Lean, Language, & Waste

{part of an email thread}

In part, Bill wrote in response to a LinkedIn/Facebook discussion... "We have to be open to new ideas, and new ways of doing things. Remember, RESISTANCE TO CHANGE (and all the effort that goes around it) is WASTE too!"

I know Bill did not intend his comment as a personal insult. However, everyone needs to think about how their words can have a devastating impact on others. Possibly contributing to the continued destruction of the individual as described in Dr. Deming book, The New Economics (pg. 122).

When WASTE is used as a vehicle to slam individuals, either directly or indirectly, the speaker is contributing to the tyranny of American style of management. Oppression (or dare I say domination) of the human spirit. And yes, this comment was a judgmental slam directed towards the individual.

WASTE is something that has no purpose and is discarded. Many people associate their work as a extension of themselves. In may situations, to discount an individual's work by calling it WASTE is to discount the individual as a person. 

LEAN is intended to be a more humane way to conduct business. A professional never discounts the work of others, or in this case their honest discussion. This is a perfect example of why I never identify people's work as WASTE.  Unnecessary work or cost, maybe, from the perspective of the worker, system or customer (however the customer is defined). However, it is cruel to imply a person's contribution to the organization is waste. A LEAN practitioner's job is to expose any incongruity between the intent of the activity and the value contribution of the activity itself. Not to judge, but to expose any disparity in a safe way. Then guide people in finding a resolution.

I get upset when I see people being treated with disrespect. Especially when using indirect and/or passive/aggressive techniques seen in this posting. The role of the professional is to help people, not to slam people. And especially not to pump up the self-important of the consultant by using 'insider' jargon.

So be careful of what you say and how your say it. The ramifications can be devastating and far reaching.

{second part of rant}

My rant was intended to go from the specific (Bill’s comment) to the general (LEAN language usage).  I wanted to use the opportunity to open a conversation (or pontificate - you choose). Apparently I was not successful in the transition.

Lets address the ‘casual and familiar’ tone and ‘open communication’ issue. I don’t know Bill, or anyone else in this conversation. All I know is what I read in these postings. And to be truthful, I don’t keep track of which individual says what, so each posting stands on it’s own. It was not my intent to attack Bill. I thought his comment was an opportunity to start a slightly different conversation. It may have turned out to be a kick start, but it is a start.

Many consulting organizations strictly forbid consultants from saying negative things about the client – always. If colleagues say negative things about the client to each other in a ‘casual and familiar’ environment, the consultant may have a ‘slip of the tongue’ in front of the client or at a social event. The losses (or WASTE if you like) can be tremendous.

Postings on the internet (like this forum) require a high level of professionalism and decorum. ‘Causal and familiar’ is best left to other medias of communication. (eg, I can call my very good friend a real SOB, and we can both have a good laugh. But I would be very careful when and where I call him that).

Insult vs slam – I’ve always made the distinction of an insult as judgmental dismissal of the individual, a disrespect directed towards the character of the individual. A slam is directed towards the behavior of the individual. Not quite a dismissal, but more of a slap on the wrist (or kick in the backside). This may be in error. I will be more careful in the future.

Concerning being disturbed by my subject topic, two responses: First, I am reminded of the story about Shigeo Shingo and his introduction of ‘mistake proofing’  (myth or fact – I don’t know). He originally called the program ‘idiot proofing.’ When Mr. Shingo first introduced his concept on the shop floor, the workers were upset. They thought Mr. Shingo was calling them idiots! That was not his intent. He went back and changed the name to ‘mistake proofing.’ Language is important, selection of words is important, tact is important. Be careful.

Second, I have participated in (actually perpetrated a few) large improvement efforts that were destroyed because the practitioners created a language that was not part of the general business language (the espoused intent is to communicate faster and easier). Then, the practitioners mission was to teach the rest of the organization what they were talking about. What the practitioners were actually doing was creating an ‘in-group’ and an ‘out-group’ environment. Complete with the social belonging desires, and ostracization (sp) issues that humans possess. They were the in group, or the ‘cool people’, everyone else was out. To be accepted into the ‘in’ group you had to learn the secret code of the new language. And usually perform some ritual ceremony (so how does any certification look under those lights). Also, is seems the outside group is usually the people with the money, power, and control.  So antagonizing them by converting them doesn’t gain you much. This is a extensive topic requiring a lot of explanation – some other time & some other place. Sufficient to say, language selection and the creation of ‘insider jargon’ is a major downfall of many group activities.

Theory of Constraints practitioners have a real big problem with creating a specialized language, Six Sigma people are also guilty but to a lesser extent. I was hoping LEAN would not fall into the same pit.

And finally, about Deming: I was trying to tie Dr. Deming’s teaching to the careful use of language. Connecting how improper use of language would contribute to what Dr. Deming calls the ‘destruction of the individual’ as described in his book. Again, the connection and transition part of my writing was poor.

I know that Deming’s management style was not tyrannical or oppressive. While worked for the United States Department of Commerce, Dr. Deming had over 250 people reporting to him. He commented that his style of managing was very different than most other managers, because he LISTENED to his employees.

