Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 Curious Cat Management Review Carnival-Part 4

Good rainy morning in the Hampton Roads area.  Slow day today in working on a hobby with my Dad (rebuilding vintage computers) and maybe getting my son off the Xbox and getting him interested in what is inside the platform he is playing.  Needless to say, I am the computer fixer in the family, even with a 14 and 21 year old in the house.

Last blog on the docket is from a James Madison University professor currently living in Charlottesville (and I thought I had a commute!).  Nicole Radziwill is a new ASQ Fellow and a fellow ASQ Influential Voice. Her blog, Quality and Innovation, is a fascinating landscape of quality, the R statistical programming language and fire dancing.  It is often an intellectually fun read.

Let's start with the personal.  If you have read a lot of my past blog posts you often see that I comment on the importance of behavior in successful improvement.  Personal behavior is paramount, especially from a leader.  Nicole's July post combines her interest in spiritual beliefs of the American Indian and Deming and how it relates to our ability to be successful. Great stuff!

For me, good bloggers challenge my paradigm.  One blog post that continues to do this is Nicole's November post on questioning whether Deming's 14 points are still valid.  My answer, Hell yes they are; all of them!  Nicole has a different perspective and some of her answers give me pause.  It makes me realize about what I have learned from Senge and to appreciate other's perspectives.  We are both right in our mind's eye.  A great topic for future discussion.  

My personal favorite is her October post on the misinformation as waste.  Integrity, in my opinion, is an important characteristic of quality professionals.  Without it, our ability to influence, mentor, and guide people looking for solutions is diminished. Which is the primary reason why anyone who becomes a member of ASQ signs a code of ethics statement.  As Quality professionals our reputation is closely tied to our ability to be successful.  

The reason I stick to the quality community is the wide range of members that are involved.  I have yet to find someone who doesn't have an interesting tale to tell or problem to solve.  Additionally, they are very willing to sit and talk about their issue or life in general.  It makes a very interesting and informed network.  The blogs that I have reviewed over the past few days are just an indicator of the wide and varied nature of quality professionals who commit their time to blog about their insights, ideas, and issues.  I wish you good journey in finding new blogs to read and explore.  If you find an interesting one, please drop me a line.  I am always interested in a new experience.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 Curious Cat Management Review Carnival-Part 3

Good morning!  Writing this post while watching the IIHF World U20 Championships.  Great theater, especially with the lack of sanity in the NHL world but that's another story. It is also a great preview to the upcoming winter olympics in 2014. Today's review is of the Lean Pathways blog written by Pascal Dennis and Al Norval.  I consider Pascal Dennis the great Lean communicator.  I feel that his book, Lean Production Simplified, is THE book for anyone just delving into the world of Lean.

Let's start with a recent post. I discovered Mike Rother's Toyota Kata this year and I have to say it was one of those great books.  For me, when I talk back to the book while reading I know it is one that has an impact on me.  I don't consider this post the best review of the book but it is the most succinct. For 2013, if you can read only one improvement book, make it this one.

Another recent post, this time from Al Norval, talks about leaders going to the Gemba with a purpose AND exhibiting coaching and teaching behaviors, rather than directing behaviors.  There is a fallacy that to be a leader you have to be directive and delegative.  In fact, the more effective behaviors are the coaching and teaching ones.  I have seen more get down when a person who is having the problem determines the solution and is empowered to implement it. Leaders are best when they give direction and then step out of the way to allow subordinates the ability to execute. Further clarification comes from this August post.

I am going to end this review with a post that I think is the most important one for improvement practitioners.  Some of my fellow bloggers are zealots about a particular methodology, so much so that it sometimes detracts from the message. Al Norval's posting in July really answers this issue.  Why can't we all just get along?  Talking with my Dad last night about what I have done over the past 20 years in quality has been in some form or fashion, Lean, Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints, or George (the next new improvement methodology; just kidding).  When faced with a problem my job was to fix it.  I learned the concepts and then as I gained responsibility I had to learn to communicate these concepts. It was not until being paid to teach Lean and Six Sigma for the Navy did I get to put things together and say, oh, for  this situation I used lean, or that was like a Six Sigma project. Who cares!  We solved the problem, the customer was happy, we move on.  That to me should be the prevailing mentality:  understand all the tools, apply what fits best, regardless of whether we need some credit for a certification (stepping off the soapbox).

One more blog to review.  Talk to you soon.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 Curious Cat Management Review Carnival-Part 2

Welcome back, hope you enjoyed exploring Kerrie Anne's Fridge Magnets.  Today's blog under review is called the Squawk Point.  It's editor is James Lawther, a self-described middle-aged, middle manager. His blog is focused on service improvement but I think it does an outstanding job of communicating quality and management concepts with humor.  James posts blogs in three general categories: Operations Analysis, Process Improvement, and Employee Engagement.  So let's look at my personal favorite from each category.

This year the emerging concept is "Big Data."  The technology folks are wanting to create a cottage industry on how to deal with all the data that is now being collected and analyzed. James' September post, I feel, is designed to bring us back to reality.  Yes, we have access to more data than ever before.  The challenge is not to analyze it but to understand what we want out of it.  The idea of analyzing large amounts of data has been around since World War II.  Probably the best practical application was the radar system the Brits developed as part of the Battle of Britain defense.  So when you hear about Big Data in the future, don't fall for the trap that we need to invest in new technology; we need to invest in good old fashioned segmentation.

In November, James posted on my favorite "constraint," multitasking. I taught a Lean Six Sigma champion class a while back and one of my students was a military lawyer.  The class featured an excellent simulation of one-piece flow: the antithesis of multitasking.  Even after telling her the answer for success in the simulation she refused to accept the concept of one-piece flow, feeling that she was more productive multitasking.  Even when she failed she insisted that we had rigged the simulation against her and her group, even though the other group was highly successful following our guidance.  Suffice to say, if a manager comes to you and insists that you have to multitask to be successful, go find another position!

