiences. We see many of these examples being written in books, presented at conferences, posted on blogs and message boards. All good.

People then go on to tell me (usually in the corridors at conferences, or over a drink at the bar, or over email) that it isn’t as successful as they would have liked, because they have been hindered by management; they tell me “management doesn’t understand the benefits” or “it’s the fault of the managers not to get it“. There is lots of talk of “bloody middle management” or the “frozen middle (management)”.

I hear of many Agile, Lean, or Kanban interventions that begin at the team level, starting off successfully, but which then bump into management who either kill it, limit it, or do nothing to help improve it.

People complain to me that “the Product Owner never shows up to the planning sessions or standups” or that “the stakeholders and managers never show up at the product demos or showcases” or  that “they just don’t understand what will happen if we don’t pay down some of our technical debt”, or  that “the management have received training but their behaviour hasn’t changed, they still do what they used to do before”.

I’m told thing like “managers still want us to be seen as busy all the time”, or “management has promised it will be delivered on a certain date without consulting us”.

Even those Agile, Lean or Kanban interventions that have executive IT support struggle to go beyond IT. I’m told that “the business isn’t engaged” or that “the business can’t dedicate someone to our team” or that “the business just doesn’t understand the benefits this will give them”. They also tell me that “Procurement are hindering us” or that “Finance and the budgeting process is hindering us” or that “It doesn’t fit within HR’s role profiles”.

Here is such a good video summing all of this up

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4u5N00ApR_k

People tell me “if only they would change, then everything would work as I want it to”.

Thought leaders tell me that making the work visible will provide transparency and an environment of honesty. This in turn will build trust with stakeholders and management. Transparency could mean a story wall, a Kanban board, published policies, information radiators, charts, metrics, data, product demos etc.

From my observations this new visibility has certainly increased awareness, and increased dialogue, but I have not seen too much evidence of it changing management’s underlying assumptions about the design and the management of the work. “Showing” isn’t the same as learning.

I hear from other practitioners that after they have left an organisation things start to revert back to how they were before, often not a complete reversal but certainly a back slide.

What I have learned through these conversations is that regardless of whether you are using Agile, Lean or Kanban it’s the underlying thinking; management thinking, that needs to be addressed. All of these methods are only as good as the thinking behind them.

I am curious if you have seen the same observations I have listed above, have experienced the same limitations, or have you experienced a change in management thinking via the use of Agile, Lean and Kanban. What other positive results have seen from your usage of Agile, Lean and Kanban beyond the team level and where do you see their limitations?

As a footnote, my curiosity into all of this has led me to search for the roots of traditional management thinking. I have made some amazing discoveries. These will be published shortly in a series of Webisodes on this blog.

Deming’s 14 Points

W. Edwards Deming’s 14 points are the basis for transformation of industry. Adoption and action on the 14 points are a signal that the management intend to stay in business. aim to protect investors and jobs. Such a system formed the basis for lessons for top management in Japan in 1950 and in subsequent years.

The 14 points apply anywhere, to small organisations as well as to large ones, to the service industry as well as to manufacturing. They equally apply to any division within a company and to it’s suppliers.

As you read through each of the 14 points below, ask yourself if they still apply today, either within your current organisation, or within organisations you have recently worked for. The answers may be surprising.

1. Constancy of purpose:

Create constancy of purpose toward continual improvement of product and service, with a plan to become competitive and to stay in business.

Management have two concerns. One deals with running the business on a day to day basis. The other deals with the future of the business.

They must have clarity on the questions; what are we doing, and why are we doing it?

The answer to these questions requires knowledge and looking to the future. It is the difference between short term and long term thinking; the tortoise and the hare.

Problems of the future require constancy of purpose, and dedication to improvement.

Create constancy of purpose toward continual improvement of products and service, allocating resources to provide for long range needs, rather than only short term profitability, with the aim to become competitive, stay in business and to provide jobs.

To stay in business requires that leaders spend time on innovation, research and education. They must constantly improve the design of their product and service.

Purpose is an intent, a goal, a vision of some future desired state. To have constancy of purpose then one must first have a purpose.

 

2. The new philosophy:

We are in a new economic age, created in Japan. Management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for change.

Improvement never stops. The system is capricious, erratic, it will affect people in different ways from one month to another. Which is why you need continuous improvement, it can never finish as change never finishes.