Bill, the troop’s quick response to a perceived slight, says a lot. If I offended you, please accept my apology.

Lean & Deming

The issue of LEAN and Deming has intrigued me for years. My background goes back to when process improvement was called SPC, and LEAN was called Just-In-Time.

“Can a LEAN deployment successfully transform an organization without the application of Deming’s theories?” My answer is ‘NO.’  Implementing LEAN principles in an environment devoid of supportive management practices will only achieve limited results in the near future and not survive in the long term.  However, implementing LEAN in a supportive management environment will achieve great results.

At the 2007 Deming Institute Fall Conference, Norm Bafunno (Senior Vice President - Manufacturing & Administration, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana, Inc.) made a presentation about Dr. Deming-Toyota influence. Best I can recall, Mr. Bafunno made the comment that when he accepted the speaking engagement, he really didn’t know anything about Deming or the Deming Institute. So on the next trip to Japan to meet with his Toyota Sensei, Mr. Bafunno asked about Dr. Deming and Toyota. The Sensei responded that first Mr. Bafunno must learn what the Sensei was teaching (presumably the Toyota Production System), and THEN they could talk about Dr. Deming.

Dr. Deming’s teaching provides a chance for managers to view their own management practices in a new light. Dr. Deming challenged conventional thinking, and guided manager to think about how to create a better system of management. He tried to guide managers to create a management environment that supports a balanced approach. Where everyone engages in meaningful work, makes a contribution, and enjoys doing both.

I’ve noticed that Process Improvement programs grow over time. Grow in enthusiasm and scope. When the natural boundaries of Process Improvement programs are reached, enthusiasm is high and advocates seek to expand their influence into areas that are not their specialty.

For example, when Six Sigma exhausted efforts in process improvement, they moved toward the design of product or service. Advocates came out with DFSS (Design For Six Sigma). Actually DFSS is an offshoot of Value Analysis (the sister to Value Engineering), but that is another story.

As the name implies, Design For Six Sigma redesigns products for the benefit of processes. Otherwise the name would be Design for the Customer or Design for Value. At least Design For Assembly, or Design for Manufacturability are explicit and direct about what they expect to accomplish. What is missing from DFSS is the explicit focus on the customer and on providing value from the customer’s perspective now and in the future.

LEAN is the Americanized version of the Toyota Production System (TBS). Brought to us by Lean Enterprise Institute. LEI has done an admirable job of training American businesses through their mission of education, publishing, research and conferences. However LEI has reached the limit or saturation of TBS. Over the last few years LEI is moving towards defining (or Americanizing) the Toyota Management System. It is amusing to watch LEI grapple with the dilemma of defining TMS without mentioning Dr. Deming. However, you never know, they may succeed.

As a LEAN practitioner, we must understand the limitations of our profession, our selves and the environment in which we operate. And make a conscious effort to practice tolerance, understanding, and balance with all in which we interact

Lean, Waste, Deming & Meetings

Traditional Lean vs. Un-traditional Lean vs. Office Lean vs. Administrative Lean vs. Healthcare Lean vs. Banking Lean vs. Education Lean vs. Engineering Lean vs. .... - fragmentation and segmentation of a methodology is the beginning of the end. Actually this breakdown is a sign the methodology was not well defined or understood in the first place. So, let the death spiral begin!

Returning to the topic at hand - Dr. Deming said: "The present style of management is the biggest producer of waste, causing huge losses whose magnitudes can not be evaluated, can not be measured," (The New Economics, 2nd Edition, pg.22)

In many organizations, meetings are of very little value, while being insanely expensive. In the worst case, meetings are no help for the participants, no benefit to the company, and especially no value to the customer. Although, meetings are great entertainment to watch people, politics and power plays in action (or watching dysfunctional personalities on parade). But the time spent is not helpful to most everyone.

A culture of conducting effective meetings will go farther to improving efficiency and morale than any other single change.

Having the discipline to conduct effective meetings is a form of professionalism not found in many organizations. I'm talking about both organizational or individual professionalism.

I remember the story of one company attempting to reduce the length of meetings. They removed all the chairs in the conference rooms, and raising the tables to the height allowing people to stand and take notes. Standup meetings encouraged efficient meetings. Gotta love bold attempts at improvement.

Second on my management waste activity hit list is the volume of 'cover your behind' emails. But that is another topic thread.

Deming & Hope

For over 25 years I've heard many people try to describe what Dr. Deming gave the Japanese people after WWII. Most of what is explained is superficial (SPC - 6S/LEAN - 14-points - SoPK), or biased towards what is being peddled.

Recently, someone mentioned that what Dr. Deming really brought to the Japanese people was HOPE. (it was a passing comment at a business social event, I wish I was better at remembering more details)

Now, I've been rolling that idea around in my head. Since the original speaker did not elaborate, the idea has free range (insert empty head joke here!).

One thought, the 28 "Faulty Practices" (actually 32, but don't tell anyone) from The W. Edwards Deming Institute's 2-½ Day Seminar are obstacles to overcome. Once these questionable practices are adjusted, HOPE is strengthened (restored?).

