Tag Archives: government management

Large IT Projects Fail in Government . . . and Business

The Healthcare.gov fiasco has the Republicans calling out the Democrats.  The truth is both parties have failed national and state implementations of information technology.  The bottom-line is large IT projects are destined to fail.  They all require what IT companies sometimes call “teething pains.”

Information Technology companies answer has been to add more costs by audits, project management, and other well-meaning but budget-busting activities.  Untold fortunes in time and reams of paper are used to document and standardize in single-focused IT projects.  The waste is monumental.

In business, you see nothing that is any different.  In fact, it is often much worse.  In banking, core banking software is slammed in and then after companies “get use to” the new system they do process improvement.

Why is it that IT implementation precedes designing work? Cart before horse thinking is the magical answer being sold in the marketplace.  Work design, culture and significant measures of success are ignored.  IT staff celebrate hotting the date while workers stuck with using the (poorly designed) IT system are left frustrated and left out.

You can spend far less on IT if before you even talk about IT solutions you understand your problems.  If IT was the answer, what was the question?  Can you really afford another IT catastrophe?  Just because you don’t make talk television, the newspaper or become the joke of internet websites the waste in resources is still present . . . even if ignored.

Understanding your culture that drives your design and the customer-in view of performance should become basic to any work design.  And . . . this should come before IT.

Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect.  His organization helps executives find a better way to link perspective to performance and enable workers to build and refine their service.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn atwww.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Indiana Education School Scoring – A Predictable End

State Seal of Indiana.

State Seal of Indiana. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hate to say I told you so . . . but I told you so. The DeHaan school flap over changing grades for one school and not another has led to former Indiana State Education Superintendent Tony Bennett to resign his position in Florida. You can see all previous posts on Indiana Education at this link.

This isn’t a Tony Bennett issue, it is a perspective issue.  The complexity of the US education system has grown since the advent of the US Education Department during the Carter Administration in the late 1970s.  Increased complexity means more costs.  Think about it . . . more money to management types rather than money for classrooms, the advent of standardized test scores and grading teachers and schools all cost more money.  The lawsuits and time wasted are unknown and unknowable.

The State of Indiana with its super majority has the opportunity to be Republicans and shut down the Indiana State Department of Education.  This would seem unpopular politically, but would reduce complexity and move the control back to the local arenas.

For Democrats, get rid of this silly grading system which you have already identified as damaging.  Work to make Teachers (the value workers in this system) the locus of control.  The money needs to be spent on the classroom and not all these extracurricular grading activities.

Reducing complexity means spending less and getting more.

Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect.  His organization helps executives find a better way to link perspective to performance and use workers to build and refine your service.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn atwww.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.Enhanced by Zemanta
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Atlanta Cheating Scandal – A Messy and Predictable Result

Let’s be clear.  A good person working in a bad system will lead to poor results.  The whole Atlanta School system– and education systems like them – have created environments where the system is dictating performance . . . and survival in that system.  The Atlanta education system created the environment for administrators and educators to cheat.

These systems designed in this fashion need to be eliminated in education systems, government and private industry.

The US has created a culture of cheating by the way we have contrived and managed systems.  Lance Armstrong, the recent KPMG scandal of insider training, an assortment of jailed CEOs and manipulation of every day measures to survive or get ahead are results of these poorly contrived and managed systems.  Our short-term thinking for immediate gain is like a boat anchor hanging around our societal necks.

Pay for performance or any derivation of pay for performance like:, administrator and educator rewards tied to test scores, school funding tied to test scores, school takeovers tied to test scores and graduation rates,  etc. will lead to cheating and/or manipulation – if not for personal gain, for survival.  I wrote about this back in 2009  (see A Step Back: Pay for Performance in Schools).  We are making our own bed and we have to continue to sleep in it.  We are better than this.

The current education system is expensive to boot.  The added attorney costs and inspection costs to avoid cheating and manipulation make this design inefficient and not just ineffective.  Now, we may have more expenses to jail “cheaters.”

To improve education, we need to  change our perspective and contrive better educational systems.  The culture of cheating and manipulation comes from our current culture.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Management’s Predictable Response to Trouble

Management with a conventional perspective in their approach attack problems predictably .  .  . predictably wrong. If revenue is the problem, set a target for more revenue.  Expenses to high set a target for to lower costs.

The real question that eludes such approaches is ” by what method?”

Subordinates are left with new targets and no method.  This is not good management.  Can we even call this management?

Conventional methods for increased revenue call “pushing” sales to customers.  Some so dysfunctional in one telecomm that customers are pushed products for mobile phones that don’t even fit.  However, revenue gets recognized and the cost problem created (returns)  is for another month or another group that is responsible for costs.

Reducing expenses?  Cut back on travel, office supplies, maintenance, outsourcing and if things are bad – heads must roll.  All short-term thinking and lead to increased costs later.

They above examples are the scarcity mentality we live with today.  No real growth or understanding of where costs manifest themselves.  Innovative methods to address revenue and cost issues are lacking.  Yet, the more service organizations that I study I find literally hundreds of opportunities.  However, most organizations don’t know how or where to look.