My favorite post in the Employee Engagement category was a timely one.  Recently, I was assumed a new leadership position.  For the past ten years I was an instructor or facilitator and not in a direct leadership position.  In November, I became responsible for 150 sailors and civilians.  Going through some self-reflection, I found James' October post very relevant. I really enjoyed my time teaching.  I had thought that I would spend the rest of my career in the classroom.  Now I find that I enjoy the daily challenge of creating that same environment that allowed me to have such fun teaching.  

That's a little taste of what has quickly become one of my favorite management blogs.  We are halfway through the review.  My Dad is in town this afternoon through the weekend so will try to sneak away to finish things up.  Hope your holidays are joyful!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2012 Curious Cat Management Review Carnival-Part 1

John Hunter asked me to help out with his annual Management Improvement blog review so I am going to to take the next few days to review four blogs, two from ASQ Influential Voice colleagues and two that I have stumbled upon over the past year.  John, thanks for the privilege to contribute to the review!

First up is fellow ASQ Influential Voice Kerrie Anne Christian's Fridge Magnets. Kerrie Anne has been blogging since 2008 and her posts show off her varied interests with introspective thoughts. ASQ is a strong supporter of STEM initiatives and Kerrie Anne's February post does an excellent job of chronicling  the challenges of parents supporting and promoting STEM initiatives. What brought it home to me was the "death by PowerPoint" vignette. When I started teaching statistics, I did exactly that--huge logic leaps using PowerPoint. I had to find out the hard way how to slow down and allow students to soak it in using bite-size chunks.  The challenge is to find the right-sized chunk and deliver it at the proper speed to keep all the students satisfied.  That is not a skill taught to new teachers.

The next post to catch my eye was her June post on CEO integrity and the consequences from less than circumspect decisions. Her reference to Arthur Miller's play, All My Sons, was spot on. Frequently, we hear about some executive decision designed to hide a major problem that later creates a huge problem that would have been much smaller if it had been addressed earlier.  Our core values systems come into question and we often forget that the right decision is the decision that you can support publicly.Leaders often forget that as they rise in position they are more visible and more open to judgement by those not in their direct sphere of influence.  What we don't ask enough is, "would that decision make your mother proud of you?"

My favorite Kerrie Anne post this year is her November post on plagiarism versus knowledge sharing. Although the post was directly attributed to government, I see this as a major problem in education. A common dilemma that our young students face is what is not knowledge sharing?  Our judgement system (read academia) still treats plagiarism like a 19th century disease. When is it not plagiarism? When we don't give credit to the original idea.  Why do we place such high value on the original idea?  The pinnacle of success is to take an original idea, expand and mold it into new knowledge.  Our education system does not do a good job at showing students that process.  They promote bad behaviors by providing multiple tools to plagiarize (read technology) with little or no controls. Which is why you get so many "cut and paste" websites that will create term papers on a whim.

That's all for now!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

What if I can’t get a raise?

This month’s ASQ Influential Voice topic is about making your case for improving yourself financially.  Well, unfortunately, I am in a system where I cannot do this.  Working for the federal government, if you want to increase your salary, you will have to compete with others for a new position, which means using USAJOBS and tailoring your resume to closely match the desired position description.  I have too many years invested in federal service to leave my current position and I am getting too old to go back to “chasing the paycheck” mode which is what I did during my time as a quality manager in the paperboard packaging industry. Plus, I REALLY like what I am doing now.  It is a new challenge, has new learning opportunities and continues to allow me the financial freedom to let my daughter finish her senior year at a fine Virginia university without saddling her with major debt when she enters the workforce.

So, if you are in a position when asking for a raise is job or political suicide, what do you do?  Simple: be a leader, provide value, and draw attention to others. Let’s take the first point.  Being a leader is being seen as doing the right thing for your position, even when it doesn’t matter that you need to do the right thing. Some folks call this “walking the talk,” others call this being ethical. For me, I am in charge of a large Navy calibration center.  My primary mission is to make sure that my folks have everything they need to daily accomplish their job.  Yes, I have to be cognizant of the daily operations but my job focuses more on the future than worrying about how many pieces got calibrated today.

Being a good leader is closely tied to providing value.  A leader is supposed to communicate change, provide direction, and celebrate success.  This includes, as many Lean folks say, going to the GEMBA, enforcing standards, and communicating expectations.  Providing value also means being cognizant of organizational performance and how you and your team fit into the big picture.  This includes mentoring your team so that they appreciate new opportunities and support them to challenge rules that no longer fit the current world view.   Providing value means not tolerating, “that’s the way we always have done it,” or “they say it can’t be done.” Providing value means asking your team, “how do you think we should solve this problem?”

Lastly, as a leader success follows you, it is not you.  As a leader, your energy should be towards focusing the spotlight on the team and how the team is successful. Make every effort to praise success, learn from mistakes, and communicate direction and course corrections. As a leader, we should be focused on people with the primary mission of ensuring their behavior supports the organization’s direction and mission.   That means leaders must possess intimate systems knowledge, a deep understanding of human capability and expectations, and identify the cultural behaviors to ensure individual success.

All of this sounds a lot like Deming, Scholtes, Drucker, Ohno, Imai, Senge.  The biggest mistake that we make as leaders is shifting our focus away from people and moving it towards money.  We forget that money is simply a result of what our team produces. If we as quality professionals and leaders concentrated our efforts on making people in our organizations enjoy their work life more, all the money and titles will eventually be there.  So, in my opinion, skip the raise and help your team be successful