A message of HOPE engages the individual. WISHING is a pipe dream, HOPE moves the soul.

Is this how to change the negativity of pointing out problems (which is most of the content of OoTC and TNE) and turn it around to an inspirational and uplifting message. Focus the message on HOPE, while talking about overcoming the obstacles.


Education vs Training

(responding to someone elses post) - your question was forwarded to me concerning Point 6 (Institute Training) and Point 13 (Encourage education and self-improvement for everyone). Great questions. The relationship between Point 6 & Point 13 is subtle.

I am not familiar with Frank Voehl's book "The Way We Knew Him." So I cannot directly address his interpretation.  However, as a 'guide' for the Seattle Deming Study Group and a long time student of Dr. Deming's teachings, here are my impressions.

I am going to answer your first question in two forms, simple and detailed. 


Point 6 is 'skill' training (how)

Point 13 is 'knowledge' education (why)

Example: Skill is the mechanics of playing a musical instrument and reading sheet music. Knowledge is knowing what emotion the music is intended to invoke from the audience. What story the music is trying to paint.

More Detailed

The key, for me, is the fourth sentence in the second paragraph on page 86 of Out of The Crisis. That sentence reads - "Moreover, study that is directed toward immediate need may not be the wisest course."

Point 6 (Institute Training) is advocating training that is directed towards job related activities (the needs of the job). That training might be managers learning how to manage processes or how processes operate together as a system, or workers learning specific skills needed on an assembly line or office job task (for example programming).

Point 13 (Encourage education and self-improvement for everyone) has two parts. First is training/education outside of the immediate job tasks. Education that helps the individual make a contribution to society outside the position description or skill codes of the company. No one knows what contribution a production worker who is studying Theology for his spiritual activities, or Astronomy for his recreational hobby, can make to the company. We might be pleasantly surprised. At least I have been in my experience.

Second, I believe Dr. Deming was using Point 13 to highlight that people should strive for learning beyond their work needs, and companies should encourage that effort through their support. Regardless if the learning is job related or how the IRS tax codes read.

In the past (and maybe still) companies would only reimburse expenses if the course helped employees perform their job. This company policy was usually an extension from the US tax codes - allowable deduction for 'job related training.'

To answer your second question:

Overlap depends on the situation. Point 6 can be a subset of Point 13, or they can exist independently, or some overlap may be appropriate. Frequently, in large corporations skills training (Point 6) is offered inside the company, with attendance being paid-hours or nonpaid-hours. And education (Point 13) is usually conducted at a formal educational institution outside the company. This is a generality, and of course exceptions can always be found.

This leads to your third question:

I cannot say how Dr. Deming expected companies to accomplish Point 13. For my perspective, when a company reimburses employees for all education expenses (and/or modify work hours to accommodate classroom time, etc.) regardless if the course is job related, I believe the company is on the road to really caring about their people. This attitude supports the belief that through creating great people, great companies emerge.

I know I didn't give you a great answer. The learning is not arriving at a definitive answer, but how do you as an individual and the company define the distinction.

I hope my ramblings are helpful.

Managing People

Businesses and processes are managed. People are led

To manage people is to imply a form of domination. To manage people is to direct others towards an end, using methods selected by the manager. Necessary at times, but questionable behavior as a cultural norm.

Here are two related distinctions that come to mind:

First the distinction  between assertive and aggressive behavior. Aggressive behavior is defined as 'forceful action especially when intended to dominate or master.' Assertive behavior is defined as 'to declare positively and often forcefully.' The key distinction is the 'intent to dominate.' You can dominate things (businesses, processes, markets, etc.) but not recommended for dealing with people.

Another distinction is that leaders INSPIRE, not MOTIVATE. Motivate is defined as 'to induce, incite or impel.' Motivation is temporary and conditional. Inspire is 'to breathe or give life.' Inspire is enduring and self-sustaining. So, managers motivate and leaders inspire.

So lets refine our business language to say we lead people through inspiration, while managing things through motivation.

Merit Pay & Dead Wood

(responding to someone elses post) - Imbedded in your question is the assumption that the 'Merit System' is an entity upon itself. A tool, a methodology that has a purpose and contributes to the customer, organization, or society. And that the merit system has a direct replacement {hold that thought}.

When Dr. Deming was asked what to do in place of the 'Merit System'‚ (or performance appraisals) - frequently his answer was 'Whatever Peter Scholtes says'.

Peter Scholtes' last book The Leaders Handbook: A Guide To Inspiring Your People and Managing The Daily WorkFlow is a good start for understanding. From the Preface Peter says "Chapter 9 confronts the most harmful managerial assumptions and practices (performance appraisal and merit pay, etc.) and offer alternative approaches."

Basically, ask the question 'what is the Merit System supposed to do', articulate the underlying management assumptions, then find something better to accomplish the intent.

I love a story Peter Scholtes told. At one of his lectures on performance appraisals, came the following dialoge:

Audience: 'Without Performance Appraisals how are we going to identify the 'Dead Wood' in our organization.' 
Peter: 'Why are you hiring dead wood?'
Audience: 'We DON'T hire dead wood!'
Peter: 'Why are you hiring live wood and killing it?!'