The customer demands and tastes change very fast, and the competition in the market grows at a rapid rate today.

Henry Ward Beecher said “Philosophy of one century is the common sense of the next”; we have to accept new philosophies according to the market trends and technology revolutions.

Learn and adopt the new philosophy, one of cooperation to everyone’s benefit.

Management must awaken to the challenge, learn their responsibilities and take on leadership for change.

We are in a new economic age, created in Japan. We can no longer live with commonly accepted levels of delays, mistakes, defective materials and defective workmanship. We cannot accept today, the levels of error that could be tolerated yesterday. Defective products and services are a cost to the system.

Only management is in a position to do something about the vast majority of errors. Transformation of Western management style is necessary to halt the continued decline of business and industry.

Its management’s task to remove the obstacles that prevent people from doing their jobs correctly.

 

3. Cease dependence on mass inspection:

Eliminate the dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.

You can not save money if you are more worried about money, than you are about quality.

Cease dependence on mass inspection to achieve quality. Mass inspection is not reliable. Inspection sound right, but it is wrong.

You can’t inspect quality in, yet we have organisations using ISO and audits as a means to prove quality.

Routine inspection is the same as planning for defects, acknowledging that the process isn’t correct, or that the specifications made no sense in the first place. Inspection is too late as well as ineffective and costly.

Instead require statistical evidence that quality is built in.

Quality doesnt come from inspection, but from improvement of the process. Improve the process so that defects aren’t produced in the first place. This eliminates the need for inspection on a mass basis.

Eliminate the need for mass inspections, as the way of life to achieve quality, by building quality into the product in the first place. Require statistical evidence of quality improvements.

You can not save money if you are more worried about money, than you are about quality.

 

4. End lowest tender contracts:

End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag along. Instead, minimise total cost. Move toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.

Without adequate measures of quality, business drifts to the lowest bidder, therefore the result is low quality and high cost.

Price has no meaning without measure of the quality purchased.

End the practice of awarding business on a price tag alone. Instead, require meaningful measures of quality along with price.

Reduce the number of suppliers for the same item, by eliminating those that do not qualify with statistical and other evidence of quality.

The aim is for both parties to work together, by minimising variation to increase quality, and to minimise total cost (not merely initial costs) for both parties.

This may be achieved by moving toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long term relationship of loyalty and trust.

It will lead to continuous improvement between both parties and as a result you will get quality supplies at reduced costs. This is why Japanese manufacturers are so closely aligned to their suppliers.

We often spend lots of time and money to find better suppliers and shift rapidly between them for slight monetary gains. Instead of getting vendors to compete on price think long term. Purchasing managers have a new job and must learn it.

Today many organisations just outsource to the cheapest supplier, and often to multiple suppliers within the same business unit or project.

 

5. Improve every process:

Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.

Constantly improve the production and service system to improve quality and productivity, thus decreasing costs.

Accept nothing is ever good enough. Improve constantly and forever every process for planning, production and service.

Improvement isn’t a project with a finite end. Instead, think continuous, never ending improvement.

Institute innovation.
Everyone should search continually for problems in order to improve every activity in the company, to improve quality and productivity and thus to constantly decrease costs.

Finding what’s wrong is not improvement. Plugging leaks is not improvement. Don’t look at outcomes or defects, instead look at what produces the defects.

There should be continual education on waste and continued improvement of quality in every activity, this will yield a continual rise in productivity.

It is management’s job to work continually on the system (for example work design, incoming work, improvement of tools, supervision, training and retraining). There in no stopping point in the process of quality management.

The enterprise system and services must keep growing indefinitely in order to catch up with the competitive market.

 

6. Institute training on the job:

Institute modern methods of training on the job.

Provide learning and development. Institute training on the job, training for new skills.

People learn in different ways. Training must be totally reconstructed.

When training, people need to understand what the job is and why it is being done.

Training must be done on the job, learning by doing; going into the work and experimenting with work methods and new ideas, studying the results, and striving for perfection.

A trained worker has more productivity and quality than an untrained one, so giving training sessions will drastically improve the quality of the person, and also directly helps in better performance with regard to product quality.

Institute modern methods of training on the job for all, including management, to make better use of every employee.

New skills are required to keep up with changes in tools, methods, techniques, product and service design.

 

7. Institute leadership of people:

The aim of management should be to help people to do a better job. Management is in need of overhaul.