Work design, flow and an understanding of customer demand are where the hidden gems lie.  Six Sigma and Lean have  tools to get to these gems, just they are usually the wrong tools for the job.  Knowing how and where to find the gems allows you to go find them and quite simply  . . . pick them up.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Dr. Deming’s Seven Diseases Still Haunt the US

W. Edwards Deming

W. Edwards Deming (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am reading Joyce Orsini and Diana Deming Cahill’s new book, The Essential Deming: Leadership Principles from the Father of Quality.  I have not read the entire boo, but thought it would be good material for a series of posts.  The book is an accumulation of Dr. Deming’s articles, papers, etc.  As Out of the Crisis was not a “How to” book, neither is this book.

Early in the book, I am reminded of American managements’ failures.  The decline of American competitiveness and how managing by visible figures alone is fundamental to this decline.

The seven diseases and obstacles that went with Dr. Deming’s 14 points still ring true:

  1. Lack of constancy of purpose
  2. Emphasis of short-term profits
  3. Evaluation of performance, merit rating and annual review.
  4. Mobility of management
  5. Management by use of visible figures.
  6. Excessive medical costs
  7. Excessive costs of liability

Go into any organization worldwide and you are bound to see one or more of these diseases and obstacles obstructing the path to transformation of management.  The real issue is most organizations see these as good things.  The damage is to far removed from management blinded by a combination of financial and operational reports.

I am also reminded that unemployment is a direct result of bad management.  Management is good in finding excuses for their inability to manage.  Reorganization and downsizing is often the answer for managements failure or if you are a consultant you become the target – you have to blame someone.

As many of you know, I am long disappointed with the fads of quality that are steeped in copying the Japanese or even using them as the standard by which we measure good and bad.  Seems we would be better off going to Rosetta Stone and just learning the language as this creates as much value as these fads.  They create a smoke screen to real improvement.

Dr. Deming warned against models for improvement, “none are perfect, some are useful.”  Having seen many methods I have learned the same – all methods can be improved upon.  This, after all, is the challenge of continual improvement.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn atwww.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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The Organizational Whipping Boy – The Vendor

I’ve been reading and writing a lot over the past month, just not much on my blog.  Most reading about organizational purpose.  In this case, not just customer purpose, but a higher calling to benefit mankind.  Certainly, we want to respond to customers and create an environment that they want to engage and embrace.

However, there are other elements in every system that need nurturing.  One overlooked area is the treatment of vendors.  Many organizations focus on the customer and improvement, but treat their vendors like, well . . . dog poop.

Pounding the vendor for the lowest price, they don’t become partners, instead vendors become a whipping boy.  A whipping boy was a young boy assigned to an equally young prince and when the prince did something wrong the whipping boy got the punishment.  If you have been a vendor long enough, you will find yourself a whipping boy for unevolved organizations.

This is usually driven by management fear of not hitting their numbers.  Sometimes the hierarchy is used as the next rung down gets the blame.  More convenient though is an outsider that can be blamed . . . a whipping boy.  Deflecting blame to vendors has become an art and a science.

All that hard work to impress customers, but you don’t pay your vendor in the promised timeframe which negates all the goodwill you accomplish.  The system is out-of-balance and treating one better than other can only result in long-term consequences.  Vendors have other relationships and influences that can influence future customers.  What goes around come around.

Treating vendors fairly is always a good policy.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Plan, Budget and Performance Measures

David Walker of the Comeback America Initiative that he founded is often on CNBC explaining what it will take to get America on track.  It is the same story . . . build a plan, budget the plan and institute performance measures.  To paraphrase Mr. Walker, the former US Comptroller, “this is what big, successful companies do.”

This thinking is what led us to the US decline in the first place.

Mass-production and industrialized thinking that didn’t succeed after WWII has led to retrenchment.  In this case a better word would be – retreat. Down-sizing our budget and workforce requires a plan.  Winners and losers baked in and the losers are Americans.

This does not mean that we should continue down the course of large deficits or that budgets don’t matter, it just means you are managing a retreat.  Large scale ideology leads to massive expenditures as more expense is derived from managing the downsizing.  This is not the way forward for the public or private sectors.

Finance has overwhelmed logic as the numbers are misleading.  Context is needed and so is the evidence.  However, big thinkers don’t have time for the detail and this leads to deficits.  Managing scale, flow is missed and naturally so are the causes of cost.

Political candidates are touting their road maps, plans and other non-sense without knowledge.  Voters starved for detail can get only sound bites, sappy commercials and personal attacks.  It is pathetic.

With budgets, the mantra is to cut costs.  Performance measures help keep the budget numbers on track.  In a system full of waste, just cutting costs misses addressing the waste.  A bad system with no money still leaves a bad system.  Performance measures derived from budgets and plans (without knowledge) almost always lock in the waste.

So, this political season be skeptical and demand more than just pplans, budgets and performance measures – how do we grow?