In my experience, I haven't found anything that support the Merit System as the best solution to anything. Then why to do performance appraisals continue? My only conclusion is that: it is always easier to judge someone else to a subjective (or misguided) standard than do the hard work to actually lead an organization.

Actually the supervisors I've know understand that the whole thing is silly, but they are required to do them. Note: I worked for a guy who just didn't do them one year, and the trouble he got into was just crazy (and he was a corporate director).

Back to your question: much understanding is required to 'replace' the merit system. It is more humane, easier, and quicker to just stop doing it!

Deming & Benchmarking

Benchmarking is not a word specifically used Dr. Deming's material. That said, he did talk about the subject using other terms. 

Believe it or not, I found this reference in the 'Study Guide' that accompanies The W. Edwards Deming Institute's 4-Day Seminar DVDs.

(page 51)
Notes on Some Common Misunderstandings of Dr. Deming's Philosophy (20)

Some interpretations of Dr. Deming's theory can be viewed as misunderstandings of the lessons Dr. Deming taught. Some of these misunderstandings, expressed as statements or questions, will be considered in the following.

(pages 53-54)
4. Isn't Dr. Deming against "Benchmarking?" Are we supposed to ignore what our competitors are doing?

Dr. Deming advocated scanning the environment to learn about innovations in technology, practices, and products, and to identify unmet needs and new market opportunities. He advocated learning by use of theory, and he cautioned us about copying.

Dr. Deming's view is clarified by the following quotes:

"True: anyone could make a list of companies that are doing well, even though their management follows one or all of the above bad practices. These companies are saved by good luck, coincidence, having a product or service that commands good market. Any of these companies might do much better were the management to learn some theory of management. If anyone were to study without theory such a company, i.e., without knowing what questions to ask, he would be tempted to copy the company, on the pretext that 'they must be doing some things right.' To copy is to invite disaster." (29)

"Too often this is the story. The management of a company,...knowing not how to go about it, having not guidance from principles, seeking enlightenment, embark on excursions to other companies that are ostensibly doing well. They are received with open arms, and the exchange of ideas commences. They (visitors) learn what the host is doing...Devoid of guiding principles, they are both adrift. Neither  company knows whether or why any procedure is right, nor whether or why another is wrong. The question is not whether a business is successful, but why? and why was it not more successful? One can only hope that the visitors enjoy the ride. They are more to be pitied than censured." (30)

Dr. Deming's comments do not imply that one should not study competitors and their actions, but to do so fruitfully requires a theory by which to interpret their actions. 

Benchmarking requires a decision about which companies to study. The basis for the decision is not as simple as "those that are doing well now." The dynamic nature of "success" by any measure and delays between causes and effects call into question a judgment that current "success" is the result of current practice or is indicative of good management. "Success" is multi-dimensional. "Success" on one measure at one period of time may not be the same as creating an organization that can survive and prosper over the long term. Attempting to achieve success by copying means that an organization will be a follower in the marketplace, rather than a leader by innovation and market creation.

(20) These notes were prepared by facilitators of the General Motors seminar, "The Leadership Philosophy of W. Edwards Deming," for use during discussions with the audience
(29) Deming, W. Edwards, The New Economics, Second Edition, M.I.T. Center for Advanced Engineering Study, 1994, p. 36.
(30) Deming, W. Edwards, Out of the Crisis, M.I.T. Center for Advanced Engineering Study, 1986, pp. 128-129.

Customer vs Client

A model I frequently use is the distinction between "customer" and "client."

Client: A person who engages the professional advice or services of another
< a lawyer's client >

Customer: One that purchases a commodity or service

Dr. Deming said the customer can only choose between what you and your competitor produces.

To complicate the issue even further, Edger H. Schein described some basic types of clients in his books on Process Consultation Revisited (1989, Prentice Hall Organizational Development Series)

- Contact Clients. The individual(s) who first contact the consultant with a request, question, or issue.

- Intermediate Clients. The individuals or groups that get involved in various interviews, meetings, and other activities as the project evolves.

- Primary Clients. The individual(s) who ultimately own the problem or issue being worked on; they are typically also the ones who pay the consulting bills or whose budget covers the consultation project.

- Unwitting Clients. Member of the organization above, below, and in lateral relationships to the primary clients who will be affected by interventions but who are not aware that they will be impacted.

- Ultimate Clients. The community, the total organization, an occupational group, or any other group that the consultant cares about and whose welfare must be considered in any intervention.

- Involved "Non-Clients". In any change effort there may be individuals or groups who are aware of what is going on, who do not fit any of the above definitions, and whose interests may be to slow down or stop the helping effort. In any social and organizational setting there are political issues, power plays, hidden agendas, and conflicting goals that the helper must be aware of in planning and executing interventions.

I strive to behave as a professional service provider, with clients engaging me in a professional service. When working in a large organization, sometime I ask a consuming department what are their requirements. To better support their current needs (as a customer?). As a producer of services, my job is to anticipate their needs in the future and devise a solution ideally suited to their situation (as a client?).