Leadership is required not supervision.

Leadership is in need of overhaul, the job of leaders is to help people.

Adopt and institute leadership aimed at helping people to do a better job.

Adopt and institute principles for leadership improvement.

The emphasis of management must be changed from sheer numbers to quality. Improvement of quality will automatically improve productivity.

Management must ensure that investigation and actions are taken on reports of inherited defects, system conditions, poor tools, fuzzy operational definitions, variation and all conditions detrimental to quality. You can’t delegate quality, its a road to failure.

The basic principle is that it’s the managers job to coach their staff and improve the system

  • Firstly, they spend time in the work reinforcing the organisations commitment to its customers and to quality.
  • Secondly, they devote time to ensuring the staff doing the work have everything they need to be able to serve the customer.
  • Thirdly, when they have a decision to make about either of the above they get data to base their decisions on. There is no knee jerk, instead they get knowledge.

 

8. Drive out fear:

Drive out fear so that everyone may work effectively for the company.

Extinguish fear so everyone may work effectively for the organisation.

Build trust. Cooperation and collaboration requires a whole different set of values and relationships than that used in the outdated command and control method.

People are afraid of change, any attempt to make things better will lead to a fear of the unknown.

Many organisations are run by fear; fear of not getting their bonus, being afraid that they can’t meet their annual rating, or fear that they will be low on rating ladders.

To achieve better quality people need to feel secure. We need to eliminate fear so that everyone may work effectively for the company. Fear will disappear as management improves and as employees develop confidence in management.

Driving our fear is part of at least 8 of the 14 points.

 

9. Break down barriers:

Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, technology and production must work as a team.

Break down barriers and silos between departments. In other words build a system.

Traditionally each silo becomes independent kingdoms, each trying to maximise their own figures.

People in research, design, sales, technology and production must work as a team to be able to foresee any production problems, and potential product or service issues.

Unless staff work jointly in a spirit of co-operation, each area will try to do what is best for itself, rather than whats good for the organisation. It means cooperation not competition, everybody wins if the system wins.

 

10. Eliminate exhortations:

Eliminate the use of slogans and exhortations for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity.

  • Eliminate work standards (quotas). Substitute leadership.
  • Eliminate management by objective. Substitute leadership.
  • Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.

Eliminate slogans, warnings and targets for the work force asking for zero defects, doing it right first time and new levels of productivity. Such urging only creates hostile relationships.

Posters ask people to do what they can not do.

Posters and slogans on the wall stating “do it right first time”; who can do it right first time, when the stuff someone has to work on is already wrong?

The causes go beyond the power of the work force, as the majority of low quality and low productivity causes result from the system.

If the system has been built around quality, then it will be done right first time, so the slogan will be meaningless.

Ensure you substitute work standards and quotas with effective leadership and effective methods. Substitute management (by objectives, numbers and numerical goals) with effective leadership.

 

11. Eliminate arbitrary numerical targets:

Eliminate work standards that prescribe quotas for the work force and numerical goals for people in management. The responsibility of managment must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.

Numerical goals accomplish nothing.

Traditionally quantity rules over quality.

The cost of caring more about numbers than you do about quality is enormous, it results in high costs finding and fixing mistakes. That money spent produces nothing.

Focus on quality rather than quantity of product. Remove obstacles depriving workers of their right to take pride in their work. Managers must focus on quality, rather than sheer numbers.

Substitute aids and helpful leadership in order to achieve continual improvement of quality and productivity.

A system of continuous improvement yields greater production at lower costs. The focus is not on how many you make, it is on how well you make them.

 

12. Permit pride of workmanship:

Remove barriers that rob workers and people in management of their right to having pride in their work. This means, for example, abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objective.

Remove the obstacles and barriers that deprive workers, and people in management, of their right to take pride and joy in their work. This implies abolition of the annual merit rating (appraisal of performance) and of Management by Objective, all of which creates conflict and competition.

These barriers to pride (a basic human need) among other things, results in low morale and absenteeism.

We need people to have pride in their work, not in their ability to meet ratings.

Again, the responsibility of Team Leaders, Managers, Directors and senior leaders must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.

Fixing points for employees, and ranking them inside the company, infuses competition within that organisation. We want collaboration not competition.

