Saturday 23 January 2010

The Jacket, The Jacket, Remember The Jacket

I marvel at the complexity of some large organizations and how truly ineffective they are. Sure, there is some good management material, for example, Six-Sigma, Lean, and Total Quality Management, but how often does it get applied properly? Really, training a few top level managers and hiring a few energetic consultants just doesn’t get the message out to the masses. And its not complicated;

Six-Sigma 101

A Motorola initiative to reduce variability in manufacturing and business processes. The premise; give belts (like Karate) to experts, and let them lead in initiatives to reduce cost.

DefineDo a gap analysis; define where you are and where you want to be.
MeasureHave your Key Performance Metrics identified, and actually measure them.
AnalyzeLook at your KPIs and where they apply in the gap. Model the process. Write it down. If you can write it down, and you can articulate it, you understand it.
ImproveIf you can model a process, and you have some baseline metrics, you can do some step-wise improvements.
ControlThe first step to reducing entropy; you can’t measure what you don’t control.

Lean Manufacturing 101

From Toyota, Lean is all about reducing fat, or waste, from a system. A value is attached to all aspects of a business process, and you root out low (or no) value tasks. Do more with less. Originally Toyota focused on their seven wastes. But this has grown to be a leadership doctrine, specifically a doctrine for Business Continuous Process Improvement (BCPI). The Toyota Production System (TPS, and it is not lost on me the TPS Report from Office Space) focused on BCI and team building.

ChallengeHave a long term goal, and check points to measure those goals.
KaizenPerfection is not an end-state, it is an unreachable goal to work towards.
Genchi GenbutsuLook at root cause. Go to the primary source of information. Spread
the word and get consensus.
RespectTake all stakeholders seriously, and enable them with information.
TeamworkEveryone needs to be involved at some point with a feeling of empowerment.

As much as I would like to rant on about the failure of Team Building as it stresses leadership over management, these two schools feed so well into the objectives of Total Quality Management (TQM). The objectives of any quality plan are continual improvement, customer satisfaction, employee empowerment, integrating knowledge and value extraction. The tools are ones that capture ideas, meetings, analysis, modeling, and control information.

This is a great vision, if it has executive championship, and people have the authority to make-it-so. The biggest challenges in large organizations;
  1. fear of change - people just don’t like to change up the routine, in particular in large
    companies where you have the security of unchallenged failure
  2. jacket syndrome - where the person checks-in, puts the jacket on the chair (and maybe the steaming mug of coffee), and checks-out
  3. politics - where job security and king-of-the-hill mentality can be formidable foes
    to any initiative
In the IT space, I’ve always been a fan of Business Process Re-engineering (BPR). One premise of effective BPR has always been clean-room development. You know what you have doesn’t work.  Why spend time fully documenting the process, when you can just lay out a new strategy and let folks evolve in a Darwinian fashion? Hopefully it isn't big fish eats little fish, but survival adaptations to change of the environment.