Do any of these models cover every situation? No. However these distinctions are a good review. These mental models to help me look at engagements from different and multiple perspectives.

Beyond Process Improvement

After spending several years applying various process improvement methodologies in several manufacturing environments, I became ware that something more was needed. Dr. Peter Drucker is quoted as making the distinction between 'doing things right' or 'doing the right things.' I began to realize most improvement methodologies only addressed "doing things right." What was needed is more knowledge about "doing the right thing."  Dr. Drucker used his analogy to demonstrate the difference between leadership and management, however I believe the analogy has broader connotations.

So far, my exploration has found two areas that are very helpful.

One was a map of theory for management. Not a tool for decision making (many exist), something more fundamental. What I found was a theory founded in four areas of specialty. Variation, Systems Thinking, Psychology, and a Theory about Knowledge, called "The Deming System of Profound Knowledge." Each specialty providing great understanding by itself, contributing to our definition of business 'reality.' Exploring the interactions of these four specialties provides truly grand insights into the world around us. Creating a humanistic working environment, where people have a sense of belonging and can make a meaningful contributions.

Now the quest has two significant elements: a) process improvement to improve efficiency of work, and b) the System of Profound Knowledge to create a management environment for growth. 

So what else is needed?  What could be added to the mix that would positively impact the business? Many studies and anecdotes point towards the design of product or service as having a great financial impact to a business. But where do I find a method that is not overly complicated and while being effective.

What I found was Value Management, where the focus is not on the activity, but on the intent of the product or service.  The basic foundation of Value Management is a series of five, deceptively simple, questions. 

1) What is it? 
2) What does it do?
3) What does it cost?
4) What else will do that?
5) How much does that cost?

This foundation of Value Management is built upon with two additional areas.

Function Analysis System Technique (F.A.S.T. model) is the technical name. However, I like to call it a Function Relationship Map. It is a technique that maps the intent, or the function, of the product or service at a higher level of abstraction. It is not a traditional activity based 'flow chart' or 'process map,' but map of functions described by using two words, an active verb and measurable noun. Functions are arranged so each statement answers the question of 'how' or 'why' of other functions. Once the function map is verified, several matrixes are created and linked to the map. Common matrixes are cost, responsibility, and other elements.

A workshop type setting is the second addition to Value Management's foundation. The group challenges assumptions; verifies 'facts,' creates a common understanding and ultimately a common road map for a plan.  After all, a plan created by the people most likely effected and accountable for the project, is the plan most likely to succeed.

This group effort has an interesting progression, especially given the 'map of theory for management' mentioned above.  The rough series of challenges are: What is the real issue, as opposed to just symptoms? What are the goals? What are the elements? How are the elements measured? Not all measures are equal, so the group assigns weights to them. Scale those measures and show where you are now. Once completed, the group has a common understanding of the issue at hand and finds it easier to adjust to the obstacles frequently found in deploying a plan.

My quest now has three elements; 

1) Process Improvement,
2) Theory of Management, and
3) Value Management. 

I like to think of them as 'The Triad for Improvement,' providing a practical guide for improving business.

Iron Law of Layoffs

John Sterman, MIT Sloan School of Management, co-authored an article that, in part, discusses the 'The Iron Law of Layoffs.'  The authors discussed about how Process Improvement (e.g.: LEAN) improves capacity and the pressure for layoffs. And the involvement of several factors such as increased sales plus labor attrition.

To the point where if you institute an Iron Law of No Layoffs, then sales increase does not happen and the attrition rate drops over time, you may have to think about slowing your improvement efforts.

Leadership is tough, and so is followship. Especially when everyone sees the waste and has a passion for making things better. It is very hard on everyone to 'leave money on the table.' However, if people are truly the company's most important resource (to be trite), then protecting that resource outweighs the waste in other parts of the organization.

The article is from people in the field of System Dynamics. As Peter Senge describes it, think of 'cause-and-effect separated by time.' So, be forewarned, it is not an immediate, 'How To' type article.

'Overcoming the Improvement Paradox'
European Management Journal , Vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 120-134, 1999
'The Iron Law of Layoffs' - Page 29 (pg 31 on the pdf)

Are Receivable an Asset or Liability

{name withheld}

I applaud your curiosity and openness to learn. While not a financial person myself, I did learn one very important financial distinction in my MBA program. The difference between Management Accounting versus GAAP type Financial Accounting. The first is to help how business is conducted on a daily or weekly basis, while the latter is an monetary assessment tool comparing two periods of time and is required by various government bodies.

The mistake in many organizations is to make management decisions based only using assessment tools. When Dr. Deming said that management was the biggest producer (source?) of waste, I believe this misuse of assessment tools is only one of many such examples he saw.

My impression is that LEAN accounting is a management accounting tool. Not a financial accounting tool. Some concepts may bridge across the two, while other concepts may be unique.

For further research here are three avenues I found informative (as a nonfinancial person):

First is a book written by a CFO of Lantech (Jean Cunningham) and a former VP of Finance and director of Wiremold (Orest Fiume). The title is 'Real Numbers: Management Accounting in a Lean Organization.'