Involve employees, at all levels, in the process of improvement. Supply workers with the proper methods, materials and tools. Managers work on the system that is impeding performance.

 

13. Encourage education:

Institute a vigorous programme of education and self-improvement.

Institute a vigorous program of education and encourage self improvement for everyone.

What an organisation needs is not just good people; it needs people that are improving with education.

Education may not be in a subject that is connected to their work.

Self improvement keeps people’s minds developing. Point 6 is training for the job, point 13 is elevating people’s minds.

Advances in competitive position will have their roots in knowledge. No organisation can survive with just good people, they need people that are improving.

 

14. Top management commitment and action:

Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody’s job.

Put everybody in the organisation to work to accomplish the change.

Develop a critical mass that will bring about the change; a critical mass including top management.

Create a structure in management who take an active part and who spend time in the work reinforcing the 14 points, and the organisation’s commitment to it’s customers and to quality.

Managers should devote time to ensuring the staff doing the work have everything they need to be able to serve the customer. They use data and real knowledge obtained from the customer’s point of view to make decisions.

Without such a structure no viable long-term benefits will be achieved.

Summary

The 14 points are not a menu you can pick and choose from. Deming intended you use all 14. They are one philosophy.

“The way not to depend on mass inspection (point 3) is to continually improve the process (point 5), to do that you will need quality supplies (point 4), finding a quality supplier takes time (point 1), to do so you will need to adopt the philosophy (point 2)” Lloyd Dobbins

“We want our people to work together, but its hard to do so without point 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12.” Lloyd Dobbins

The 14 points apply anywhere, to small organisations as well as to large ones, to the service industry as well as to manufacturing. They equally apply to any division within a company.

“The 14 points all have one aim, make it possible for people to work with joy and pride” Deming

If you want to learn more about where our current theories of work came from, which led Deming to write the above, then you may wish to read my free ebook entitled Theories of Work: How We Design and Manage Work.

 

Source: CC-M Productions, Inc. 7755 16th Street, NW Washington, DC 20012 ManagementWisdom.com (800) 453-6280wbob@cc-m.com

Source: Vanguard http://www.systemsthinking.co.uk/home.asp

Source: Vanguard Scotland http://www.systemsthinkingmethod.com/

Source: Illustrations by Pat Oliphant http://www.managementwisdom.com/freilofdem14.html

Over 100 Years Later and We Are Still Doing the Same

Through research for my upcoming book and webisode series I have found that some of Fredrick Taylors methods are amazingly similar to those still applied today by some Lean or Six Sigma consultants.

Taylor was one of the earliest advocates of work smarter not harder. He was fixated on efficiency. His methods accomplished this aim by the study of a task and finding the most efficient, least wasteful, method to complete that task.

Taylor was famous for introducing the concept of studying work to seek ways to do it cheaper and faster. Today, Lean and Six Sigma consultants often enter an organisation on the same premise.

 

Taylor & Gantt (of Gantt chart fame who was associated with Taylor for 30 years) studied work with a stopwatch and timed the various activities to determine efficiency data. Today many consultants still time each work activity using a stopwatch.

Taylor & Gantt determined through their time studies how long a job should take, and introduced standardisation and piece-rate pay scales based on the most efficient timings. Today SLAs and monitoring against standard times are often recommended by consultants.

Gantt famously stated “every move a man makes must count”. Today this sounds remarkably similar to the lean waste of “motion”, with consultants studying each move a worker makes to see if any “wasteful motion” can be removed.

I recognise not all Lean and Six Sigma consultants are the same, with some going beyond the tools and not focusing purely on waste removal (e.g. respect the people), but many are repeating methods that were used pre 1900!

Interestingly Shingo cites Taylor as a source for inspiration for baselining along with his time and motion studies, but moved way beyond copying methods used by Taylor, Gantt and Gilbreth.

For those interested in more have a read of Taylor’s The Principles of Scientific Management and Robert Kanigel’s book The One Best Way.

 

To Change Culture, Change the System

In John Seddon’s latest news letter there was a piece called It’s not the people, stupid.

Returning to the problem that managers think they should manage people, a reader sent me this.

A bank is training staff in “The One Best Customer Experience”. The big idea is that the best customer experience engages the 5 senses.