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the The 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Support of Top Management is Not Sufficient

“Can you blame your competitor for your woes?” he would intone to groups of corporate managers. “No. Can you blame the Japanese? No. You did it yourself.”  – W. Edwards Deming

The bruising of egos for those in management was a staple when Dr. Deming would speak to such groups.  A certain disdain for those in management that didn’t or couldn’t understand the new philosophy.  He lacked the natural charisma to charm his audiences and little effort to do so.

The most damaging single group to American lack of competitiveness is management.  Labor gets all the headlines as this group has been maligned by all to many . . . anyone for a scape goat?  Look to management.

Management to Leaders

The use of arbitrary numerical goals coupled with the focus on short-term profits are only part of the problem.  My recent article in Quality Digest illustrates the need for management to become leaders by getting knowledge through understanding the work and the system in which they work in and influence.  This is not someone else’s job, it is the job of management.  Boys to Men, girls to women and management to leaders.  The right of passage.

The incessant copying of the Japanese is mostly comical at this juncture.  We have to speak Japanese to improve?  Did Deming ask the Japanese to use American words and phrases in July, 1950?  No, he asked them to learn.  This requires different thinking than that seeks management to set arbitrary numerical goals.  Deming’s famous quote is, “By what method?  Different questions lead to different answers.

Management’s active engagement is a requirement, not a like to have.  The ignorance of current thinking has to be replaced with knowledge.  There is no other way.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the The 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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GM and the “Frozen Middle” – What We Can Learn

Interesting article in the WSJ today called, GM Chief Labors to Get Rebuilt Carmaker into Gear which outlines some of GMs difficulties.  There is a little bit of everything:

  • Functional separation of work leading to in-fighting
  • Outsourcing
  • Performance rewards that cause internal competition
  • The bureaucracy created by those in support functions
  • Economies of scale thinking

All of the above perpetuate the problems of GM.  Economy of scale thinking has long been replaced by economies of flow.  Remember the US had all the scale after WWII and lost manufacturing to a country with little or no natural resources or scale – Japan.  The scale thinking has to go, before the country does.

However, I see more of the “frozen middle” than anything.  Support functions and middle management that stagnate whole organizations.  They are people that cannot say “yes” and add costs and bureaucracy to organizations.  Like a boat anchor to ships these folks eat resources and ruin whole financial budgets.  The need to get these folks jobs that create value or enable those that create is a daunting task.  Most people in non-value adding roles see themselves as adding value and often so do the executives that put them there.

So, the frozen middle remains frozen.  Incapable of creating value and there unintentionally to thwart innovation and invent hoops for those that can create value to jump through like policies, entrapping technology, standardization, rules, etc.  The problem with the frozen middle is irony.  It is ironic that it freezes progress, but as the dysfunction grows so does the middle expand its activities.  Organizations intending to reduce costs, increase them as they add more folks to the middle ranks.

GM is not unique in this problem.  All organizations have a frozen middle, they are there to make things run smoothly.  However, counter-intuitively they make things much worse.

Come hear me speak at the CAST conference in San Jose, California!  Re-Thinking Management . . . Re-Thinking . . . IT!

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the The 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Another Fine Mess

“Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into!”                                                   – Oliver Hardy

Lobby Card c. 1921 featuring the first appeara...

Image via Wikipedia

Will Governor Daniels have to testify or not in the IBM lawsuit?  Who knows.  However, we all should care as the $1.3 billion boat anchor (Cancelled IBM contract) continues to be the gift that keeps on giving.  The State of Indiana sues IBM and IBM sues the State of Indiana.  Costs increase and waste begets waste.

In a recent Indianapolis Star interview, Peter Rusthoven (Attorney for the State) describes IBM in this manner:

We thought we were getting the guys who were building a better planet, and we ended up with Larry the Cable Guy.”                                 – Peter Rusthoven

Wow, if that isn’t a shot across the bow.  Although it does take two to tango when you form a partnership.

“Hello partner, you are to blame.”  Doesn’t sound like either side knew what they were doing.  This is the predictable result of assumptions in management.  Modernization and automation are the key words to future waste in any organization.  Start with flawed logic and you make your own bed.

The problem is that Federal, state and local governments continue to flock to IT companies like IBM for the same flawed assumptions.  The waste is enormous and predictable.  The only loser is the taxpayer, year after disastrous year – we all pay for having leaders and vendors make bad decisions.

This is a disease of all parties – not just Republicans.  Democrats face the same issues.  There is a simpler way to design work, but it requires changing the way you think about work.  You must first get knowledge about the “what and why” of current performance.  Redesigning the work without IT, but even this can not be done unless leadership participates and changes too – something that elected leaders fail to do is change.  Ego of being elected may be partially to blame, after all . . . doesn’t every elected official have a mandate?

Elected officials are in most cases not fit to make decisions as most come with a slew of assumptions.  Most of these assumptions we don’t learn about until after they are elected.  Ability to govern apparently is a side road to the main street of politics.

Until our leaders learn how to govern properly, we – the people – need to ask better questions about things that matter.  A good place to start would be by asking. “what method” will you use to reduce the deficit?  If automation and modernization is the answer prepare to pay dearly.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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