Second is something that Theory Of Constraints people call 'Throughput Accounting.' This investigation may be a challenge. TOC people like their 'special language' even more than LEAN practitioners. However, the thinking appears good and the arguments seem clear.

Third is anything written by H. Thomas Johnson. Years ago he billed himself as a 'recovering management accountant.' I respect that approach. His writings are always thought provoking.

Here is a blurb about him from a Dec 1, 2006 article titled 'Manage a Living system, Not a Ledger' published by Manufacturing Engineering Magazine.

H. Thomas Johnson is Professor of Business Administration at Portland State University (Portland, OR). This article draws from his essay Lean Dilemma: Choose System Principles or Management Accounting Controls - Not Both in Lean Accounting and Performance Measurement: the Relentless Pursuit of Perfection, Joe Stenzel, editor, (New York: John Wiley, 2007), Chapter 1. His most recent book, Profit Beyond Measure: Extraordinary Results Through Attention to Work and People (New York: The Free Press, 2000), was awarded the 2001 Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing Research. Further information on Johnson's career and his other books is available at:

He may be reached by e-mail at: 

More Meeting Rant

(responding to someone elses post) Interesting how this thread twists and turns. From Management Waste, to meetings as waste. As always, the impact a person can make on the culture of the organization is directly proportional to the influence they can exert. Some can achieve influence by positional power, others by information, and others by tact.

Along the lines of removing waste (or time/effort/morale) by improving meetings, here is more to think about:

Womack and Jones outline the five principles of Lean Thinking in the Preface (pg. 10) of their book by the same name. The first principles is "precisely specify value by specific product,".... My wish is for people to 'precisely specify value' of each meeting. Then arrange the meeting accordingly. Actually applying all five principles to each meeting might be an interesting exercise for Lean advocates. I guess 'Pull' would involve some marketing (advocating the benefit) for the meeting.

I usually ask two questions about meetings. First is when someone wants to call a meeting - 'what do you want as an outcome of this meeting?' Or some derivative of that question. The second question is when I am asked to attended a meeting -  'what value can I contribute to the meeting.' Both produce some interesting conversations. And I will confess to being a meeting tourist at times.

The story about Caterina Fake, and everyone drinking 16oz. of water before each meeting, reminds me of a saying I heard in the 80s about creating presentation/training - 'The mind will absorb what the butt will endure.' My personal time conversion is for no meeting to last for more than 30 minutes, and training modules for no more than 45 minutes (note: exceptions are made for 'workshop' or 'team event' type activities).

Going back to the fundamentals is enlightening and fun. The basics of Lean as outlined by Womack and Jones, and the utilization of basic human needs is a good start. However, we can step even further back into the realm of respect. Respect of self and respect of others. One of my peeves about poor meetings is not starting on time. Here is an excerpt I found that best describes how I feel.

From a book titled - 'The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership' by James C. Hunter,  Pg 115

"People who are late drive me nuts!" the coach blurted out.  "I am actually enjoying the fact that time is respected here because I like to know what to expect.  To answer your question, Simeon, I pick up several messages when someone is late.  One message is that their time is more important than my time, a rather arrogant message to be sending to me.  Being late also conveys the message that I must not be very important to them because they would almost certainly be on time for an important person.  It also communicate to me that they are not very honest because honest people stick to their word and follow through with their commitments, even time commitments.  Being late is extremely disrespectful behavior and is also habit forming."  The coach took a deep breath after her speech.  "Thank you for allowing me to preach."

I guess the same thinking could be attached to ending a meeting on time, or having a detailed agenda, or pre-arranging room setup, or all the other aspect of conducting an efficient and effective business meeting?

We can go back even further into the fundamentals. However, I will let other people carry that torch.

Rant On Improvement

(responding to a post) Stimulating conversation - before I start let me premise this loose collection of thoughts with the old saying ‘Application without Theory is blind, Theory without Application is sterile.’ So instead of the three areas (management practices, products, processes) discussed in this thread, are we talking about Theory, Methods, and Tools? Each with distinct requirements and conditions for usefulness.

Are tools the “go do’s” of the method, and method is the “go do’s” of the theory? If one learns the use of a tool, a task is accomplished. If one learns the method, then more options become available to accomplish the task. If one understands the Theory, the selection of methods and tools becomes vast.

Through the years western management has assumed the role of Judge. Making a choice without understanding the implications and ramifications of multiple options or without intimate knowledge about the processes for which they are responsible. One of the advantages management sees in the tools of improvement is the ability to delegate and relegate the use of the tools without the effort of understanding the process or the tool. I don’t blame them, learning the Theory and Method behind tools is hard work. It is much easier to choose between options.

Attending a class (Lean, Six Sigma, etc) only exposes people to the tools, with a smattering of method, with very little (if any) theory. Conclusions drawn about the method and theory, solely based on exposure to the tools might lead to erroneous assumptions. 

In the case of Lean at Boeing, the Shingijutsu consultants teach a few courses of a specific tool to the workforce, and the internal Boeing staff takes over that task. During the Boeing 'events' the Shingijustu consultant also train management, primarily in the evenings. What exactly are they talking about in the evenings? NOT the use of the tools! My guess is the method and methodology, with only a passing reference to the tools. What they do have is a two pronged approach, with specific messages geared to different levels of the organization.