To engage the customer’s 5 senses staff are told to:

  • Shake the customer’s hand when they come in for an appointment and shake it as they leave (touch)
  • play the bank’s own radio station in the branch (sound)
  • make sure that all branches look exactly the same so the customer knows what to expect (sight)
  • make sure the aroma plug- in is topped up and working (smell)
  • and ask whether the customer drinks tea or coffee and have a cup ready for them when they arrive for an appointment (taste)

You couldn’t make it up.

If only the leaders knew the futility of this; in Deming’s terms it’s working on the 5%.

I wonder how much money they are wasting doing so.

This is unfortunately all too common in our organisations. Leaders believe that to change culture, and improve service, can all be done by training their staff. They think that a breakthrough in knowledge is going to lead to a breakthrough in behaviour.

Another example is when many UK banks sent all front-line staff off to hotels to be “trained”, and then told to go back to their branches and “Love the customers“.

When the staff got back to their branches, and the customer came in with a request or a problem, they thought “Thats great, I can use my new training, they told me I could on the training course”.

BUT they needed the branch manager to give them authority, they needed to work together with their manager on solving problems, they needed their manager to talk to head office etc

What reaction do you think they got from their managers? “No, no, no! You do what I tell you to do” or “I cant change what you want, my hands are tied”.

Now what do you think happened? Morale got worse, not better, service got worse, not better.

Its amazing how much money is spent on these kind of training programmes, think how much it cost that bank to train all of their front-line people.
Yet leaders are happy to do it. Why? Because it sounds plausible.

If a consultant turns up and says, “Would you like your people to learn how to love your customer?” which leader is going to say no?

But as Peter Sholtes says

“Changing the system, will change what people do. Changing what people do, will NOT change the system.”

Deming studied how much variation in performance was down to the worker, or down to the organisational “system”, that people work within.

He (and Juran) found the majority of possibilities for improvement are in the organisational “system” (95%) with the remainder with the worker (5%).

As Deming said

“A bad system, will defeat a good person, every time.”

This is very easy to prove. Deming did so in his famous Red Bead Experiment. You can see a video of the Red Bead Experiment here.

If you want to test this out yourself go to any area that deals directly with customers and listen to customer demands. As customers complain about the organisation’s failure to do something, or do something right, look to see if this is down to the worker talking to the customer, or the cause is elsewhere. The majority will be caused elsewhere.

The workers themselves know this is the case. I once conducted the above mentioned demand experiment in a call center. The agents were surrounded by posters informing them to “Do it right first time” and to “Do your best”. The problem with the latter is that people already are.

When at the call center I spoke to one agent who expressed his frustrations at being unable to fix something that was caused elsewhere in the system:

It’s like hearing a baby crying in a locked room, and I don’t have the key.

In our organisations we spend a lot of our time working on the 5% using training, team building, away days, 1-2-1s, appraisals etc  Doesn’t it make more sense to work on the 95% ?

Even when leaders recognise it’s the system that hinders performance, they still believe that this too can be solved by training. Here is a great story by Russell Ackoff on the dangers of this kind of thinking. You can easily replace the words Systems Thinking with your favourite (or current) change programme e.g. Lean, Six Sigma, Agile, TQM, ISO 9000 etc

A number of years ago when I was working on a project for a major automotive manufacturing company, the Executive Vice President asked me if I would give a two-day course on systems thinking to the company’s top 200 managers and executives. I was delighted.

He said he wanted to restrict classes to 20 so that there would be plenty of discussion.

He had the following plan: four sessions of junior vice presidents, three of intermediate level vice presidents, two of senior vice presidents, and finally one of the executive office. The sessions were to be conduct from the lower level up.

At the end of the first session to junior vice presidents one said, “This stuff is great. I would love to use it but you are talking to the wrong people. I can’t introduce it without the approval of my boss. Are you going to get a chance to present it to him?”

I told I would in one of the later courses. He assured me he would hit his boss for approval as he came out of his session. In each of the first four sessions of junior vice presidents the same issue was raised.

In the first group on the second tier, with intermediate level vice presidents, the same issue was raised. I was told they also wanted to introduce systems thinking but could not do so without their bosses’ approval. Again I told them their bosses would eventually be exposed to the same ideas. In each of the three sessions at this level the same issue was raised.

In the two sessions involving senior vice presidents the same issue was raised. They asked if I would have a chance to present the material to the CEO and his executive committee. I said I would. I could hardly wait to hear what the CEO would say.