Sounds like many of us have watched a multitude of improvement programs grow and flash out in an amazing flare – TQM/CQI/WCC, Six Sigma, Re-engineering, Baldrige, etc.. It is safe to assume the life cycle of any program is: introduction of a method with lots of fanfare, loosing the focus on methods while codification or toolization (I create my own words at will) of that method, corruption by over simplification and charlatans, then relegation to oblivion.

I am reminded of the story Richard Lafauve told about the creation of Saturn in the 80s (I was in the auto industry at the time, so I heard lots of stories from people who wanted to work at Saturn). GM and the UAW both recognized a new type are automobile company was needed. Both groups went out to ‘bench mark’ or look at how other successful automobile companies operated. Both came back with ‘THE ANSWER.’ One was automation, the other was something equally incorrect (I believe it was ‘Just-In-Time’ as Lean was called at the time). After reviewing the findings, both group decided to try it again. Producing similar results – they missed the target for ‘THE ANSWER.’ After three attempts, both groups finally came to the conclusion that ‘THE ANSWER’ was ‘PEOPLE!’ Then they created a company that treated people well. In my term they created a ‘humane system of management.’

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Hearing the question What Have You Done For Me Lately? from a superior, can send chills down your spine, especially at the time of year when annual performance appraisals are being written. With the leadership principles introduced into the workforce in the last several decades, you would think this attitude would be dissipating. However, the question has been driven underground. So far underground it is becoming even more insidious and subversive than before.
Long gone are the days where executives merely get the right people in the right position. Or reshuffle the people to different positions. Then leave the new managers and established workforce alone to figure out how to get the job done and how to get along.
Leadership can be defined as helping people achieve the goals of the organization. Leaders are transforming from order givers and judges, into coaches and mentors. Success of the boss is seen as how they provide support to their workforce. Helping employees have insights, learn at their own pace, and actively engage themselves with the company.
Modern leaders inspire the workforce, connecting on a level of spirit to spirit. Leaders anticipate future needs of the people. Concerning themselves with communication and cooperation between people, the organization, as well as between groups within organization.
The focus is not on making the boss look good. Leadership is making the employees look good.
So the real question from the boss is:

           What have I done for you lately?

Approach To Improvement

The question of where to start improvement is not an 'either/or' choice of top-down or bottom-up approach. The place to start is both. Leading an organization requires both a long-term and a short-term focus. With changing management practices being long-term and improving operational efficiency being short-term. The organization is a system. Optimization of any single component (management practices or production operations) frequently detracts from the whole.

For many years I firmly believed (actually hoped) the Bottom-Up approach would be the most effective. Especially since I came from the shop floor. However, after watching several large companies try the Bottom-Up approach, I realized that it didn't work. 

You can show management success, but they will not believe it. Especially when the current management practices involves the underlying beliefs that workers are untrustworthy, and must be dominated and controlled. I saw one Fortune 20 company turn around their operations using a process improvement program. When the bottom line numbers drastically improved, upper management scrambled for years trying to find out how this was accomplished. Five years later, I don't believe they still understand how it happened, or why.

To help me clarify the various arguments of Top-Down or Bottom-Up approach to implementing improvement in my own mind, I wrote a paper. Most arguments focus on 'success' - however that is determined! What I though was missing was the perspective of a leader who has a broad knowledge of business, the desire to help the long term health of the organization, but not the ability to hold off the financial dogs of short-term results. Once I started looking deeper the key factors seemed to be the time to results versus depth of influence. Looking through that lens, suddenly product redesign (Value Engineering) became a viable option. Providing a balance of moderate returns with a moderate time delay.

I concluded that a three prong approach is needed. But, how do you manage that? By cooperation and collaboration between improving; Management Practices, Product Redesign, and Process Improvement.

Cascading Framework

There is no substitute for an improvement plan that is integrated to business needs, and with buy-in from all involved. Of special importance is a plan for transitioning requirements, to strategic intent, to tactical action. Here is a framework that we find useful for creating such a plan.

Cascading FrameworkProgressing through these steps as a group is very effective. However, the same outcome can be accomplished by working with individuals. Asking each to contribute to specific tasks. Working with people individually takes longer, but 'buy-in' from people from multiple groups is possible.

Some explanations of the elements:

The Objective is created by answering three questions:

What is the Problem/Opportunity (in business terms)?

1. Why it is a Problem/Opportunity?
2. Why Solve the Problem (take advantage of the opportunity/)? 
3. What happens if we don't solve it?

Experience teaches that people answer question #1 with symptoms, which actually belong to question #2. By wrestling with these three questions, people gain insights into the underlying business conditions.