At the end of the session which he attended he said, “This stuff is great. I would love to use it. But I can’t do it with the approval and support of my subordinates. Are you going to get a chance to present it to them?”

This was a typical organisation, one in which the main operating principle was “Cover your ass.” Application of this principle produced a management that tried to minimise its responsibility and accountability.

The result was a paralyzed organization, one that almost never initiated change of any kind let alone innovation. It made changes only when a competitor made it necessary for it to do so.

When we have training classes that tell people what to do. That’s not going to do it. Humans will be filtering what is being taught through their belief systems. That’s why most cultural training fails.

Deming learned it’s not a problem of the people it’s a problem of the system that people work within. He found that if you want to change behaviour, then you need to change the system, and change management thinking that creates it. Doing so, culture change is then free.

So what is a better method? Well the starting point is a method that involves the initial ‘un-learning’ of what leaders think they know, to enable them to ‘see’ and reflect on their own system. This can’t be done in an office, or in a training room, it can only be done in the work, where the work occurs.

What Did Deming Really Say?

There is a really great Quality Digest Article by Davis Balestracci entitled “What Did Deming Really Say?”

An extract is below.

The 1980 NBC television show, “If Japan Can, Why Can’t We?” introduced the teachings of W. Edwards Deming to U.S. viewers and caused a quantum leap in awareness of the potential for quality improvement in industry.

Those of you familiar with Deming’s funnel rules (which shows that a process in control delivers the best results if left alone) will smile to realize that his rule No. 4—making, doing, or basing your next iteration based on the previous one—also known as a “random walk,” has been in operation for the last 30 years.

Jeff Liker, professor of industrial and operations engineering at the University of Michigan, beautifully describes the random walks that have taken place within the time spans of Six Sigma and Lean. In a private correspondence with leadership expert Jim Clemmer, Liker writes:

“Originally Six Sigma was derived from Toyota Quality Management (TQM) by Motorola to achieve six sigma levels of quality, and then through Allied Signal and GE it morphed to projects by Black Belts based on statistics to become a cost-reduction program – every project needs a clear ROI. In other words, we denigrated the program from a leadership philosophy to a bunch of one-off projects to cut costs. It was a complete bastardization of the original, and it rarely led to lasting, sustainable change because the leadership and culture were missing.”

“A similar thing happened to Lean when it got reduced to a toolkit (e.g. value-stream mapping, KPI boards, cells, kanban).”

“Lean and Six Sigma in no way reflect the original thinking of excellent Japanese companies or their teachers like Deming.”

Clemmer also cites multiple studies from 1996–2007 concluding that about 18 to 24 months after these various quality systems are launched, 50–70 percent of them fail. Liker concurs and feels that the four key failure factors, in this order, are:

  1. Leadership lacking deep understanding and commitment
  2. Focus on tools and techniques without understanding the underlying cultural transformation required
  3. Superficial program instead of deep development of processes that surface problems solved by thinking people
  4. Isolated process improvements instead of creating integrated systems for exceptional customer value

Virtually everyone agrees that the No. 1 barrier to improvement is still top management’s inability to be visibly committed to quality. Is this the “elephant in the living room” or as Clemmer calls it, “the moose on the table”?

Learning at Conferences

  • An ounce of information is worth a pound of data.
  • An ounce of knowledge is worth a pound of information.
  • An ounce of understanding is worth a pound of knowledge.
  • An ounce of wisdom is worth a pound of understanding.
  • That makes an ounce of wisdom about 42,000 ounces of data.

Despite this, most of the time spent in school is devoted to the transmission of information and ways of obtaining it. Less time is devoted to the transmission of knowledge and ways of obtaining it (analytical thinking). Virtually no time is spent in transmitting understanding or ways of obtaining it (synthetic thinking). Further more, the distinctions between data, information, and so on up to wisdom are seldom made in the educational process, leaving students unaware of their ignorance. They not only don’t know, they don’t know what they don’t know.

The reason so little understanding is transmitted by teachers is that they have so little to transmit. They are more likely to know what is right than why it is right. Explanations require discussion if they are to produce understanding. The ability to lead fruitful discussions is not an attribute of most teachers.

Russell Ackoff, 1999

This is why I feel I have greater learning from corridor conversations at events such as LSSC11 than actually in the sessions themselves. Some feel the conference format is outdated, but I’m unsure on the alternative.