  • Goals overcome the problem or take advantage of the opportunity. Each goal has an 'operational definition' associated with each statement (5 to 8). Each with a scale of 1-10, and identifying where they are now, and where it is reasonable to be at a specified time (e.g. - one year).
  • Indicators (Attributes) are value-added characteristics that support the goals. Again with definition, a scale, current status, and future objective.
  • Performance Profile - not all attributes have the same influence towards the outcome. Attributes are assign values, and weighted by importance or impact. Then attributes are prioritized.
  • The Intent Model is a series of statements of 'active verb - measurable noun' about the functions, not activities, of the objective. Arranged in a 'How-Why' relationship (it looks like a flow chart in reverse). Once completed, several matrixes can be mapped to the base functions. Responsibilities and costs are two popular matrixes.
  • Alternative Solutions is a series of divergent-convergent activities to devise several solutions. Each with data tied to the previous Goals, Indicators, and Performance Profile. Plus risk factors are identified and assigned.
  • Finally, an Implementation Plan is created for deploying the chosen solutions.

In a group format, the same people who create the Objective, Goals, Indicators, Performance Profile, and Intent Model are not usually the same people who investigate the Alternative Solutions or create the Implementation Plan. Frequently multiple events are used. Each lasting 3 to 5 days, with time for Pre and Post activities between events.

When these events are used to recover a troubled project, the feedback we get is 'We wish we had used this at the beginning of the project.' When used up as part of a project kick-off, people are amazed by how quickly the project becomes focused. How what appears as very difficult task becomes possible.

Facilitation of groups through these steps is crucial. Challenging assumptions and exploring possibilities is difficult for a group to accomplish on themselves. Outside guidance is invaluable.


In general I don’t put much value in certifications for process improvement methodologies. Anytime a methodology is codified, turned into a bunch of rules, the meaning is lost. What is missing is the context of the situation, and the thinking that goes into the selection of that specific tool. What are the limitations, the potential inappropriate/unexpected outcomes?

A classic example is the Six Sigma 'Black Belt.' Today many people and companies focus on obtaining or hiring people with this designation. Unfortunately, most experts teaching Six Sigma teach statistical techniques for comparison (enumerative) studies. This is the type of statistics taught in most colleges, and the course most people do not remember fondly. What is seldom taught is statistical techniques for predictive (analytical) studies. 

As Dr. Deming said 'Management is Prediction.' Most business and manufacturing analysis is prediction based. Used to manage processes. Unfortunately, most Six Sigma training programs are teaching statistical tools that are completely inappropriate for predicting. 

As a side note, using statistical techniques for Quality was founded by Dr. Walter A. Shewhart. In his 1931 book Economic Control of Quality of Manufactured Product he explored the tools of comparative studies for application in predictive environments. He found only a couple of techniques were useful. When data are collected and subgrouped in time sequence, only then will the calculations of 'mean' and 'standard deviation' have some usefulness for prediction. Other statistical tools he explored were less helpful.

As far as a certificate is concerned, a person can always learn enough of the wrong stuff to obtain the certification. Then forget about half of what was learned. The difficulty is to know which half to discard.

Certifications are promoted as demonstrating a certain level skill when applying tools. However, if the recipient does not know the limitations of those tools, or if a company hires someone without having intimate knowledge of the certification content, what value does certification carry?

Any one who has not heard of the certification body can easily dismiss the certification. Myself, I am certified as an 'American Samurai Warrior - First Degree' by the America Samurai Institute. A Six Sigma type certification program that is now defunct. And nobody has ever heard of it.

Given my understanding and experience with certifications, I am at a loss to guide people when they ask about certifications.

You Only Know What You Know

New knowledge comes from the outside.

At last week’s roundtable we talked about how new insights emerge when knowledge is shared at a structured investigative activity and using a facilitated dialogue.

One example was an aerospace part used to keep dirt and water out of a sensitive area of the end product. The part was expensive for what it did and complicated to build. From a business point of view the part was an extremely minor cost of the final product. However, the complications it caused to the organization made it worth a study for improvement.

A group activity called Value Engineering workshop was convened. The attendees consisted of the specialties involved with this part; product design, manufacturing, installation, finance, workers, engineers, managers, and others. Each brought their own solution, mainly telling the other departments to just do their job better.

The group went through structured activities which supported the main questions of: 1) What is it? 2) What does it do? 3) How much does it cost? 4) What else will do that? 5) What does that cost?  They found the old design consisted of

  • 10 Sheet Metal Components
  •  57 Rivets
  •  90 Linear Inches of Sealant
  •  9 Suppliers
  •  $4,000 each

 After several convergent and divergent activities the group proposed a new design consisting of:

  • 1 Machined Component
  • 0 Fasteners
  • 0 Linear Inches of Sealant
  • 1 Supplier
  • $100 each

 The process of sharing while focused on a mutually beneficial project produces amazing results. One example is while a design engineer was looking at the actual part, he said “in the 23 years I’ve been designed product, I’ve never been told how much it costs to install a fastener. All I have to do is place a cross on the drawing where the fastener should go. And I’ve always figured the more the better.”

Take Away

Many Theory-Methods-Tools bring out what is hidden. Once discrepancies, and their meanings, are exposed the group will generate their own improvement ideas. The idea is that you make things visible because you never know what you will find, keep it simple so everyone understands, then move the project forward at one unit. The result is a High Performing Team.

 Dave Nave & Associates 2017   -